My dad cried loud, heavy tears on the day I graduated from medical school. My mom cried too, although not as intensely as my dad. My parents, sister, in-laws, and two closest friends came to my graduation, one of whom had flown cross country to be with me for the event. We had dinner together at a Thai restaurant after the ceremony. My husband gave me a pair of emerald earrings.
I don't remember crying. I remember feeling happy that I graduated and glad to be with my family, but as I had correct anticipated residency to be more difficult than medical school, I didn't feel overly celebratory about the milestone itself.
I felt differently about the completion of residency. When I walked out of the hospital for the last time, I looked back at the inpatient towers, thought to myself I never have to go back, and was surprised by the wave of relief that flooded over me. I'm glad no one was around to see what must have been the biggest, dopiest smile pulled across my face.
But there wasn't time to celebrate. I graduated from residency on a Friday, moved over the weekend, and started fellowship on Monday. If I bought myself something to commemorate the occasion, I don't remember what it was. Although this achievement meant more to me than med school graduation, it's significance was eclipsed by the need to move and instability of my first few weeks of fellowship.
Now I am graduating again, this time from fellowship, a milestone that will finally mark the end of my medical training.
Memory is an imperfect tool, a shortcoming I appreciate when trying to appraise the individual steps and aggregate of my medical education. To the best of my recollection I was happier in medical school than I was in residency and happier in fellowship than I was in medical school. But then again, my life outside of training was significantly different during these periods that it is difficult to assess them based on just the training itself. I had good friends in medical school. During my fourth year we all lived in apartments close by and spent weekend nights drinking so much wine that it gives me a headache just to think about it. I realized shortly after starting residency that I didn't much care for inpatient medicine. I had fewer friends in residency, a husband who traveled, and an unplanned pregnancy that affected my emotional health during what felt like an unending string of thirty hour shifts. In retrospect, I think I was suffering from postpartum depression where I told myself it was "just the blues". Thankfully, it passed. Or maybe resolved when I completed residency.
And perhaps it is strange that consider myself happier now, in fellowship, than I was in medical school or residency even though, at the end of my first year of fellowship and just after finding out I was pregnant for the second time (yes, this one planned), I called one of my attendings (a female and the only remotely "mommish" of the faculty) crying. I told her I worried I wouldn't make it through another two years if they were as bad as the first. Even though I hated parts of medical school and residency, I never occurred to me to quit. She told me it gets better. And it very much did. (I am also fortunate that she never held this episode against me nor told anyone about it.)
I started medical school just before my 22nd birthday. I am through five years of medical school (I did a research year between my 3 and 4 years), three years of residency, three years of fellowship and, last week, turned 33. I am married with two kids and feel good about the job I have lined up and the career ahead of me.
In other words, I want to celebrate.
And need some ideas. I have a friend whose husband through her an elaborate party (doctor themed) at his family's restaurant. Another friend put a trip to Jamaica for her family of four on a credit card and took off for a week after graduation. One of my (child-free) co-workers is spending six weeks in Europe.
I don't think I will do any of these things. Although I am feeling indulgent, we are hoping to buy a house soon and will be moving. I don't need another big expense.
So what did you do? Memorable dinner? Earrings? Party? Trip? Nothing at all?