As you may have realized by now, I really enjoy sharing pictures of my cat. He makes me laugh, which is something you desperately need on a daily basis in the second year of medical school. However, he also reminds me of the struggles of medical school quite often. I feel like his struggles often coincide with mine. Let’s compare M2 test week with car rides for Rocky. M2 test week is monumentally more stressful than M1. I do not know why, and some people would probably disagree with me. But I find them terrifying and anxiety provoking. A torture that seems unnecessary and unending. I find myself annoying my friends and family whining day in and day out about just how hard it is.
Rocky feels the same way when he goes for rides in the car, as he did on the way to my parents’ house this Thanksgiving break. It is a massive battle to get him into his crate. He knows what it means. Very similar to the struggle I face when I sit down to study for a new module. It is daunting and I don’t want to do it. I fight it. However, as is always the case, I get him in to the box. He is disgruntled, but accepts his fate quietly. Similarly, I eventually settle down into a study routine for a few weeks. I may not be happy exactly, but I am not complaining. Then, I take Rocky to the car and start the engine. You would think it was doomsday, the way Rocky starts meowing. The car cranking up for Rocky is the beginning of test week for me. Rocky starts whining nonstop. He cries and cries. Sometimes his meows are morose and hopeless, sometimes they are angry. He rolls around in his little box and makes his displeasure known. But deep down beneath all that anger is fear, and fear, as it does for many people, gives Rocky an upset tummy. He eventually poops in his crate… and I have to clean it up. We can liken this to the many break downs I have had this year that my family has had to weather and find a way to calm me down. So I must, after Rocky loses his cool, clean up his poop. It is an unpleasant job, but I do it because I love him.
However, on the way home this Thanksgiving, Rocky also peed in his crate. It was night time, and I was in the middle of rural South Carolina. I was tired and afraid of stopping on the road, so I powered on. Which means, Rocky had to sit in the mess that he had made, and he was not a happy camper. When I finally got home, my mom took the duty of cleaning him up. This involved putting him in the tub and rinsing him off. If you have ever seen a cat in a tub, you will know that it is the last place on earth they want to be. The worst of tortures for a house cat. Rocky desperately tried to escape with a wild look in his eye.
That is how I feel this year, and I feel like a lot of my peers feel the same way. Why did I get myself into this mess? It is no secret that medical school is hard, but that doesn’t hit you in full force until the second year. I don’t know why. Perhaps there is more pressure. Most doctors will probably agree that the second year is the worst. It’s difficult to get through and it pushes you to your limit. You start to panic when you begin to forget why you put yourself through this to begin with. It paints a bleak picture, I know. But, those same doctors will all tell you that it gets better. It’s one year to power through, and then you get into rotations and all of the reasons that pushed you toward medical school come flooding back. In that tub, Rocky was confused, scared, soaking wet and wondering what he had done to deserve such a fate. That is how I felt this past test week. Scared, confused, and I just wanted out of that tub. However, I know that I will be rewarded at the end of this year. It will all be worth it, just as it was worth it for Rocky to finally escape that tub and be rewarded with some delicious cat food and brand new toys.
This story with Rocky has taught me a lot about dealing with the stresses of this year. It is irrational for him to be so afraid of the car, just as it is irrational for me to get so stressed out over test week. But, that doesn’t stop the anxiety from creeping up. I want to thank my friends and family for listening to me whine all during test week. Rocky cries all the way home without pause, a two and a half hour drive. I have experienced how annoying it is. And thank you for picking up the pieces when I fall apart (figuratively cleaning up my poop). My family and friends always provide a shoulder to cry on when I need it, no matter how often I call them during test week. They always listen as I say the same dejected things over and over. Instead of getting frustrated and telling me to suck it up and stop calling them, they listen patiently every time and just remind me over and over that everything will be okay. They don’t know what medical school is like, and they don’t try to throw around advice like they do. They just listen, which is what we need. Medical students just need to let it out. Our support systems put up with a lot from us, and it becomes very difficult for them too. We are study constantly, and we complain with what little free time we have. But, the sign of a good relationship is weathering the bad times and supporting the ones you love. I put up with Rocky’s car ride panic attacks because I love him, so I know that all my friends and family must love me for putting up with my test week panic attacks.
Second year is a rough road, but it is rewarding. It is only one year, and we all make it through. You just have to keep on moving forward and find someone that will be there to pick you up when you fall down. However, you must always remember to show your appreciation for those that stood by you once the bad times have passed. They need to know that you love them too, or they may not be there the next time you need support. Rocky peed and pooped in the car and his torture was continued with a most hated bath, but he survived and those hard times are behind him just as test week is now behind me.
I am from North Augusta, South Carolina, and I am a born and bred Carolina girl. When it came time for college, I happily made my way to Columbia to attend the University of South Carolina (USC). I started college in Biomedical Engineering because I figured it would be an acceptable fall back plan. The only problem was, I forgot just how dismally boring the combination of calculus and physics could become. Also, all of my medical volunteering and biology classes made me realize that medicine was actually the best match for me. I loved it. So, I made one of the more difficult decisions I’ve had to make in life and switched to biology, committing myself to a medical track. Graduating from USC with a major in biology and minor in chemistry was a big moment for me, because I was among only two or three people in my uncommonly large extended family to receive a college degree. And, I was the first to be going on to further my education. I am very excited to be starting my medical education here at USC School of Medicine Greenville on behalf of my family and myself. It is going to be an adventure and it will be difficult, but my experience here so far has made me feel that I definitely made the right choice.
Copyright 2014 USC School of Medicine Greenville