Residency graduation happened a little while ago.
Granted, I'm not actually done with residency. I still am making up each day I missed for maternity leave. But, as I tell Duck on a near daily basis, it was still a good idea.
Graduation for residency is much less than other graduations. There are no gowns and caps. There is no "Pomp and Circumstance" playing. It's a quiet lunch where small certificates are handed out. A certificate that is apparently supposed to represent all the sacrifices and heart ache and sleep deprivation and hard work and moments when you lost your faith in humanity, in God, and yourself, and the moments when that faith was restored.
For four years, I looked forward to the day when I would receive that small piece of paper. I eagerly counted down the days, thinking of how grand and glorious life would be on the other side of that handshake with my residency direction and departmental chair.
Because residency is a weird thing. We stay awake 30 hours at a time, asked to make life and death decisions while doing so. We hold lives and futures in our hands. Outside the hospital, we are adults, with children and mortgages and ailing parents and crumbling relationships. And then we come into the hospital and we are yelled at, belittled, talked down to, humiliated. We have all our weaknesses laid bare for the examination of strangers. We are expected to deliver bad news. We are expected to know, always know. We see blood, and nudity, and death. We are expected to care, always care.
If I could get through residency, I could get through anything. That is what I've been telling myself for four years.
And here I am. Through it.
And the predominating emotion? It isn't the elation I thought I would feel. It isn't the weight off my shoulders I thought I would feel. It isn't the fall to my knees in pure relief I thought I would feel.
Mostly, I just feel lonely.
Because residency is a weird thing. While we are going through everything, we have our fellow residents beside us, going through the same things.We are in it together. We develop friendships, friendships forged by fatigue and saving lives together. Of facing the same self doubt and overcoming. Of being surrounded only by people who have 8-15 years post high school education. These are some of the tightest connections formed. I often spent more time with my fellow residents than my own family.
And now it's over. Residency ends and everyone leaves. Now is the time, 12 years later than our friends from high school, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, disillusioned, tired, now, finally, is the time to start our lives.
And just like that, everyone is gone.
I wouldn't ever wish to do this again. Even in the loneliness, there is still the elation and the relief. That we have made it through this.
Because no matter what else is out there, we can do it, we can make it through. Because after all, we survived residency.
And we have a piece of paper proving it.