Torn Between a “To Do List” and a “Social Life”

I have always been an overachiever, no doubt about it; always wanting to be one step ahead of the rest, always ahead of the game. For example, if I finished a school assignment by 7 o’clock in the evening, instead of taking the night off, I’d start on another assignment I knew was coming up. This was the motto I lived by all my life, until I finished my 1st year of medical school, that is. As a pre-med and 1st year medical student, I constantly told myself I’d fill my summer up with resume-building extracurriculars. But people kept telling me, “It is your FINAL summer off for years to come, enjoy your time!” Me?! Taking time off? Not being productive? I couldn’t even bear the thought. By midway into my 1st year, I already had research for the summer set up, in addition to potential shadowing opportunities in fields of interest to me. I factored it all into the schedule for my seemingly lengthy, but in reality limited, 6 weeks of summer: research, volunteering, shadowing, studying for boards. My plan was to complete all my research and volunteering positions throughout the days, and study a few hours for Boards at night.

Today, 2 days into my official summer vacation, I realized I had failed to factor some crucial aspects into my schedule: my family, friends, & outright sanity! I have worked too hard all year not to enjoy a few weeks of bliss. I deserve to wake up to a day filled not just with endless studies and a “To Do” list the size of my Grey’s Anatomy textbook, but rather to a day of, yes, some work and productivity, but also some well-deserved fun! Since this realization, I have altered my schedule drastically, allowing myself to live the next 6 weeks with this new mindset. On top of everything, my sister is tying the knot the last weekend of my summer, an event I underestimated in terms of the time and effort it would take to plan for. These happy times with family and friends will be memories I will cherish forever. Ok, so you can’t exactly add “planned sister’s wedding and hung out with friends and family” to your resume, but one cannot compare the value of building those precious memories with a completed “To Do” list. I know I will regret it down the line if I don’t allocate some time during the summer for my loved ones.

Of course, I am filling my schedule with productive, career-building endeavors; however, I am not overwhelming my life with these plans. I plan to enjoy my time and to experience exciting pursuits with my loved ones. I am extremely satisfied with the decision I’ve made: the decision to have a summer I can remember for the rest of my life, yes, but one that also includes a realistic amount of academic accomplishments.. I mean, after all, how much of my Boards studying am I REALLY going to remember? Five percent, if I’m lucky. And at the end of it all, I know one person who will be the MOST thankful and excited about my decision: my loving sister. I can spend some quality time with her, helping make the happiest time of her life one to cherish forever. For those of you who wish to fill your summers with career-building activities (a.k.a. my fellow overachievers), below I have listed some things that were on my list to achieve this summer. I hope they spark some inspiring ideas and fuel motivation that may have dwindled if you are anywhere close to the state of mind I am in after a year of hard work! Good luck to you all!

  • Volunteer at a Hospital around your area, or school’s area, or where you plan to apply for residency. It is never too early to get your foot in the door and start forming connections with program directors in residency programs you will be applying to in a couple of years! You can even find individual doctors in departments of interest to email and ask if you can shadow.
  • Volunteer for a humanitarian project. I am personally volunteering for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, California. Any small gesture to give back to our community, preferably using the knowledge we have learned thus far, would be more than enough. A little help from a lot of people combined turns out to be surprisingly impactful!
  • Do research at your school. By finding a project at your school, you will be able to continue the research throughout the following year if the project extends past the summer. This shows longitudinal dedication, without adding an unmanageable workload on top of your coursework.
  • Light Boards studying. Key word: LIGHT. We are probably not going to remember much for the Boards from this summer. Maybe look over some drugs and bugs. Maybe Pathoma or Kaplan videos, focusing on topics that particularly confused you during your 1st year or that you were never able to grasp.
  • Pursue your hobby, and do it in a way that is applicable to medicine. Residency programs do look for a well-rounded applicant, after all. For example, I thoroughly enjoy writing, and now blog for the MSPress. This allows me to relish in my hobby, while giving me a solid accomplishment to add to my resume. For those of who might like to paint, paint a medical scene!

There are many many more, these were just a few. Above all, remember to always update your resume (you will regret it if your achievements pile up and you forget the details), and remember to enjoy life!

Featured image:
100! ;D by Abdulrahman AlZe3bi.


Tara Vartanian

Tara Vartanian is an Osteopathic Medical Student at Western University, expected to graduate 2018. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Communications and spent 2 years at UCLA, conducting research in the creation of novel medical devices through the Bioengineering Department. She fully embraces the additional skills her school teaches in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, with a special attention on the structure and function of the body as an integrated unit. She utilizes her love for writing as a way to not only express herself, but also as a chance to protray medicine in a variety of different perspectives. Among others, she values an open-mind, positive attitude, and courage to pursue one's passions in life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *