Back on the Horse

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My first best friend's name was Kristen, and she and I met in preschool. In fact, for the first couple years of our friendship, I didn't call her "Kristen" or "Kris," as she preferred. I consistently referred to her as "my best friend Kristen". (This is something that my family will never let me forget.) Kristen has always been an animal lover, but her favorite animal by far? Horses. The girl was horse-obsessed. Still is, in fact! Anyway, when we were in elementary school, we somehow got enrolled in summer camp, despite the fact that I am the least outdoorsy person known to man, woman, and child. The second week of camp was regular day camp, but the first week was horseback riding camp. I guess someone thought this was a good idea. 

Turns out, I am terrified of horses. Whoops.

I spent the entire week being terrified that I was going to get run over by a horse. I have very few memories of that week, except for the time one of the horses took off in a flat-out run with a camper on his back. I did not want to get on my horse, but I did.

I'm still terrified of horses, by the way. Kristen has been kicked in the face by her own horses, and  a few years ago, my mom (who used to ride all the time in her 20's) fell off of a horse and broke her clavicle. I am just not meant to mess around with horses.

Contrary to what you may think, this post isn't about horses though. Not actual horses. 

Today I got my exam scores back for 3 of the 4 exams we took last Friday. It was... good, bad, and ugly, as expected. Actually, I did way better on the genetics exam than I thought I would, and about as well as I expected on histology, but biochem was an unmitigated disaster. We haven't gotten our physio grades yet, but I will be absolutely floored if I didn't do well. Regardless, this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach won't go away until I know for sure. 

Anyway, 22-year-old Alison, the one who went to med school 6 years ago, would have been wrecked by this news. In fact, I was completely nonfunctional after I found out that I had failed my first physio exam at NSU. I basically gave up, crawled into bed, and ate crappy food, ignoring the fact that none of that was going to help me not fail the next exam. It sounds stupid, but it was all I could do. If you've read around these parts before, you know that I eventually crashed and burned, and the ghost of that experience still haunts me. (See also: Why Alison believes wholeheartedly in therapy.) 

28-year-old Alison is not going to crash and burn. I am not going to give up and crawl into bed, never to be seen again. I can't. There are 4 more exams left for biochem for the year, and the biggest one is the third one. I can't let this happen again. After getting my grade, I immediately emailed the professor and I have an appointment to meet with him at 9 am on Monday. I texted my tutor and we're going to set up a time to meet next week (and I plan to schedule future sessions with her). I am going to do practice questions until I am blue in the face. 

I can do this. I am going to get back on the biochem horse. I am more afraid of failing and crashing and burning than I am of actual horses, but as I often say, "You can be afraid and you can do it anyway." I am bigger than one exam grade, I am more than one exam grade. And as my friend and classmate Julianne texted me:

"Don't worry about your biochem grade. It in no way describes how awesome of a person you are and the amazing doctor you'll be."

This is such a strange feeling for me; to not be devastated and paralyzed by failure. I spent most of my life until now quantifying my self-worth by my achievements. To be perfectly honest, I still have some of that left in my brain somewhere. I know, intellectually, that I am bigger than one exam grade and that my worth as a human cannot be distilled to numbers on a transcript or letters after my name. It's definitely easier said than done, though, to internalize that intellectual knowledge and to not feel completely defeated and useless by a setback. 

I'm not sure if it's because I'm older (and theoretically "wiser") or because this is the second time around in med school for me, but I can't let this opportunity slip away. While I was studying for my last round of exams, as much as I hated it, I found myself feeling grateful. There are so many people who never get into med school, and I've gotten in not once, but twice. Here, I am part of the 3% of applicants that were accepted to the class of 2018. I don't say that to pat myself on the back. I say this to remind myself that it is a privilege to be here. This is everything I've ever wanted, and I can't let one exam screw that up for me.

Pam makes fun of me because I am so painfully white, yet "Lose Yourself" by Eminem is on my "Get Motivated" playlist. There's a reason for this. When I was in high school, I was in the marching band (#nerdstatus) and we had a great staff of instructors to help us learn the music and the drill and keep us from dying out on the field. One of them quoted "Lose Yourself" before one of our biggest competitions

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. One moment,
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime

So, I might be afraid of horses, and I might be afraid of biochem, and I'm definitely afraid of failing and ending up like I did in 2009, scared and broken and mentally checked out. But this is my one shot, and I'm getting back on the horse.

What's the horse you need to get back on?

- A


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