Finding Love in Medical School

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At the start of medical school, I grappled with an unexpected sense of loneliness.

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Ashley Harriott, Emory University School of Medicine, Class of 2024

Ashley Harriott Headshot

At the start of medical school, I grappled with an unexpected sense of loneliness. “We” reverberated in the first week of classes: “We love our new place! You have to come see it sometime.” “We are actually going out of town this weekend, but maybe next weekend?” However, there was no “we” in my vocabulary; just me, myself, and I. As a fresh college graduate, I felt alone, embarking on my postgraduate journey without a partner by my side. I couldn’t help but feel insecure, like I had missed a crucial step in the process that everyone else had clearly seen. This sentiment only deepened as the demands of medical school began to take center stage.

Roughly six months into my first year, I discovered a new lens through which to view love, one that extended far beyond its conventional romantic associations. I began reading All About Love by bell hooks, a book that would help me redefine my understanding of what it means to experience love. Through bell hooks' wisdom, I started to see love not solely as the romantic connections I wished for but as an intricate tapestry woven with different threads. It prompted me to look around and appreciate the meaningful bonds forming with my peers. Late-night study sessions transformed into avenues for conversations and shared laughter, building connections that filled the void of romantic attachment. These friendships weren't substitutes for romantic love; they were an equally essential and beautiful form of it.

In the hospital, I encountered yet another dimension of love – the familial kind. The interactions between patients and their loved ones were reminders of the importance of connection. Witnessing families come together to support ailing relatives illustrated how powerful compassion and presence could be in the healing process. As I became a part of patients' journeys, I saw how love took many forms: it was the hand to hold during moments of uncertainty, the smile that reassured, and the unwavering presence that conveyed solace.

In moments of respite, I explored activities that brought me joy, learning how to practice self-love. Whether it was finding the perfect recipe for chocolate chip banana bread, training for my first half-marathon, or indulging in hobbies long forgotten, I found that I could be a source of comfort and happiness to myself.

Now, as I apply for residency, I remain single, yet I've never felt more in love. The initial pangs of loneliness have evolved into a deep appreciation for the love that surrounds me in every facet of life. I feel gratitude for the friendships that have become extended family, for the patients who have taught me the depths of human connection, and for the lesson that self-care is a vital aspect of leading a fulfilling life. If you find yourself feeling a lack of love in your life as I once did, I wholeheartedly recommend reading All About Love. This book has served as a cherished companion for me, a reminder that love exists in many shapes and forms, all of which are worth embracing.

Ashley Harriott is a fourth-year medical student at Emory University School of Medicine passionate about critical care and global health

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The views and opinions expressed in this collection are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Association of American Medical Colleges.