I wrote the following poem about two weeks before my USMLE Step 1 exam. By this time, I had been in my intensive study period for nine-or-so weeks, and my faith and confidence were fading fast. Despite my best efforts, my struggle to digest all of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 continued, forcing me to push back my exam date. I was stuck in this never-ending study bubble, while all of my friends continued onwards with excitement for their first clinical rotations. Studying had been so isolating day in and day out, and the terror of the disappearing days was sinking in. Every day was a battle not only with the endless facts I had yet to fully memorize, but also with my own spirit, willing it not to be broken. Yet in this moment of self-expression, I found myself sprawled out on my bed — red notebook in hand — feeling inspired by how far I had come and how hard I had worked. The pride and determination that flowed through me was both refreshing and unexpected. I did not think; I just felt.
This poem is a culmination of the exhaustion, perseverance, willpower, fear and sacrifice that represents the benchmark in our journey through medical education. I hope the feelings I convey resonate with others who have gone through the same, for these are the strings that connect us all, regardless of university or hospital affiliation.
Terrified beyond belief I never thought I’d be.
I’m overcome, I’m overrun, with little left to show.
I’m standing still, the world a thrill, my watching from within —
this room of mine, it’s time to shine —
to show them I’ll succeed.
It’s never been an easy road, the one I choose to go.
Sometimes regret, with tears and fret, I let the demons know;
that I’ll be strong, yes, all along, I’ll fight with blood and sweat.
For to this day, I still can stay, that I’ve returned —
though badly burned —
from every battle I have met.
Not won or lost, but worth the cost, of standing up to fear.
For I’m the one who fought the sun;
I’m standing. I’m still here.
And so it flows, the story goes, just as it did before.
With mind unwound and silent sounds,
I’ve tallied up the score.
Though not so sure I made it clear
It has not been with ease.
I’m off the grid, it’s time to live
The battle of midday.
Therapeutic Misadventures catalogs the unanticipated effects of medical school and is meant to provide a sense of the emotional roller coaster that is medical education. It is a peek into what it really feels like to be a medical student and the perpetual challenges that come with that life. Spoiler alert: it’s hard.