Hi friends! It's time for another conversation about Marriage & Medicine and today we're talking about moving for your partner's career (many thanks to Elizabeth Wise for the suggestion). I figured it's as good a time as any to talk about this, as the current 4th year medical students all just submitted their match lists (meaning lots of folks across the country are about to find out where they'll be moving for the next 3-7 years...my brother and his fiance included!).
But first, here's a little context for people not in the medical field or for those who are just entering into it. You'll likely experience at least 1-4 moves during your training, including a move for medical school, residency (where you don't have a lot of control over where you'll be), potential fellowship, and then your first job. Beau and I will have an additional move thrown into the mix, as we'll be moving after residency to work for 2 years in an under-served area as a part of a loan repayment program. Needless to say, learning to be adaptable and deal with big changes every 2-4 years is essential.
We're currently two moves down and while I know I have much more to learn down the road, I do feel that I have at least a little bit of wisdom to share. I'll start by telling y'all a little bit about our experiences moving to Virginia and Oregon and I'll wrap up each section with a list of advice. Let's get into it!
Move #1 to Charlottesville, Virginia for Medical School
It was my last semester of college, we were engaged, and we found out that Beau was accepted to UVA for medical school. The decision to follow him there was a no-brainer for me. I didn't have an established career yet, I was ready for a change of scenery, and ultimately, I've always been the type of person to prioritize relationships and family and trust that everything else will fall into place as it should. Well, easier said than done. We arrived in Charlottesville and to be totally honest with you, I absolutely hated it for about 6 months. Maybe that's a little dramatic? I'll back up a little bit...
So, once I made the decision that Charlottesville would be my new home, I started looking for jobs. I was about to graduate with a double major in Marketing and Advertising, primed and ready (so I thought) for a job with a large, prestigious company or advertising agency. Come to find out, there are not a lot of those jobs in Charlottesville. It's a smaller town and the options were few. After a few weeks of desperate googling, I came across the dream job. It was a small creative agency, doing work that, in my opinion, really matters in the world. I shot them a desperate email and cover letter and oh-em-gee they actually responded. My informational interview went well and after a few anxious weeks/months of waiting for a position to open up, I had a job starting July 1.
Another bout of luck was that a friend from college was also moving to Charlottesville and wanted to live together (Beau and I weren't getting married until the following summer). THE STARS WERE ALIGNING, FOLKS.
Beau and I packed up all of our stuff, drove the 8-hour drive to Virginia, moved into our respective apartments, and then reality set in. Don't get me wrong, Charlottesville is BEAUTIFUL and such a lovely place to live. The perfect sized college town, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a great food/music/art scene, etc.
I think what was difficult about this move had nothing to do with the place and everything to do with the fact that it was my first year out of college. My first year trying to do life in the real world, at my first real job, far away from friends and family.
I loved my job (as I thought I would), but getting used to a full-time job and the fact that nobody was going to hold my hand anymore was tough to get used to. It was such a blessing to live in the same town as Beau, but I was a little bit taken aback by how little I saw him. His medical school schedule was fairly demanding and since we had decided not to live together that first year, we really had to make an effort to see one another. But I think the most difficult adjustment of all was trying to re-learn how to build community.
In college it had been easy...everyone was in the same place, working towards similar goals, all looking to build friendships. Post-college? Not so much. It felt like everyone that I met already had their set group of friends and didn't have any reason to add someone new. Most of my work friends had families to go home to. It took us about a year to find a church that we regularly attended, so no friend opportunities there, either. I felt so alone and my heart broke every time one of my friends from home posted a photo of all of them hanging out together back in Atlanta. Without me.
Beau, on the other hand, was thriving. Yes, he's charming and wonderful and fun to be around, but a big cause for all of his new friendships was simply the fact that he was in medical school. Just like in college, he was plopped into a large group of like-minded people, all working towards similar goals and looking to make new friends.
My biggest mistake that I made during those first few months was assuming that Beau's friends were only his friends, not mine too. It sounds so selfish (and it was), but I was so jealous of how easily things were falling in place for him while I was in my apartment across town longing for connection. I had sold myself the lie that I was "just" Beau's fiance, a "plus one"...that I wasn't part of the group.
And then I met Whitney (here's the part where I brag about how wonderful my best friend is). I first met her at a med school gathering of sorts, and somehow it came up that my birthday was the following week. Well, my birthday rolls around and there's a knock on the door. I open it to find sweet Whitney, who I had only really talked to ONCE, standing at my door holding birthday brownies. In that moment, I realized that these people were my friends too, whether Beau was around or not. About a month later, I went on a weekend vacation to the beach with all of Beau's med school friends while he was back in Georgia for a bachelor party. The more I hung out with these beautiful humans, the more at home I began to feel in Virginia.
Another issue that came up again and again was the temptation to hold on to the idea that "I had sacrificed so much" to move somewhere for Beau. And sometimes I would hold that over his head. "I moved here for you, so the least you could do is (insert what I wanted here)". Don't do this. The beautiful (and difficult) thing about being in a relationship is that you become a part of a team. Throw away the notion that the reason you're having to uproot your whole life is solely because of your partner's needs. I wholeheartedly believe that there's purpose and opportunity for you as well, you just have to keep your eyes open (instead of wallowing in self-pity and taking it all out on your partner).
For me, this idea really played out with my career path. The first year, I did my fair share of blaming Beau for all of my missed career opportunities in Atlanta. I resented the fact that I appeared to be the girl who gave up everything to follow a boy. But as I continued to put in the work at my job in Charlottesville, I began to realize how unbelievably perfect it was for me. The things that I learned there were invaluable and set the foundation for me to be doing what I'm doing now (a dream that I never thought would be possible).
Anyway, four years of medical school (and many life lessons) later, and we were absolutely devastated to be leaving a place that we had grown to love so much.
That's skipping over a lot, I know, but I figured it's time that I get down to some advice that I learned during our time in Virginia. Here it is...
1. Your partner's friends are your friends too. Hang out with them, get to know them, get involved in medical school events. Our medical school friends changed my life forever (another post to come on that in the future) and I would have missed out on so much joy and growth had I not invested in those relationships.
2. Take initiative. Invite people over to dinner, initiate opportunities to get folks together. Frankly, most people have too much going on to notice that you may be feeling lonely. It may feel awkward and vulnerable, but it's always worth it.
3. Communicate with your partner. Be solutions-oriented instead of focusing all of your energy on complaining about your circumstances.
4. Be supportive of your partner. The sacrifice you made to move for them is huge, sure, but they're going through hard stuff too. Medical school is a tough adjustment and they'll need your help.
5. Going along with that last point, don't use the fact that you moved for your partner as a trump card during disagreements or when you're trying to negotiate something that you want.
6. Recognize that the move is not JUST for your partner...trust that there's purpose in it for you too. My first job in Charlottesville ended up being my dream job, and I would have never known it existed had I not "sacrificed" other career options in Atlanta to move there for Beau.
Move #2 to Portland, Oregon for Residency
Next up, Portland! I plan to write another post all about the Match process and Match Day, so for now, just know that we literally opened up a letter on March 21, 2014 that told us that we were moving to Portland. Binding contract, no ifs, ands or buts. Thankfully, that was where we wanted to end up, and BONUS, our friends Whitney (remember her?) and Hunter also matched in Portland. Thank you Jesus, thank you Universe, thank you Santa Claus.
Coming to terms with the Match Process was difficult for me (again, I'll write about this another time), but I was absolutely thrilled about moving to Portland. I had fallen in love with the city during our interview and, just like last time, I was feeling ready for a change. Thankfully, I can say that armed with many of the lessons that I learned from our move to Charlottesville, this move went much more smoothly. Apart from a single tear rolling down my face on my first day as I drove home from IKEA, I took to Portland immediately. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that Beau and I were married now and had built an even more solid foundation, we were moving with our very best friends, and I knew that even though the move to Virginia was difficult initially, we ended up loving it more than we could have ever imagined. I trusted that the same would be true about Oregon.
Raving about all the things I love about Portland probably won't be helpful, so I'll talk about the difficult stuff. Which was (and is), adjusting to residency. Honestly, residency makes medical school look like a cake walk. Right out the gate, Beau was working 80-100+ hour weeks, 6 days a week, with real human lives in the mix. This was the first time in our relationship that he really, truly needed me. Needed me to run our errands, get "life stuff" done, do most of the grocery shopping/cooking, and basically just keep our little family afloat.
Those first few months were a whirlwind, and I distracted myself by relishing in the feeling of being needed. It felt good to care for the people that I loved (Beau, Whitney, Hunter, and a few new residency friends that we were meeting), but I think I lost sight of what I needed in the process. Definitely keep a watchful eye on this balance! If you're not taking care of yourself, it's pretty difficult to take care of everyone else.
Another big adjustment was spending weekends alone. Maybe it's just me, but I honestly do not mind in the slightest when Beau works late on a weeknight. But the fact that he was working at least 1 (and sometimes both) weekend days really threw me. I would wallow on the couch thinking about all of the other "normal" couples who could spend weekends together, rather than making plans for myself. Don't do this. Don't waste that time.
My biggest lesson during this stage of life was to take advantage of the extra time that you're given. Join a book club, go on a hike, invite someone you just met over for coffee, bake someone brownies, write someone a letter, call your family. I did all those things and more. I got a dog, which was life-changing in the best way. And probably most importantly, I started investing in my art as a side business. I had always dreamed of becoming an artist one day, but I never, ever thought it could turn into an actual career. But one weekend when Beau was working, I built a website. When he would work nights, I would draw and paint and eventually began posting about it on social media. Slowly but surely, things started to build and long story short, after 2.5 years I'm running my own business.
Is there something you've been dreaming of that you've always wanted to try? A new skill you could develop? A new habit that could improve your day-to-day life? Stop feeling sorry for yourself and start. This honestly has made all the difference. When you're using that extra time to fill your life with good things, you'll most certainly be better for it (and you'll resent your partner and your circumstances a whole lot less).
We still have a few years to go, but here's my advice on moving for residency...
1. Take care of your partner. This will likely be one of the most difficult transitions they've ever faced, and they will most definitely need you. Be gentle, encouraging and servant-oriented. Try to take care of yourself as best as you can so that worrying about you doesn't become another stressor on top of their already full emotional plate.
2. It's natural that more responsibilities will fall on you during this phase of life (see above), but make sure not to lose sight of what you need. Communicate with your partner if your plate becomes too full. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Remember that self care is important.
3. Befriend other partners of residents. These relationships are so life-giving because you're going through the same stuff and you can relate to one another on such a deep level. When I'm around my other "significant other" friends, I never have to explain where Beau is (yep, he's working again), and I can vent and cry and talk with someone who has been exactly where I am.
4. Take advantage of your extra time. Invest in yourself, those around you, your career, your family, etc., rather than wasting that time wishing things were different.
5. Don't be afraid to show up to events alone. Go to the party, join the community group, go on that vacation with friends. Don't hold yourself back...your partner will join when they can.
6. Take full advantage of your time off together. Use your extra time while your partner is working to plan a fun vacation, map out a new hike, or make reservations for a fun date.
Welp, that turned into a novel. I'll stop there for now and let y'all digest. :)
As always, please let me know if there's another topic you'd like me to write about. I absolutely love hearing from you and the idea of this space turning into a digital community of sorts makes me super happy. "The Real Housewives(/husbands) of Medical Professionals"? Just throwing it out there.
Sending lots of love your way and some extra encouragement for those who are waiting on your Match results. Trust in all of the good things to come.
Love & Respect,