At the end of my first term in medical school, as I made the journey back home, I felt like a wounded warrior granted armistice carrying home a temporary olive branch. My enemies were my tests, my weapon was my mental faculties, and the prize was far too distant to even be conceivable: receiving an MD. Medical students often talk about transformations and the alterations each student undergoes in their plight for success at the onset of medical school. For me, however, “change” doesn’t do the experience justice; it’s more of a developmental revolution or overhaul.
Needless to say, when I finally went home for winter break at the end of term one, I felt like a fish out of water. I’ve made this trip multiple times before: GND to ORD is nothing special for me. This time, the bags under my eyes and increase in grays in my hair served as permanent mementos from a world quite different than the one I left. Let’s get real here: Medical school is this alternate universe where for 100 or so days at a time, you’re force-fed more information than you know what to do with until you’re dry-heaving endless facts and tidbits of the human body on some squalid bathroom floor. Constant cramming becomes your way of life while sleeping gets pushed aside as some non-tangible ideal. You’re a slave to your test scores. You’re married to your books. You’re obsequious to your coursework.
And then you come home with free-time galore, almost shell-shocked, that you barely know what to do with yourself, like a man on a fast for weeks suddenly unearthing a massive cornucopia of his favorite fatty foods. Eating without abandon in too short a time, and the man could end up regretting his decision. While all of us are glad to temporarily discard our backpacks and peremptorily forsake the library, it’s easy to forget how to walk on our own two feet without our books as crutches. There are some parts of us that are forever lost by the innocence-killing machine that is medical pedagogy. Continue reading