Alright, as this is the very first post of many. (woo!) I wanted to preface it by letting you all know that this post is one of three that serve as a very informal, conversational, and my version of "condensed" reflection of my first year in medical school. I wrote them to capture what I believe to be the highlights and most valuable lessons gained from my experience. Let's jump right in!
So I’d be lying if I said this past year was smooth like butter academically. Maybe if I was a genius or simply not as easily distracted by Netflix, HBO, and celebrity Instagrams, but I am only human. Even without distraction, medical school is challenging at its core. One day of class will often feel like someone decided to throw the internet, a sick person, and a whole ass library at you and just say, "You better know it". And you just have to be like, "coo coo".
That being said, it is doable. The difficulty is an adjustment for sure, but by no means a surprise. I came to find that some concepts were easier than others; some courses I had more confidence in than others. And sometimes you do all you can think of to do in preparation, and it just doesn’t go your way. Despite your best efforts, you may lose or fail at some point in the journey. This right here was and still is what I like to call my very large “band aid”. A band aid that was ripped off more than once in my first year. (And yes, it was equally painful each time.)
But it was also ONE OF THE MOST CRUCIAL EXPERIENCES I DIDN''T KNOW I NEEDED.
Forget how we may define failure individually. It’s hard accepting a loss of any kind, or even using the word failure in regard to yourself, especially concerning the things we care most about. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t remember what it took to get here… how it felt to be accepted and to finally start this path. No matter how grateful you are or how blessed you feel though, there will still be some pitfalls. There were exams, even patient interactions (practice and real) I had that went poorly. Am I using the word "poorly” loosely? Yes. Yes I am, because we have to be nice to ourselves sometimes. But in all transparency some were worse than that, and thus the emotional wound was greater.
For me, the lows almost seemed timed. They would arrive after stretches of doing well, fun experiences, cool learning opportunities, or encouraging clinical experiences. All would be well and then like a freakin’ Texas rain storm (aka unexpected) on a sunny day, it would all go to shit. (Okay shit is a bit of an exaggeration, but it got pretty darn close!) But that’s life right?
At least that’s what most will say. That’s what you’ll say to yourself. And you’re not wrong…. But it still sucks to suck though, lol. And as optimistic as I like to be, some of those bad days are hard to shake. I think about what I missed, what I could’ve done differently, if I could’ve done anything differently at all. I worry about what it might mean that I didn’t do well at a particular thing, or if it happened because I ate another slice of pizza and went to bed instead of looking at my notes for another 20 minutes. I mean crazy stuff goes through your head sometimes when you mess up. Or maybe it doesn’t and that’s just me.
Regardless, people (myself included) give the word “failure” SO much power. It elicits fear and also shame when we’re confronted by it. As much as being in medical school means to me, what I had to learn is that the shortcomings along the way don’t define me. I’m not proud of them. I don’t boast in them, but I don’t ignore or hide them either. I can’t. I shouldn’t. They don’t equate to me but they are a part of me, my life, my story. To refuse to acknowledge my mistakes would be to deny contributing pieces to my own growth, understanding, and ultimately my success. Our losses are our launch pads, sending us from a place of disappointment, discouragement, and pain into recognition, peace, and progression.
I don’t doubt that I’m supposed to be here [in school], but with the “right” bad day I might. You might doubt... because you’ve taken one too many L’s in one day or week or season of life. But the good news is that falling down doesn’t mean your race is over. It doesn’t cut your distance in half or disqualify you. We do that to ourselves. Failure isn’t meant to be feared or buried. I believe it’s meant to be overcome and shared. I believe it’s meant to humanize and ultimately unify.
So if it happens, don’t fret. Lose with grace, learn from it with purpose, and live forward with a greater understanding.
The Third Voice