2015 has been quite the year, and I can say in full honesty that I have studied more in these past twelve months than I had over the four year course of my entire undergraduate degree. Funnily enough, today I received one of those Facebook “memory” notifications showing an image I posted today, last year. The image was of a beach that I would visit almost every weekend for the rest of the year! And to be honest, that’s what reminded me to write this post, or rather, this journal entry to make up for all the ones I’ve missed throughout the year.
My first few months of 2015 were spent navigating both the island of St. Vincent along with my textbook notes, lecture slides, and cold, squishy cadavers (TMI, I know). The fact of the matter is that these were easily the hardest months of my life! And while yes, I enjoyed the subjects I was learning, the learning curve was totally and completely overwhelming. And it took me about four months of studying hard and passing (and excelling at) all my courses to actually believe that, yes, I could do it. And let me tell you, dealing with those voices in the back of my mind telling me that I couldn’t, or that I was going to fail, or that maybe I wasn’t meant for this was not pretty. However, without those voices, I would never have learned to overcome the most overwhelming self doubt that I’ve ever (and probably will ever) experienced. And really, even now I still struggle with those voices even though it’s pretty obvious that I can do it, just now I quickly shut those thoughts down and move on.
I think there really is something to be said about that quote I once read, that I can’t totally remember, that explained how the arrow can’t shoot across the sky and reach the distance without being pulled backwards…or something. I posted a video below whose message has the same effect.
And then finally, my first semester came to an end and I flew back to Vancouver to see my wonderful family, friends, and tall Canadian mountains. I thought that moving to Ottawa made me appreciate how much I loved Vancouver, but living in a second world country definitely made me regret complaining about Ontario. I think everyone from the Western world should move themselves to a completely foreign, less developed land for a period in their life. The things I have learned about my privilege, and being a minority, and feeling like I stick out in a crowd are so important. On this break I was also lucky enough to travel down the coast with my family and reconnect with some old friends in California for a few days. What better a way to relax after 4 months of brutality than by eating endless amounts of churros in Disneyland? (those things are like crack).
Other things that happened around that time:
- My cousin came to visit from Japan, that was wonderful!
- I saw my first cadaver, and held the human brain in my own two hands (coolest experience of LIFE)
- I raised a pet dog that I named Nala living on my property
The next semester was difficult in a different sense. This time around, I felt more confident in my studies, and more relaxed about school in general, as my schedule was less strenuous (8-2/3pm on most days as opposed to 8-5pm). I also had that comfort of knowing that, hey, you made it through 4 months of med school, there’s no reason you can’t make it through the next 4. However my social life was really starting to get to me. I went through a phase of depression where I (having moved apartments to live 2 minutes away from school) would spend every 10 minute break between classes and ever hour long lunch break in my own apartment alone. I just didn’t want to deal with anyone at school, even my good friends that I had come to appreciate so much! I’ve battled with depression in the past, so it was pretty scary having an episode come on during med school, a time that requires my ability to focus at a maximum level. This went on for about 2 months, and thankfully it didn’t show in my grades, however I started to feel completely distant from all my classmates and friends. All I wanted to do was be alone at home all day and watch YouTube videos and TV shows. At one point, let’s say my “rock bottom”, I marathoned all 5 seasons of The Walking Dead in 1.5 weeks…less than two weeks before exam period. Amongst all of this, it didn’t help that I was also dealing with an unnecessarily awkward end to a very short term relationship with a guy I dated in the centre of my friend circle on the island.
How did I get out of that? Well, I focused on exercising like crazy, for one. I tried to channel my frustration with people at school into motivation to study. I got a really, really good tan. I FaceTimed my family and best friends probably too many times, often in tears. And finally, I just got it done. I finished the semester and it was the biggest release and climax to that phase in my life. As soon as I got to the airport and flew back to Canada (this time to Ottawa, the city of my undergrad) my tension released, my depression ebbed, and I started feel more like myself than I had in weeks. That summer holiday was epic, because I got to do a lot of nothing, but with someone I like to do nothing with – my best friend Stacy, from college! I reconnected with other friends from that side of the country as well, ate good food, actually read a book out of leisure (The Heist, by Daniel Silva, great book and highly recommend it). While my previous holiday was awesome, I didn’t feel completely refreshed afterwards since it really felt like I was going, going, going. Following my second holiday, however, I felt like a completely new person! I finally felt relaxed and looked forward to school. Was I excited to go back to the island? Not at all. Was I ready to tackle it and get it over with? Definitely!
Other things that happened at that time:
- I was so nervous to take biochemistry, not having any background in science. And it turned out to really not be so bad at all. In fact, that ended up being one of my favourite courses!
- My friend Lisanne from Vancouver came to visit me, it was the best
- Caribbean Carnival happened, I went downtown to celebrate until 8am and it was INSANE!
- I got in really good shape and went to the gym regularly
- I was a teaching assistant for Histology and taught lab 2 hours a week
That brings us to my third and last semester of 2015. The notorious MD3 semester – at my school, the make or break it semester – where my course load consisted of Pathology I, Microbiology, Pharmacology (all of it, not just 1 half like at most medical schools), Psychiatry, Research, and a case based learning course that, quite frankly, was just a huge pain in my ass. MD3 is usually the semester that loses people. Most people will either drop out or be held back after either MD1 (first semester), or MD3. So, naturally, the pressure was on, and I was really, really, really nervous. But again, I DID IT!!! And was furthermore invited to be a Pathology tutor for next semester’s incoming Path I students. Still in disbelief about that one, honestly. It’s funny how no matter how much success you have a history of, you can still believe that your future projects/studies/struggles will fail to be overcome the same way as before. On top of my academic success during this semester, I also started dating my first and current boyfriend which is just fantastic. So I feel like as far as life/relationship progress goes, that’s something to be proud of and very happy about!
Now, I sit here on new years eve day reflecting on everything that has happened over the past twelve months in awe at how fast it all went by. To be honest, now that I’ve been home in Vancouver for the past two weeks, life on the island seems like a distant memory. I hate to be the one to perpetuate a bad attitude, but I honestly feel like when I move away from this place, I will probably block most (non-academic) memories associated with the basic sciences in St. Vincent. I have learned SO much over the past twelve months (both academic and life-wise), and met a handful of great people, however this year was the hardest year of my life and not one that I can say I truly enjoyed. That being said, I knew I wanted to become a doctor, and I anticipated the difficulties that med school would bring, especially throughout the first two years (ask any doctor what their first 2 years of med school was like), and wasn’t surprised. What am I most thankful for? That I stuck it out, that I believed in myself (or believed that my parents had a valid reason to believe in me), that I did meet that handful of amazing people, that I got to live in one of the most beautiful tropical islands of the Caribbean, that I could always go to the beach when I was stressed, that I was lucky enough to have visitors, that I was able to travel home for the holidays, and lastly…that the hardest part is almost over!!!!
Now that my summary has come to an almost-end, I thought I’d share both my regrets and epiphanies in point form
- Continuously doubting that I could do it, every single exam period. Even when I KNEW I’d made it so far already, I kept thinking that I wasn’t cut out for it when I very obviously WAS!!!
- At certain points, I think I viewed myself as more intelligent as other students at school. And I regret thinking that way in moments of irritation or frustration, because I’m certainly no better than anyone else, and everyone has their reasons for acting the way they do
- Literally, anything, is, POSSIBLE!!!!!
- It doesn’t matter what your academic background is, where you came from, how old you are, how nice or mean you are, anyone who decides they want to do something and commits to it CAN do it, even if it is a lowly writer aspiring to be a doctor
- Doctors are just like anyone else, with 103929384x the medical knowledge, so, 1) listen to their advice and 2) don’t ignore any negative gut feelings about one, because weird, messed up people can become doctors too
- Complaining doesn’t get you anywhere, but it sure does feel cathartic. However, don’t be the person complaining all the time, because people will hate you. If you must whine all the time, at least distribute the complaints amongst an assortment of people.
To the new year!