Beneath the Surface

I’d like to thank you ahead of time for indulging me, because I’m about to spend an entire post airing out a few of the worries and fears that have been building up. You know, when people ask me how med school is going, my answer is usually, “Great! I love it!” I dislike talking about myself to a fault, to the point where I think I subconsciously cut conversations short with a boring answer so I don’t have to continue saying things about my life. (I’d rather think that, than face the fact that I might actually be boring!) Anyway, I do love my experience as a medical student so far, and I will continue to talk about that in other posts, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t often feel unsettling fear or doubt. Here, I try to put these feelings into words so that they don’t overcome my ability to participate in the moment and continue learning as actively as I can.

First, I’d like to address the exhaustion that I’ve been giving in to more often lately. When I first started undergrad, I said “yes” to everything I was invited to. I’m not kidding! I told myself that to say “no” meant that I would miss out on making friends early. As an example, I forced myself to sit with new people at lunch in the freshman cafeteria every day until one day, I sat down with a group of people and they proceeded to ignore me because they already knew each other too well. I ended up attempting (failing) to keep up with their conversation, and then realized I was probably being annoying. At that point, I realized that we had passed the Time when sitting with random people was Socially Acceptable. (Though some people had the ability to continue throwing themselves into groups of new people throughout the year and integrating just fine. I had limits even as a bright-eyed freshman.) Please don’t feel sorry for me, I’m just giving an example of how hard I tried during freshman year to meet new people. Now, I feel tired after 6 hours of class, and can’t bring myself to go to events that I was originally interested in. I often spend lunchtime trying to recharge so I can face people again later. It’s not that I dislike talking to others – in the moment I really enjoy talking to friends and just being in everyone’s presence. I just no longer have that mentality of “forcing” myself to do anything. I’ve come to terms with the extent of what I call my social stamina, but I just wonder if this will affect my capacity to function after a long day of talking to patients.

Second, I think I have a hard time committing to things I was originally very excited to start. I have about ten Word documents with unfinished posts and ideas for this blog. The ratio of my half-finished knitting projects to finished ones is ridiculously high. I started a collection of recipes I like, and it currently has two recipes in it. This is a trait of mine that I’ve wanted to work on improving for a long time, and each time I get interested in something new, I promise myself that I’ll stick to it. We recently finished our midterms, and I’ve found myself with some extra time. I decided to pull up the Note on my phone where I’ve been keeping a list of books I want to read. It was a fun walk down memory lane – apparently I wanted to re-read “Eragon” at some point – and I decided to check “The Wheel of Life” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross out of our school library. This morning, I read about three chapters before I impulsively decided I should write this blog post instead. I’m afraid that I will live my life with a whole lot of 30% hobbies instead of completely focusing on a few passions. And how will that affect my ability to decide on a specialty? As an aside, I found another note in my phone of Things to Do Before Chicago, which I felt unusually sentimental about – it’s already been more than a year since we started med school! Time really flies. The note included things like “dry clean,” “transfer stuff to hard drive,” and “clean [my dog].” Ominously, “tell my brother about itinerary” isn’t checked off as done, so I hope that living uninformed of whatever this itinerary was hasn’t affected him.

Finally, perhaps most seriously, sometimes I have this fear that my capacity to care for others is only based on what I think of myself. For example, I’m really fond of a certain memory from back in preschool. My friends and I were at recess, and we were rooting around in the dirt for worms to collect in our buckets as usual, which I hope is a normal activity for children to participate in. One boy with bright white skin and light sandy hair came to join us, even though my other friends didn’t really like playing with him. He was blind and could never find any worms. Anyway, long story short, everyone ignored him while showing off the worms that they found. I remember that partway through recess I started giving him half of my worms so that he could have some to show off, too. It’s not that I remember that recess fondly because he was especially happy that I gave him some worms. I don’t even know if he was that excited about it. Instead, I mostly feel proud that my three- or four-year-old self was nice enough to know not to exclude somebody who had joined us. Does that translate to who I am now and what my motivations are? Am I only empathetic because I couldn’t think of myself as a good person otherwise? What if I were only nice to people because that made me feel better about myself? Is that okay?

I like to end every post with something optimistic, so here it is. Keeping a constant log of my flaws and fears in my brain is a very draining process. I think that by putting these negative thoughts into words, I will be able to parse out what I’m okay with and what I want to change. I can’t say that I can change that much, because these are worries that I’ve had for years, but I can at least continuously make an effort. Right?

Beneath the Surface

2 thoughts on “Beneath the Surface

  1. Peter Chu says:

    “What if I were only nice to people because that made me feel better about myself? Is that okay?”

    I have wondered the same about myself. Being nice to people makes me feel good too. Does that take away the merit in being nice? Am I in reality selfish?

    In the end, I think it is totally okay to be happy for others and to be happy that you are in a position to make a positive impact on someone else.


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