Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May the Fourth be with you...

Above: Alec Guinness says, "J-Rock ain't no Obi-Wan... or Gandalf either."

Sunday, May 4th, as J-Rock brought to my attention, was Star Wars Day - a play on that age old (i.e. circa 1977) invocation, "May the Force be with you." While my inner-geek bristled with glee, I was far too preoccupied with anxiety over my upcoming neurology exam.

The wise Jedi Master Yoda once admonished young Luke that, "When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not." He may well have been right.

The stresses of first-year medical school have taken their toll. While it's not quite the all-consuming commitment it's stereotyped to be, my life does now consist of apprehensively stumbling from one exam to the next, with little in the way of recovery time. And this is nothing, my fully licenced M.D. sister reminds me. This is only a drop in the bucket compared to the horrors that are to come.

A second-year student once commented to me that third and fourth-year medical students tend to look immensely older than first and second-year students. That's because the trials and tribulations of clerkship take a tremendous toll on them. For my part, Evey's mother recently commented that I looked as though I had aged since she last saw me. While I attributed this to my new hairstyle, Evey's mom was convinced that my skin had lost some of the plump spring in its step. Is medical school already exacting a price on my youth?

I had been studying for my neurology midterm intently since Tuesday. By Sunday night, the day before the exam, I was livid with fear. I paused to consider my situation. In undergrad, a term consists of approximately 12 weeks, with each course demanding 3 hours of lecture a week for a total of 36 hours. My neurology course crammed 33 lectures and 16 hours of lab into one month. My undergraduate courses tended to be sufficiently surmountable after a day or two of intent study. Yet after six days of concerted effort, my neurology course still seemed alarmingly out of reach.

Why? Had I become less effective at studying? More likely, the sheer amount of material covered per lecture had gone through the roof. All I knew was that I was feeling more stress about this exam than I could remember about any exam prior. In fact, for the latter hours of the evening, I could virtually feel the chest palpitations from my elevated "fight or flight" responses. I pondered the years of life I was losing due to this cardiovascular strain...

Even after all that work, I walked into the examination and was crushed by the laboratory component. I wish that I could at least say that it was all over now, but I have little to look forward to this month except running the gauntlet of another three sizable exams - one of which is the neurology final, based on another 30+ lectures that we will be blitzing through over the next three weeks.

Star Wars Day proved a cathartic outlet for my unease, as I put together the following modified quotations:

Leia: What are you doing? You're not actually going into a medical field?
Han: They'd be crazy to follow us, wouldn't they?

C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating Brain and Behaviour is approximately 3,720 to 1!
Han: Never tell me the odds.

Yes... strong am I with the Force. But not that strong.


Alexis said...

You're so silly, Andy. The good news is, ten years from now, I'd look a lot younger than you even though you're technically younger than me!

Jerry said...

Hey man,

Keep your spirits up! Though I have to say, your sis saying that it gets much much worse is not very comforting.

In actual fact my PBL tutor addressed that issue last week. He told my PBL group that if we think it is hard right now, it does not get better at all. But he did say that we should look less to the end goal (becoming physicians) and more to the experience. Day to day we should enjoy the experience every step of the way.

I agree with him, I mean we are going through different phases of our career. Right now we are in the foundational learning phase and so we should enjoy this phase while we can (i.e. before clerkship and residency begin). But even when clerkship and residency begins, it'll be an amazing experience to be out and about, seeing patients and making a difference in their lives.

Think of Harry Kim. At the beginning of Voyager he was a bright-eyed Ensign, not too far out of the academy, ready to shine the boots of our infamous Cpt. Janeway. However, 15 hard years later, with many lessons and experiences learned, he says one wise and unforgettable line in Endgame, the series finale: "To the Journey!". And I don't think I could have said it better myself!

So Andy, I say to you, and everyone out there struggling with school or with life: To the Journey!

p.s. You ARE strong in the force. I can feel it.

a_ndy said...

I appreciate the sentiment, though it's often difficult to do. I love how you went all cheesy though.

I read through the Star article that you sent me, this was my favourite reader comment:

"Finally, Star Trek is as cool as Star Wars."

For the record, while I thought it was awesomely geeky to analyze the Prime Directive with respect to IRL events, I found it to be both incredibly boring and glaringly inaccurate.

The Prime Directive isn't about "interacting without changing", but rather, leaving underdeveloped races to their own devices completely. If you really were to enact the Prime Directive as true foreign policy, it would mean pulling out entirely - not just our troops, but our exploitative corporations, arms-dealers, and everything. Which, interestingly enough, is one of my more radical hypothetical solutions for the world's problems.