There are many things that come to mind as I reflect back on my first year of PT school. Some things that come to mind are: study hard but take breaks; always ask questions because someone else might be wondering the same thing you are; and never feel inadequate because we are all learning and no one knows everything. These lessons and acceptance of these lessons have come in waves but stand out to me as things I am happy to have learned.
Through the spring semester, we were faced with a new challenge that forced us to take the remainder of our classes at home, online, and in isolation. This was a tricky time in navigating the correct course of action, but overall, we all were able to finish the semester online with the help of our professors. During this time of slowing down, I was able to reflect more on this first year of grad school and I am very grateful for that time. I had realized how caught up I was with the mentality of “what more can I do to be better” and the everyday whirlwind of classes. Rather than being inspired and excited, I was guilty of the comparison game that we all fall trap to, feeling like I needed to be doing what others were doing to reach my goals. I needed that forced reset.
During this forced slow down, a big lesson that I hope to carry through my life is to surround myself with people and have things every day that require me to step out of my “stress bubble” and remember the other parts of life that make it more enjoyable. I absolutely love my program and have enjoyed the classes, professors, and fellow peers, but I was reminded of all the things that I can enjoy during the day that did not include looking at a screen, memorizing lists, and drawing out flowcharts and diagrams. What was interesting was when I allowed myself to fully enjoy having a separation from school work and having things I enjoyed every day unrelated to physical therapy, I was a more productive student and got more out of lectures and labs online. Rather than feeling like I had to keep re-reading notes without end, I read fun books, went on walks, called friends and was more intentional with my conversations with others because I wasn’t constantly talking about school.
My ultimate career goal is to be the best physical therapist I can be for my patients and this time has definitely solidified that goal, but this time also has helped me realize what I can be doing to actively be reaching for my goal rather than being blinded by the goals of others. It also has helped me realize that I need a separation between work and life and I should honor when I feel that need rather than burning out because I didn’t listen. I was reminded of the things I have taken for granted and put off to the side, and I hope to incorporate them into my everyday life to be a more balanced student and ultimately, a balanced physical therapist.