a young pakistani doctor blogs...
Saturday, June 04, 2005
  A new beginning…

Its been about 14 days now since I haven’t done any work at all, save for a day or two of short bursts of studying in which I did some gynecology. If I told some of my friends this, they would look at me as if I were a doomed man, as if they are seeing me off as I walked towards my execution - with the mixture of fear and fascination you feel when you slow down to drive past a really bad road accident. I’ve put a big fat lid over the well of panic and regret that is turbulently gushing underneath me to get out.

But today is the last day of the old me, and the first day of a new beginning. It marks the first day of the process in which drPak gets his shit together, thank you very much! I’m using this blog as a crutch. Knowing that I’ve got these thoughts out here in cyberspace provides a degree of comfort to me. As if when I declare my weaknesses, and then my objectives for the coming time, I somehow have a better chance at succeeding. Maybe it’s just a place where I can be totally honest about everything and not try to persistently hide aspects of my personality from people around me. It really is a lot like a catharsis.

Sheesh, I’m still sluggish. I woke up an hour ago and the huge cup of coffee I had hasn’t helped. Let me have another before I get back to you….




…I’m back. Its several hours later. I got another cup of coffee which did the trick. The electricity went out 4 times in the last 3 hours, a rare occurrence, and I couldn’t get back to blogging or to starting my day as a ‘new man’. Anyways, its past noon now, and the minutes are ticking away so I’d better get into gear and start working. But first a list of goals for the remaining 25 days of June. All these goals regard studying and reforming my study habits. I plan to finish off 3 subjects, all of which I have started already by the end of this month.

  1. Finish the remaining 75 % of Surgery.
  2. Finish the remaining 90% of Gyn/Obs
  3. Finish the remaining 99% of Pediatrics.

Ok, looking at that, I’m starting to feel veeeeery uneasy. I’ve just realized how little I’ve done. *gulp* Okay okay, calm down. Get a grip.

What I used to do before with regards to studying is to sit down in the chair and tell myself I wouldn’t get up for the next 10-12 hours unless it were to go to the bathroom or for coffee. There is a reason I took this totally stupid and unrealistic approach. There is a guy, a friend of mine, who got a 99 in Step 1 and a 99 in Step 2 CK as well. The very first mortal I’ve met whose achieved something so difficult. He used to come in at 9-10 am, sit in his chair and get up 12 hours later. He did this everyday for about 18 months. He was so friggin impressive in his commitment that he practically spawned a fan club of medical students who all tried, but failed, to be just like him. He would never take a day off during those 18 months, and would not eat anything during the entire day. “Food makes me drowsy, and I can’t concentrate.” He explained when I asked him about it once. He remains a very modest and humble character and a person I admire very much. Obviously when I try to sit continuously for as long as I can, it is a feeble attempt to emulate this very intelligent, hard-working, accomplished, and well-liked character.

Further, since I used to study in the library, the long periods I spent sitting in the chair hunched over my books would also, in my pathetic mind impress my fellow library-goers. Several of them said as much. That’s sad. To think that at my age, I still require approval from my peers to feel good about myself. Sez something about my own sense of self-worth.

I’ve decided to follow the pattern of study outlined by jhawke at med school blues. She wrote that she studied for and hour, then took a 30 minute break and repeated this cycle until 10 hours were up. A 30 minute break after every hour seemed really excessive to me, and is certainly something I am not used to. However, upon considering the study-break-study-break concept carefully, I realized that if one sits down for a total of 12 hours (not uncommon at all amongst my class fellows) using this pattern of study, then it amounts to 8 hours of total study time. That’s quite a lot considering that this will be 8 hours of quality studying. I know from experience that as much as 40% of the time I use to sit continuously, staring determinedly at my books in the library would be spent unfocused. The concentration would just not be there 40% of the time. More importantly, the end result of studying in these intense bursts is that I get exhausted after a week or two and spend the next week or two miserably incapable of looking at the books. What is the point, then of attacking the books head-on for a week or so only to find myself totally burnt out for an equal amount of time later on. My study should be of a pace that is sustainable. If I burn myself out, I’ll ultimately fail in my objectives. The mind, I’m beginning to learn, is a tool, and as such its use must be properly learnt. This antiquated, alpha-male idea of studying like a demon for hours and hours seems to be more about proving something than getting the job done. That is the case for me anyway. I just wanted to show everyone what big balls I had. Look at me now, I’ve up an left the library, packed my books and ran home. I spent 2 weeks doing nothing, the anxiety levels just shooting through the roof as day after day dropped by unused and unavailed.

….not that any of this was ever obvious to me before writing this blog. Writing it out forces you to think. Reading other medblogs has also really helped. I’m not the first medical student in the history of the world, and not the first one facing these study problems. It seemed that it took the writing of this blog and the perspective gleaned from reading other medblogs to see the obvious inefficiency of my (previous!) study habits.

To think that I only have to look at my books for an hour at a time, to think I can indulge myself in any activity for 30 minutes in the middle of the day in order to keep myself fresh… its such a novel concept. I’ve known people who’ve study this way, but I didn’t really understand it (those people seemed so cool to me, they’d seem to be goofing off whenever you walked in on them, and they always ended up getting great grades! Now I hope I’ll become one of them!)

My house is in Islamabad. My college is in Peshawar. I’m in Islamabad right now. Been here for 2 weeks. I love this city. It’s clean, my house is very comfortable, my comfort and freedom from the banality of laundry, groceries, etc… is ensured here in Islamabad. Peshawar on the other hand is the a s s h o l e of the world. It’s dirty, very overcrowded, full of illiterate, ill-mannered, stupid people. It is a very very ugly city, in every sense of the word ugly. In all its ramifications and extrapolations, Peshawar is an ugly place. I don’t want to go into a Peshawar-bashing tirade. My friends have had many earfuls on the subject from me.

I had I have to go to Peshawar in a few days to take care of some business. I hope to return after a few days of stay, and then remain in Islamabad until mid August when I’ll have to go back for my exam. The exam will last a very very hectic one and a half month. After its over, I’ll be free and God-willing, if I pass, I’ll be totally free from Peshawar.

I hope when my studies gets back on track with the study-break-study-break pattern (I’m putting a lot of hope into it!), my visit to Peshawar does not derail me. I like things to stay the same when I’m studying. Well, I have to go back for a few days. I just hope I can maintain a good pace of study when I’m there.

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Recent med school graduate from Peshawar, Pakistan. Started blogging when in throes of final year exams. Currently studying for USMLE Step 1. Aiming for the 2008 Match. I blog about my studies, my worries, and my thoughts on life. I live in Islamabad.

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