Med school as a roller coaster.

Oh, damn. As soon as I wrote the title for this post I realized that I am, in fact, using what I thought was a very, very trite simile when it was presented to us at our first-year orientation. What is worse is that I’m saying that the simile is true. I hate when I am one of a crowd, or when I reiterate what other people have said already.

So yes, during orientation, one very kind student affairs dean told us that medical school would probably be like a roller coaster. Before exams would be our very lowest lows, and afterwards we would be flying high — only to drop down again in like six weeks. To be honest it was not a very inspiring speech, and I remember thinking to myself, “That won’t happen to me.”

Lo and behold, alas, alack, etc., for here I am, feeling woefully pitiful for myself, when just seven hours ago today I felt fine. About seven hours ago I felt like I really knew my shit. I presented in my anatomy lab and I knew every answer, not only to my question but to the other ones that were asked too. I took a practice exam and I did well. I looked at my notes and felt like I had all the material pretty much down, and, foolishly, didn’t even know what to study.

Then I took another practice exam and got like 80% of it wrong. I looked up the answers and they were things I knew at one point, or things I should’ve known, or even things I knew but just plain screwed up on. I experienced emotional stress as well, and handled it even more poorly than I probably would’ve at another time, because studying and forcing myself to study is wearing me out. And I’m resorting to drugs (okay, Tylenol PM) to get me to sleep.

I never thought of myself as an emotionally unstable person, but maybe I’ve been fooling myself for years. I hate drama, yet here I am being dramatic. I could be (and was, for the past year) at an easy job making a perfectly decent living, instead of putting myself through this stress. Most of the time I think it’s not so bad, but right now, in the eleventh hour, I find myself wondering, is it really worth it?

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Exams are upon me!

Next week is my first set of medical school exams.

Hm, writing it just now was a lot more intimidating than the actual lead-up to it has been so far. Isn’t it ridiculous, though? In undergraduate I would have basically just started classes, but as a medical student I already feel like I’ve been a medical student forever.

Anyway, I should probably disappear into a hole (a studying hole), but instead I will share a story.

Yesterday one of my classes, a small group, let out early. Like the good little first-year I am, I decided to use the extra time to study. Like the social creature who hates studying I am, I decided to sit in a very common area, where a lot of people would walk by, so that when other people’s groups started letting out, they would walk by me and distract me.

After about fifteen minutes, someone I knew walked by, and stopped. “Studying?”

“Of course,” I replied.

“Are you going to be here for a little?” he asked. At my nod, he put his (very full) backpack down next to me and stretched out on the cushioned bench I was sitting on.

“I am so exhausted,” he half-moaned.

“You look it,” I said. “Were you here last night?”

“Yeah,” he said. A heck of a lot of students at my school study at the physical school. I have been unable, so far, to bring myself to do such a thing. I much prefer studying at home, with all of my books at easy access, without having to lug everything somewhere else — but that’s just me.

“How late were you here?” I asked.

He picked up his head a little to look at me. “You really want to know?”

I shrugged. “Sure.”

“I was here until 5AM or something,” he said.

“That’s crazy,” I replied. Then I grinned and, a little impishly I suppose, said, “I’m pretty much in bed by 11 every night.”

He raised his eyebrows. “What specialty did you want to go into, again?” Implying, of course, that it must not be a very good one.

That last sentence right there exemplifies an attitude that some med students have that I really, really dislike. A lot. It is this feeling that if you are not punishing yourself, if you are not studying until ungodly hours of the night and depriving yourself of everything you enjoy, you must not be a good student. Conversely, if you are haggard-looking and haven’t seen home in a few days, you must be an awesome student who knows everything.

Okay, so it’s quite possible that this friend of mine was joking. But it still points at this underlying idea that I have definitely seen in a lot of my classmates, and I think it’s just plain wrong. Not only because I think/know I am a pretty good student, but because I don’t think that anyone should be pushing themselves in that way and then crowing about it. If I had to study until 4:30AM in order to know the material, I probably would, but I wouldn’t be happy about it. And it seems to me like these people, in a mild, backwards way, are.

Anyway, with that being said, I’m going to go study.