Losing Sight

Snapshot of the Illinois College of Optometry signage from the second floor

Every day, when I look at this, I am reminded of how far I’ve come.

I won’t front, first year has been very challenging. I know, I know, it’s professional school. I figured it was going to be tough coming in, but until you experience it first-hand, you won’t truly understand it. Out of all the adjustments I’ve made since coming here (and there have been many), the one thing that resonates with me the most was how easily I forgot the magnitude of the opportunity I have at ICO. It’s so effortless to get bogged down in the academic rigor that you wonder why you wanted to put this all on yourself in the first place. What answered this question for me was an experience I had last week.

It was a Thursday, which, coincidentally, happens to be my least favorite day of the week. My fellow classmates who have their labs the same day as exams will probably agree with me on that one. I wasn’t in the best mood, and that had a toxic effect on my mindset. When I have these bouts of exasperation, I wonder to myself why I ever wanted to go through all this in the first place. Then, I walked past a couple prospective students who were getting ready to be interviewed. I felt foolish for even thinking that. Suddenly, I remembered how much it took to get here and how badly I wanted to be accepted just a short 6 months ago after interviewing at ICO.

If I had a meeting with my past self, he’d slap me. It required so much effort to get to ICO; it astounded me how easily I overlooked that. If I wasn’t here, what else would I be doing? Continuing to work a low-wage job I had no interest in? Also, what kind of impact would I be making on the world? Sure, I could try my hand at something else, but helping others maintain their vision and improve their quality of life is something that makes me feel like my place in this world is validated.

Other than my own intrinsic motivation, I think of everyone back home rooting for me. Neither of my parents went to college, let alone a professional school, and here I am complaining that school is too hard. My dad and grandparents didn’t spend their lives doing backbreaking blue-collar work to see me do the same. Seeing those interviewees reminded me of myself on interview day, traveling by myself into the frigidity of a Chicago winter, trying to make something out of myself.

And now, I’m finally here.

I just want to remind you that, no matter how onerous it seems at times, don’t take your opportunities for granted. We all put in our blood, sweat, and tears to get here with shadowing, volunteering, working, taking classes, studying, being involved in extra-curricular activities, and trying to balance it all with everything else life has thrown at us. It’s fine to have thoughts of self-doubt and frustration, but it’s important not to marinate in them for long or else you’re going to go crazy.

If you scroll through ICO’s blog, you’ll find a plethora of posts from former first-years detailing how things were going in the thick of their first quarter. I know it seems daunting, but remember what and who you’re fighting for. Don’t ever lose sight of that, because you’re going to have bad days, and that’s what’s going to help you get through them. After all, we are training to be optometrists. If you lose your sight, how else are you going to help people with theirs?

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