Welcome to December, as always, one of the darkest months of the year, but if November is anything to go by, it won’t be the snowiest or coldest! I know those of us not having to dig out our cars after a 26+ hour call shift are especially grateful for this.
As we come to the end of the year, it is a natural time for reflection, of ends and beginnings. So, I offer four reflections of community, appreciation, celebration and resilience.
1. Community: We are all one family of residents
No one understands where you’re at like the last 10 people who slept in that same call room bed.
It can be hard to remember this when we’re so divided by our programs, divided by years of experience, divided by sites and divided by backpack colours, but we are one big community of residents. We are more similar than we are different. So reach out, say hi, offer kindness and support, grab a coffee to share, reconnect with a medical school classmate.
2. Appreciation: Spread joy with thankfulness and appreciation
Thank you to the medical students whose curiosity and interest (real or feigned) reminds me why I went into medicine.
Thank you to the upper-year residents who are a haven of calm wisdom when I feel like I am rudderless and optionless in a crisis and for normalizing our experiences.
Thank you to the staff for their patience as we get our feet under us and for pearls not found in any book.
Thank you to my fellow R1s who offer ATC emotional and critical thinking support on call and also hotly contested debates on what the correct way to face in the shower is (I stand by my vote - it’s facing the shower head).
Thank you to my husband who showers me with love in all five love languages and the sixth, which is providing food on call shifts.
Thank you to my family who receive and reply to messages at all hours and despite the distance, babies and work, I know are there for advice, cat memes and the documentation of life events.
Thank you to my family of in-laws who have accepted me as a “_____-in-law” by virtue of a one-hour ceremony and five minutes of paper signing and have welcomed me into the fold.
Thank you to my non-medical friends who remind me that what I take for granted every day at work is meaningful and also incredibly wild.
3. Celebration: Big or small, celebrate!
Maybe you’re celebrating a new member of the family (by birth, marriage, adoption, new relationship), be it a person or a pet.
Maybe you’re celebrating in a new place with a new collection of traditions.
Maybe you’re celebrating a graduation, a retirement or a new phase of life.
Maybe you’re celebrating a feeling of rightness, a wholeness, that life is heading in the direction.
Maybe you’re celebrating the chaos of the holidays, or in successful completions of holiday-to-do lists, or a lack of holiday-induced chaos.
Revel in the joy of the wins of the year and celebrate in a way that is meaningful to you, big or small.
4. Resilience: Holidays are hard
The holidays can be difficult, so it is important to acknowledge that as well.
Maybe you’re facing the first holiday without a loved one or perhaps the second or perhaps another of many without them.
Maybe your year was marked with funerals or celebrations of life or life-altering late-night phone calls.
Maybe you think this might be the last year you get to spend with a loved one.
Maybe it’s the first holiday you’re spending away from family, the first you’re on call in the hospital for, the first you’re spending in a new place.
Perhaps, it’s the first time you’re reconnecting with your family, or forging new connections with a partner’s family.
Whatever challenges the holidays bring, allow yourself to feel the loss and the difficult feelings and find grounding within yourself. As always, reach out to your friends, family, social network, co-residents, OAW, mentors, those who wrote your medical school/residency letters, etc. for some PRN support.
Whatever this holiday season is bringing, my hope is that its tidings include community, appreciation, celebration and resilience in your life.
The end of a year is also a time for aspirations for the year to come, a future to look forward to. And so, I leave you with some wishes from me to you. Be kind to yourself, we are our harshest critic. Connect with yourself, who you were last year and who you have become today. Find small moments of joy every day. Celebrate whenever you can. Find strength within yourself and your community. I wish you all the brightest holiday season!
Dr. Julia Pearson is a family med resident physician at the U of A.