Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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Just Keep Pushing: Conversations with the Woman in the Mirror

August-September 2018:
Death, grief, consequent failure
Do I need to take time 
off? No, time is not on your side; 
You already started 
your medical school journey 
Just keep pushing

October-November 2018:
Therapy, getting back to myself, 
passing. You have bounced back, 
girl. You can do this.
Just keep pushing

December 2018:
Death, grief, consequent failure
Why does this keep happening 
to me? Well, I still have the option 
to take the leave of absence,
Restore my emotional
No, I don’t need it.
I have been here before, so I know 
how to handle it.
Just keep pushing

January 2019:
Revisiting therapeutic tactics, getting back to myself, 
passing. You did it again.
You have been so strong 
in your weakness; Now, look forward 
to your remediation and dedicated periods.
Just keep pushing

Early February 2019:
Step One just around the corner, facing deficits 
in knowledge from the times 
I “checked out.” Are you 
ready? No, I am not.
Do you want to pay
over 600 dollars for an exam you are guaranteed 
to fail? No, I do not.
But I want to finish with those I started with.
Just keep… no, stop pushing.

Mid-February 2019:
Back against the wall, coming to terms 
with reality, feelings of inadequacy.
Hey, hey, pick your head up!
There is no reason to be 
ashamed or embarrassed.
This journey is unique 
to you, so own it.
Take the leave of absence, and try 
it again next year.
It’s okay; I promise.
God would not have brought you to this point to have you fail.
You will be Dr. Courtney E. Cosby, M.D. in his timing.
Just keep pushing

As medical students, we strive so hard for perfection that we are not always honest with ourselves or other students about our shortcomings in addition to our successes. This perpetuates a cycle of unrealistic standards and silent struggles. I was not immune to this “imposter syndrome.” For months, I had these conversations solely with myself and a therapist. I did not readily express my struggles to my classmates, to those who could best empathize and point me in the direction of a resource or older student who may have helped me understand the material. 

As future physicians, we must be able to establish trust amongst our colleagues, unafraid to admit when we do not know information and accept guidance. Conversations with the (wo)man in the mirror are necessary, but are not enough; we must be transparent when life throws us curveballs and accept support. This opens the door for a more collaborative environment in which teaching — and learning — are welcomed. In turn, this will help us to better care for our patients as a team.

Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students and physicians. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.


Courtney Cosby (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Saint Louis University School of Medicine

Courtney is a second year medical student at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO class of 2022. In 2015, she graduated from DePauw University with a Bachelor of Arts in history, minor in psychology. She is a jazz music fanatic from Memphis, TN who also enjoys road trips, "good eats," and playing the bass clarinet in her free time. After graduating medical school, Courtney would like to pursue a career in either child and adolescent psychiatry or pediatric rheumatology.