Thursday, April 8, 2010

Doing It Like Nemo

Finding Nemo deleted scene

I have a friend who will, by the end of this day, have completed her last day of medical school. Admittedly, I may have several friends in the same boat, but since she is the only one who's schedule I know with certainty, she gets the spotlight. If any others are reading this and today is also yours, don't hesitate to take a bow, you've earned it. What sets my friend apart is the fact that, in another world, she would have graduated last year.

I've mentioned, on several occasions, how we begin medical school with one set of expectations and proceed to adjust them as we go. One may become a teaching fellow or do research for a couple of terms. Academic or personal problems may interfere with our progress and we need an additional year to complete our studies. I lost a semester this past fall but gained a published book in exchange -- it was, as Wind in His Hair from Dances with Wolves would say, a "good trade."

The upshot of making adjustments in our time line is, the process we began in community, we sometimes complete individually. The identity established as a member of an incoming class is altered by circumstances, resulting sometimes, in a feeling of displacement. Like Nemo, who was snatched away from father and home and thrust into an alien environment, we have to learn to adapt. But this is not a bad thing, because in the real world of medical practice, adaptation is our daily bread.

When it seems like the rest of your class is passing you by -- and let's not sugarcoat it, they have in a real sense -- it's easy to start ruminating over all the "What ifs." That, however, only gets a person into a rut and as the Sunday School director in my first pastorate was fond of saying, "A rut is nothing more than a grave with both ends kicked out."

Medical school, like many things in life, is a head game and if we can envision our experience of it as maturing, we're closer to the truth, because that's precisely what it is. I don't mean changing our thinking to render external reality more palatable, I mean recognizing the intrinsic nature of the thing. Once we've done that, our approach to it becomes as individualized as the outcome. There is no right way, no wrong way, no better or worse way, there's only our way and if we hang tough, eventually, we'll find our way through.

(Creative Commons image of Finding Nemo by San Diego Shooter via Flickr)
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