On bitter pills (or 15 days to Step One)

I don’t wanna. I know I need to, but I don’t wanna.

Cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, hematology, and nephrology: these I can stomach. There are basics that I must memorize, but overall there seems to be an underlying theory that binds each organ system together: the heart pumps, the lungs breathe, the gut digests, the blood carries, and the kidneys filter. Three weeks into Step Prep and I’ve covered a good bit of material with relative grace. I wake up, I enjoy my morning, and I study throughout the day.

This week, I’ve hit a block in neurology. I wake up and resist the incoming spoonful of knowledge like a child who just learned how to say no. The neural pathways, the functions of each bit of gooey brain, and the arbitrary names of each gooey brain bit: I don’t like any of it. No guiding principles. Instead, neurology demands extensive rote memorization to describe various phenomenas, but not of it explains the deeper levels of consciousness.

Going into Step Prep, I knew that this would be a major difficulty for me. Not just because of the amount of material, but because of the material itself. I went into neuro bock of first year expecting scientific answers to my philosophical questions, only to find reflex arcs and tumor mass effect.

Then again, I’m not supposed to like neurology. Neurology does not care if Eugene Kim enjoys studying it. Neurology won’t even care if Eugene Kim passes his board exams. Neurology will continue to expand and grow for its own sake, irrespective of Eugene Kim.

I can stamp my feet and shake my head while I huff and puff about how nonsensical this branch of medicine seems. Or, I can practice grit and endure through the parts that don’t come easily.

I take it one block of flashcards at a time, wedging open my memory and forcing in twenty or thirty facts over half an hour. Break. Then, I practice forty multiple-choice questions and review the many incorrect answers so that I can identify common clinical presentations. Rinse and repeat, until the day’s work is done.

Sometimes, I need to do things I don’t like in order to achieve the things that I do like. A journey and a story needs challenge and strife, or else it lacks the emotional strength to pull our attention and captivate the imagination. I love the saying, “smooth seas do not make a skillful sailor.”

I will be stronger and more resilient on the other side of neurology, I know.

I simply need to endure, one step at a time, to get there.



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