Enthusiastic. Proud. Motivated.
I smile sheepishly as I approach the coastal town of Pondicherry, nestled in tropical South India. I am starting medical school in a few short days, and this is my new home. I look around and take note of cafés I could study in, spot the beach between buildings — I’ll take study breaks there — and watch the faces of my new “neighbors” rush by.
Two weeks later, my planner is filled with a detailed study schedule, my shelves are filled with new textbooks and I’ve found a study group I’m excited to start studying with. Still enthusiastic. Still proud. Still motivated.
Three months in. My planner is accruing empty checkboxes, the coffee charges are filling my credit card bill and my snooze button has seen better days.
Five months in. It’s a Monday. The sunshine finds its way through my blinds and falls on my face. I somehow muster enough energy to lift the comforter over my head. Last night was a daze. My “study” group and I ended the evening with a few too many drinks and left me with a sleepless night of attempting to learn the crisscross pattern of the brachial plexus. My alarm buzzes in mockery of my heavy lids and sudden realization that I am late to class. A flurry. I’m headed to class, too aware of the green numbers on my dashboard reminding me of my tardiness. In the corner of my eyes I glimpse faces of strangers, the beach I keep rescheduling afternoons with and the cafés that have started to bring more anxiety than comfort. I slump into my usual seat, dig my phone out of my pocket and scroll vacantly through my social media. Life seems to be moving on for my family and old friends. In the meantime, I’m in a whirlwind of “-ologies.”
Another month passes. I walk into cadaver lab. I don’t even realize how desensitized I have become to the bodies wrapped in plastic. Oddly enough, by the end of lab, I’m hungry. Four months ago, my insides would have turned at the thought of food after cadaver lab. Two more lectures after lunch. My gauge is flickering near zero — I’m tempted to head home for a nap. Or perhaps the library if I can’t make it as far as home. The thought of sitting through two more hours of information is exhausting. The floodgates opened the first day of medical school, and I’m drowning.
I might be less enthusiastic now that the glitter has faded. I’m not sure what I am proud of at this point — is it the nights I finally get some rest, or the 4 a.m. study sessions? Motivated? At times.
But right now, I’m drowning. I know, deep down, somewhere, I am happy to be where I am. And I must remind myself why I am here. For whom. The “why” and the “who,” they are my lifejacket. I must not drown.