I hope everyone had a good Christmas! I had a fantastic time with family and friends and was so busy that I didn’t even start the computer once. I found these questions at Into Mind by Anuschka and I thought they made for some great reflections. I was pretty disappointed in myself for struggling to answer some of them, and I want to keep these questions in mind this year to aim for a more mindful approach to life. Feel free to answer them too and let me know!
1.What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your grandchildren about?
Graduation 😀 I didn’t get the Dean’s Medal or anything like that, but I DID graduate in the allotted time… and also, I got the Dean’s Award for Leadership, which I did work really hard for.
2.If you had to describe your 2014 in 3 words, what would they be?
study, read, run
3.What new things did you discover about yourself?
I don’t like structure and predictability, but I often perform much better with it.
4.What single achievement are you most proud of?
Running semi-regularly, doing different ParkRuns (Nahoon Point, George, Hobie Beach and Big Bay) and improving my 5km time consistently.
5.What was the best news you received?
That I got a job! In my hometown, for the next two years.
6.What was your favourite place that you visited in 2014?
Zithulele, during my rural family medicine posting near Mqanduli, Eastern Cape. I was in a crappy between-phones phase at the time so this is the best photo I have of it (a graffiti-ed wall of a ramshackle structure near my favourite beach there).
7.Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?
8.Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?
GeekBoy and Little Sister. He gave me a refuge and food on weekends, she mothered me during the week and stayed up for me when I was on call.
9.Which new skills did you learn?
Self-care: when I neared burn-out I had to learn to put my health, including running and free time, in a spot of priority. For a long time I have gotten away with neglecting certain parts of my wellness and this year I had to learn that it could not go on that way.
10.What, or who, are you most thankful for?
I used to make an annual list of 100 things I am grateful for (2012, 2013). Earlier this year, it felt like everything I had been grateful for was being threatened, and the less-logical part of me wondered if I had jinxed myself. So I couldn’t bring myself to make a similar list this year, and I won’t mention everything and everyone I am thankful for, but I will mention Skype, which ensured that I could be in touch with the people I love even though I only got to visit home once.
11.If someone wrote a book about your life in 2014, what kind of genre would it be? A comedy, love story, drama, film noir or something else?
It would have to be a comedy – not because the year was so overarchingly funny, but because it’s pretty mundane if not depressing if you don’t focus on the funny bits. I’m lucky to have friends who point out the funny in life to me, because I’m not a naturally funny person. Oh, maybe a GoPro film would work too.
12.What was the most important lesson you learnt in 2014?
It’s okay to be happy with a calm life. Truthfully, I think this profession has a lot of people who are a little addicted to stress, and I sometimes fell into the trap of seeing my classmates stressed and freaking out and feeling like I should be like that too. Freaking out is not a prerequisite for being a hard-working medical student and learning to revel in calmness really helped me through.
13.Which mental block(s) did you overcome?
The idea that I can’t do something unless I’m naturally good at it. I had to get over the thought that if anatomy, pharmacology and running didn’t just naturally COME to me, I couldn’t do it. I had to put the fear of mediocrity behind me and JUST DO IT. I’m sure my patients will be grateful because I now know more than I did. You should read this article by Sara Benincasa on the topic, Do It Anyway.
14.What 5 people did you most enjoy spending time with?
I can’t really answer this because it wouldn’t be fair to stick to five. There’s my whole entire family – because the time we spent was quality, not quantity – and my few but stellar friends on campus, and you know… there’s a long list.
15.What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise?
Realising that there are so many things to do with a medical degree, and that I don’t ever need to feel stuck. After my IOD I felt like I was stuck in medicine and I was terrified of clinical medicine, but after some searching I realised that if I didn’t want to, I didn’t HAVE to do clinical medicine. (For the record, I’ll probably always do some clinical medicine, but when I am afraid or overworked, it is good to know that I have other options without having to go back to school.)
16.How did your relationship to your family evolve?
I am not sure how much evolution took place given how little I saw them, but I think I allowed them to be there for me a lot more than before, and I opened up to them more.
17.What book or movie affected your life in a profound way?
Book: Postmortem by Maria Phalime – although one might be afraid that this book would scare students away from clinical medicine, it did quite the opposite: it showed me what could be done to avoid leaving.
Movie: Saving Mr Banks, the movie about P.L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins. It is such a fantastic movie (also in technical aspects) and it moved me.
18.What was your favourite compliment that you received this year?
In a book (Bosman at his Best) given to me by a more junior student at a time that I needed some encouragement, she wrote a thank-you note for being “so refreshing when compared to garden variety medics”.
19.What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?
The sun peaking through my windows. Walking back to my room in the early hours of the morning post-call, listening to the birds quietly singing. Eating chocolate. On weekends, falling asleep to the sound of the wind, and waking up to the sound of waves lapping at the shore. Naps.
20.What cool things did you create this year?
Well… I did finally start on a Wreck This Journal!
21.What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?
Probably exhausted. Despite my multitude of naps!
22.Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?
I published in an academic journal. It was an humanities piece, Lessons Learned in Patient Care During A Semester Circumnavigating the Globe, for the American Medical Students’ Research Journal.
23.What was your favourite moment spent with your friends?
Two of my best friends on campus liked fetching me in the middle of the night when I was just coming off from hospital or when I was studying late. We would go to get some candy from the 24-hour pharmacy or milkshakes from Starlight Diner, a fantastic (if dodgy) place for delicious late-night milkshakes. They are also the two funniest people I know, so it was always a good way for me to unwind.
24.What major goal did you lay the foundations for?
I have an intense need to become more involved with public health policies and research. So I met with my long-time mentor: a Harvard professor who is VERY involved with UNICEF and similar projects. He gave me good advice on “breaking out” into this part of medicine and public health.
25.Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
Exams. Final year is a killer but I must say that exams ended up being the least of it. They’re more an emotional game than anything else, and the best way to survive it is to get enough sleep and nutrition, and a whole load of positive self-talk.
26.What experience would you love to do all over again?
Probably when we went camping with my family a few weeks ago. It was my first stress-free holiday of the year and apart from some uncharacteristic horrible weather, we had a great time.
27.What was the best gift you received?
Can I say that spending my last student holiday with my family was the ultimate gift? You want an actual material gift? Okay: GeekBoy got me the whole Harry Potter set with the new Bloomsbury covers, as well as two other books on my Christmas wishlist. He is so good at following instructions. 😉
28.How did your overall outlook on life evolve?
What a loaded question. I think it is best answered in my head. In general I think I became more realistic and also more goal-directed.
29.What was the biggest problem you solved?
Sorting out my soon-to-be-adult financial life is kind of an ongoing problem which I am solving bit by bit.
30.What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?
31.What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever?
Two really expensive cardigans from Woolworths at the beginning of Winter. It was a bit of a splurge but they really got me through the cold and early mornings at hospital.
32.What one thing would you do differently and why?
I would take more detailed notes during ward rounds and tutorials. I thought I would be able to remember tips and tricks a lot better, but when it came down to studying for exams I wished for a more comprehensive notebook.
33.What do you deserve a pat on the back for?
Not retaliating when one very pregnant OBGYN consultant was incredibly rude to my group for an entire clinic day. I’m really good at arguing and retaliating when people are being dicks and really bad at shutting up in such situations. I still need to write about that story.
34.What activities made you lose track of time?
Reading and Wrecking-this-Journal
35.What did you think about more than anything else?
When I could squeeze in a nap?
36.What topics did you most enjoy learning about?
Mental health, especially child psychiatry; and the social determinants of health.
37.What new habits did you cultivate?
I started practising mindfulness. I would hardly say it’s a habit by now, but it has stood me in good stead.
38.What advice would you give your early-2014 self if you could?
Don’t wear contacts to work that Friday before your birthday. I sometimes wonder how this year would have panned out if not for that Injury on Duty.
39.Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year?
I think my health probably did a near-180. I was more active and generally ate healthier.
40.What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?
Too many to say, but the campus psychologist deserves mention. I don’t know if I would have managed PTSD and near-burnout had I not put my “pride” in my back pocket gone there.
41.What do you want the overarching theme for your 2015 to be?
Learning/Leading/Caring with Purpose
42.What do you want to see, discover, explore?
I would LOVE to go to Victoria Falls with Lisa! I’m not sure if I will be able to afford it (i.t.o. finances AND leave time from work) but it would be SO AWESOME.
43.Who do you want to spend more time with in 2015?
This is a no-brainer as I will finally be back home: my family! Including the animals. I’m hoping I’ll see GeekBoy not infrequently, but we will be doing the long-distance thing.
44.What skills do you want to learn, improve or master?
- Being a nice human being on sub-optimal sleep
- Keeping a regular journal
45.Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?
Kindness. Growing up, the value of kindness was always impressed on us, but the stress of work sometimes makes me so fed-up with humanity that I forget its importance.
46.What do you want your everyday life to be like?
Passionate. I know it is wishful thinking that I will be excited for every day, but I want to try to be excited for work or whatever it is my day holds.
47.Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?
I want to stop catastrophising. It’s an unhealthy thought pattern.
48.What do you want to achieve career-wise?
- Learn as much as possible and be an asset to the clinical team
- Start on a research project.
49.How do you want to remember the year 2015 when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?
I want to look back on a year where I made a lot of friends, got out of my shell, and experienced new things/places/activities.
50.What is your number one goal for 2015?
DON’T BURN OUT.