On Rotation

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I don’t think we really thought much about what’s up next for us. Well, we have, we’ve thought about how Alex needs to get into residency. Get in. Not what happens after that. Back when Alex started medical school, I heard warnings about being the partner of a med student, how hard it would be. And the first year was harder than expected-Irish med school’s first year is notoriously hard, unlike the US where it’s typically the second year. But it was fine. And I think a large part of that is because we’ve never known “normal.” We’ve never known a 9-5, so bizarre and long days are somewhat the norm.

But the thing is, the benefit of academia is the long breaks. This unusual schedule also meant we got to take off pretty frequently. Going to Asia for several months is less possible with a 9-5, so we consider the trade-off well worth it. We’ve been thrilled with our less than typical lives and wouldn’t trade it for anything.   The thing is, that ends with residency. Or, is put on hold until Alex is a regular Urologist, a specialty he chose, in part, for work-life balance after residency. It’s still a surgical residency, with all that entails. And I think in part because it’s hard to conceptualize, and in part because the warnings about medical school proved wrong for us, that we haven’t fully grasped what’s around the corner.

These past weeks have offered us a glimpse into the life we’ll face once he’s a surgical resident. How 80-hour workweeks are the norm (though, thankfully that number is no longer 120! Thanks?). Yes, that’s two-full time American jobs. How my waiting for an indeterminate number of hours hoping we might have dinner together will be the standard. Of missed connections, of long days, nights, and a whole bunch of stress. Of how he he’ll work holidays, though because of travel/living in Ireland we don’t celebrate most holidays really anyway, a trend that will clearly continue (sorry fam). How if we have kids, he won’t see them take their first steps, or hear their first words. Or see them for weeks at a time as he’ll leave before they get up, and come home after they’re asleep. How we’ll have to fight for our relationship. How we’ll worry about money, though at least, we won’t have much time to spend it. How 100% of housework and childcare will be on me. But at least those are things I love taking on and find fulfillment in. But It’s just going to be hard. Of course, this is true for a lot of people, not just doctors, and a lot of those people don’t have half-million dollar salaries to look forward too to compensate for the insane work. So I find it hard to complain. But the truth is, I know how hard it’s going to be. And it scares me. A lot.

But, it’s OK.

We’ve spent a good chunk of our relationship apart, long-distance has prepared us well. We’re a damn good team together. There’s a light at the end of this 5-year tunnel. And I know, together we can make it through. There are statistics about surgical residents and marriages. They are bleak. But we won’t be a part of them, I can’t allow the possibility to enter my consciousness. And I understand what it means to be a doctor, a passionate one at that. It is not just a career, it is a lifestyle, a dedication. And I am unbelievably proud of Alex for taking on such a monumental task such as this, it is an incredible undertaking. Long ago, I decided medicine wasn’t right for me. I knew that my job could never be my life the way medicine rightfully demands. People’s lives are in your hands, it is not a light decision, and the training they need is substantial. I get it. I also knew I wanted kids, and the challenges presented to women in medicine in this regard, in the US in particular, were too much to consider. And I know if I had pursued medicine Alex and I would not be together. It is a simple fact we both recognize. I have never for a second regretted my decision. And in all things, I tend not to lament what wasn’t, or what we don’t currently have. It’s a fruitless endeavor, though residency will certainly test my resolve.

And so, I respect so much the desire and dedication it takes to become a doctor. And while I’ll miss him incredibly, especially the first two brutal years, I know it’s worth it. To have a career that fulfills you, the way medicine does for him is a rare gift. Seeing him light up when he talks about surgery helps to remove the constant doubt that plagues me. I know it’s worth every sacrifice we both make. And we are both sacrificing here, equally. And we are lucky; we have supportive and understanding families. We have each other. We will be OK. We’ve lived incredibly blessed, fulfilling, and adventure filled lives with no regrets. I constantly feel I’ve lived a life longer than 28, we’ve been extremely lucky. A few years removed, we can handle.  We are as prepared as we can be.

I wanted to write this, to have it out in the universe for when it gets hard, as it will. To remember why we’re doing this. To remember to fight for our relationship, because it’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received in this life. To be thankful that as two independent people, we have the individual strength to withstand these years, paired with a solid partnership and support network. To remember it could be worse. It can always be worse. Residency will change our relationship. It has to. But I think it’ll make it stronger. I think it will make us appreciate each other more, and everything the other does to make this life of ours work. To relish in the limited time we do get together, and be present for those moments. And to be thankful, for this opportunity, and for each other. Both are rare in this life. And I’m glad this didn’t happen when we were younger, that Alex took three years for grad school/ travel. I don’t know how the younger version of ourselves would have handled this, though I imagine with less grace.

So while I’m not loving these rotations, and the fear they bring with them, I’m thankful for a taste of it so when it does happen next July for real, it won’t be as much of a system shock.

But we’re not there yet! We still have one year of medical school left, with exciting trips and adventures in the works and we’re going to soak up the time together. But there you go universe, and future selves. It’s going to be OK!

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