Sunday, June 18, 2023

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Throwback to this time 5 years ago

The other day I watched the residency graduation ceremony at the institution where I completed my Traditional Rotating Internship year. No, I wasn't trying to purposely torture myself...I was watching to support someone I know who was graduating from internship this year in the same program. The crazy thing is I didn't realize until I started watching that I was witnessing the graduation of several people who I started and worked with during my original intern year. 

As I watched a bunch of familiar faces cross the stage, a wave of sadness hit me. These same people who I spent early mornings and late nights on grueling rotations and survived intern year with are now completing residency, and getting to start their lives as official general surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and otolaryngologists (these are all 5 year residency programs). Additionally, this past week alone, a large number of former medical students who rotated with me during my intern year graduated from the shorter duration residencies in Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, etc and are now getting to do what they set out to do. So at this point, pretty much everyone in my graduating medical school class and a large amount of medical students who started their very first rotation with me are either attending physicians or very close to becoming one. Meanwhile, I still have four more years to go (plastic surgery is a six year residency for those who are unaware), and I'm currently covering a trauma service that somehow makes me feel like I am an intern back in Philly again.

Now don't get me wrong, I am legitimately happy for all these individuals and I love seeing their success, especially when I know how hard the struggle is. I also continue to feel truly blessed to be a part of a categorical residency program (I prayed for YEARS to be in this position), and on the path to becoming the the plastic surgeon I have always dreamed of, but I wouldn't be human if I didn't have feelings like this every now and then. 

The funny thing is I've never been one to compare myself or my journey to anyone else's. A long time ago, I pretty much accepted that my journey will go at its own pace and everything will work out perfectly once all is said and done. Due to these recent thoughts/feelings though, I figured there are probably some nontraditional premedical/medical students or other residents out there with similar experiences and feelings, so I wanted to write this post as a source of encouragement and share some random reflections below (along with random saved Instagram posts) to serve as a reminder that everything is working out perfectly even when it sometimes feels like it isn't.

I think the craziest thought I had while watching the graduation was that I was watching my graduation day and I should have been walking across that stage. But let's be real, I did not even match into a categorical position as a graduating medical student, and had I actually matched into that program, I would have been MISERABLE! I've always stayed positive on this blog, but I never did enjoy my time in my previous program. It was hard enough adjusting to the long hours and new responsibilities as a fresh intern, but I also felt like I didn't mesh well with the program or the area. From the daily microagressions and covert racism I experienced both in and out of the hospital (it literally felt worse than any area of the South I have lived in), to being alone in a new city and living in an area in Philly where people would literally riot and set cars on fire (yes, this really did happen), I couldn't wait to leave. Plus, I graduated before the MD/DO merger, so had I matched out of medical school, I would be on the five years general surgery plus three years plastic surgery route. Not matching actually turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me. Not only was I able to gain the experience of an intern year, but it allowed me to gain my medical license and start practicing which gave me the financial freedom to happily live life on my terms. Plus, I didn't even lose much time on my original timeline! I would be graduating general surgery now only to pursue three years of plastic surgery, whereas at this point I am about to be a third year plastic surgery resident. The above picture really sums it up well. God's timing really is the perfect timing, and I am sooo thankful that what I thought didn't work out for me, really did end up working out for me in the grand scheme of things.

Even though I'm currently on month two of Trauma Surgery right now and grumpy, I try to stay mindful that my life is a literal dream. Never in a million years did I think I would end up in always sunny and warm Miami, Florida AND as a plastic surgery resident. No matter how tough life may seem, it's important to remember where you started and appreciate the journey. When I was a premedical student, all I wanted to do was be a medical student. As a medical student, I kept this thought in mind during the rough classes, board exam studying, and long rotations to keep me going. Now as a resident, I reflect back on all those times as a medical student and unmatched physician, where all I wanted to do was be in a categorical surgical residency program. I remember being told by an attending who I reached out to during my second year of medical school with hopes of mentoring me, that as a DO I had no chance of matching into plastic surgery and I should have applied to an MD school. I remember all the interviews outside of the match where I had so much hope and then was heartbroken when I didn't get the position. I remember stalking multiple websites throughout the day in search of residency positions and frantically applying as if it would be an automatic rejection if I didn't submit within 5 minutes lol. I remember the concerned looks from people when I said I was still applying surgery and them telling me I should consider a non-surgical specialty. I remember when I literally had to call my bank to allow me to pay for my ERAS application because the cost was literally more than what I paid for my first car, but I was willing to pay whatever cost to help me achieve my dreams. I even remember Match Day 2021 when I was so jaded from the entire process that I prepared myself for another failure of a year and sadly opened up the email while still in bed since I just KNEW it wasn't going to work out for me again, AND I remember the astonishment and extreme happiness I felt at receiving an email that said I had finally matched. So yes, I recognize that I currently live and have lived a life of answered prayers. My biggest prayer right now though is that I never forget how far I've come in this journey and that I always remember the following: 

So as I watch so many amazing people achieve and enter new phases of life, I have to be mindful that everything I am going through now is in preparation for something bigger than I could ever imagine. Patience isn't my strongest virtue, but I am beyond grateful to be in my current position in life. Which brings me to my next point:

Your journey is specially made and meant only for you. Do not compare yourself to others as it will do nothing but leave you stressed out and doubting your own great abilities. The grass is not always greener on the other side, and thinking it is only serves to detour you from your own route and will leave you miserable. J. Cole said it best when he said "no such thing as a life that's better than yours". If you're someone struggling with comparing yourself with others, take the time to appreciate the small blessings in your life. People ask me all the time how I am able to stay happy and positive all the time, and it's mainly because I'm just grateful to be here. If you've been reading this blog from when I started it almost ten years ago, then you already know I survived an extremely abusive marriage. I am literally just thankful to still be alive and to know that God has kept me here for a reason. To compare my life to what appears to be the easier life for others would serve no purpose other than making me feel sad and stressed out, which is exactly what happened when I compared my journey to those graduating from residency this month. 
I think the above is the perfect quote to end this very long post with. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: don't rush the process! What is meant for you will absolutely be and at the perfect time. It can be hard watching others achieve goals that you have been working hard for, but don't waste your joy or your time comparing your journey to others. What you've got coming is way bigger and more beautiful than you could have ever imagined. 

While this post is my personal reminder to stay positive and keep pushing, I hope it has helped some of you. Until next time!

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