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Lost decade?

In the coffee shop this morning I overheard a group of doctors talking about the past. One of them lamented all the years of training he'd had: four years of medical school and five years of residency. "I can't even remember what it was like to be in my twenties," he said. "I lost that whole decade of my life."

How sad! I'm not unsympathetic to this guy -- when you keep your nose to the grindstone for so many years, you can lose track of everything else, and when you finally look up, you wonder where all the time has gone. But I don't think there's anything inherent about medical training, or even hard continuous work, that necessarily results in "lost" time. It's only when you lose track of why you're working so hard, and of what you're working for, that the time spent working becomes a black hole in your life.

Here's why I think I'm lucky: I'm excited about starting my residency because I know why I want to do it. I know where I want to go, and I know how the hard work of residency fits in to that plan. I didn't always know this. Right out of medical school it felt like I was on a treadmill, just connecting the dots that someone else said that I should connect. I hated that feeling. I suppose that's the reason I decided to go to law school when I did. I understood why I wanted to go and what I wanted to get out of it. Now, I feel the same way about a residency in emergency medicine. I'll get much more out my residency now than I would have had I started right out of medical school. The unorthodox sequence of med school/law school/residency was right for me.

I've been lucky in so many ways. I don't have any lost decades. I've always been able to do things for good reasons and at the right time. May everyone be so fortunate.

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