Poetry Thursdays
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My Mask


We all earn our way here
Paid in hours of studying
and minutes of fun lost.
Through long hours of research
and denied moments of frivolity
for the delayed gratification payoff.

We all worked hard.
But some are chosen, and others are not.
Among thousands
Identical dreams
Identical work
Desires to heal and to help.

For those who were picked,
an intangible something stood out.
And for that intangible,
many pay another price
to be here.

A mask of:
Why me?

Sometimes fitting so closely
to the skin
during times of confidence
that one may believe it’s not there.

I should be proud of my hard work.
My dream.
My reality.
My mind whispers.

But behind my mask, I wonder…
did they make a mistake?
Surely, I will not pass
the next trial,
exam, practical, presentation.

Even though time and time again
my mask fits firmly while
I rise to the occasion and do
the tasks of which I’m capable.

It fits still through praise,
through group interactions
of I’m fine and we’ve got this.
All is well.

It stays on in moments
when I feel I don’t belong.
But then I do
and then I don’t.

Day in, and day out
surrounded by the most genuine
and intelligent people.
The most kind
and caring.
The most diligent
and driven.

How can I possibly
be counted
among their number?
My peers inspire me always.
Sometimes to be better.
And sometimes
to hide
behind this mask.

And then I wonder,
in a moment of clarity,
if maybe
a glimpse
of the impostor mask
was there
on the faces around me.

Do we all have a mask?


Poetry Thursdays is a weekly newsletter that highlights poems by medical students and physicians. This initiative is led by Slavena Salve Nissan at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. If you are interested in contributing, please contact Slavena.


Amy Schattel Amy Schattel (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

West Virginia Medical School


Amy Schattel is a second year medical student at West Virginia Medical School. She attended Wheeling Jesuit and the University College Cork for her undergraduate education. Her passions include physician/student wellness, culinary and lifestyle medicine, advocacy, and of course---writing. When she's not watching a Sketchy video for the fourth time, she can be found curled up with a good book and her regally fluffy cat, Rembrandt.