The musings of a final year medical student

Friday, 26 December 2014

Thought of the day


Can we embrace real bodies?

Positive body image is not something that I've been very good at throughout my life.

Very recently, I've been looking at two major art sources: The National Gallery, London, and Tumblr.
Whether you personally consider Tumblr art is up to you, but it is to me. 

Tumblr does get a bit of a bad rap for triggering eating disorders, as it is flooded with images of skinny models. I have a private Tumblr account where I follow a mixture of architecture and 'fitspo' blogs. Fitspo is designed with the intention to encourage a healthy lifestyle through images of nutritious food, exercise equipment and examples of very athletic men and women. But needless to say, fitspo is airbrushed. I feel that Tumblr fitspo promotes, perhaps unnecessarily, unrealistic ideals of the human body. Yes, the models are leading healthy and active lifestyles, but to me, the required fitness regimes and restrictive diets sound too exhausting to be fun and worthwhile. I don't care about 5% body fat percentages; what's wrong with a bit to hold on to if you're exercising regularly and eating right? What I'm getting at is although these bodies are mega-healthy, they don't look real to me. Promoting these über healthy ideals with very little scope and variation makes me feel like we're still missing the point.

However, when I was in the National Gallery the other day, I was absolutely in awe of the naked female bodies painted. The particular paintings I was awing at were paintings of goddesses, the very ideals of women - and bloody hell, they were so different to what you would see on Tumblr. Granted, they were painted by white artists, so naturally all the women were absolutely pasty in complexion. These women didn't have chiselled cheekbones or felt the need to pout to accentuate their beautiful mouths. They weren't sat there poised with a sucked in stomach and brilliant posture; they had proper bulging tummies, and they didn't give a damn that they were on show. Their breasts weren't ginormous, symmetrical and perky - they were real. They looked like real English women. No fake tan, no hair dye. And most importantly, they just looked as if they were entirely comfortable and unashamed in their bodies, even if a Tumblr model today would scoff at their 'flaws'. I found that so incredibly sexy. To have total confidence and ownership of your body for precisely how it is, seemed so much more provocative, than a woman who's probably been at a make-up artist's chair for hours, spent years training in the gym.

I wish there were more bodies like that, publicly celebrated in our media. It's not about one ideal, but loving you for you. 

Which one is more attractive to you?



Personal reflections

Since returning back to the South West for Christmas, it has been an utter whirlwind. A few hours after getting off the train - Birmingham New St Station was a nightmare - I went to meet my 30 closest school friends from my old secondary school. I was already exhausted and hungover but the experience was awfully overwhelming, and I kept wanting to cry. I asked to leave early because I couldn't really handle it. So many emotions were going through  my mind at that point in time: already missing my university friends and boyfriend, wanting to get back to the house to see my family, and feeling awfully guilty for not making enough effort to stay in contact with my school friends. 

On my and my mum's birthday, the 21st, I had a lovely relaxing day at home, including a walk to a lovely restaurant in a village in the valley. I then spent the day in London with my sister and granny n the 22nd; we had ice cream sundaes at Fortnum and Mason after a day's shopping in Covent Garden and Regent's Street. On the 23rd I relaxed at home and then popped out to see a friend at a newly opened bistro place in my town. It was wonderful to see her, but also rather guilt-inducing. You see, my experience of university has been perfect. I settled in straight away, loved my course since day one, made a tonne of new friends and barely missed home life. However, it certainly hasn't been the same for all my other mates, unfortunately. Many of my friends did question the course, the location, had personal life issues to juggle at the same time, and couldn't find friends to live with for 2nd year. I just assumed that because I wasn't hearing bad news, that meant that there wasn't any to share. But because I was having so much fun at medical school and not maintaining my school friendships, I wasn't there to support my friends when they really needed me. I would have described myself as the agony aunt of my friendship group at college, and I really enjoyed being there for my mates through those tough times. 

One of the main reasons I felt so guilty for this was because recently I realised that my life is perfect. I can hand on heart say that there is nothing I would change. I have a wonderful family, friends at uni and at home, lovely boyfriend, loving the course I am on, and have finally accepted myself as an individual. And it was embarrassing to realise that naïvety in thinking that everyone else felt the same way. Not many people can be that confident and assured in their lives, and as a good friend I should have checked and helped them where I could. Now I am trying to ensure that I do just that.

Later that day, I had a dinner party to celebrate my 19th birthday with my friends from back home. I felt truly spoilt, as this was the second dinner party I had had to celebrate my birthday, having already had one with my uni friends before I came home. I was showered with presents that I didn't feel I deserved, having not seen these lovely people in 13 weeks!

I can already see this Xmas holiday slipping through my fingers, but I want to make the most of every minute.

In brief: make time for your friends and family. Don't get caught up in all the small stuff and forget how important the maintenance of those friendships are. To me, friends and family are the same thing: you should be obliged to love and support both of them equally. 

 Dinner with university friends, 19th December 2014
Christmas day with my family, 2014

Afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason's with Lucy, 22nd December 2014

My 19th and my Mum's 48th, 21st December 2014

Dinner with friends from back home, 23rd December 2014

Merry Christmas



Wednesday, 10 December 2014

First term: Reflections

I cannot believe I have been at university for 12 weeks! It feels like I've blinked and suddenly everyone has donned their Xmas jumpers and 2014 is drawing to a close.

It's been a fantastic term. Since arriving at uni, I've met the most wonderful friends, done an awful lot of partying and really enjoyed the course. But I've also gone about many things the wrong way, and looking back I now have certain resolutions to help get myself on track. It makes sense to reflect on the term, given the strong emphasis on reflection during our clinical placements and as practising doctors.

First of all, finances. Fortunately I had a generous budget, however, I have not been wise with my money. I often bought little bits and bobs without even looking at the price and just putting on my card. Once you start looking around, there are loads of deals on offer for students, but you need to engage your brain and make active decisions to cut costs. Little things, like planning to do your food shop in the evenings when you'll find all the reduced items, and buying coffee from the SU instead of Starbucks all make a difference. My mum always says "Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves." Perhaps if I'd followed her advice I would now have a bit more money for nights out and Christmas shopping.

Then there was the washing machines. In my halls, they are awful and temperamental. You also can't wash clothes on the weekends because you won't find a free machine. Don't bother trying to use 10ps.  The first 4-5 times I did my washing I didn't read the instructions properly and so the machine would eat my money, such a waste. I now always stick to the same machine. Tumble drying is always worth paying for given my room is so cold so the clothes never dry anyway.

I have 90%+ of my lectures in the same lecture theatre, which is freezing. Now I always layer up for lectures.

People. Some people are introverts, others extroverts. It's hard to understand why some people don't want to go out loads like you do (or for others vice versa). In addition, people need their own space. Every flat has had its own tensions, and I'm relieved to say we haven't had any major tiffs or tantrums. But sometimes when you get the negative vibe from a flat mate, you just have to leave them to it, not necessarily ask them what it's about, just let them get on with it and hopefully they'll chirp up the next day.

Lastly, education and the work-life balance. I have certainly not mastered this balance yet, and have placed way too much emphasis on the 'life' side. I had an online musculo-skeletal test today and I didn't even bother checking my score because I knew I hadn't done enough revision to do well. I think from now on I will try to treat uni as if it was a school day: work should be done from 9-4 with a one hour lunch break, 1-2 hours in the evening but that's it. Also, I cannot stress how organised you need to be at medical school. There are so many deadlines, socials, managerial tasks to carry out etc etc that you have to be on the ball. Particularly for my medical school which has some focus on self-directed learning, so each lecture needs to be allocated a good 3 hours of revision and note consolidating.

Now I've got one more week of uni, in which I have to have a couple of Ebola research project meetings and I will be beginning the cardiovascular block. My only motivation now is that on the last night here we are going to celebrate my birthday at a restaurant and then go to cocktail bar afterwards. Cannot wait!


Puissiez-vous avoir le meilleur de Noël cette année et une nouvelle année très heureuse. 
Que tous vos rêves se réalisent.


Thursday, 4 December 2014

Photos of Winter at uni

A standard night out in my city means always encountering some pretty swaggy horses

Dinner with the family

My Dad and I

Wasting my loan on Starbucks


Meilleurs vœux


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Stress and Festivities

I'm starting to realise that what makes medical school hard isn't actually the content that you are expected to learn, but the sheer volume of it, in conjunction with a million other medical and non-medical commitments.

One issue is the timetable. For my medical school the timetable is different every week; it isn't just the order, but new themes and lecture types are constantly being added. We also have our own personal research projects which I am the group leader for, meaning I am responsible for organising our meetings.

In brief: currently feeling like I am drowning in work, and I'm being a grumpy cow about it. The new learning style is still testing me, and I'm still trying to get my head around it. At school/sixth form, I always learnt by being taught something in a class room setting and then asking questions constantly until I felt I had no more queries. Studying at uni definitely feels more like stabbing in the dark, and you have to have faith in your own comprehension, because there isn't really anyone who is going to check or that you can ask to clarify your problem areas. Instead you have to think laterally: spend ages trawling through various textbooks until you find a decent answer. Failing that, anything comprehensible from Wikipedia (bad, I know).

We are currently trying to sort out next year's accommodation, but it is not going smoothly. Finding properties for a group of eight that suits everyone's needs isn't easy. And now the worries of sorting our my research project and my accommodation before going home this month for Christmas has sort of killed any December-buzz that I should have. I love December. This is my all-time favourite part of the year, and now I feel like I have my head so absorbed in things that I'm not taking time to look at what's around me: the Christmas lights in the city, festive coffee drinks, Christmas markets, enjoying layering up for the wintery days, ice skating and singing Christmas carols in the shower. What's the point of living if you don't relish the sentimentality of those sort of things, really. I don't want to be too busy to not see the wonder.

You know when one thing gets you down, and then all the tiny, minuscule things then manage to set you off spontaneously, purely because you're already in a foul mood? Yup, that's me right now. Catered food is shit. Don't get me wrong, the portions are huge and there's plenty of options. It's just boring and very unhealthy. You don't want to wait for the over-boiled vegetables to be restocked after you've already queued for 30 minutes (at worst).  My low will power makes it impossible to resist the pre-made cakes, too. But because the catering is half board, and my kitchen doesn't have a cooker/hob or freezer, it means buying rather expensive lunches. I cannot tell you how sick I am of the bloody Tesco £3 Meal Deal.

Don't get me wrong, these are GOOD problems to have. To be woman who is allowed to study at higher education and has financial stability and everything going for her, it seems ridiculous to be complaining about food quality and busy schedules. I'm taking the night off to recharge and contextualise all these qualms. But what I really wanted to get across in this blogpost is that there are shitty days. It's a lot to handle, but I wouldn't change it. This is where I want to be, what I am most passionate about. Just need to remind myself of that from time to time.


"Je ne te dis pas que ce sera facile,
Je te dis que ça vaudra la peine"

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