J.P. Scott is a non-traditional third-year medical student. He has a biology degree from Boston College and a master’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Hartford. He is a published researcher, having worked at Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the laboratory of Dr. Maureen E. Murphy, Ph.D. Prior to medical school, he worked as an adjunct professor of anatomy and physiology, laboratory lab supervisor, and J.Crew associate for five years. He is passionate about topics such as mental health and hopes to work with children as a practicing physician.
Love and the Gold Standard
I’ve spent almost a year trying to learn how to fall out of love, when I should’ve been trying to learn how to live loving someone who will never love me back nor with whom I’ll share a future.
Unexpectedly, you’ll wake up and find yourself longing for someone you never thought you wanted or needed; an unremarkable presence. They don’t complete you because you aren’t broken, but they fit as that missing puzzle piece to a picture not fully actualized. You meet them and they become your gold standard, the benchmark to which all others are compared. Green-eyed, southern, introverted, analytical and funny; try as you might, there has been no substitute. You are better for having them in your life, and when the stresses of everyday are lost when you see them, the weight you bear is undeniably lightened. They are your person.
It isn’t easy. It’s not a seamless unification of two hopes and dreams. It’s not without its hardships. It requires work – work worth doing and communication worth cultivating. You speak different love languages: time, personal touch, words of affirmation, gifts, or acts of service. Even still, you learn to incorporate one of your partner’s languages as your own, to ensure they know that they are seen, heard, and matter.
If medical school teaches you anything, it’s that you can’t do this journey alone. When you are the only person sitting down and logging the hours, it is your support system that helps you through the silence created by long sleepless nights and by the cacophony of busy days. They are the intangible necessity of your everyday journey; more important than your subscriptions to Rx, UWorld, or Pathoma. They are your connection to being grounded. They are your tethers to the humanity of life outside the medical bubble.
It’s a heavy burden being that person and member of the support system; a bystander to a world that influences your existence, although you yourself never fully signed up for it. In loving us, those that have made this their life’s mission, you take on the responsibilities and challenge assigned with loving someone that must be as selfish in the pursuit of their dream as they are selfless in its practice. What happens when the sacrifice becomes too much? What happens when the words “we” and “our” are replaced with “my” and “I”?
The silence created by two diverging paths, albeit painful, needs not the creation of false narratives that help to tarnish your image of him nor dampen the strength of your feelings. All were true and honest. Better yet, all are the important sutures needed to tether the hole in your heart. You know when you have started to truly heal when the pain of their memory hurts less and less.
A scar has finally started to develop. No longer filled with contemplation and sorrow, but instead with authentic well wishes, happiness, and acceptance of a future that appears full of potential. The road to closure has been a tumultuous journey, filled with embarrassing mistakes and occasional backslides. Yet none should be regretted, because each taught you a valuable lesson. When the dust settles and the waters have become less turbid, you will be able to see clearly the reflection of the man reflecting back at you. He isn’t brand new, as he is simply wiser and more understanding. He knows, even more so now, the value of his worth.
Be kind to yourself. Take ownership of your words and actions. Continue to be vulnerable. There is no designated path to closure or to the healing of a broken heart. As long as you get there, having let the journey shape, teach, and help you to grow, then it was well worth the emotional upheaval. A smile begins to emerge again, not only for what once was, but also for what is yet to come.
Today’s gold standard is tomorrow’s stepping stone. It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t occur by ignoring the past. It comes from feeling emotions as opposed to analyzing them, and from learning from experience, along with trial and error. This is how you move on. This is how you find someone new…a new and hopefully permanent gold standard.
Loneliness: An Unspoken Truth
They told you it would be hard. They say it will be worth it. They didn’t tell you just how lonely it would be.
It’s one o’clock in the morning, and the only things you hear are the crickets outside your bedroom window. There’s an occasional noisy car that passes by but ultimately, you are all alone; it’s just you and your thoughts. For the first time in a day of calamity, things are finally silent, and your evening is just beginning.
Even when the physical loneliness has again been replaced with the activities of “a normal day,” which includes hours of lecture, small group sessions, simulated patient encounters, and phone calls and texts with family and friends, there’s still a loneliness. Truth be told, it’s a select few who understand the journey you are on and the stress, demand, and sacrifice it requires.
Many will try and relate through analogy or scenario in hopes of gaining the slightest of views into your world but will fall short. This experience is unlike any other, and often falls victim to silence. No words are descriptive enough to captivate what you see and do. No emotions are accurate enough nor are they easily expressed.
It’s loneliness that no one talks about and to which few bear witness. It’s loneliness when even the most supportive of family and friends have long closed their eyes for the evening and are dreaming about tomorrow, and you find yourself still up digesting the day’s lecture material. It’s loneliness when your body is in one place but your mind is in another, thinking about a life you could be living as you look at Facebook or Instagram and seeing your friends getting married, buying houses, and having babies. It’s loneliness when you look towards the next few years through a lens of flexibility, because the intricacies of your life goal do not lend itself to a life of rooted stability.
It’s the path we’ve chosen. The goals we’ve set. One might say that we knew what we were signing up for when we decided to go into this profession, but I would refute such a statement. This is the part that gets buried by platitudes and is overshadowed by achievements. It’s the part we try and overlook out of fear of clouding our focus and fixating on the negative, yet it’s one of the necessary portions of this journey to learn how to manage. Do we do ourselves and those deciding upon this career a disservice by shielding us from knowing this loneliness before our feet are firmly planted in the bubble, or does painting an accurate picture yield a more informed and prepared individual?
For those who have dreamed of medicine their entire lives, I doubt speaking of loneliness will derail their pursuits. Yet, in shedding light on such an important aspect experienced by so many, we bring out of the shadows a sentiment that, without provision, can take hold of even the brightest, dampen their shine, and rob us all of the potential they bring toward the advancement of our profession.