Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Splinters and Successes

I am done (soooo done) studying for the day, but before I crash out for a fitful repose I wanted to quickly post about the USMLE course that I started last night.

Ok so the school didn't pick the best evening to start the class but I figured I'd go anyway, not like I had any other plans from 1900-2300h (ha!) This first session was basically a getting-to-know what we are up against and how to prepare for the exam. It was taught by Dr. Stephen Daugherty via web from Chicago, and moderated by a techie in London. Needless to say we had some technical difficulties and it resulted in him being mic'd through a cell phone for the presentation, but, it worked.

He's actually a very good presenter and I found 90% of his talk interesting and helpful (pretty hilarious in parts as well). His background is in psychology and he appears to have a special interest in watching medical students suffer exam psychology, in relation to medical students.

One thing that really resounded for me though was at the end of the lecture he was talking about successes and failures, mainly around the theme of success on the exam, of course. With that, he made an excellent point, he said that success in medicine (i.e. acing the USMLE) isn't something to be celebrated, it is a splinter that has been removed. It really isn't as pessimistic as it sounds, and I chuckled at the accuracy of the statement. Why didn't someone say that to me TEN YEARS AGO???

For a long long long loooooonnnnnnngggg time I thought that the MCAT was the pinnacle for me. It was like this really big, frightening, monster exam with teeth that dripped blood of recent pre-med wannabes. It seemed like such an obstacle that it took me several years of stalling, starting another career, and studying other things in university before I could muster up the nerve to even attempt the pre-requisites for medical school...then write the MCAT.

Once the denouement of that story was behind me things quickly shifted to the next false summit, getting IN.

Hell. That was a year from hell. The application process and the waiting is horrible. I'd already been rejected once before a few years ago by all the schools that didn't require an MCAT. But, now I felt I'd gotten over what once seemed a nearly impossible event--completing all the pre-requisites and the MCAT. That (massive victory for me) was pretty much lost in the chaos of submitting applications.

Then I got rejected at most schools and got accepted by a few. And I really thought that I'd achieved *the ultimate*. My life-long goal, right? MEDICAL SCHOOL.

Does this sound like I lacked even a shred of self awareness or insight to anyone but me? I honestly shake my head at how absurd it sounds while I write it out. But my profile rant alludes to the discovery that was on the horizon for me. Things don't become PERFECT when you realize a long-term goal. It just means that itch has finally been scratched. That sliver has been pulled out.

And there is another horizon, far far off that my eyes are fixed on now. And things are still frustrating, and upsetting, and annoying sometimes. Things didn't suddenly fall into place for me the day I started medical school. Life is wonderful and challenging and funny and stupid and unpredictable just like it was the entire time I was staring at that false summit of getting in. I'm not saying that I don't appreciate that I have achieved something to be where I am today. What I took a while to discover though is the truth behind the enjoying the journey mentality.

It's good now that I have a different perspective on this, because I catch myself falling back into the "can't wait until" fantasy world. These fantasies about acing the USMLE, or landing the ultimate residency and how things will be so much better then. But they won't be, necessarily. I say that because really, my life was great 5 years ago, my life is great today, and hopefully my life will be great 5 years.

And for now, I just have this sliver in my paw. A big one called "Christmas exams" and another one called "USMLE".

Rant done. Sleep required.


Anonymous said...

*Exact* same experience here with the MCAT. 'Hmmmm, take the MCAT this year vs. another year as an RN?' Four years later I finally got up the nerve and took the dang thing.

And then I got into Med School and realized the MCAT was, well, kind of a joke compared to the Test Marathon From Youknowwhere that comprises MSI & II. [Weak, self-deprecating laughter]

I'm starting to suspect that I may secretly thrive on the angst of tackling the seemingly insurmountable. I've survived the first two years and already caught myself thinking about what I will (get myself into) do after med school and residency. Hopefully just enjoy being an MD, but really, God only knows...:)

Unknown said...

Amen, sister!

I just recently started reading your blog. Im a 6th year MD/PhD student in the States who is about to head back to full time clinical rotations after 3.5 years getting the ole-PhD.

Its hard not to think of life in terms of "everything will be all right when i finally...... (insert event here)"

for me, it was, over the past 2 (!!) months
1) getting married
2) defending my PhD
3) submitting my dissertation
4) starting on the wards

and its funny, because people ask me ALL the time now about whether it feels "great" to be married/defended/submitted, and i almost feel bad not being able to show them some sort of jubilation.

its definitely more like a sliver.

anyway, thats for a cool blog. i'm sure i will continue to enjoy it as i fall deeper back into the hole of medical school in the weeks to come.

just one thing to say to you about the USMLE (as i took it back when i was a 2nd year in 2007):
if you study, you will do fine. i promise. its ALL about the time you put into it. there is nothing magical. just put in the time.

(and i really benefitted from listening to the Goljan Lectures while i ran -- i am a running too, like you). If you dont know what they are, just google them.

ertwro said...

Well, I think of the steps as my pinnacle. Here it's not a requirement. I want to ace them because it would be a standardized indicative that I've been doing something right.

Maha said...

For reasons completely unrelated to work, I needed to read that today.

Keep on rocking ABB :)

OMDG said...

A few things were really as awesome as I thought they would be when they happened.

1) Getting into my MD-PhD program
2) Finishing my clinical rotations

The MCAT and Step 1, however? Completely anti-climactic. Getting married was also a non-event, though I did think it was pretty sweet when Luca finally became a citizen. Buying a house was also pretty much as awesome as I thought it would be. So was getting a dog.

Cartoon Characters said...

Great (and fresh!) way to look at it! Stay the course but enjoy life as it happens. Actually, I wish I would have known that little nugget of wisdom years ago...I might have enjoyed life along the way just a little more... :)

Albinoblackbear said...

MDninja--And all those pregnant ladies will soon be happy you finally *did* write it! =) If I end up in the states I hope it'll be near you and your OB practice...I have a trusted friend who'll be a pediatrician, a good ER doc, an orthopod, and a general surgeon...this will complete my necessary requirements for high quality care! :D

I hear ya about thriving on the insurmountable (education-wise, I am a wussy in all other areas of life). This part really does feel like a massive test to me but I am careful at assuming paradise in yrs 3/4.

Lynnie--WOW! Well big congrats on a crazy wild two month epic culmination of events! :)

Yes, I think it is true about the USMLE. It's a matter of just putting in the time (and channeling your inner-zen-self to not have a meltdown on the day of the exam!!)

Glad you enjoy the blog. It's sort of lost any resemblance of health-care-related-issues as I am in this sterile world of textbooks...but hopefully in 9 short months it'll get interesting again! :)

I am going to have to try this running and lecture thing. I usually just walk and listen because I find if 160 BMP isn't thumbing in my ears my legs don't seem to want to move---however---in June I am running a relay that doesn't allow ipods [she screams in terror] so I need to get used to running without music.

ERTWRO--I can understand that rationale. I suppose that is a part of my motivation as well. We don't need to have it to return to Canada either...that said a bigger part for me is having the option of going to the US is definitely appealing...

Maha--I am glad to have helped out. Hope things are going well for you these days.

OMDG--Yes, I agree about the getting accepted part. I remember doing some jumping up and down when I got in--though it was also fraught with "OMG HOW AM I GOING TO AFFORD THIS???" and "CAN I REALLY MOVE TO IRELAND??"

I think I was also pretty stoked when I handed in my last physics lab write up of my life.

Buying a house was epically awesome as well. I was so happy to think that I was finally free of landlords and the smell of other people's cooking. On the flip side, it was also one of the really devastating things from when John and I split. Signing over my part of the house was much much harder than expected, definitely a big part of my break-up grieving.

CC--I am glad you found it interesting too. I debated on posting all of this because I wondered if it was just so obvious a thing to everyone but me. But I thought it was a perspective worth considering. Plus it was one of those nights that I couldn't sleep until I 'got it out' of my brain.

I think one of the biggest challenges for many people is living in the now, enjoying the moment, the journey etc (myself included). Working in ER (and health care in general, I think) does some good in reminding us to do that though.

Medical Mojave said...

Scratching the itch, such a perfect way to say that.

Not that I've taken any of those tests. Nor do I plan to.

But we all have milestones that end up being a little less than we thought or leave us thinking 'This? Is it? Now what?'

Good luck on your exams.


Albinoblackbear said...

POP--Exactly! Now what?! hahah Maybe we are just hard wired to never feel completely satisfied.

Dragonfly said...

That bar. It just keeps getting raised. Dammit.

Albinoblackbear said...

DF--Indeed. I suppose that is what it boils down to. :)