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Reflecting on a year of being a doctor

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

Hey friends,

I’m writing this email on my final night shift of FY1 (the first year of being a doctor).

52 weeks ago, the Sunday before starting the job, I sent an email out to the (then) 1,524 people on this mailing list entitled “Don’t believe the hype”. Here’s an excerpt.

There was one doctor I was shadowing on the Cardiology ward. In between teaching me about the various keyboard shortcuts on the hospital computer system, he made a throwaway comment about junior doctor life that stuck with me.
Don’t believe the hype. It’s really not that bad.
This is the same advice I give to medicine applicants when they ask about what medical school is really like. Or when I speak to GCSE students concerned about the ‘jump’ to A-level and how hard it’s going to be.
Don’t believe the hype. It’s really not that bad.
Everyone loves to low-key brag about how hard their lives are, how they’re constantly stressed and busy. This is doubly true in Medicine, where the application, the 6 years of university, and subsequent lifelong career as a doctor gets hailed as the hardest thing anyone can ever do. This leads to profound anxiety amongst applicants and students about whether they’d be ‘good enough’ to ‘cope with the pressures’ of a medical degree and career.
I don’t yet know how hard life as a junior doctor is going to be. But throughout my time in secondary school, I’d been fed the hype about how hard medical school would be, and it really wasn’t that bad. It was pretty chill and enjoyable really, for the most part.

Having now been a doctor for a year, I feel the same sentiment. It really isn’t that bad. It’s quite fun, for the most part. Sure, there are some days that are tougher than others, where the patients pile up and it feels like every time we do something, two more things spring up to take their place. But for the most part, it’s pretty chill and enjoyable, much like medical school was.

From Wednesday I'll be moving to a new hospital, now as an FY2 (Senior House Officer) which means I'll have increased responsibilities, and might even be the 'senior' to new FY1s. That's a slightly scary thought, as I'll be the first point of escalation when these new doctors need help. But I hope that with the experience I've gained these last 12 months, along with a healthy dose of humility and openness to asking for help, I'll be able to rise to the challenge.

Have a great week!

Ali


This week's podcast

021 - How do we make friends? | Not Overthinking

In this episode, we discuss the various strategies we use to make friends. We start at primary school (aged 4) and examine how our tactics for making friends changed over time to the present day. We lament the difficulty of making friends and of showing vulnerability, and we realise that Taimur was always desperate to be cool while Ali was just always really weird.

Stuff I enjoyed this week

1 - Podcast - Cracking the Code of Love - This was a really really good episode of the Knowledge Project podcast that I'd recommend anyone and everyone listen to whatever stage of life they're at. They "walk through the life cycle of human relationships, from early infatuation to dating, marriage, and beyond while taking short detours to explore many of the hazards that are common in each stage.

Sue talks about finding, sparking and rekindling connection with our partner, why emotional responsiveness is critical to a healthy relationship, and she shares the recipe to a great sex life that all the popular online and magazine articles are missing."

2 - Book - I talked last week about how I was engrossed reading Ready Player One. I finished it the following day (staying up till 4am to do so) and it's now taken a permanent place on my book recommendations list.

3 - Article - I revisited this excellent blog post by Sam Altman this week (The days are long but the decades are short): "I turned 30 last week and a friend asked me if I'd figured out any life advice in the past decade worth passing on. I'm somewhat hesitant to publish this because I think these lists usually seem hollow, but here is a cleaned up version of my answer."

Kindle Highlight of the Week

If you could give your 20-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be? “‘Chill out. Calm down.’ I feel like myself and other people I know that are in their early- to mid-20s get really wound up about things having to be a certain way. It doesn’t matter as much as you think it does.” TIM: “Yeah, that’s the truth. Will you remember this in 10 years? Probably not.” JUSTIN: “No. People don’t even remember a tweet 12 minutes later.”

From Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. Resurfaced with Readwise.

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Ali Abdaal

Junior doctor, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.