We are half way through the first quarter of our first year of optometry school. This was also the end of the first of many weeks consisting of three exams. I can honestly say I never thought I could see myself getting through a week of three exams let alone the two we had last week and the three (or is it four?) that we have next week.
Have you had your breakdown yet? I’m not talking about the quick little panic you had on your way to an exam or even the night you thought you wouldn’t get through all of your anatomy competency objectives. I’m talking about that moment you find yourself realizing what you have on your shoulders, in your mind, ahead of you, and behind you.
We have accomplished so much already. It’s five weeks in and we have taken seven exams, two pop quizzes, five homework assignments, and a lab quiz; written one paper, three forums, and a couple hundred note cards; entered chief complaints and case histories; gone through at least one set of highlighters; and answered way too many clicker questions. The list could go on. We have done A LOT. I am overwhelmed as my mind replays it all.
There are exams we as individuals scored higher than anticipated, and then there are the ones we did worse than we either wanted or expected. We have found our favorite classes, professors, and labs. We have studied hard for some tests and been overconfident for others.
We have been learning a lot over the past few weeks. Yes—we have learned about the many branches of the vertebral and basilar arteries to the brain; we have learned about fatty acid synthesis; and we have learned how to take extremely subjective exams, thinking through questions instead of just memorizing information for direct recall. More importantly, we have learned how to manage, balance, and survive. Now we must learn to continue—to press on—to not give up.
That brings us back to the original question: Have you had your breakdown yet? Next week we have one lab practical, two exams, and a lab quiz. We have open lab time slots we’ve signed up for in order to learn the Visual Field test. We have a lot in front of us. We have more on our plate than ever before. It is exhausting to think about. Your eyes tear up, and your burden seems to increase in weight. There’s your breakdown—reality. This is not going to be easy. If it were—why would you be here? We have all chosen to be students at the Illinois College of Optometry because there are people at this school who believe we have what it takes—that we CAN keep going. We are the Class of 2018, and we will move forward with grace, humility, and determination.
So you’ve had your breakdown—whether it was last week, this week, or next week, you will come to the realization that this isn’t about the perfect score or the stupid mistake you made on an exam. It is about growth. It is about our experiences in the lecture hall, in the labs, on exams, and with our future colleagues. These experiences will transform us into the best optometrists—and THAT is what this crazy journey is all about.