A letter to my younger self

Dear (first-year) Jenny,

I find out my match results in a few days. I don’t know if or where I matched. But that doesn’t change the message I wanted to share with you. I wanted to first congratulate you on embarking on your medical journey! You might be filled with excitement, curiosity, anxiety, or dread even, because you don’t know what to expect during these next 4 years. But don’t worry! Life has an interesting way of figuring itself out.

During your time in medical school, you will study hard, but don’t burn yourself out during the first two years. Try to go to class so you have some semblance of a schedule, and not spend two years in your PJs. But don’t feel guilty about skipping class either, because the lectures are online, and you can take better notes watching lectures (and rewinding) at 2x speed.

You might not realize it now, but you have so much free time when your sole job is to study. Try that new restaurant, even if you have an exam next week. Go out with your friends from college, even if you promised yourself you’d stay in and study. Visit your boyfriend for the weekend, just because. Call your mom. Make time for the people who matter in your life. There are always going to be tests and exams, and one day life will pass you by if you don’t live it along the way. Plus, the first two years are pass-fail anyway.

Step 1 will suck no matter what. You will cry, you will break down, and you will think you’re dumb and can’t do it. A lot. Just study hard and do your best. Don’t get distracted by what everyone else is doing. Believe in yourself, stick to your study schedule, and make sure to exercise daily. It’s five weeks of torture, and then it’s behind you forever. It will all be okay.

Clerkship year is why you came to medical school. Be friendly with everyone, work hard, and try to be helpful. You’ll see a lot of cool shit, and maybe even do some cool shit. You’ll also be expected to do a lot of dumb shit that has nothing to do with your medical education whatsoever. Don’t take it personally.

You’ll get embarrassed, and maybe even humiliated for not knowing something. Try not to let it get to you in the moment. It’s okay if you need to cry, just do it in private. And remember, no one else will give your moment of shame another second’s thought. No one else but you will remember or care. So don’t feel too bad about it. Don’t waste your energy thinking about the ones who gave you a hard time. Everyone has bad days, and everyone has a reason for acting the way they do (hopefully). Remember the residents and attendings who were amazing, and vow to be like them in the future. Learn from them.

You’ll experience burn-out, fear, loss, grief, frustration, crippling self-doubt, and everything in-between. You’ll also experience an “aha!” moment when everything clicks, profound pride when you correctly diagnose a patient, elation when you finally feel like you know what you’re doing, and a sense of sublime self-worth when you realize that it was you who got yourself this far.

Senior year is the light at the end of the tunnel. I promise. The first half can be intense with applications and interviews, but even then, it’s not so bad. Travel, have fun, pat yourself on the back for getting it this far. I don’t know how your journey ends, but I know if you take even one of these suggestions to heart, you’ll have no regrets about your medical school experience regardless of what happens at the end of the road.

Good luck!

Love,
(Fourth-year) Jenny

March 11, 2018

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