Saturday, April 20, 2013

Note To (Future) Self

As a student I often find myself wondering how a professor or an attending could have the expectations that they do for us.  I am particularly perturbed by this because I know for a fact that at one point they were in my very shoes.  How then could they have forgotten how it feels to be on the other side?  I am writing this post in hopes that my future self will stay connected to this, to remind myself as I trek through this journey where it all began:

The test is in 3 days, no big deal.  Study.  Flip through notes. Eat. Where did the day go? Dinner. Yawn. Two more days. Sleep.

Two days.  Geez.  I'm getting a little concerned that I'm going to know too much for this test.  Seriously, 48 hours to cover this material? Thats more than enough. TV break.  Review notes. Sleep

One day. Oh my god.  What happened? I had three days, now theres 24 hours.  If I sleep four hours that gives me 20 hours to review.  Theres about five sections.  Four hours per section.  That doesn't seem like enough.  I start frantically flipping through the pages of the text book realizing five minutes in that I have absorbed nothing.  I'm just flipping.  Where is the day going? Its already 1 pm.  I woke up at 7.  By now I should have finished reviewing half the material.  I start counting: 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm . . . . 11 pm, 12 am, 1 am.  Thats twelve hours.

Okay good. 12 hours, that should be enough.

Somehow its 8 pm.  I've managed to eat my way through a bag of candy and 3 cans of soda.  All of a sudden totally irrelevant, menail tasks became high priority.  I absolutely had to reorganize the bathroom drawer.  It was happening before I could stop and I had to finish.  Its okay, I've gone through most of the material.

There is an ebb and flow to the panic and serenity.  A little dance, my heart rate fluctuates between tachycardia and bradycardia.  One second its beating in my ears as I see the minutes of sleep slowly slipping away as the night grows closer and my pile of work remains the same.  Another I feel on top of the world, envisioning a 99%.  High pass for me.  Stress. Relax.

Finally I decide I need some sleep.  I'm not one of those people who can pull an all-nighter.  I need a little shut eye.  I drift off to sleep with a page of notes clutched in my fist.

The clanging of my cell phone awakens me from a non restorative sleep and I bound out of bed as the panic washes over me again.  Two hours.  Theres only two hours left.  Is any of this actually going to stick in my brain now? Should I just stop? No.  I know these little details I can't remember, if I can just come up with a way to remember them.  Some mneomonic: krazy kittens gurgling the night.  There is no way I'm going to remember all of this minutia, there is no way they're going to ask about that.

As I reach the exam room the stress reaches its zenith as I pick up bits and pieces of other peoples conversations.  Every so often I heard a tidbit that I don't know and a fresh wave of panic washes over my body.  Its too late now--I'll just have to guess if that comes up on the test.

"You may begin"

I hate that feeling.  The on where you remember where the answer is.  Its on the bottom right corner of the 3rd page, you highlighted it and scribbled a note next to it.  Thats all you know.

Thats the worst.  When you feel like you should have studied just a little bit more.  If you could have just pushed yourself a little bit harder.  Then you wouldn't be sitting here with an exam in front of you and absolutely having to guess on questions.

Somehow your body goes into exam mode, you just start churning out answers.  The test taking monster inside you takes over.  Process of elimination and educated guesses slowly dilutes down to sheer dumb luck and guessing.

The walk home from the exam is awful.  First you have to escape the group of students bickering about question #68.  How do they even remember? I don't want to know.  I jam my earbuds in my ears and high tail it out of there.

On my walk home I pull out my slightly crumpled study guide and race to the bottom of the 3rd page, where I highlighted and scribbled a note.  IL-10.  Thats what it was.  How could I not remember? There's something wrong with me.

What if somehow I literally answered every question wrong? Statistically pretty unlikely but even at 25% would be awful.  What if I fail? What am I going to do? I thought I studied, I thought I knew the material.

I hope they post grades soon.

3 days later . . . .pass. Phew.  Wasn't so bad was it?

Panic. Fear. Pressure. Self doubt. Confusion. Restlessness. Sheer exhaustion. Those are all a part of this temporary condition but the fact of the matter is to us, at that particular moment they are all too real.

I understand that some of this is a part of the package.  Medical school is a grueling undertaking I juts wish more attendings and professors could take a second to reflect on what it felt like to be where we were--just to ease the pain for us a little bit.

They say "be the change you wish to see".  Someone check in with me in 20 years and see how thats going.

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