Roshana Mehdian is a Trauma and orthopaedic surgery registrar (junior doctor) living in London. She is in a relationship
I learned a significant life lesson from the Baz Luhrmann song Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen): “The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself… The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.” I didn’t know I’d be here at 30; life has taken me down unexpected paths. It may well do again. I try not to think too far ahead.
What I do know about myself is this: I’m a fervent foodie and a former Northerner who grew up in Nottingham and Scotland before moving to London. I’m a sci-fi geek, a petrol-head, a keen traveller and a rubbish knitter. I love being challenged. I hate horror films, football and unnaturally pink food. I’m also the doctor you see if you’ve broken a bone and need an operation, have a car accident or accidently shoot yourself in the foot with a nail gun. Right now, I’m one of many voices in the UK working to publicly communicate the concerns of frontline junior doctors.
I’m speaking out because I don’t want to have any regrets. It’s easier said than done, but I think true happiness comes from following the path you believe in, even if it’s difficult. I’ve always valued authenticity above all else – but that can get me into trouble. I believe if something needs saying, I should say it. There have been times that doing so has been difficult and frightening because it could have landed me in hot water. But what I’m most proud of is having the courage to stick to my principles.
I’m in my fifth year of working in the NHS after six years of university and I love my job, though my speciality is very male-dominated – just 4% of trauma and orthopaedic surgeons are female – which can be challenging. Working in medicine involves a lot of personal sacrifices – moving around for placements means friendships can sadly become disposable and it puts strain on relationships especially if, as in my case, your partner is not in the same job. But they are sacrifices we choose to take because we’re so passionate about our careers. Health professionals are known for their goodwill, racking up £1.5billion worth of unpaid overtime in the last year alone.
But I never expected to end up here. At school I wanted to be a Formula One mechanic, but was frequently dismissed because, of course, there were no female F1 mechanics. I was told engineering wasn’t a woman’s world either. Now I know I shouldn’t have listened – but when you’re young and naive, the sexist rhetoric has more of an effect on you.
I don’t regret studying medicine for a second, but I do wish I could switch off more. I get really annoyed with myself as I find it difficult to relax. The only thing I can do is get out of the city – I never imagined myself living in London either, and sometimes I crave green, open spaces.
I don’t know what the future looks like. For me, it could eventually include marriage and children, but only if the timing is right. For now, I just remind myself how lucky I am to be where I am – even to have been born in this country to begin with.
My parents are Iranian and had to deal with all the struggles – politically and equality-wise – that went with that before I was born. They left the forced restrictions imposed by the government behind, but some of our family still live there. My cousins dream of the sort of life I’m privileged to lead. It makes me infinitely grateful.
But at times I feel very overwhelmed. The little things – arguments, work load, feeling like I’m not being a good enough friend or partner – can get to me sometimes. It’s then that I go to the place which gives me most comfort: a Persian rug in my house which my family bought when I was a child from a bazaar in Tehran. It’s been through seven house moves since university and has become an unlikely companion, especially when leaving a city to start again somewhere new.
It’s a tough road ahead. Right now, the future of thousands of junior doctors in the UK is in jeopardy. The government proposes to increase the number of doctors covering weekends – but they have no new doctors or money to invest in this proposal. This can only mean one thing: that they intend to either work us longer, or spread us thinner when we are already significantly understaffed. It’s dangerous and unsafe, let alone unfair.
I feel stronger when I think of my mother, who balanced an extremely challenging career with bringing up three children and moving country. She’s the reason I have the confidence to speak up when I need to. Her wisdom – that you are no less than anyone else – keeps me focused and inspired to do better. If in the next 30 years I become half the woman my mother is, I know I’ll be happy.