On frustrating starts (or the beginning of Fourth Year)

Fourth year has begun, the beginning of the end.

Two weeks of Prologue, or a mega-dose of SELECT, separate me from that promised land of relaxed responsibility coupled with anxiety surrounding Match. The first week drained me far more than expected.

Was it the content? With forty hours of didactic, group work, and simulation, there are bound to be highs and lows. The highs have kept me engaged and excited to be a physician leader. The lows have drained my willpower and left me exhausted after a day of sitting in an air conditioned office building.

The “wake up, show up, go home, eat, sleep” grind reminds me of the more difficult rotations of third year clerkships. I’ve crashed on the couch and felt no desire to move or sweat any evening this week. The only saving grace with this exhaustion is that the Summer Solstice is right around the corner and the sun doesn’t set until about 830p, giving me plenty of time to enjoy a quick nap and then resume my more human activities.

Is it the people? Everyone that I’ve talked with feels similarly, to some degree or another. Most folks are planning to take Step 2 CK within the next few weeks, meaning that these back-to-back Monday to Friday 9-5s chew up valuable study time. I see many of my peers finding creative ways to surreptitiously grind through flashcards or practice questions: some keep the phone beneath the desk, others hide behind a laptop, and some even use bluetooth keyboards to remotely control their screens. A beautiful example of the red queen hypothesis.

I don’t blame their anxiety. The feeling of a caged animal is a visceral and primarl reaction. If you don’t feel that the content directly relates to you and these hours in class prevent you from preparing for a test that does directly relate to you, then a trip through the five stages of grief is in order.

These feelings are contagious and I feel especially sensitive to a room full of anxiety. I have to consciously remember to enjoy this time, these two mandatory weeks of Prologue. I will not see these humans together again until Graduation and Epilogue, the mirror of Prologue which rounds out my undergraduate medical education.

During fourth year, we scatter to the wind for away rotations, interviews, and vacations after Match. I’m reminded of how many peers I’ve meant to interview, and how little time is left together to do so.

So going into the second half of Prologue, the goal is not just survival.

I want to enjoy this time as best I can. Life is too short to put my head down and grind my teeth. I have hugs to give and friends to love.


Long Form Sundays

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