by Sahail Wani
If someone asked me to tell them how my first year of medical school went, I would say that I thought I would be happier. Continue reading
If someone asked me to tell them how my first year of medical school went, I would say that I thought I would be happier. Continue reading
There are many things that bind the medical student community together; our love of stealing food, the ability to still be bamboozled by an ECG, and of course, our innate skill to lose pens at a rate that Ebola has got nothing on.
But have you ever truly wondered what happens to a pen? Where does it go? What adventures does it have? Ever wonder about the people and things it sees?
Well, if you’re reading this article, you can guess that I have.
My pen’s journey began last year, when I lent it to my consultant who snapped their fingers at me and gestured to my pen as they were on the phone. “Do you also have some paper?” I was also asked, while begrudgingly handing over my favourite black pen.
I was unfortunately called away by a registrar, lured away with the promise of being able to cannulate the next patient. As you can expect, I never did get that pen back, and I assumed it had been lost in the depths of the pen blackhole that is a hospital.
At the same time though, I also imagined that my pen saw many exciting things in its life. It would likely have been used to draw up a drug chart to save a patient from a DVT, or sign path forms for a renal patient on dialysis. It could have been used to write down obs on a glove in ED, or provided comfort to that paeds patient who had left their mark on the hospital (likely on the walls, possibly on the bed covers). It could have also vacationed in world of hospital administration, and heard all the juicy gossip about the number of beds that were not available that week. Who knows what the pen could have done; the possibilities are endless!
Well, in some exciting, awe-striking news, I found the pen.
Nearly a year later, as I rocked up to the first day of my new rotation, I found “pen”, as I affectionately now call it, sitting innocuously in a surgical theatre. “It couldn’t be,” I thought to myself. “After all this time?”
Now, I can imagine some of you scoffing at this story, and some perhaps even accusing me of stealing a pen that perhaps did not even belong to me anymore, for it now belonged to the hospital. Pish-posh, I say. This event was a reunion that would have put The Notebook to shame, and made you weep like the time Mufasa died (it’s been 24 years, and I still cry. Every. Single. Time.)
It would have been a reunion story for the ages, a tale so splendid that David Attenborough would have wanted to make a documentary about it.
That is until the consultant snapped their fingers, and off my pen went on an adventure again.
Featured image from user FP Network on The Fountain Pen Network
My relationship with Medicine has been a tumultuous one. It is very much like I’m dating medicine…
My love for Medicine started with an infatuation – a crush, as some might say. I was attracted to the prospects Medicine offered me. ‘He’ appeared reliable, strong, caring and sometimes even mesmerising. But that is all I know about Medicine. I was attracted to the security he provided me with, the respect everyone seemed to have for him, and his seemingly endless intellect. But that’s not why Medicine was attracted to me. He seemed to respect my diligence, my willingness to make sacrifices for the things I wanted. He appreciated the fact that I could hold my own against him.
Then Medicine asked me out. I vividly remember the day he did so – it was nearly 3 years ago now. Even the fact that he bothered to ask me out seemed like such an honour – people were practically throwing themselves at him – and here I was, a plain Jane, that Medicine asked out. I was elated to say the least. On our first date, he woke me up at 8am in the morning, with a call – telling me not to worry, the first few months of a relationship he said, were always the best – the Honeymoon period, or so he called it. And he was right, Medicine for those months, never ceased to be charming, provocative and ultimately seductive. He could’ve seduced those who were at first, totally uninterested in him, and put off by his demanding attitude. I did not just want to be with him, I wanted to be him.
And then we celebrated our first anniversary. The first of many, I would’ve hoped. He gave me a utilitarian, digital watch and says, ‘I don’t want you to miss any of our appointments – they’re all important’. I was so pleased at the gift – I hadn’t expected any, but at the same time, I was profoundly confused – surely, we will have some time outside of each other?
It was by third year that the cracks in our relationship started to appear. At first, the thought of spending all my time with him had made me so happy, but all of a sudden, as I watched my friends enjoy their social lives, I realised how restrictive our relationship had become. And that wasn’t all. There were stories. People who had dated him before told me to beware of the initial allure, of his initial charms. ‘He doesn’t work out for everyone, you know’, said a friend.
Third year, the relationship had become a chore. He wanted more and more. He was insatiable. My time, my intellect, my life: everything was not enough for him. Nothing was ever enough. Maybe our shabby foundation had started to rattle us. We decided, or rather, I decided, that I needed time away from him – time to do what I loved to do, without him intruding. I just didn’t feel like me anymore – I felt like my life was overrun with assignments, OSCEs, hospital placements and more.
During our time away from each other, I realised how shallow my reasons were for dating Medicine. What had attracted me to Medicine? Was it the unattainability? Was it the glamour? Was it the constant challenge? Was it the allure of making a difference? Perhaps it had been the strange amalgamation of all of the above.
As I contemplated my return to Medicine, I knew I would have to confront all I had learnt in the past 3 years. The reasons that had drawn me to Medicine initially, now appeared feeble – or even slightly repulsive. A return to Medicine would require stronger foundations. I needed to be able to justify the long hours, the years of less than desirable working conditions, the intellectual rigour and the physical exhaustion.
At the end of my deliberation, I decided to return to Medicine. In my cynical moments, I thought I was returning to him because I had nowhere to go. In my moments of positivity, I felt I was returning because of a faith that things would work out between us. But ultimately, the appeal of either of these extremes never lasted. I didn’t want to return to Medicine cynical or hopeful. What I did want to do however, was to return to Medicine not in a way that consumed me; but in a way that allowed me to retain who I was.
This is why we couldn’t date anymore. I look at Medicine now, as an equal. I’m not exhilarated by his presence, and I am no longer ignorant to his flaws. I want Medicine to be part of my life, not my whole life.
Featured image from Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
In 2014 the Victorian Liberal government instituted six-month mandatory minimum jail sentences for people who assault emergency service workers, except where there are “special reasons” not to impose it. In December last year two women were found guilty in the Magistrates Court of assaulting a paramedic and, as per the mandatory laws, were sentenced to prison. On appeal this month, the County Court overturned this decision on the basis of the “special reasons” exemption. Those reasons related to difficult backgrounds, mental health and dependent children. This prompted an outcry from Ambulance Victoria paramedics, who have called for the mandatory minimum sentencing laws to be tightened, with “It’s not OK to assault paramedics” painted onto ambulances across the state. In response, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has promised to tighten mandatory sentencing laws.
In a newsletter from 17 May 2018, the AMA conveyed their “profound disappointment” in the removed jail sentence for the two women, and called upon the government to send a “strong message” that “such acts [should] be met with the mandated penalty”. In response, Seamus Horan wrote the following letter exploring the effect of mandatory sentencing.
I refer to your email newsletter from 17 May 2018 regarding penalties for attacking healthcare workers, specifically discussing the recent assaults against paramedics. I was surprised to read that the AMA is supportive of mandatory sentencing.
Healthcare workers have a right to be safe at work, and often this right is not met. Tragedies in the last year alone have shown us the devastation that attacks on healthcare workers can have. As the peak body representing medical practitioners and students in Australia, the AMA has a responsibility to advocate for change that will make us safer. Advocating for mandatory sentencing does not achieve this.
The AMA supports evidence-based medicine, however it appears this outlook does not extend to the legal system. The evidence indicates that mandatory sentencing fails to produce the desired result of deterring crime, and comes at high social and economic costs. The Law Council of Australia found that mandatory sentencing results in unjust sentences where the punishment does not fit the crime, and that by their very design they disproportionately impact particular groups within society. These groups include Indigenous peoples, juveniles, people with mental illnesses and cognitive impairment, and those who are impoverished. Indeed, in 2000 the United Nations condemned mandatory imprisonment legislation in Western Australia and the Northern Territory for its disproportionate effect on Indigenous Australians, acknowledging the negative health consequences, as well as the social and legal impacts.
If we were to compare the legal system to the medical system for a moment, imagine the medical equivalent of mandatory sentencing. Mandatory clinical guidelines would be unthinkable in medicine. There would be an outcry if they were imposed, particularly if they were imposed by politicians spurred by popular demand. Clinicians would rightly say that the specific circumstances of individual patients should influence which treatment is recommended. This is the job of doctors – if we follow mandatory clinical guidelines, what is the point of having doctors?
Mandatory sentences are unjust because by their design they similarly ignore the circumstances of individuals and lead to unjust results. If we have mandatory sentences, what is the point of judges? Why allow discretionary judgement in any profession? By weakening public confidence in our justice system in this way, we only weaken ourselves.
For further detail of the substantial evidence that mandatory sentencing leads to unjust outcomes and fails to deter crime, I refer you to the article below.
In the era of Fake News and political scepticism, our institutions are under intense pressure. The AMA has the potential to play a moderating role, to champion evidence-based policy and confront populist politics. By supporting mandatory sentencing, the AMA has done the opposite.
Featured image from WorkSafe Victoria
To My Year A Self,
You’ve just arrived in Churchill and it is not what you expected it to be. When you thought “rural” you pictured rolling hills and gumtrees. You did not picture a somewhat post-apocalyptic landscape marred by a coal mine, and fields bathed in the glow of the power stations. When you thought “country town” you thought of a tight-knit, friendly community. You will be shocked to realise that several med houses have already been robbed.
You’ll walk to the main shopping area, which will take approximately 3 minutes to explore. The dining options are limited, but you’ll comfort yourself with the fact that you’ll spend less energy thinking about what to eat and therefore have more energy to study. It’s kind of like how Obama only had blue or grey suits, so he’d spend less time choosing what to wear and more time making other important decisions. Kind of.
You’ll meet everyone, make some friends and go to your first lecture, only to be told it will be your last. You’ll be hit with the “flipped classroom model” and “lectorials” and be asked far too many times if you’re #medready. The flipped classroom in year A means that you’ll be watching lectures online and coming to tutorials ready to discuss what you’ve learnt- so basically what you did in undergrad when you didn’t feel like physically turning up to lectures. The first few weeks will be spent conducting a complete overhaul of your learning style, resigning yourself to the fact that flashcards are the only way you’re going to be able to memorise all the content they’ve thrown at you.
You took anatomy for a whole semester a couple of years ago, but as you look at the cadaver in the anatomy lab you will question where all the knowledge from your Biomedicine degree has gone. You will mistake a nerve for a tendon and feel your head start to throb, partially from stress and partially because of the formaldehyde.
On some days you will drink your weight in coffee to make up for your lack of sleep. For some godforsaken reason Federation University’s student society has decided to host parties in the building behind your room on Wednesday nights- the night before clinical skills days and hospital placements. Invest in some earplugs and try to go to bed at a reasonable hour. It is your only hope of getting a good night’s sleep and curbing your caffeine addiction.
When you meet your first patient in the hospital your ability to talk to another human being will promptly disappear. It will take a few more clinical encounters for you to realise that you can just talk to patients in the same way you would talk to another adult. You’ll learn how to build rapport and feel like you’re helping them, even though you have no formal role in their care. You’ll feel like you’re helping because they’ll tell you how happy they are to be contributing to your education, and at this point you’ll be taking all the encouragement you can get.
Although this year is going to be tough, I assure you that there will be time to laugh and enjoy this crazy journey. You’ll join a mixed netball team and realise that you are probably the worst netball player in history, but you’ll love playing all the same. You’re going to make some great friends, who will be there to support you when you’re struggling- academically or otherwise- because they’re all going through the same thing. You’ll motivate each other to study and run marathon OSCE sessions at each other’s houses. After exams are done you’ll play Cards Against Humanity, which will make you laugh until you can hardly breathe and will help you forget the horrendous history you took in station 3.
You’ll realise you must take care of yourself if you want to stay afloat this year, and you’ll realise this somewhere between polishing off a Woolies chocolate mud cake and opening another bottle of wine. Eating breakfast will become part of your morning ritual and will give you enough energy to get through lectorials. Going to the gym will become a daily habit as well, and it will be a welcome break between finishing class and going home to study. You’ll discover the life-changing concept of cooking in bulk and will be thankful for all the time you have saved, especially during exam time.
Although this isn’t what you thought medical school would be like, you’ll be grateful for the people you have met and the knowledge you have gained. As you move into your clinical years you’ll still feel a strange affinity for Churchill, and whenever someone mentions they also did year A there, you’ll exchange a knowing look and swap some funny stories. This year will be one of the most challenging, stressful and rewarding years of your university life. So, unpack your things, call your mum to let her know you’re safe, and take a deep breath. You’re going to be just fine.
Content warning: harsh language, distressing scenarios
“Oh, look at that cute little baby!” I said, walking through the halls of the hospital. No sooner had the words left my mouth when the guttural cry of a complete stranger snaps me back to reality, with words that I have heard all too often: “Fucking faggot.”
How lovely. Exactly what I wanted to hear on that Wednesday morning, right between ward rounds and my regular morning coffee.
The shock of being called such a name never wears off, no matter how often you have it thrown at you. Whether it is out of a car window, in a club, or just walking down the street holding your partner’s hand, it still leaves a hollow, cold sensation running through you and a fear of what will happen next. Will they just move on? Will they spit on me, throw their drink on me, hit me? In that moment, all possibilities are considered and feared over.
Don’t get me wrong though. We all develop a thick skin, especially as medical students. We are constantly being yelled at, abused, and underappreciated by both patients and colleagues alike. Falling to pieces every time someone is mean to you is just not practical. But to have such an integral part of your identity, a part that you may still be coming to terms with, be attacked is devastating. Some attacks are not as openly hostile, like the double take of people when you walk down the street and the deliberate lack of questions regarding relationships at the dinner table, but are still just as damaging.
I am in the GP clinic, talking with a patient about a mundane issue that was quickly resolved in the first 5 minutes leaving the next 25 for small talk. Same sex marriage comes up, and I cringe internally. The patient’s face crumples into a grimace and the familiar arguments brought forward; what will it lead to, gays are diseased, God doesn’t agree with these choices. The once quite pleasant patient is now a hatred-spewing entity who disagrees with a core part of my being. I look impartial and listen like we are told to do, until the onslaught is over and the patient returns to their normal state. “Now then, what about you? Have you got a special girl?”
People are often shocked when I tell them about what has happened to me just because I am gay. Some don’t believe me and think I am overdramatising things: “Surely that is a thing of the past? No one thinks like that anymore!”
Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true? Wouldn’t it be a much happier world if we just didn’t care about this stuff and let people live? Such a cliché and I legit feel like a dick writing it, but we can all have a dream. I would really just be happy with some more queer representation in the curriculum or a focus on the unique issues surrounding queer health to be honest. It is impossible to change people’s minds, but it is possible for us as future doctors to help make the world just a little bit less shit for those who are different.
Don’t assume someone’s sexuality or gender identity, don’t assume they aren’t struggling, and don’t assume that you will never encounter queer people. We exist, we are your friends and patients and colleagues. Don’t forget about us.
Featured image from Pixabay
A few months ago, I heard a noise coming from my car. A quiet, intermittent rattling – nothing of great significance – but I noticed it all the same. Continue reading
you are in a submarine. you are looking through a periscope. all around you is blackness, the crushing shade of water when the sun is a distant rumour. you hang, suspended motionless in the current that stirs up flecks and clouds of matter. below you, thrown into relief by your tiny circle of light, stretches a fleshy coral reef. outcroppings, patterned with crazy brain-like shadings, shadow near-invisible holes, and malignant little jellyfish try to pattern themselves after the pinkish floor they cling to.
with your curved little instrument you dig away at the reef. satisfying lumps of material slide easily off the whole. what is left turns pale and fluffy at the intrusion, its stuffing almost frothing out like a slit couch. beeps and sizzlings accompany your work.
you turn your attention to the floor, scraping delicately at the jellyfish. silky red flags unfurl from their hiding places and spiral smoothly into the dark. your instrument begins to roughen, blacken, and the smoky smell of a barbecue left unattended rises incongruously around you.
a jellyfish clings to your cauteriser, suddenly squid-like, red and white like a sunburnt beachgoer. you manage to scrape it off against the floor, and it too whooshes away with the current
Feature image from National Geographic
“At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.” – Michelle Obama
I came across this quote the other day as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. It’s an interesting idea, to liken a mental illness to a physical one. Depression and anxiety seem far removed from a broken arm or leg – but, at their core, are they really that different? Continue reading
As I write this, I am sitting in class, questioning how I got here. Not medicine, or life, or anything as deep and meaningful as that, but more how did I get to this class, all the while feeling sad and teary?
As Maria von Trapp once said in a brilliant movie, “Let’s start at the very beginning, A very good place to start.”
This morning, I woke up before my alarm, and I did what I do every morning; I start my day telling myself that “Powerful people get back up every day”, then dragging my hideous PJ clad-self into the shower to begin the routine; a ninja wash, waging and winning a war against my hair, breakfast sculling and then off to placement.
Here, things diverged from the routine.
Normally, I would pretend to be 100% interested in my placement, soaking up things like the knowledge sponge I am, all the while secretly day dreaming about lunch. Once in a blue moon, an intern or a consultant will interact with me and ask me a question (which I usually improvise an answer to), and slowly but surely, lunchtime appears.
But today? Not so much.
Today, I got to the placement, joined the handover, and then, I had a funny feeling. It’s the feeling that you sometimes get when you know your housemates are up to some mischief (like perhaps sticking your flamingo candles to the roof). Call it intuition, call it a warning shot, whatever floats your sailboat. Turns out, I was right to be on guard, cause today, my brain decided to play a fun little prank on me.
What was that joke, you ask? Well, I went from being Pooh Bear to Eeyore in under 5 minutes.
I’m going to be honest with you; if I were to have a hidden OSCE talent, this would be it. If there was a station to see how fast you could go from being relatively functional to crying on the floor about how you didn’t wear matching socks today, I would blow the examiner away. I would be the percentile that was above the percentile, an ATAR score of 100, if you will.
So today, at placement, I went to the bathroom and cried.
What triggered me? Who knows, I probably never will. But for some reason, my brain just decided that that today is the day for a cry. I like to imagine that perhaps there are little people in my head going “TODAY, SAD RAV WILL BE ACTIVATED.” Yes, I know I do med, but I still have an overactive imagination, so the people in my head will continue to be there to make the decisions that I make.
I digress from my point though.
Depression is a funny thing; a little bit HAHA funny, but a little bit frustrating funny too. Your doctor tells you to remove your triggers, your therapist tells you to challenge your thinking, your mum tells you that you are powerful, you can dust yourself off and rebuild again. Despite all that great advice though, sometimes you just don’t know when it might hit, or what you might be doing (fun fact, I once broke down while eating a HSP, and I don’t know if you have ever seen a person ugly cry while also shovelling food, but trust me, ain’t a good look).
What does it feel like, I hear you ask?
Well, imagine watching a really sad movie (not sad because they are terrible like Twilight, more sadder like Marley and Me), and take the part of the movie you cried in, and put it on replay. That feeling of sadness, despair and a little hint of hopelessness, all combined with irritability, anger and tears, that’s what depression feels like for me. It usually just tracks along most days in the background like all the advertisements on the interwebs, but every once in a while, it pops up despite your ad-block, so you just have to emergency quit Safari and hope that you didn’t lose anything important in the tabs you just also accidentally closed. Somehow, while all of this is happening, you’re also expected to trundle along and keep smiling/being derpy and continue to be a medical knowledge sponge.
So where to from here?
Well, I do need to get through this class, despite my mind telling me that this is not worth it. Then, home would be a good start. A hot shower, a call to the therapist, perhaps a visit to Officeworks or Aldi. I am fortunate/unfortunate enough to know what to do when I get in one of my spirally low moods, but not everyone might be at this point yet. Figure out what helps you from spiralling downwards and deploy it as necessary. Ask for help, and if anyone even mildly gives you any shame about that, either:
Most importantly though, be kind to yourself. Love yourself, even if your brain decides to throw a tantrum and ruin your productive plans and be accepting that some days/weeks/months can be an absolute shit-show. Even if you are completely “normal”, you are bound to have a bad day, but if you’re somewhere along a mental health issue journey (like me), know that you might have more hurdles than most, so be accepting of that, get your warrior mode on and be that powerful person and try to get back up every day.
Forgive yourself for having the bad day. It’s ok, and know you will always have people to help you get back up again.
Oh, and just to bring this to a full circle, how did I get to class? I drove myself. (HAHA funny joke, I know, I am now set to do stand-up as my back up career.)
In a feel-good news story for your Monday evening, The Auricle has received word about some miraculous happenings at Monash Medical Centre.
Third year medical student Jean Allen, attending her first ward round of the rotation, has managed to swoop on her rotation group’s hard work and take advantage of a free cup of increasingly transient and ineffective liquid Ritalin: a good old-fashioned coffee.
“This is the first ward round I’ve attended in this rotation and it just happens to be the one where the consultant’s finally warmed up to the medical students enough to shout them a soy cap. I reckon I’m off to buy a lottery ticket today.”
Her less truant counterpart, ward partner Michael Jamieson, scowled in the corner with his long black, ruing the early starts and daily four-hour sessions spent roaming around the hospital trying not to get in the way of important routine procedures on the ward rounds each morning.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t annoyed. I’ve tried every trick in the book; getting here earlier than the registrar, chanting my full name three times whenever someone’s asked for the medical student, even scrambling for my stash of fifteen pens that I’ve slowly been giving away in the hope that the consultant realises they’ve been taking my pens before taking pity on me and shouting me that elusive coffee. I’ve even declined going to the outpatients’ clinic to subject myself to an afternoon of tagging along with the intern on the ward and being an absolute pest while they’ve done paperwork to try and cash in on just fifteen glorious minutes of team bonding and that damned free coffee I desire. It’s just unfair, ridiculously unfair. I had half a mind to oust her right there and then. I was going to go all Damian from Mean Girls on her.”
In light of these revelations about the underground world of ‘coffee hunting’ from the higher ups, we went in search of more comments on the current state of arse-kissing at a third-year level and future forecasts for the field.
“I reckon it’s all about picking and choosing the team based on the vibes you get,’ remarks one student wishing to remain anonymous. ‘Things like whether the consultant wears a tie doesn’t give you much to go on; it gives you an idea of whether you should bother showing up at all, because you’d probably be grilled on how they used to treat a rare condition back in the 1960s. I’ve heard some people use the consultant’s reaction to the classic ‘I have a tute’ excuse to get out of ward rounds as their litmus test for whether they should persist with trying to get some sweet, sweet bean. If they show interest and ask you about your tute trying to catch you in a lie, you just know you’re in for a bad time. My yard stick is whether the consultant continues to ask for your name despite forgetting it at least 5 times. I’ve got this general surgery consultant and she’s up to 4 now; she puts in the effort to ask every time, I’m definitely in with a chance. She’s operating tomorrow and there’s a prime twenty-minute window between her second and third case; pick your battles wisely, I say.”
At the very least, it’s abundantly clear that this issue hits home for many medical students; both in its familiarity and importance. As another student explains and/or complains, “How am I supposed to know whether I need to buy myself a baseline coffee to get me going in the morning if the field is so volatile these days? What if consultants suddenly start buying us coffee before ward rounds? Would I even want to live in such an unpredictable climate? I can’t have two coffees within 30 minutes. I haven’t experienced enough stress and hardship for that yet.”
What started as a positive snippet of news has become an investigation into an extreme sport as old as time itself. The competitive nature of coffee hunting and today’s incident may even perhaps be an allegory for the challenges of finding advantage and favour, in order to further our individual causes at the expense of our relationships with our fellow peers, only contributing to the mutual self-destruction of cohort morale. This, however, isn’t the time for speculation into any hidden meaning behind a seemingly harmless and friendly sport occurring every single day.
Despite all this, our team is left with more questions than answers as they assess the facts that remain: first, that team coffee rounds will perennially be unpredictable, perhaps on purpose to drag students out of bed to ward rounds; second, that the coffee conundrum of whether to bank on snaring a free coffee and forgo the self-funded morning perk continues to stew in the bleary minds of students; and lastly (yet most terrifyingly) that it’ll only get even more messy in fourth year as coffees on the ward are exchanged for babies in the labour suite. The Auricle understands that the dynamics only get more tense when the stakes are higher and midwives and logbooks are involved.
Reporting for the Auricle and signing off,
Feature image from The Independent
By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard of some of the most important positive emotions that contribute to a sense of wellbeing: gratitude, joy, and love, to name a few. But there’s one that is not often discussed, and that is awe. Awe is the feeling of goodness on a grand scale, of feeling overwhelmed by greatness, and often happens when we are looking at something magnificent like a landscape of huge mountains, or a wide-open ocean stretching as far as the eye can see. I’ve always felt happiest down by the beach or amongst the mountains and I’ve noticed that the first glimpse of ocean as I’m driving down to the beach, or the first time I see the mountain peaks on the drive to the snow, is met with a feeling of relief, relaxation, and happiness. Only recently have I learned that this sensation is a well-recognised phenomenon. Awe.
I’ve been lucky enough to get more than my fair share of awe in the past six months. In December I did the Annapurna circuit trek in Nepal with one of my friends. At the end of our trip, as we reflected on the two weeks of walking, we both agreed on the two best days of the walk – the days when we had the most incredible view of the Himalayas. On each of these days, as we reached the top of the hill, an expanse of enormous 8000-metre-high peaks simply stopped us in our tracks. We just stood there and admired them, feeling overwhelmed with awe, and couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day (despite our blisters!). Today it’s Easter Monday, and just yesterday I was walking over the Tongariro pass in New Zealand: home to some spectacular red volcanos and sparkling emerald lakes. I feel so lucky and happy to have been able to see that amazing landscape and appreciate all that the outdoors has to offer.
Of course, we can’t have these awe-inspiring moments every day. Even if some of us end up working up in the mountains or down by the beach, in a place that makes us stop and stare, it’s certainly not going to be the majority of us, and it is most definitely will not be the majority of medical school. Right now, our days consist of being inside our cars, public transport, lecture theatres, and hospital wards, often with not a lot of time for anything else. So how can we bring a little bit of awe into our everyday lives?
I firmly believe that being outside in the open air is like being in the mountains or at the beach on a mini scale. I know that the days when I take a moment to appreciate my surroundings are the days I feel happiest in all aspects of my life. So here a few of my ideas for how you can get outside every day, for no other reason than to put a smile on your face.
If you’re a morning person:
If you don’t already, try setting your alarm 10 or 15 minutes earlier, get up and go for a quick walk around your block. Look up at the trees. The leaves are changing colour at the moment and, as cheesy as it sounds, it really is beautiful. If you don’t like walking, find a spot to sit outside and stretch or wake up slowly.
On your way to uni:
Do you catch public transport? Take a moment when you’re walking to and from the train to look up at the sky. Most of you probably have to get going early, and Melbourne has some pretty impressive sunrises to offer. Do you drive your car? Park your car just a bit further away (like a million people before me have suggested) and use the time it takes to walk to relax and enjoy the cool autumn breeze.
Coffee time or lunch time:
If you brought your own lunch, take it outside to eat in the sunshine. If it’s raining, find somewhere under shelter and enjoy the smell of the rain. If you’re at the hospital and have a bit of time, walk to the café down the street to get your coffee, or go around the outside of the building to get to the good coffee place instead of through the over pass (yes MMC, I’m talking to you).
Catching up with friends:
Got a standing brunch date at your favourite café? Try switching it up for a coffee to go and a walk around your local park instead. You can appreciate the outdoors together and save some money at the same time!
Have you got a whole free weekend?!
Get outside and find yourself some awe! We’ve got the beaches from St Kilda down to the Peninsula, we’ve got the Dandenong Ranges just an easy walk from the Belgrave train line, there’s the Yarra Trail (my personal favourite) and all the other bike paths along rivers in Melbourne, and even something as simple as your local duck pond. If you’re really feeling adventurous then head down to the Great Ocean Road or up to the Victorian High Plains and walk, sit, and enjoy.