FOMO during graduation season: One medical students perspective

Summer of every year marks the time for graduation season for universities across the country. Every year the pictures of peers receiving their degrees and dawning their caps and gowns proudly plaster every social media outlet. And most importantly , it marks the end of an era of education and the beginning of a new life and career and a welcome into the adult world. It’s a great time of celebration and I’ve always found it inspiring and motivating witnessing such achievements.

As a medical student though , with a course that spans 5 years , far longer than most other degrees it’s hard not to find yourself feeling a bit left out in all the celebrations. I’ve felt a feeling of FOMO since the second year of my course and I felt I needed to explore why and if I was the only one.

What is FOMO?

Urban dictionary defines it as the ‘fear of missing out’ , particularly missing out of an opportunity or exciting event and so leading to feeling uneasy or anxious that you are unable to do something.

Now, given my feelings I think I should give a bit of context. Having taken a gap year prior to starting medical school I already had seen my peers and friends start university a year before me and I’d accepted that for my journey into medicine this was a sacrifice that had to be made. I didn’t mind too much being in my gap year as I knew that I would eventually be accepted into medical school and start my university experience too.

My 1st FOMO experience

This came in my second year of medical school, which for my peers and friends would have been their final and graduating year. In this case seeing friends of mine who had been able to start university straight away  graduating was bitter sweet, but my feelings of FOMO were short lived . On one hand I was extremely happy that I was now doing my chosen degree to pursue the career I’d always dreamed of, but I can’t deny that I felt slightly left out as I knew I had a much longer time left before I could have my own celebrations and begin my career. However, like I mentioned I didn’t feel too left out because after having to take a gap year to pursue my degree , it didn’t matter that my journey to my chosen career would take me a little longer. Also at this stage , I was barely equipped to save lives yet and I was pretty happy to avoid adult life for a bit longer. So as quickly as the FOMO came it was gone and I was happily carrying on into my 3rd year.

My 2nd FOMO experience

Finishing my third year , I’ve successfully managed to survive the start of the clinical years. A whole year of clinical placements had come to an end and it had felt for me one of the longer years since unlike the preceding years we have a shorter summer break. Having a taste of what could be, a representation on working life in various specialities. The majority of F1s I’d encountered had been so settled and content in their roles which only made it more attractive. More so this year I’ve felt more ready to want to start my career and also now being at university for 3 years the length of the course has started to show more. But in all honestly even now after 3 years I’m still only a baby in the grand scheme of medicine, again not quite ready to start saving any lives.

Now graduation season 2018 has come along in full strength and I’ve felt the FOMO a lot more. This time not only are peers graduating but now I’ve also spent the same amount of time at university. Reflecting upon it ,although I’m fully aware that my course is 5 years long it really hits home how long it is this year. In some ways it feels like whilst others will be moving on with life , I’ll almost have to play catch up once I’ve finished.

This season especially I thought , could I be the only one feeling this FOMO, so I asked my friends and peers. Thankfully I wasn’t , which ruled out insanity but it was interesting as to why people felt that way. Everyone had their own reasons for having and not having FOMO and here are some:

• “Feeling like I’ve spent the same amount of time at university and worked hard and yet can’t start living life yet or have anything formal to show for it”

• “Not so much now because I’m still young but maybe later on whilst others have moved on and I’m still at university”

• “No, since I’ll be graduating one day , but it does remind me of how long you have to go”

• “Yes and no : I would want to experience the day and it can make it seem longer but it makes me even more excited for the day I can finally call myself doctor”

• “Initially I had FOMO , but I realised that when I graduate as there isn’t as much of a struggle to be employed straight away and we’re more protected going into the real world”

Appreciating my journey

Some of the views from my peers were similar to mine and some were very different and I realised that it’s something that many of us as medical students may experience at some point during our journey to becoming doctors.

I haven’t had very strong feelings of FOMO , but I’ve had to acknowledge that I have those feelings and reflect on why. As medical students it’s especially important to reflect on such things because they may be reoccurring themes during the course of our degree.  Although I’ve felt through this graduation season a sense of FOMO, it doesn’t take away from what I’ve already  achieved so far and what is yet to come. I’ve accepted that medicine is a long stint and it is so for a reason, being responsible for the outcomes of people’s health and lives is not a small feet and the course is designed to prepare us for this. I know that at the end of the day, I will graduate and will be well equipped to take on this responsibility. When it comes to starting to live my life, I have to look past the FOMO and realise that I already am living it. Becoming a doctor is what I have always wanted to do and the process leading up to that is part of that life dream. I think for all of us it is important to remember this especially through such times but also realising that it’s okay to have FOMO and you shouldn’t feel as though you’re alone in your thoughts. It’s a natural feeling to have and for many of us may crop up through the years, but as I’ve realised it’s made me even more excited for my own graduation and especially the beginning of the career I’ve worked to pursue.

Its important though not to let FOMO take away from your progress or discourage you during the course but to remember that as a medic our journey will always be unique in its own way

Written by Michelle Chirimuuta

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