What is normal? How much stress do we normally put up with? How do we balance life, work, family, fitness and fun?
I am on a mission to figure this out.
This month I graduated from PA school. After 27 grueling months, I graduated with honors. Yes, I’m done with grad school. Free to move on to the next step of my life: Find a job, find a hobby, develop my blog.
The first 14 months of school were extremely stressful – eight hours of class a day, five days a week, with an average of two exams a week. To say I was a bit absent from my home life would be an understatement. Thankfully, my husband and two boys were very supportive and put up with me studying so much and cooking and cleaning so little. And, when I lost my temper and yelled over little things, they let it roll off them and understood I didn’t really mean it. They’re great like that.
|We triumphed over PA school!|
The second year wasn’t so bad. I was in rotations, which is like working full time, except you’re paying a lot of money to do it instead of being paid. Oh, and you have a new job every six weeks that you suck at. Seriously, I switched from OB/Gyn to general surgery to nephrology (kidneys) to cardiothoracic surgery (open heart surgery). They were all amazing, but each time it was a new staff, new specialty, new location. That’s another level of stress that you don’t have in your regular life. Then, after six weeks, another exam to prove I learned something and was ready to move on. I also was writing my grad thesis.
During this time, I didn’t really experiment in the kitchen, I put away my camera and lights, and stopped exercising. I didn’t mean to, it just happened. My friends did not abandon me, so I did spend some time with them, but not at much as I would like. And my family was ever present, and we did try to do fun things when we could. But, the guilt was ever present.
I constantly had a sense of guilt throughout the past two years. It was subtle and pervasive, and I didn’t realize it was there until now, when it’s finally gone.
When I was studying I felt guilty that I wasn’t home with my family. When I took time off to relax with my family, I felt guilty that I was studying. When I was with friends or exercising, I felt guilty that I wasn’t studying or spending time with my family. Do you see the silliness, the destructiveness of this?
And, what’s worse, even though I think this guilt was natural, none of it was necessary. My grades were fine – I graduated with honors, remember? So, I studied enough. My family was fine – they’re resilient; and I think it was good for my boys to see me pursue a goal and focus on something other than them. My friends love me and support my goals. And hey, they have lives too; they can live without seeing me so often. The only thing that suffered was me.
I didn’t realize I was doing this to myself. I just worked and focused and tried to do the best I could. I tried to set my priorities as I thought they should be. And, I have no issue with prioritizing. I am not sorry about anything that I did, even ignoring my blog and fitness. Well, I could have been better, but I did what I thought I should do to get through. And honestly, I don’t even regret feeling guilty. I mean, sure, it would have been better if I hadn’t added that stress, but that’s in the past, and regret is just another form of guilt, right?
So, this week I took the board exam. That’s the last step – pass the PANCE, and I can get a regular license and legally practice medicine. So, after graduation I spent time studying for that. It’s a really long test – 300 questions over five hours. The last section I was so tired I had to keep stopping and telling myself to focus on the question. But, I made it through and am pretty sure I passed. I find out in a week or two for certain.
The next day, I felt totally unmoored. I wasn’t sure what to do. I had nothing that I needed to do, nothing. No studying, no exams, no rotation to be at. It was great but strange. Carole said I needed to build my tolerance for boredom. I needed a hobby, a book to read, and a pedicure.
So, what is the next step? Find a job, of course. But, a job is just that, a job. It’s a portion of our lives that allows us to live the rest of our lives. Hopefully it’s enjoyable, and not too stressful, but it’s not life. Life is family, friends, and taking care of ourselves. We don’t focus on that last thing enough. We talk about it, and use it as an excuse for being out of shape and unhealthy, but we don’t do it. I’m working on taking care of myself.
I have been learning to play tennis. My very good friend and her coach are working with me, and I love it. So much so that I walked up and down my street bouncing a tennis ball on the racquet. I’m so out of shape my chest was sore after the first few lessons, but I’m getting better. And, did I mention that I love it? I love focusing on the ball, not worrying about my phone, where anyone is, or what else I have to be doing. It’s my time to play a game and hit the ball. I love the satisfaction of hitting a good shot and learning a new skill. For a reward I’m gong to buy myself one of those cute tennis outfits.
I’m doing other things too, but this post is long enough! I’ll share more in the weeks to come. For now, I have to pack, because we’re going on a Disney cruise!!! See you next week!