a young pakistani doctor blogs...
Saturday, July 09, 2005
  Inheriting the earth and passing exams
I haven't worked for two days. Yep, that's right. One day. Two day. No work.

Why didn't I work? Well, I got sick and tired of books. The dumb thing is I had only been going some 7 solid days before I slumped forwards and walked away from the books. I regard that as a huge sign of weakness. When considering that I'm thinking of taking my Steps in the 10 months after final year, I not doing well at all. It’s a really bad sign that I can't lug it out for more than 7 days before throwing in the towel.

For a while, I thought that this incident proved once and for all that I am incapable of the discipline and effort required to get those very high scores needed for the USMLE. After all, maybe I just don't have the inner strength. Maybe I'm weak.

But then I thought that if I were to give this wonderful dream up on the first sign of trouble, then that there was the real weakness I needed to be worried about. I told my uncle (who is very close to me) and my brother about my USMLE plans. They both agreed it was a formidable challenge. But this is an achieveable dream.

Studying hard for long periods of time is difficult. It’s a chore. Medicine takes all the enthusiasm you have for learning, picks it up tenderly between it's giant thumb and forefinger, and raises it up to let it drop in it's giant hungry mouth. No contest. The only weapon you have to defeat it is to go into the fight without the expectation that your natural enthusiasm for learning will carry the day. Like shit it will. The only hope you have is the strategy of attrition. You chip away at that giant, not expecting to make great strides in one day, but being content to go forth 10 steps a day when you know you've got 10,000 to go.

Of course, all of this I discovered long ago. It’s nothing new. But I’m only now starting to realize that the pendulum is really swinging the other way. Waaaaay away. It’s no long about realizing that studying medicine is no fun, it’s now about realizing that succeeding in studying medicine is related to how much mental anguish you can bear.

You just need to have to be ready for you happiness and peace of mind to take a beating. If you want to study so hard for so long, don't come in expecting to find some way of maintaining your happiness. Park it outside the door. Try not to forget it on your way out.

Somewhere in my mind, which never sleeps, I thought that I should avoid putting myself in a difficult situation. Studying medicine that way I am doing is a difficult situation. I could intellectualize till I get an ulcer trying to find an easier route around my problems to get to my goals, but I'm coming to realise that the path ahead is just thorny and difficult. There is nothing I can do - no amount of planning or thinking - that will change the fact that those medical books have to be read and learnt by heart. There's a lot of memorization to do, lots of boring repetition, and there is nothing I can do to change that.

I think even my daydreams of writing (all my troubles away) are part of trying to find some peace of mind when there was really none there to be had in my situation. I have a powerful urge to amount to something great, and when I see that goal slipping, I dash over to my writing dream to make myself feel better. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel better, I’m coming to the realization that my success is based less on my intelligence, my resources and my planning, and more on how much happiness and peace of mind I am willing to sacrifice for it. Plain and simple. Suffer thou depression, self-doubt, anxiety, and ye shall inherit the earth.

I'll walk into my study room tomorrow expecting a rough time, and I'll divert my inner resources to build up my resistance to it. I just have to raise my threshold for how much heartsickness and depression I can take.

Sounds simple enough.

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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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