Monday, June 17, 2013

Pressure is a Privilege

The test is over. An immense weight has been removed from me. I realized that I am not a particularly pleasant person when I have to study. Why it took me ten years to make that connection, I may never understand. 

Medical students are an odd bunch. We have to be to want to do what we are trying to do. Something pushes us and makes us keep moving forward no matter how unpleasant it will be. That can have unpleasant ramifications for those around us, especially those who have been authority figures in ours lives. We are thinking "marathon." They are thinking how they don't like what's happening right now, though who could blame them. 

I spent most of my life until 2012 with my nose stuck in a book, always another test coming up. The myriad standardized tests through primary school, the PSAT, SAT, organic chemistry tests, biology tests, PCHEM evals, the MCAT, umpteen medical school exams, Step 1, Step 2 CS, Step 2 CK. It just never quit. But such is life. After Step 1 I had an extended break where nearly all of my learning was hands on, active--and I loved it. I became a much more relaxed person, a much happier person, and a much more pleasant person. What would my late teens and early twenties have been like if I weren't always in the testing frame of mind??? I can only imagine. A great deal of that nauseating tension went away for a very long time, and I became a freer person, a more honest person, simply because I didn't have that pressure and tension weighing me down. I didn't realize it until it was gone, because it had been constant, my reality, since I was a teenager. And I'll be honest, I was a mostly unhappy teenager, ready to get the hell away from a set of peers I had little to nothing in common with. People who only cared about the typical teenage interests, which I didn't or couldn't grasp.
All of that came rushing back when I started to gear up for CK: the constant edginess, the anxiety, the tension, the pressure, the desire for an emotional release in any way, shape, or form (a few of those nasty fights with the parentals all of a sudden came shining into focus, not all but certainly a pointless few), sleep becoming delayed. Maybe it all came into view because (fingers crossed) this is the last test I will have to take before graduating. Because I can see the proverbial light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. 

As I write this I'm reminded of a quote by Billie Jean King: "Pressure is a privilege." So I can only complain so much. I have been provided an opportunity that few other people have. So what if it means a little work. So I sat down to my exam Wednesday morning knowing I was in for a very long day. The first few of eight sections (one hour each) went fine. I took a break for a snack and hydration after the second, and took lunch after the fourth. After the fifth section I started to get restless...jeez three more hours of this nonsense. The last section was a struggle. A real test of will. It was ten questions fewer than the previous sections--and thank God it was. More than once I had to reread questions because somewhere between the beginning and the end of a sentence my eyes lost focus. I literally had to uncross my eyes at one point. Sometimes my brain just checked out and I had to read those questions again because I realized I hadn't the foggiest clue what was being asked.

I was the next to last one to leave the testing center. I went home and crawled into bed and slept until 10 the next day. Much needed.

PS: Hopefully I won't be kvetching any time soon!

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