This week, medical students across the country matched for residency. My facebook feed was flooded with announcements and rejoicing and huge sighs of relief. And it hit me: this will be us next year. The medical school that I thought would never end, is almost over. I genuinely never saw an end to Alex's medical school, or even tried to imagine a life after it. That was too much; the present was too much to handle on its own. When we were in high school and Alex was working night shifts at the hospital, when he was taking 20 credits a semester for his undergraduate and working full time in his lab, when we moved to Dominica and asked ourselves "what did we just get ourselves into?". When we found out I was pregnant with Lily in our tiny hotel room on our tiny Caribbean island, and then I flew home to the US alone for a safe delivery, and she was born while we were more than 2,000 miles away from daddy. I never saw an end to medical school. And that's, in a way, because there is no end to Alex's medical education. He'll graduate, he'll finish residency, he'll do whatever doctors do after that (too far ahead for me to even wonder about), but he will never be done learning. But soon he will be a real doctor, not a student doctor. I can't believe we've made it out alive (so far). Med school is no joke, and I'm not even the student.
Learning to be a helper to my husband & figuring out how to support him through medical school has not been easy. There have been a lot of tears and a lot of times we both wished he had decided to work at a pizza parlor instead (or been a janitor, his dream job). But we somehow made it through and I thought I'd share a few ways that we, as wives (or husbands, or boyfriends, or girlfriends, or friends... you get it) can support our loved ones through medical school. Kind of like a letter to myself three years ago.
1. Know that this is only a season. A long season, yes, but it will end. You will be done moving, you will be done depending on loans, you will make it through this. Keep this in mind and try to enjoy this season while you can. I spent most of our time in Dominica alone in our room, dreaming of being somewhere else, when I should've been hiking waterfalls and living on the beach. And while I did, eventually, get out, make friends, and love the island life, I wasted 6 months of our short time there moping around and dreaming of being back home.
2. Pray for them. I pray that Alex will align his decisions to God's will for his life. That he will be equipped with focus, clarity of mind, and the ability to remember the things he's studied. That he will feel confident as the leader of our family even though he isn't the "breadwinner" currently. That he will treat his fellow students, his superiors, his patients, and all people he interacts with each day with respect and love.
3. Learn to be a good helper to them in whatever way you can. Become a team. This will look different for every situation, but for us it looks like: me trying to take care of Lily as best I can and manage the house so that Alex can effectively study without worrying about our finances or what's for dinner. This is definitely my weakest area but... at least it's good advice for other med school spouses. Also, it might mean getting a job in order to help your family be less dependent on loans. For most medical students, when you take time off to study for your board exams, there will be periods of time when you won't be receiving any loans -- that's the scary part, and that's where we are right now, so I am so thankful that I have Lily and Mama to be earning a little bit of money to help us out right now.
4. Encourage them to apply to rotations and residencies that will be the most beneficial for their learning, not necessarily places I want to go. I have a list of places I really don't want to move to, but if that's where Alex needs to go, that's where we'll go. I pray that that he will match for a residency program that will offer him the best education in his field and enable him to do the most good. Because we can grow as a family wherever we need to, and I'm praying that we will be sent wherever we can help the most people.
5. I call this a letter to "ourselves as first-years" because as spouses, we are going through school right there with them. We might not be working 30 hour shifts or taking 8 hour exams, but we are going through a unique and pretty hard journey. We are learning to navigate our roles as supporters of our loved ones while they go through some pretty ridiculously ridiculous trials (like, why do they have to work for 30 hours straight? Doesn't sound safe or make any sense to me.) We're working 30 hour shifts at home, holding down the fort, trying to figure things out so that our students can study, or sleep, or whatever they need to do. So let's have grace on ourselves, our students, and everyone else.
So to the nineteen-year-old version of myself who left her friends and family behind, held tight to her husband and flew on a rickety plane to the middle of the Caribbean, you will be okay. You will be more than okay. You will make friends like you never could've imagined, and you will grow like you never thought you could. You will learn to be a helper to your husband, and you will learn to love life exactly the way it is. Not in ten years, not in five, but today. Because your lives are beautiful & your husband is learning to save the lives of others.