"Be a professor!" I begged. "A rocket scientist!" was my alternate suggestion. I had several more prepared. I was convinced my husband could do anything and I was bewildered as to why he would choose the long, hard road of becoming a doctor. He chuckled nervously, both of us knowing that I was kidding... but that part of me was oh-so serious. But it was too late to turn back now. Our bank account told us so.
As starry-eyed newlyweds, I had switched to online school so that Kalon could continue on the path giving him the best chance at getting into medical school. I had known that was the plan all along, and was happy to make small sacrifices to put OUR best interest first. But just days in, I already began to wonder if I was in far over my head. And not for a semester, or a few hard years. We were in this for the long haul.
Our first year had ups and downs. Honestly, I didn't realize how much I was growing until I stopped to look back. And I am not proud, but I did feel resentful at times (and occasionally still do) as medical school seemed to take over our lives. But I think it was a necessary part of the journey. Wrestling with those feelings eventually helped me find my own role in the journey, and allowed me to recommit to supporting my student.
We still have a long road ahead of us, but here is what I have learned so far.
You BOTH have it rough.
Nobody wins in a stress-battle. Rather than one-upping each other with who is working harder, sacrificing more, or sleeping less, listen to one another. Show them that you care how their day was. Tell them that you know you could not do it without them. They need to hear it. (And in case you need to hear it: they couldn't do it without you either!)
Both of you are working hard. Appreciate one another, and know there are times to give and times to take.
Their successes are your successes.
Whether you are dating, newlyweds, or have been together for decades (did I leave anybody out?), you are at least committed enough to this person to have stayed with them this far! You have invested in each other. Your student is working harder than they have probably EVER worked before, on top of facing Imposter syndrome, cut-throat competition, financial strain, and amounts of studying previously believed impossible. You don't see them as much as you wish you could. When you do, it may be between flashcards or to tell you more about the human body than you'd like to know. It may bring out the worst in them.
But they are still them.
And they could really use your support. (Not to be confused with maid services or human throw rug.) So try to remember that you are a team: if one of you scores, you both score. Win or lose, you are in this together. And you, together, are worth fighting for!
Let them own their feelings.
With that said, know when you have done all that you could do. Have you taken on the bulk of the housework, been a good listener, given them space to study, and offered encouragement? Then you have done all you could! If they are still stressed, I'm SORRY but that's on them. You do not need to carry that for them.
If your student is facing burn-out or depression, encourage them to seek help from a counselor. Also, they can try time management techniques, tutoring, and self-care! (If you would like more thoughts on any of this, let me know in the comments below.)
Be your own best friend.
In all the advice I have received about how to "do" medical school, this is the one I feel is most forgotten! Yes, make friends, reach out, carve out time with your significant other. Do! But at the the end of the day, if you are not happy with the life you're living, it still won't be enough.
Remember the resentment I mentioned? That is a normal. And it's hard, because you don't want to make your student feel guilty (or maybe you do) but you also want them to know how you feel! Supporting a student on this journey requires sacrifice, and it is ok to feel the effects of those sacrifices. It is ok to mourn a "normal" life and the plans you set aside. It is ok to miss loved ones, or to not be thrilled about where you live. It is OK to FEEL.
And after the appropriate amount of processing time plus a little wallowing, remind yourself of the positives. Remind yourself that you're fabulous, and doing just as well as anybody else. Remind yourself of what is most important.
And that you matter.
When everything seems wrong it doesn't mean that we have to change everything- maybe just how we are thinking about everything.
Please don't feel stuck in a future you don't want. I promise you that even with a significant other in medical school, you can accomplish what matters most to you. I am so glad Kalon didn't choose to be a rocket scientist! (Seriously, did I really think that would have been easier?) I have come to understand not only why this is so important to him, but how he and I both can reach our potential and be happy.
Wherever you are in your med-school journey, I would love to hear how you have grown, or come closer to your student. What you hope to accomplish or become. Or, what struggles you have gone through/are going through.