Monday, May 21, 2012

Graduation: Catching Up at Last

If the road to hell is lined with good intentions, I was well on my way yesterday, having fully intended to write and yet finding my brain utterly exhausted from the events of Saturday. To say graduation was memorable is so far from the truth as to almost be a lie: it was more like a dream and I was living it. Truthfully, though, Sunday morning I was almost certain it had been precisely that. It wasn't until I took the dogs out for their walk and looked in the car for my sunglasses, that I noticed the box my robes had come in. "Well, guys," I said, "I guess I wasn't dreaming, after all."

It sure felt like it and I'm sure it stems from the fact that I've never had any absolute assurance I'd make it this far. Not that I was a doubter, like Hero Boy in The Polar Express, who wanted proof of the existence of Santa Claus before committing himself to believing. I knew in my "heart of hearts," as my mother used to say, the obstacles and difficulties I'd encountered along the way would only make graduation sweeter. But still in all, our demons have a tendency to haunt us in the darkness of night, especially before exams, whispering wickedly, You're a fraud -- you're in over your head -- if you were meant to do this, it would be easier. 

Martin Luther, the 15th century church reformer, said the Devil was exquisitely sensitive to humor and the trick to banishing him lay in laughing in his face. I've wondered if that's a skill we must learn to employ and if so, medical school has given me a lot of practice.I was definitely laughing Saturday, along with my classmates, when my best friend placed my doctoral hood round my neck backwards. It wasn't intentional; he'd been handed it backwards and the rest will go down in Hooding Ceremony history. But what better way to thumb my nose at all those demons?

All the same, there is a tender, albeit bitter sweetness to graduation, that comes from having to hold off being called "doctor" a bit longer. I've gone through the exercises and taken my Osteopathic Medical Oath, but with rotations yet to complete, I won't hold my degree in hand until later this year. Like a teenager who is neither child nor adult, I'm in a liminal space. I'm no longer entirely a student, but then again, I'm not entirely a doctor. Thankfully, however, I'm closer to one than the other and the confidence I've gained from standing shoulder to shoulder with my graduating classmates, pledging my life, loyalty, and sacred honor to the practice of medicine and the care of patients, will see me through.  

To my beloved entering classmates, nearly all of whom preceded my graduation in 2010, I can truly say, look behind you, the footsteps you've been hearing are mine. I'm catching up at last.        

(Photo of the author and graduating classmate and friend Dr. Joseph Scott, copyright 2012, all rights reserved) 
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