One thing that never ceases to amaze me in medical school is the quality of my colleagues. Simply put, they’re fascinating individuals with diverse pasts and laurels galore. They’re funny, they’re smart, and they’re oddly attractive. No, no, I don’t mean they look odd or that they’re only attractive to odd folk. I just mean that a disproportionate number of people in med school are head-turningly gorgeous (your author does not number among these shimmeringly pulchritudinous people). Believe me, it’s really easy to feel insecure around these beautiful boffins.
While some of my colleagues are married and even have children ( god knows how they take care of them—hats off to you guys) and others are now in stable relationships, a fairly large number of us are single with very few or no prospects in the foreseeable future.
It’s a strange thing being single in med school. In some ways, it’s brilliant: you get to invest in your intellectual, professional, and personal growth unhindered. It’s a period of exponential growth; I’m astounded at the difference these past two years in medicine have wrought in me. On the other hand, it can be profoundly frustrating to watch our married/taken friends sharing beautiful moments with their significant others while we play the role of third, fifth, or seventh wheel. I think what a lot of us desire is someone special to share our rich experiences with at the end of the day, possibly someone who transports us from a world replete with suffering, sickness, and cynicism to one with hope, laughter, and simple joys. People tell you that friends should be enough for these purposes, but those who are single will tell you that sometimes they crave somebody special who makes them feel…well…special.
“Ha,” you say “but I thought it was easy for med students to find people to date.” Well, it is and it isn’t. There certainly are people (usually very young people) who want to date us because they have seen House or Scrubs on TV, but I think we all know that if we want something substantial, we need to meet someone who wants to date us because of who we are, not because of some imagined resemblance to Greg House or JD.
It’s not like med students never go out, but we do work rather long hours (especially in second and third year), which makes it somewhat hard to meet people out of the work place. It also makes it hard to sustain relationships once we begin them. Perhaps this is why intra-class liaisons are quite common. A lot of our non-physician colleagues (nurses and other allied health professionals) also tend to sport rings on the wrong finger and are therefore ruled out of the dating pool. The unavailability of the amazing people around us does two things: first it means finding people is hard and this leads to disastrous experiences on online dating websites and second it makes us question whether there’s something wrong with us that condemns us to singledom while people around us are all coupled up. I definitely find myself thinking about the latter during my quiet moments.
I am writing this blogpost because a google search of “Being single in med school” leads to rather disappointing results. It yields blogs in which people speak of ticking biological clocks, intrusive and insensitive relatives, the inefficacy of “dropping the MD bomb” on girls in bars, and some cynical speculations on love, relationships, and human nature. I also got some feedback about a previous post of mine about depression in med school which, I am happy to learn, helped some medical students deal with rough periods during their training. Therefore, I wanted to weigh in on this important matter which is, I feel, a common cause of depression/frustration amongst student doctors.
All I want to say to my fellow unhappily single medical students is as follows:
1. The chances that you’re single because there’s something severely wrong with your personality are slim. There's a reason you made it through the med school interview and can get along with your peers and patients. Don't doubt yourself!
2. The more you fight singledom, the more the desperation will show in your interactions with potential girlfriends/boyfriends. Relaxed and confident people are far more attractive.
3. If you are single, use the extra time to your advantage and invest in your growth as a physician and a human being. You’ll be less able to do so when (not if) you do find someone.
4. Please do not date someone just for the sake of dating SOMEone.
5. Beware of OKcupid—bad bad experiences.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own and I fully accept that you can be a medical student without having any of the thoughts or experiences I describe here. If you haven’t had these experiences, bully for you! If you have, here’s an electronic hug for you.