“Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread”

“What is it?!” I repeat endlessly to myself, pacing around my living room. “Maybe I needed to email someone, or I’m missing an assignment that’s due. Did I need to schedule an appointment with somebody? I hope it’s not mom or dad’s birthday—OH NO. Please don’t let it be my anniversary!”

I’m forgetting something. Something that I need to be doing, or thinking about, or planning…it’s right on the edge of my mind, but I just can’t make out what it is. “It’s in moments like this,” I ponder, “that I wonder if my brain cells just meet every morning to discuss what they’re going to forget—” And then it hits me like a ton of bricks. Meet. Meeting.

THE MONTHLY COMMITTEE MEETING.

How could I forget? It’s the first Tuesday of every month! OK, there’s no time to grab any food—I need to hit the road. I hope traffic is forgiving…

I think we have all had those moments of forgetfulness, but they don’t always have happy endings. We miss meetings, birthdays, appointments, and it’s not always because we forget. Sometimes we just have too many things to juggle. Responsibilities pull us in ten different directions simultaneously, and we end up dropping the ball on something. This awkward juggling act seems to be my performance on this year’s stage.

It all sounds appealing at first: “Want to run as an officer for this organization?” Absolutely! “How about this one, too?” Of course! “We think you’d be a good fit as blog co-editor.” I’d love the opportunity! “Hey, here’s an innovative idea.” Let me take point on that!

And that’s just the extracurricular stuff. Of course at the very base of your responsibilities is a little thing called medical school. Your mind hasn’t truly juggled until it’s being asked to add 200 more flashcard facts every day to keep up in the air, hoping some of them will just bounce right on into the long-term memory pile.

And then of course is your life outside of medicine: friends, family, church, and hobbies. As a newly married man, I have the beautiful opportunity to create a new family. But that’s a huge responsibility as well—one that I cherish and need to take time for. I cannot neglect my wife, my home, or my health and exercise. I need (and want) to maintain friendships here and those relationships with family out-of-state. And, of course, above all is my need to attend to my spiritual needs and my relationship with God.

So naturally the question becomes: “How can I possibly juggle all these things?” I think the answer is simple.

You can’t.

At least, not in the way that us Type-A personalities are used to. Let me explain. If you’re in med school or on the path to med school, more often than not, you’re used to setting your mind on a goal, and then going out and getting it done. Group project? I got it. Test in two weeks? On it. Taking lead on some initiative?  Done. Whatever it is, you give your all in the things that you involve yourself in. The problem is that the further you travel on this path, the more opportunities (read: responsibilities) there are that await you. And if you’re like me, you’ll plunge head-first into all of them only to realize too late that you only receive 24 hours in a day.

What does this look like? It means something drops, and not always in the most catastrophic ways. Grades slip a little. Friends start to drift. Family doesn’t get as much time. Sleep or health begin to deteriorate. But for a lot of us, that’s unacceptable. We don’t want to be “average students,” “mediocre husbands,” or even “unhealthy doctors.” But involve yourself in everything, and that’s what will happen, because every opportunity cannot get your all every single time. It’s like the old adage: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Time simply won’t allow it.

So what do we do?

We re-prioritize.

What do I care about most? OK, so I can’t be the best writer, the best doctor, the best administrative leader, and the best husband. But what matters to me individually? What are my biggest passions, and what things can I let another person take up the reins?

For me, I want to be a great doctor. I want to be an amazing husband and father. I also want to function without needing a caffeine drip in my veins! Does this mean sacrifices won’t come? Of course not. Life is about finding a balance between the things we care about, and that often requires sacrifice. But we should be absolutely sure that whatever cause we’re sacrificing for is worth the cost. Otherwise, you’ll be here with me, echoing the words of Bilbo Baggins: “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” In other words:

Juggle what matters.

 

 

Jeremiah White

Jeremiah White

Formerly from the Baltimore area, I graduated from Bob Jones University with a degree in pre-med. Having interacted through MedEx with the faculty and students, I knew the doctor USCSOMG will graduate was the doctor I wanted to become. If I’m not hitting the books, you can probably find me spending time with my better half or on the basketball court. It is an honor and a privilege to be a member of the class of 2018, and I’m excited to share my passion for emergency medicine and health education with my peers. “To whom much is given, much more shall be required.”

Jeanne Petrizzo

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