Insha'Allah, my fiance and I are to be married in less than a month and a half. While I make the final preparations for this stage of the wedding (a larger reception with family and friends will be held later), I also make preparations for the rest of our lives together.
Will I continue to take medicine call? Will I take OB call, even? How many hours will I work? It'll be perfect to transition out of doing urgent care during maternity leave if we try for babies soon, insha'Allah...
I also have begun to lament the things I have lost. I'm no longer singing as much and I haven't written seriously nor thought about my novel in many months. Part of me doesn't even feel like a writer anymore, and it's startling.
I've started to question everything else about my life, including my career choice, while I bring my family life into focus. I'm afraid I'm losing myself.
I don't want to.
There are things that used to be meaningful to me, and probably still are, but I haven't had time to explore them. And necessarily, we change with time, I do believe, but...in the case that, God forbid, I'm left to my own devices again, I want to make sure that I am true to myself and make time for the (other) things in my life that bring me joy.
So I wonder--what would I be doing right now if I were still single? What would I be planning, in contrast with what I'm doing now? And don't get me wrong, I don't wish to be single. As a perpetually single woman in my 20s, I did long for companionship and I've been happier than I've ever been in my adult life once I attained it. It just happened that the advent of this companionship coincided with the final stage of my medical training, so there are a lot of confounders at play.
For example, I perceive I have less time for myself in my relationship, but is it perhaps that I had less time for myself as a busy resident and as a first-year attending? I feel like I have changed, but is that perhaps because now I am a practicing physician, and before the relationship, I was not?
Anyway, life would be different, if I were single:
- I'd still be living in Seattle proper, instead of living in the suburbs to be closer to my fiance. Our family home is purchased, has 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, and insha'Allah after marriage I will add my name and it will be our home. I'll be a sudden home owner. But for now, I commute 20 miles to work, which is 40 minutes at best during rush hour and paying 75 cents on the express toll lanes. In my old apartment, the hospital was a 7 minute walk away and my clinic was a 3 minute drive, about 1.5 miles away.
- Obstetrics call would be easier. I'm on OB call this weekend, and I'm dreading it. The last time I was on OB call, I managed two labors and attended one delivery. I had to leave clinic a little early and ended up sleeping in one of the uncomfortable call rooms (beds aren't so comfortable for me anymore, after having lost a bunch of weight). If I had been living 7 minutes away from the hospital like I used to, I would have gone home after the 11pm delivery and slept in my own bed for a while. But since my own bed is now 20 miles away, I often make the decision to sleep in the hospital if I'm uncertain of someone's labor course. On OB call weekends, that means that I'm potentially spending 48 hours in the hospital. It means that I could drop whatever I'm doing over the weekend with my fiance to drive into the city just to potentially miss a delivery. There's also the stress of his disappointment of not seeing me over the weekend because of my call schedule.
- I would make more of my own continuity deliveries. Two of my patients delivered over the weekend. One I wouldn't have made anyway, because it was precipitous. The other one, I could have made. It was on a weekend night. Again, if I were 7 minutes away from the hospital and single, I would make an effort to make more of my patient's deliveries. But my fiance and I had a bit of an argument a few months ago when I told him all weekend that one of my patients was in labor and that I wanted to go be there for her during delivery but he still ended up feeling like I was sacrificing our time. I was already on call enough, then I would sacrifice our time together when I wasn't even on call to be there for my patient? "All of your patients are special to you," he shot back when I argued that this patient was special. So when a patient goes into labor, I have to take him into consideration as to whether I'll go in for the delivery...which is fair. One day, insha'Allah, I'll also have babies to take into consideration, so maybe I'll stop giving my patients the impression that I'll be in for their deliveries. ...but if I were single, I would be all about dropping everything to make my patient's deliveries.
- I might be singing more. There is a family medicine band that invited me to sing with them, but they have practice on Thursday nights. Because I work late on Wednesday nights (until 9pm or 10pm or sometimes later, depending on urgent care), I usually do not want to spend any more time in the city than I have to, and I rush back on Thursday nights. I would like to sing with them eventually, but not with this schedule.
- I might hang out with Seattle people more. Again, not living in Seattle makes meeting up with Seattle people challenging at times. I factor the commute in prior to every get together now.
- I may go back to dancing samba. I still may check out the Monday night class at some point, insha'Allah in the New Year, but it'd be something to fill my time with.
- I might be planning a trip to Nigeria with my Dad in the upcoming year. My Dad got to travel to Nigeria after an over 30-year absence this year. I would love to travel with him, but not only are there the concerns of who will then be my husband, insha'Allah, but also, if I am pregnant or with small children, I definitely won't be able to travel for some time.
- I might be planning a trip to Salvador. I love Brazil and it's been 8 years since I've been (incredibly!). I would go with my new husband, insha'Allah, but...zika. Cases of microcephaly have happened more in the Northeast of the country. And even if I don't get a zika infection, I don't want to have to worry about that 8 week period in which he could carry it in his semen for family planning...
The rest are all big maybes. I don't know if I'd be writing more if I were single, if I'd get back to drawing, if I would be reading more or keeping up with medical literature more. There are also some potential negatives, like I may not have embarked in this body-transforming fitness journey (I've lost 40 pounds!), I may not have started running races, I may not be cooking nutritious food for myself--I may not have been taking such good care of my emotional, mental and physical health as well as I have been relating to someone else.
It is true that I'm not working as many hours as I imagined and minding my hobbies as much as I used to, but that's not a bad thing. I'm also taking care of myself much better than I ever have in my adult life. And those hobbies are not going away. I just came to a critical moment in which I am reassessing what I want to be in medicine, and my practice may change in a way such that I have more time to be all the other things that I want to be in medicine.
Mainly, now that insha'Allah I can now start planning a family, I realize how much this has always been a top priority for me that was for much of my life out of reach and how much I want to prioritize it now. It's more important than my career. I find myself putting some of those medical aspirations aside for a moment, thinking about the women who have said, "You can have it all...just not all at the same time."
But now that I am marrying, there are things that I want to bring back into my life. I want to bring writing back into my life first, and fiction-reading. This year, I have been reading only non-fiction. Literally, I have not read one piece of fiction this year, which is odd for me. I wanted to be a physician and a writer on the side, but I'm finding that I'm also a person who wants to do all of her jobs well, and I can't be a good physician right now with the hours that I'm working and also write on the side, and I'll be a horrible writer if I'm only writing on the side and not devoting more time to it.
I already don't feel like a writer anymore, and that's devastating for me.
And it's hard to to do either of those things well while making a family.
But I can have it all, but not all at once. Right now, the thing that I put on hold is writing. For years, what I put on hold (in theory) was family life. Next, what I'll put on hold is medicine.
That is the topic for a later entry.