College of Medicine
note: Chelsey Baldwin of Little
River is a third-year medical
student. This column follows the
journey of her class in becoming
Daydreams of the blazing beach sun and the taste of a strawberry milkshake, which I have been craving since my boards lockdown began, had become more intense with every five minute break I took in between the hour sections of my national board examination.
Not now, I pleaded with myself, please not now. This game of subconscious rebellion begun in past few weeks leading up to what I had labeled on my calendar as "Game Day." The clarity of the dreams intensified with every repetition, with distinct improved additions. The sunset would be more colorful, my company would be delightful and I'd laugh harder than ever before. But then I would be yanked back to the present by the reality of a timer ticking through my allotted break and by the shivers induced by a frigidly cold room, destroying any residual warmth of the scene I had created.
Throughout the examination, I would feel the test administrator looming behind me adjusting the thermostat. He explained prior to the start of the exam that for every person in the testing room the temperature would be decreased; a semi-successful attempt to discourage daydreams and nodding off of the examinees. One would think the adrenalin created by the most important examination of my life would be enough, and yet the body seems to have adapted as a result of the numerous surges of anxiety experienced during the past two years. There also is the acquired calm I've gained knowing I had studied all I was capable of and 'what will be will be.'
In lieu of this fact, I progressed through every section with a ritual of a daydream to remind myself what waited on the opposite end of the exam and a pep talk to ground myself to the present moment. Yet, within a matter of a few hours, it was over. This exam that I had heard about for two years with increasing frequency, to the point of avoiding classmates in the last few weeks because that's the only subject matter that we seemed to be able to utter to one another, was simply over. I got up from my desk, signed out by giving my final set of fingerprints and was out the door without a look back.
I currently find myself on a two-week hiatus, and I am enjoying it thoroughly.
I recall reading a passage at the beginning of my board prep book about reintegration after the boards. I have found no such reference necessary. The first week I spent cramming every desire I had denied myself for the past five weeks. One night I found myself at a local rooftop bar enjoying the company of those who had supported me throughout the prior month and just feeling on top of the world. We had the Charleston breeze slipping around us, choruses of laughter springing from every direction and the distinct absence of the gnawing burden of guilt that normally accompanies a medical student. This feeling was the exact reason why one works so hard: the chance to enjoy achievement without the slightest bit of regret.
Now it seems that I am gearing up for the start of a new era. I have graduated from the imprisonment of the library to be a willing captive of the hospital wards, and I couldn't be more thrilled. Medical school has an uncanny ability to offer such excitement for the future, that it is often difficult to remember the emotional aspect of the past hard times. While I can remember my rants of never wanting to enter the library again, the strength of the feeling is impossible to conjure. Instead I hold fast to a sense of contentment with the expanse of progress I've experienced during the past two years and an anticipatory excitement about what still lies ahead.