It is so easy to get caught up in our routines of work, school, and whatever blah fills our weeks. The weekends get lost in piles of laundry, lazy pajama days, yard work, sleeping in, changing diapers, and doing nothing special. It’s especially hard during the training years when long hours and small paychecks get in the way of big plans. The time is short, the stress levels are high, and we forget to enjoy our free time.
Even though it feels like it, our physician significant others don’t actually work every day. They do, occasionally, have a day off. We all know that their time away from the hospital is sacred time for them and us. But shouldn’t we all make an effort for that time away from the hospital to be more than our usual weekend routine, but to be memorable too?
Whatever your stage in the medical journey is, you can live like you are on vacation. What are the things to do in your area? Is there a historic home that you’ve never been too? A state park with picnic tables by water views? Maybe an art museum or a new playground you’ve never taken the kids to? What about local festivals or community theatre? Look a little further and you might find a vineyard or beach or mountain trail is only an hour or two away- perfect for a day trip. Wherever you live, surely there is something to do with your doctor significant other to take away the stress of the medical journey and help you enjoy the moment of today.
The year my husband was in fellowship, we truly embraced living like we were on vacation. Lifelong East Coasters, we moved across the country to Utah with our three small children for one year. People thought we were crazy to do a huge move like that for just one year, and maybe we were, but we wanted and adventure. We were drained from med school and residency and needed a recharge. The first time I ever set foot in Utah was the day we moved there, and my husband had only been there previously for his interview. Since everything in Utah was new to us, and we knew we were only going to be there for one year, every weekend we made plans to do something special- like a day trip to a National Park or checking out a local festival or going for a hike. During our year in Utah, we visited over 100 different attractions, parks, museums, festivals, hiking trails, NPS sites and more. Adventure year mastery achieved- and all on a single income fellowship salary and with three kids in tow!
The way we lived during fellowship year made us realize that you don’t have to be on vacation to have fun doing touristy things. You don’t need to wait for it gets better to treat yourself to an adventure. You don’t need a big paycheck to appreciate what is special about where you live. We always hear about people who live in places like New York City and have never been to see the Statue of Liberty or gone to the Empire State Building. Why do tourists have all the fun? Why can’t we have a special experience locally too? If you live near something interesting, make time to see it.
When we made an effort to make the most of my husband’s days off, we found that our time together as a family was more memorable. Our children, who were 5, 3, and 6 months old when we moved to Utah, looked forward to the weekends with excitement. My husband’s stress levels went way down. With little effort and limited funds, we changed the way we live.
We are now six months into the it gets better stage of physician life. Our budget is still fairly tight thanks to med school loan repayment, so we won’t be going on any big vacations any time soon. We are, however, enjoying planning outings in our new area (though on a much more relaxed pace than our year in Utah). In the last month, we have made first time visits to a zoo, art museum, and children’s museum. We are trying to maintain that sense of adventure we achieved fellowship year by exploring the fun and interesting things to do locally. Making our family time memorable continues to do wonders for my husband’s stress by helping him relax, have fun, and get fresh air. It’s been wonderful for our children to connect with their father in ways that make them feel special (and don’t involve screen time).
My words of wisdom to you, wherever you are in your medical journey, are to find a way to live like you are on vacation, even for just a day. The next day off that your significant other has, make plans. Seek out an experience. You won’t need to travel far or spend a lot of money to make that day memorable. It can be so easy to slip into routines that we forget that we deserve a break from the ordinary and the stress of a life in medicine. Don’t wait for it gets better. Enjoy your life today. We should all make an effort to love where we live.