More than anything else, medical school is a mind game.
The design is not incidental, but instead it is erected to test you. You are placed statistically with the top 6% of students, all equally as competitive and scrambling for the top just as you are. The tests they hand you are not to see what you can memorize. They are a stress test, repeatedly eliminating the weak. Because this is not a sport for fragile hearts or still minds. For months you will feel inferior, defeated, humiliated and humbled. But it’s only a hoop.
Some are angered by the process – ultimately leading up to the holy STEP1 at the end of your second year. A single test, only a single shot, determining your worth and the future of your career in medicine. But as I was reminded yesterday by my beautiful mother, this is not about tests. Even STEP1 isn’t about the test.
It’s about how you handle the pressure.
Because when the time comes, and you are the person standing over the table with someone’s life resting in your hands, they want to know – Will you be able to handle the pressure? Will you place steady hands on their skin, or unwavering fingers on a scalpel? Or will you crumble?
Medicine is everything I’ve ever imagined it to be. Every day it’s like putting on a soft, familiar sweater – a confirmation of my belonging and purpose. It is mind-blowing. It is perception-shifting. It is jaw-droppingly beautiful and astounding. But medicine has two faces. It’s a lot like loving someone who is everything you’ve ever wanted, but on the turn of a dime, they can become a cold-hearted monster.
The key is to dig your roots, and refuse to let it tear you apart when it turns. Because in the end it is the resilient weeds that remain. They rise stronger and taller before, standing proudly – ready to love medicine at the next turn.
Be a thorny weed.