This One Thing Kept Me Sane During My Medical Residency

Breaks became a welcome luxury.

Courtesy of Scott Hales/Shutterstock
Courtesy of Scott Hales/Shutterstock

In describing the relief of a slower paced four-month rotation in neuropathology during the 7-year neurosurgery residency:

I loved the sane hours, which gave me plenty of time to immerse myself in popular culture, enjoy magazines and books again, see movies, check out the new restaurants I had missed, and spend time outdoors during daylight hours. As a cultural anthropology major in college, I learned that leisure is the basis of culture, and I definitely felt more cultured during these leisurely four months, if only as part of popular culture and in catching up on who was dating whom. Neurosurgery residency has a way of making the outside world seem foreign at times, and this nice, easy rotation allowed me to feel like a native again.

Although residency often seemed like an unrelenting tunnel, there were breaks along the way that functioned like the steam release valve of a pressure cooker. These breaks were critical to the maintenance of sanity, and to re-establishing oneself as a member of the larger human community. To this day I still enjoy a simple unhurried trip to the grocery store because such a mundane errand felt like a luxury during these more slowly paced months.

Excerpted from Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside by Katrina Firlik, MD with permission from the author.

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