Thursday, December 30, 2010

When Lady Luck Turns Her Back On You

Well, at long last I'm on the brink of clinical rotations, my first being scheduled to begin next week. Four weeks of osteopathic manipulative medicine in private practice followed by four more of community medicine at a different location, and so it goes, one after the other. I will most certainly graduate on time, in the sense that I'll walk across the stage with my graduating class, knowing members of my entering class will be in the audience. They've had to wait a long time for me to join them and that moment will represent a triumph for us all.

However, since I'm beginning rotations later in the academic year, this means I'll have to complete a few after graduation. As a result, while I'll go through the ceremony, actually completing medical school will have to wait a bit. It happens; I'm not the first nor will I be the last. For some students, the art of medical school begins at the point where their education departs from the well-beaten path. Incidentally, this is also the point at which medical school becomes, or at least ought to become, a character-building experience. Whether it does so or not depends on the person, as does most everything in life. There's nothing automatic and there are no guarantees.

One thing happens or another and the first thing you know, your scheduled graduation is postponed by a year and what your fellows will accomplish in four, you'll do in five. Then you try to run the blockade of board exams and another year gets tacked on for good measure. Finally you find a way through that smokescreen and begin rotations. That's where I am now.

The extent to which you can call any of this "character building" seems like a joke when it's coming down on top of you. Your only goal is to survive. If you can manage it with a modicum of self-esteem intact, you've come a long way, baby. You tell yourself every hurdle overcome is one closer to getting you where you wanted to be in the first place. And that's not a lie. Even better, it gradually dawns on you that every one has the potential to bring you closer to others when their path diverges in the wood and circumstances decide which fork they're going to take, whether they like it or not.

If there's anything I've gotten from my own experience it's the opportunity to be grateful for those connections. As you may have guessed or long suspected, I'm not one of those who prefers the company of persons who have no idea what it's like to bang your head against a wall to that of those who do. I like people who've faced their demons and have the scars to prove it. They have a depth which makes me feel strengthened and enlivened from being in their presence. There's a lot of experiences I've felt I could have done without, but in the long run, the fact that they've created friendships with people like I've just described, makes me realize there are worse things than having Lady Luck turn her back on you.

(Creative Commons image entitled "Lady Luck" by Emily Raw via Flickr)
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