One of the most common misconceptions of going to medical school is the fleeting assumption that one can just go traipsing in and do phenomenally well. Those people, including myself, are in for a rude awakening.
Not only have I fallen short of my expectations, I feel that I’m hanging by the neck and falling short of everyone else’s expectations- loved ones who cheer you on, nosy neighbors who look at you with half admiration, half contempt, your relatives who are proud of you when you accomplish something yet readily raise an eyebrow when you stumble, and even the occasional stray cat crossing your path seems to give a haughty side eye after a particularly disastrous practical exam you just had.
Before the first week began, I psyched myself up for what was probably the boldest endeavor yet, and swore to high heavens to “give it my all.” But what happens when it turns out that isn’t enough? When after you slept only three hours for three consecutive nights memorizing a litany of muscles, tendons, nerves, and bones, and still barely passing the exam, when after reading notes, reviewers and past exams, a myriad of references you still got a third rate grade. When your best effort was barely enough, let alone excel. You look back during your undergraduate degree when all you had to do was show up for the exam, with or without the last minute review, and still ace it.
It really is a sad day for perfectionists and overachievers who have no idea their pride is about to be run over by a ten ton truck called Physiology. I used to have this Manila paper poster where I wrote my goals for the next five years- which included the dream of graduating with honors from med school, but I had to cover it up with other manila paper with its recital of Biochemical pathways and all the stuff I’m struggling to understand. I am humbled. But as they say, it’s not actually the smartest who survive med school- it is those who are willing and able to adapt.
After putting my neurosis aside, I had to agree with our Dean who dared us to set the highest goals (which still kind of hurt, each time you receive a test paper with a red mark). But this is the price to pay for dreaming to be a physician: long, weird hours, lots of information to absorb even when you think you can’t possibly listen to another lecture or read another book. Come to think of it, I may have failed a few exams, but if each bi-monthly we have around thirty exams, in a semester around sixty, that makes 480 exams for the next four years- 480 chances to do better. I guess that’s looking at the bright side.
The road is long, but I believe if we stick around and bite the bullet, one day we’d get to where we’re headed. This was my thought as I put the poster back up, which stated “the dream.”