First year medical sailed into history yesterday, and with it a big weight has been lifted.  On the way back from the last exam, I saw people sitting in the park reading newspapers and drinking coffee.  And then I realized that this is what non-medical people do.  What a luxury is to sit in the park and not have to feel guilty about not studying.

I believe that having three months off to do whatever I want this summer is also a priceless luxury.  This is especially true considering that the demands of clerkship and residency will make first year medical seem like a walk in the park.  How many people have the freedom to remove themselves from their normal lives for a summer to pursue their own interests?  Not many.  I have spoken with many residents and doctors who have urged me not to waste the summers off in medical school.  They unanimously agree that time is the most precious thing we have as medical students.

I have the freedom to get on my motorcycle and just keep on riding south until I run out of land.  A lot of people have been asking my why I would want to do something as crazy as riding a motorcycle from here to the tip of South America.  My answer is that I want to experience the world.  I want to see what it is like to live day to day, taking in the different landscapes and cultures, and only thinking as far ahead as the next meal or where to spend the night. This trip has the potential to be the adventure of a lifetime.   

As far as I’m concerned, there are probably only two realistic opportunities left in probably the next decade to do something like that: this summer and next summer.  I’m excited about the motorcycle adventure Ted and myself will be shortly embarking upon (and Tom for the three weeks he’ll be with us).  It will certainly be challenging at times, but I would be hard pressed to come up with a way I’d rather spend one of my last two remaining summers of freedom. 

The science fiction writer Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) has been traveling the world for many years.  He recently wrote a book (Travels) in which he describes his many adventures.  As an aside, he also describes how he became disillusioned with medical school (he earned his M.D. at Harvard) and the reasons behind his decision to leave medicine to become a writer.  Thankfully patients are granted much more autonomy today than they were in the days when Michael Cricton was attending medical school.

In Travels, Michael Crichton explains that often he feels he goes to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who he really is.  He says “there is no mystery about why this should be so.  Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of food, your closet full of clothes — with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience.  That’s not always comfortable, but it’s always invigorating.”

7 thoughts on “Freedom

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