“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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Too often, we find ourselves trapped in the mindset of “have to.” I have to go to work. I have to study. I have to go see the new patient in room 6. I have to make time to workout. I have to meet up with my friend for dinner.

I know I am not alone in this.

We, professional students, get caught in the whirlwind of our responsibilities and our interests. To-do lists that stretch far too long down the page serve as our lifesource. We are unfailingly hardworking. We schedule naps. We schedule social time. We fail to be spontaneous.

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One of my dear friends in my medical class, Hieu, and I made somewhat off the cuff plans to go to brunch. We went to the Ruby Slipper Cafe. There are a couple of locations scattered throughout New Orleans; we visited the cafe in the Marigny. I was struck by how beautiful the houses were that surrounded the restaurant – pastel staircases, orange window panes, and candy colored rooftops.

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We took photos. Not only of the surroundings but of ourselves, truly joyful. I had to admit: “It’s not often that I feel this level of joy.” When we were told that there would be a thirty minute wait for brunch, we looked at one another. Thirty minutes roughly translates to one chapter of Beckmann or a couple of OnlineMedEd videos or maybe (if you’re speedy) half of a UWorld block. We shrugged. I put my name down and we went outside.

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We spent the thirty minutes exploring a neighborhood that was previously unfamiliar. We spent the thirty minutes being completely carefree. As we posed and were encouraged by strangers, we laughed. We laughed, unashamedly. Unfiltered joy.

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When I look at these photos, I see two future doctors who have not (yet?) forgotten how to exist outside of the hospital. I see a future psychiatrist (that’s Hieu) and a future pediatrician. I see two friends who never see time spent together as unproductive but restorative.

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In three weeks, we will be fourth year medical students. We will be three quarters of the way to a degree we’ve been working most of our lifetimes to acquire. We have experienced patient loss. We have cried over our work. We have spent long hours in the hospital. We have been treated poorly. We have been overpraised. We have learned. Oh, have we learned. 

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Brunch was delicious. Conversation was even better.

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Too often, I find myself trapped in the mindset of “have to.” I have been working to reframe how I think about my day to day. I have been trying to say “get to” more frequently. I have been trying to remind myself more often that I am extremely blessed. I get to study medicine. I get to live in a city with a great spirit. I get to enjoy the company of friends who are extremely supportive. I get to enjoy.

I intend to make an effort to be more spontaneous and more grateful. Join me?

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