And what does it mean now? To be accepted? To be initiated, congratulated and nudged toward a curriculum made jokingly infamous by well-meaning administrators and by a culture which treats such consuming endeavors as medical school like abstract forms of busyness?
What does it mean that I can already sense the isolation — the one doctors talk about, the one that comes with joining the ranks of a profession so singular in its conceit that it casts a shadow of commonplace on other enterprises?
What can I do when interesting is no longer good enough? When an unimaginable amount of material drowns my most resilient curiosity? When my heart breaks to give so little attention to subjects I always imagined I’d master? Am I doing this right?
And if in constant sacrifice I ascertain focus and still fail to become exceptional, what does that mean? What have I earned? And is the middle good enough in medicine?
What can I do when people treat me, already, as the embodiment of success? As if I should be grateful? As if in receiving a white coat I shed the nascent anxiety of uncertainty that we all live with? As if my life is now merely a long trek that anyone who makes it to the trailhead takes in stride?
And is there any worse torment than being thought smart? What amassment of factual information persuades the world that we’re so smart? What is it they imagine we know? That we are capable of that they aren’t? That makes it easier for us than them? And do they really believe it? Do they take our advice more often? Do they accept our criticism more readily?
And earned or not, how can I avoid for a lifetime the influence of this imposed status on my own estimation of myself? Are we not doomed to superiority? To an increasingly insular world in which we prove ourselves right against a wall of like minds?
But that’s all far away, isn’t it? We haven’t graduated to the clinics. We’ve barely graduated to the care of people pretending to be sick needing “a physical for life insurance.” You can’t help but gawk at the absurdity of school sometimes. To be headed toward something so worthwhile and feel so little of that worth.
Is there not something unsettling about it too, going to school being a part of who you are? About knowing that a girl’s parents will judge your other traits a bonus? About having a free pass to underwhelm with social grace or charisma? And is there any doubt now that this informed my choice?
And if it isn’t status, then it’s responsibility they see. And if it isn’t responsibility, it’s ambition. And if it isn’t ambition, it’s compassion. And what happens when they find out it’s none? And what happens when I do?