Long distance relationships

Everyone’s in one.

Chilling with four of my close girlfriends in med school last Saturday night, we realized that four of us were in long distance relationships and one of us was engaged (to someone else in our school). Each of us is having such a different experience. The one who is engaged did four years of long distance during college, and considered ending the relationship if she and her fiance did not end up at the same med school. One of us finds it not so hard, because she and he are old pros and have been doing long distance since high school. One of us who is new to this finds it challenging, because her boyfriend currently works in China, and time zones don’t make it any easier. That leaves two of us, who see our boyfriends every 5 weeks or so, mine a 2 hour plane ride away and her’s on the other coast.

For C and I, long distance has been, for the most part, kind of awesome: individual productivity is up, feelings of competitiveness are way down, and general time for socializing is way up. We both feel more independent, and less resentful that having a significant other means compromises when deciding what we want to do at any given time. We were totally joined at the hip during undergrad so long distance was a very new thing. I spent undergrad studying on C’s bed with my laptop, and now I feel like a real person who studies at a real desk.

Nowadays, instead of studying together in a dorm room the size of a generous closet, and garnishing almost every meal together with banalities (“So…how were the last four hours of the day for you?”), our interactions consist of: A. Google hangouts wherein we talk shop (i.e. medicine/medical school/classes), or study quietly while C plays some obscure playlist of remixes, or show each other what we are wearing for a specific event; B. Facetime at around noon when we wake up on weekends to rehash the bars/parties/clubs/hangouts of the night before; and C. texts very late at night whereby the )’s on a =))) is directly correlated with BAC.

Most weeks we get between 2-6 hours of time with each other in some form or another and I am pleasantly surprised to find this is arguably enough. There are probably many specific reasons why it is working out better than expected for C and me. I think the major one is that, all in all, we are a very no-nonsense, low-maintenance couple: we almost never fight when we’re together and being apart makes nitpicking impossible; C is never jealous; and we never did plan many “date-like” events even while we were together – just anniversaries and birthdays (we actually get more now because every time the other visits, the whole weekend turns into a series of dates).

Naturally, it’s not all perfect. At the beginning, I would get frustrated that the time difference meant that he would always be out a little later than I am on weekends – meaning that I wouldn’t get to vchat him before bed. Sometimes, I still get the feeling that I initiate more conversations/videochats/facetimes, but really that shouldn’t be surprising since I hoard 80% of the airtime in our everyday conversations. Now that it’s been a few weeks and people are starting to hook up at our schools, (Halloween) parties can feel a little lonely.

But things are looking so much better than I could have predicted, and not much like the catastrophe I had imagined with our med school acceptances played out this past spring . We have our vacation/visiting plane tickets booked into Feb 2013 – our four year anniversary.

-T

4 Things about the beginning

The first few weeks of med school have been sort of busy (kind of a lie, but I’ll go into that later), although that’s not really the reason why not to blog. Mostly the reason is that as much as I’m a go-with-your intuition kind of writer (you’re never going to see as many data/citations as with C), new situations means that I’m often vacillating as to how I feel or think. Here are just some thoughts:

  1. Med school is like being premed with a sick twist: the pass/fail (at C and my schools) makes it, in my opinion, a different playing field. On one hand, it means that other things are much more important: research for example. On the other hand, we still need to do well on Step 1. I’ve been a little surprised that many people (maybe me included? I’m not sure) have a really hard time adapting to this. By all reasoning, we should be a little more lax in our study schedules as not everything we are supposed to know for tests will be high yield for Step 1. Moreover, we’re not likely to retain all this anyways. And yet people are very very unnerved by not knowing everything – not feeling like they’re going to ace the test or at least do above the mean. (I was never the type to review lecture notes after class during college, and was really surprised that such people actually exist! Figures I would meet them in med school though.) The game has changed, and I have been trying to adjust to that why I’m writing this now rather than studying for my biochem final on Friday. But that has only made me more anxious about finding a lab (see 2 and 3).
  2.  I have a lot of free time. First year in my program gives us tons of free time. Some people choose to spend all that time studying. I am currently spending it being anxious (see 3), hyper-energetic (went out more and harder than I had ever gone in my life in the first 3 weeks of med school – bars/clubs every day of the week for 1.5 weeks straight), or just bored (watching TV shows every day), frantically setting up opportunities to shadow. Perhaps this excess of free time will stop, come anatomy and when I join a lab.
  3. Thinking about residency makes me bat-shit crazy anxious. As I’ve only in the last couple of month decided I am much more interested in surgery and subsurgical specialties than I had thought, this has made me sad about how damn hard it is to match into good residency programs. People make it sound like a fifth year is necessary for competitive specialties and that makes C and me sad because it means more time apart, and maybe not matching in the same year. Also, 2 of the specialties I am a bit interested in are early-match and so that would mean no couple’s matching. Given that C and I are very research oriented, I’ve had to think about this a lot as I feel some pressure to choose a specialty now to start research in it. I will probably look back on this and laugh my ass off in third year when I do a 180* and choose something totally different.
  4. It has been interesting to go to a different school than C. In some ways it has been a little lonely but in many other ways it has been very, very exciting and positive. Other than the getting used to not having a “family unit” to retreat to every day, it has been wonderful because we can do similar things at two different institutions and talk about them. We can be involved in the same extracurricular groups at two different schools, for example. However, this experience has also so far reverted me back to freshman year of college – looking up at C and wondering how I will keep up. He’s always so ahead of the game at the start, and I feel like I’m always scrambling to keep up: in terms of deciding on a field that I’m interested in, getting involved with extracurriculars, etc. But that’s just in his personality to be excited about the future. I suppose that is how he has always made me a better student.

-T