We survived last week – our finals are over, and we are starting new classes with bright, shiny new syllabi and exciting new professors. Life is good – or it should be. Oddly enough, I have caught myself and several others stressing more now, or at least differently, than we were last week. Last week we were struggling to breath so much, struggling became our normal. Now that we can breathe easily, we have to find something else to struggle with.
I’m going to make my father proud, and use a bicycling analogy. Finals week was a steep uphill climb; we kept our heads down, pushing ourselves harder with each passing day, knowing that soon we would reach the top of the hill and find some rest. Now, we are on the downhill slope, and we have time to look around and enjoy the scenery. Instead, we look around, and see someone else who has a shinier bike than ours, or someone who is skateboarding instead of biking. We look at more experienced second and third years – or internists – and say, I’m not doing enough. My classmate over here has already been published, or has been saving shelter cats since s/he was five years old. I’m not being competitive enough, I’m not attending enough conferences, I don’t have enough packing in my resume. Instead of focusing on our new classes, we focus on what we are not doing.
There is some necessity for a little of this stress – we do need leadership skills, research experience, and networking opportunities in order to be competitive and successful, especially if we plan on going on to internships or high-paying, high-profile jobs. At the same time, we need to give ourselves a break. For the first time in my life, I have fewer A’s on my transcripts than B’s. For the first time, I have an entire block of classes without A’s. Being a B or C average student is not the end of the world, or the end of my school career. I am making more friendships, pushing the limits of my comfort zone, and exploring different aspects of veterinary medicine, from ethical issues to technologic advances. My grades may slip because I’m growing myself as a human and a veterinarian, and that isn’t a bad thing. The list of conferences I have attended and leadership roles I have held may not be as long as my arm, and I may not have saved the world (yet!), but I am learning new things every day, and my passion for this wonderful and exasperating career path has only grown. I guess what I mean to say is, each of us will take a different path through school and life, and we’ll have different job titles, but the important thing is that we remember what we have in common – our passion for veterinary medicine.