What is medical school like in the middle of a pandemic?
Some moments I am amazed at my being here. People trust me, a strange young woman, enough to let me hear their heart and lungs. I have talked to smart, funny, and compassionate professors and I get to follow them around one day. I am so grateful for the chance to save someone’s life.
Other moments I am floored – so depressed and lonely I lose entire days inside my foggy brain. I feel feverish and my stomach aches. I want to go home.
This second circumstance has been more common.
I am not feeling this way because of medical school itself. There is no part of my heart that doubts the blessing and future joy this career will bring inshAllah.
It’s because of the isolation.
When COVID started, I was with family. I went through 2 weeks of mourning – hating that I could no longer go outside and even more that I didn’t get the chance to hug my friends goodbye. But a few months in I grew to relish the comfort of being home – a sanctuary within a world on fire.
But even since I moved to be closer to school, I feel I am living in suspended time. This is, of course, not how I once imagined starting medical school. I have this image in my mind of walking down the halls of my School, wearing my big yellow backpack and feeling cold, fresh air hit my face. I imagine walking past upper years, wondering if they pity me as I waddle under the weight of a too-full backpack. I am looking for a shortcut to the lecture hall, wondering if the minimal prep I did would be enough to protect me from the question randomizer. I imagine being so busy that my weekends would feel well-earned and I would fall asleep every night in 10 minutes.
Instead I am alone in my apartment, trying to figure out the difference between Wednesdays and Saturdays. Being so unsure of location or time that I am suffocated and driven away from my desk and into my blankets. I can’t think of the infinite loneliness when I am asleep.
The alternative though, is not being here. And I keep coming back to that because otherwise I would become deeply ungrateful. I have been selected by Allah SWT to fulfill the Fardh Al-Kifayah (communal obligation) of having Muslim Doctors. If I can persevere during this time then I can fulfill this incredible trust and hopefully receive its reward in the Hereafter.
Hardships are a part of life and while life on this Earth is not a punishment – it’s also not designed to be endlessly easy and joyful. Every person, especially the believer, is tested. Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: “The world is a prison-house for a believer and Paradise for a non-believer.” ِِِِِA lesson that can be extracted is that the believer’s Paradise is Paradise itself, so we need to spend this life preparing for our release, not deluded within the four walls of our prison. This lesson doesn’t condemn humanity to suffering in this Earth. The Prophet (ﷺ) is the most joyous, optimistic, and beloved creation of the Creator. We as Muslims attempt to reach his level of gratitude and hope. But this revelation helps me remember that suffering and loneliness is only as temporary as life itself. If I am able to see the tears in my eyes as a mercy from Allah, to help me cope and turn to Him, then I will ultimately have gained during this misery.
Allah SWT says in the Quran in Surah Baqarah Verse 216: Perhaps you dislike something which is good for you and like something which is bad for you. Allah knows and you do not know.
May we all become those who entrust Allah SWT in all of our affairs and may He heal all the broken, lonely hearts of this world. Ameen.
Disclaimer: I am not an Islamic scholar. If you have questions related to Islamic Law please speak to local trusted scholars. Allah SWT knows best about everything I have written or related to you all.