Monday, 31 December 2012

Thoughts on 2012

As obvious as it may sound, something which I've needed to be reminded of occasionally over these recent months is that medical school is that it's not an end in itself, it's a means to an end. I think a lot applicants to medical school (myself included) either forget this or are just ignorant to it in the first place and assume that once they get into medical school and start doing medicine, that the next four or five years will make the application stress totally worth it and that medical school will ultimately be the antidote to UCAS stress.

I'd like to alter that statement somewhat. Medical school is not the antidote to UCAS stress; getting into medical school is the antidote to UCAS stress. Applicants can't be blamed for this naive optimism either: the UCAS process is so stressful, competitive and pervasive that it's not surprising that so many people tie their hopes and feelings to finally getting that offer and getting to start medical school. In recent years it really has become an all-consuming affair which takes at least a year of decent planning and several months of drawn out stress and hanging on the edge of your seat. When you're going through all that, the only thing you can do is hope that what you're going on to do next will ultimately make all those sleepless nights and nervousness worth it, so much so that you forget that what you're hoping to do next is going to be very intense and unfamiliar in itself!

Perhaps it's the exam nerves talking or revision which is taking its toll, but what I'm trying to say is this: I knew a lot about what medicine would be like before I started the course. I knew that there would be a lot of information to take in, I knew that there would be a lot of rote learning and memorisation and I knew that there would be exams to deal with. I wasn't an idiot, I knew what I'd signed up for. I'm not disappointed either, this post isn't about feelings of disappointment.

However, in my naivety, I had assumed that for some reason (see below) I would no longer experience those particular feelings which I had experienced during my biomed days once I started medicine. Constantly feeling behind, the insomnia in the weeks running up to exams, always feeling like I'm missing something out, and generally being overwhelmed. I had somehow seen all those as being linked to "life as a biomed" rather than "life". Despite being, on the whole, a rational and logical person, I had somehow fallen into the old trap of tying all my stress last year to getting into medicine.

Well, I got my wish: I got into med school, bang! and the stress was gone. I then assumed that since, after a great deal of stress, I'd got the right exam grades to make it into medical school (hitherto the biggest source of stress in my life), that somehow nothing else would compare with that particular level of anxiety, so everything would be relatively less stressful after that. Yes, there would be a lot of information to remember, exams and so on, but surely nothing could be as stressful as before...could it? I wasn't being cocky here, I knew medical school would be tough, I just didn't think something which I genuinely really like would cause me the same worries (sleeplessness, etc) as something which I didn't like i.e. biomed.

This was what was illogical, I'd failed to remember that medical school is a learning experience in and of itself. That it's not just about lots of new information, but having to remember it in a particular way for the integrated style of questioning which medical school exams make use of. Yes, I've had a month to revise, but unlike my BSc exams which were staggered across a few weeks and split into individual modules, over here I have two papers which will have questions drawn from all the modules we've covered up til now. In short, I need to remember a lot of information...and all at the same time. Not like before when I would cram, do the exam, forget what I'd learned in a matter of hours and move on to the next module (with a handy few days in between for further cramming).

So with just over a week to go til my exams, I'm feeling much the same way as I've always done in the run up to exams: slightly manic, rather overwhelmed and very on edge. Perhaps some things will never change. However, there is a difference in that this time that these are exams for something I really care about and genuinely want to do well in i.e. don't just want to do well in so I can get into another degree. I'd be so gutted if after waiting so long to do medicine I ballsed up these exams. Yes, I know these exams "don't count", and that it's supposed to be a good opportunity to see how I'm progressing...but I'd still be so disappointed if I didn't do well after several months of trying my best.

2012 was a memorable year in many different ways. It was an extremely tumultuous year where my life changed forever, where I moved across the country, left familiar climes and people, and began training for something I intend to do for many decades to come. Perhaps someday an older and grumpier me will look back on 2012 as the most significant turning point in my life. Certainly many of my desires and ambitions were met, or are on the road to being met, but at the same time a whole new set of challenges are being posed to the present grumpy me - though I feel quietly hopeful that I'll be able to get to grips with these problems during the course of this new year. I'll certainly try my best to at any rate.

(Also, I realise I've been moaning about exams a lot lately, I'll try to be less boring just as soon as it's all over and done with...only a week and a bit to go!).

Happy new year, and best of luck to all you applicants and fellow students with exams!


  1. Happy new year, I guess...

    I hope you start feeling a bit more settled soon, it has been a crazy year for you!