Class of 2020
Alexis del Vecchio
Let me begin with this – I am a wonderer. I am a wonderer and a wanderer.
Last week I wandered outside of the hospital and sprawled (thank you, Test Week) in a cozy patch of grass next to a courtyard of sorts. It was 4:45 p.m. and as always, I was watching, listening, and possibly talking to myself about the mossy fiber versus olive climber pathways to the cerebellum.
First, I noticed two men walk by wearing scrubs, deep in conversation and both carrying venti-sized Starbucks cups. Questions roll through my mind: Were they doctors? What type? I wonder what they are talking about. Or if one of them has a Caramel Latte.
Next, I saw a woman wearing a suit, smoothing papers in her hand and dragging a rolling briefcase. Again, I wonder: Did she come from a meeting? Why was she at the hospital? Where is she from? Is she an administrator?
Then, I get mad at myself for people watching, and I decide to turn around and face away from the door where the only things I can see are blades of grass. I lose myself in cerebellar pathways for what seems like 30 minutes before I heard the words.
“Hey, where did we go?
Days when the rains came
Down in the hollow
Playing a new game”
I spun around to see an elderly man holding a sweet baby in the air, dancing back and forth while singing the lyrics to “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison. He swayed back and forth, around the bushes and benches, dancing with this little nugget of joy. I heard baby giggles that made me smile.
The elderly man noticed me staring and smiling, and he walked over to sit on the bench beside me. He said, “This is Bella — she is nine months old.” The first thing I noticed were Bella’s big, caramel-colored brown eyes (song choice – on point.) Naturally, I was googley-eyed over this cute baby, so I started talking to this kind gentleman and making all sorts of noises and faces at sweet Bella. He must have seen my name tag or glanced at my stacks of notes with poorly-drawn spinal cord and brain sections, because he asked if I was a medical student. I replied that I was, that our big neuroscience test was the next day, and that I was moderately (raging understatement) stressed about it.
“I have a little something I read online the other day that may resonate with you,” he said. I wasn’t expecting what happened next. “When a wave comes, go deep.” Obviously, I was confused. He continued, “There are three things you can do when life sends a wave at you. You can run from it, but then it’s going to catch up and knock you down. You can fall back on your ego and try to stand your ground, but then it’s still going to clobber you. Or you can use it as an opportunity to go deep, and transform yourself to match the circumstances. And that’s how you get through the wave.”
I would describe medical school as “my wave” or maybe “my ocean” would be more accurate. I’m not sure if I interpreted his words the way he intended, but he opened my eyes to this: Nothing good comes from operating on autopilot in a swirling storm of worry. Instead of getting mad at myself for constantly wondering and wandering, I should embrace these tendencies and breathe in everything going on around me.
This year, there have been many times when I’ve felt drowned by fears that I haven’t studied enough. As a result, for days, even weeks, I have forgotten to live intentionally. I have forgotten something as simple as smiling at strangers because I’ve been too focused on bee-lining to Starbucks and rushing back to the library. I have forgotten to call my dear friends and family, to catch up with them and remind them how much I love them. I have forgotten to ask my classmates how they are doing, and instead asked them to clarify a topic from class or to answer a question about a lab. I have forgotten to be present, to think creatively, and to challenge those around me.
What is the best way for each of us to really break through the neurological pathways that often hold us hostage, especially under stressful circumstances, and live more intentionally? I wonder…
I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina before moving to Chapel Hill to spend my undergraduate career as a Tar Heel. I majored in biology, with a minor in chemistry, and consider myself extremely fortunate to have had many unique experiences in my life thus far. I worked as a research assistant at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center and in the Department of Genetics at UNC, interned with Carolinas Laparoscopic and Advanced Surgery Program (CLASP) at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, and spent time as a member of a Global Medical Training team that set up temporary rural medical clinics in Panama. I thrive on adventure, am a travel enthusiast, and enjoy kayaking and exploring new places in my free time. I am passionate about improving quality of patient care, and hope to pursue a career in pediatric endocrinology, anesthesia, or internal medicine. I am honored and excited to be a part of the USCSOMG Class of 2018- a group of truly compassionate, intellectual, and driven individuals.
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