Doctor Eva Rosenbaum is a second-year registrar specialising in Emergency Medicine. Based in Australia, she planned to take a break from training in 2020 to hike in New Zealand and Australia, climb in New South Wales, travel in Iceland and Israel, and even compete in the infamous Barkley Fall Classic (the 50km version of the impossible Barkley Marathons). Follow her adventures at evasadventures.blog
Just to recap the last four months...
I decided to take a year off medicine because I was completely burnt out. Work had become a chore and studying for the primary seemed impossible.
I packed up my home and put everything I owned in storage. I planned out the year so that the only work I did was to fund travel and adventure.
Cue global pandemic and I am right back where I started, only 400m further up the road (in a furnished apartment so I didn't have to get my stuff out of storage because let's be honest moving is a nightmare) and back at the job I left sixteen weeks ago.
It’s like nothing has changed. Except for everything.
"the likelihood of experiencing any hint of excitement or affection is actually inversely proportional to how long 2020 goes on for"
A flushed face is not exactly what I have been trying to convey every time I have inserted the 😳 emoji into one of my texts of late, but trusty Google tells me this is definitely its name. I was certainly more reassured about my interpretation of flushed face (let’s call him Flushy) upon reading a second description which conceded that “it may also convey a wide range of other feelings to varying degrees of intensity, including surprise, disbelief, amazement, excitement and affection.”
Let’s just get a few things clear. Out of the wide range of emotions I have experienced over the last eight weeks, neither excitement nor affection have featured prominently. Like zero featuring. None at all. In fact, at this stage it seems that the likelihood of experiencing any hint of excitement or affection is actually inversely proportional to how long 2020 goes on for.
Four months ago, when I packed up my life into a tiny little storage cage so that I could locum around Australia and travel the world, guess what I felt? Excitement.
When coronavirus created a global pandemic and shut the world down, guess what I did not feel?
That’s right. Excitement.
I did NOT feel excitement.
See the relationship? Coronavirus OR excitement. They are mutually exclusive. They do not coexist.
But you know what does coexist with coronavirus? Flushy.
Flushy was born for coronavirus. Because one look at Flushy and there’s no need for words. It’s like say no more, I’m totally picking up what you’re putting down. He’s like “I know, I’m as dumbfounded as you are. I’ve got nothing.”
"overnight our medical community was thrust into the world’s spotlight"
The Coronavirus pandemic is changing the world as we know it. In real time. Overnight our medical community was thrust into the world’s spotlight in a way I think most of us had never really considered. Suddenly there was talk of heroes and capes, and increasingly I found myself being the face of reassurance for hundreds of patients, when I was absolutely terrified. As the days went by it felt like the only certainty was uncertainty.
Fast forward eight weeks and whilst the uncertainty remains, we find ourselves in a different stage, emerging from isolation and attempting to regain some degree of familiarity, within a very different world. Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those unwaveringly optimistic individuals who dealt with lockdown by finding my inner baker and smashing out a year’s worth of life goals (although in the spirit of honesty I did buy a French oven courtesy of DJs online so I could bake some bread like the rest of Australia's high achievers). No, no, no. That is not me. Would I like it to be? Absolutely. Who doesn't want to be one of those "I'm gonna totally nail life while the world tries to end" people?
But I am just not.
"life suddenly got stripped down to the bare essentials"
And that – that right there – was the glimmer of self-acceptance, that apparently has taken a global pandemic for me to find. The last eight weeks, I have treated myself with more kindness, understanding and lenience, then I ever have before. Life suddenly got stripped down to the bare essentials. Eat good food. Get some exercise in. Go to work when you are rostered on, and do what you want when you come home. Want to binge three seasons of Ozark in a week? Go for it. Cause you know, coronavirus. Don’t feel like cooking? It’s fine! Cereal is fine. Coronavirus. Feeling sad? That’s okay Eva. The world is sad right now. Coronavirus. Don’t feel like running today? Want to walk instead? That’s totally okay. Just walk. Cause you know, coronavirus.
It was like suddenly I gave myself the freedom to just be. To just do the minimum. To prioritise the basics like sleep and food and exercise. The rest? The rest was simply a bonus. And let’s be honest, bonuses are unnecessary in a crisis. For the first time in my life, it felt like the minimum was enough.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but the break I actually needed all along was from myself. Because as soon as I let go of my own expectations of myself, as soon as I loosened the reigns so-to-speak, something started to shift. I started enjoying work again. The passion came creeping back. My thirst for knowledge resurfaced.
So much so that I have now committed to sitting the primary exam on October 2nd. If you had told me three months ago that I would currently be in full blown study mode to prepare, I would have been like:
"this whole pandemic thing has shown us that ultimately, there is only so much we can control"
But I am, and what’s more, I’m excited. ‘Cause see, this whole pandemic thing has shown us that ultimately, there is only so much we can control. And if we get the basics right, if we take care of ourselves the way we spend our whole lives taking care of others, it makes dealing with all that is out of our control, that much easier.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about “what I would have been doing today” had the world not shut down. The desire to be adventuring outdoors, pitching my tent, and sipping coffee as the sun rises, has not left me. But all is not lost. Making coffee out of my portable espresso machine now happens every morning in my kitchen. When I’m studying outside of daylight hours my Petzl headlamp is my new best friend (‘cause you know, my stuff is in storage… I’m not buying anything that’ll give me roots… desk lamp included).
When the world opens again and these times have passed (and they will), I’ll pick up where I left off adventuring around the world. For now though, the adventure has changed. And that’s okay. ‘Cause you know, coronavirus.