We've done a lot of adjusting in our three years of marriage, and many times prior to being married as well. Living internationally, a long-distance relationship, choosing a graduate school, moving to a new city, adjusting to medical school, new jobs, job relocation, transitioning to residency, moving to another city, so on and so forth. Sort of seems like the name of the game at this point. In no time at all, we'll already be looking into fellowship programs and re-starting this entire process. That's how quickly this first year has flown by!
I won't tell you it's been easy. It hasn't. The most difficult for me was moving back to Ann Arbor. Not because I don't love this city, it's because I also loved Charlottesville. We had such a wonderful life there, and starting over is never easy to do. New friends, jobs, home, church, grocery store, etc etc. Things change. If you have been around here a while, you know that zero percent of this is new information. I started this blog when we moved, so there have been plenty of posts about our home search, settling, (...and the list continues). That's only natural since this blog reflects life. Our life.
This particular post is for those of you who are packing up your lives and starting an entire new adventure. Just last year we were doing the same thing, and it was overwhelming. Exciting, but overwhelming. I want to reassure you that everything you're feeling right now is all very normal.
I don't talk intimately about Kyle and I's relationship, but I will tell you we got in the biggest fight of our marriage during this time. I still get chills thinking about it, because it rocked us both to the core. It wasn't pretty, a lot of screaming (we don't tend to raise our voices at one another) and many tears. I'm telling you that because didn't feel like tensions should be that high, but they were. There's simply a TON of pressure and so many unknowns. It quickly feels like your life is slipping through your fingers and you can't do anything about it. I used to think I was pretty good to adapting to change, but this one hit me much harder than I had anticipated. Then, days turned into weeks, weeks to months and we were full fledged riding the residency train. A "hold on tight" kinda feeling.
If you are reading this and thinking that all of this sounds eerily familiar, I hope you find comfort in knowing you're not alone. The reality is that this can be a really difficult time. But don't feel dismayed, it's also a time to grow individually and as a family. Here are some of the things that helped us through it:
1) Reach out - try your darnest to meet other people!
2) Be selfish with your time together. This has always been a tough one for us, but it's critical to maintaining a healthy relationship through residency (or any demanding career). There's a difficult balance when someone has limited free time, between spending time with friends/family and with your spouse. We both had to learn to say "no," to things that we'd never question attending before. BUT, we know that our time together is precious and needs to come first.
3) Communicate. When you're spouse gets home from their first shift and realizes 'this is going to be tough,' make sure you take the time to be the sounding board. It will help you serve one another better, as you'll be able to understand what your spouse is doing from day to day. It's easy to think, "oh, their working," without grasping what that entails. Just take the time to listen.
4) Pray. If you aren't a praying person, I suggest doing it. That's not some religious threat, I'm being honest. Pray for your spouse. Not only does it help connect you, you'll be able to be more understanding and compassionate towards them. Life is hard to do on your own strength, and residency seems to be a perfect platform for proving that. You'll quickly find yourself in reliance.
5) Allow yourself to vent. I went through a lot of guilt for wanting to complain but feeling like I couldn't since more than likely I wasn't the one putting in unsustainable work hours. Long hours effect everyone and it requires sacrifice on all levels. Find someone who you can trust, who will encourage you to simply talk about the experience.
6) Get busy! Find a gym, volunteer, attend events, pick up a new hobby, etc. The last thing you want is to sit around and wait..and wait...and wait... for your SO to arrive home. I remember those days last summer thinking, "but he said he'd be home by 6!" Ha. (Talk about not being in control of your schedule!) Use this as an opportunity to meet new people, or try something you've never done before! Go explore the new city!
With one year down, I can say that it has gotten easier. Not the schedule, but the way we relate to it. It finally seems like we've found some ebb and flow to the demands, as well as the free time. Through the ever-present challenges, I can say we've learned to appreciate one another in an entirely new way. Life's a journey, and we're in it together.
― Ernest Hemingway
For some more conversations on Residency, go here:
The Residency Forum (there will be a new post coming soon)
I'm sure there are others who have advice too, if so, please chime in :)