Five years ago, I really wanted to take a photography class, so my (now ex-) boyfriend and his parents went in together to give me the money to pay for it (about $180) as a Christmas gift. I was really excited at the prospect, but unfortunately that was the Christmas of my second year of medical school, which was in the midst of the most notoriously awful block of medical school (neurology and musculoskeletal*), so there really wasn't enough time for photography lessons. That block led into another almost as bad block, followed by a summer of volunteer work and travel, followed by the start of my clinical training. So somehow, in the midst of the studying and the overnight call and the residency applications and everything else, I never found time for those photography lessons. I ended up pilfering the $180 away on trivial things, and I have felt forever guilty about the wasted Christmas money. (Fortunately I broke up with the boyfriend only a few months later, so he never knew that the money wasn't put towards its intended use.)
Fast forward to now, as I enter the final six-month stretch of my internal medicine residency**. For the first time in years, I have some consistency and predictability in my schedule, as I'm leading the consult service team for four months straight. My schedule for this block consists of mostly 7:30 am - 5 (ish) PM days, with occasional 11 PM late stays, and approximately once monthly weekend shifts. And best of all? No overnight call. None. Zero. As someone who's life has been constrained by a call schedule for the past four and a half years, it is a truly miraculous thing*** to suddenly have control over my time again and to not be chronically sleep deprived.
Initially, I thought I should apply all of my extra time and alertness to studying, given that I'm now 15 months and counting from my Royal College exam, but then I was talking with a friend who has lived through the Royal College process to become a full-blown attending. And her (very welcome) advice to me was to not commit myself to full-out exam preparation until at least a year before the exam. Or, as she put it, "Your Royal College year is a miserable year of your life that you will never, ever get back. Don't make it any longer than it has to be."
So, her advice heeded, I've decided instead to make use of that long ago Christmas gift and take photography lessons. Despite the medical mentality that "You can do things for fun when you retire", I'm choosing to carve out a bit of space and time for something that I want to do, right in the here and the now. And it feels great.
Prepare yourselves for even more photos than usual.
*Think four months of endless anatomy lab, Netter's, and eating whatever in the world I needed to get myself through the days.
**How did that happen?
***An atheistic miracle, of course.