Seeking Inspiration in Medical School

It is gray outside.

Like really, a truly gross drizzle is coming down that makes me feel like I’ve overslept (even when I didn’t). I want to just curl up on my couch with my boyfriend, some hot chocolate and a movie.

The absolute last thing I want to be doing is studying, or anything having to do with school, productivity, or living big dreams.

I check in with myself every day to make sure that I’m still where I want to be (some people are surprised by this — “why haven’t you joined the circus yet?” a classmate asked me once), so there’s no doubt in my mind that my passion is in my work, right now: pursuing a medical degree, working on a project to improve quality in diabetes care, volunteering in the community, staying active in the social media space, with the friends and loved ones that I truly care about. But some days, like today, when it’s gray and the weeks have been long and exhausting, even when I know that’s my passion, I’m feeling far from passionate and inspired.

So what’s a girl to do?****

1) Do something new – something that changes your routine and pushes your boundaries, something that might even scare you a little. That’s what I was doing last week with To Mama With Love and let me just say (with BIG thanks to Marianne and Stacey for the wonderful opportunity!) there is no better way to get yourself reinvigorated and ready to make change again after a long, exhausting midterm season. That’s what I was doing a few days after that when I invited the COO of our hospital to come speak to us about emergency room policy (a contentious issue where I go to school) because I felt the need to ask and give my fellow students’ the opportunity to ask questions directly to the administration about what was going on. That’s what I have been doing this week by getting up at the crack of dawn (I’m a night owl, so anything having to do with that hour of day scares me), and working my butt off to get caught up with work for the rest of the day. Small things, big things, it doesn’t matter. What are you putting off and what would shake up your routine?

2) Spend time with the people you admire. Not so secretly, this is one of the big reasons that I spend so much time on twitter because I do get to speak directly with doctors around the country that are practicing now and doing many of the things that I wish to be doing when I grow up. More locally, this is what I find most amazing about mentorship programs and the special events we run (with copious amounts of free food) at the university. I get to sit down and have coffee with some people that I really admire or chat with a film-maker about her work in Nigeria. Even when I feel like I come out of those conversations with more ideas than ways to fit them into my life right now, I am definitely reinvigorated to plow forward through that next chunk of pathology and microbiology with a renewed sense of accomplishment.

3) Take care of yourself. As I’ve written before and as others have written far more eloquently than me, there’s a lot of power in stepping away from the desk, in taking a moment to reconnect with your passions by not working so hard on them all the f-ing time. Sometimes, there really is no benefit from studying harder. There is no way to keep yourself motivated without a full stomach, and you can’t be expected to take care of patients when you yourself develop a cold from the stress. I realize even as I write this that maintaining this point above everything else will get harder and harder as my training continues, but that makes it all the more important, I think, to reaffirm that commitment to myself and my wellness now before things go any further.

These are just a few things that I keep in mind on gray days like this when I can’t seem to find the motivation, but it’s hardly the only answer. What do you do to stay inspired?

Edit: and in a conversation with the ever-inspiring Shara Yurkiewicz, I was reminded of the #4 major way I keep myself going in the morning: exploring new places, especially new places that involve baked goods. I credit Floriole as the sole reason I was able to get through back-to-back midterms a couple weeks ago.**