Foundation of Character
January 4, 2014 § 2 Comments
The days blend together as the 7th approaches. I have completely shut myself off from the world and moved into the guest room where there is no evidence of daylight or noise of the city to distract me. Many of us couldn’t wait for exam period – me included – I’m not so sure about that now. This part of this journey is a battle in the truest sense. It strips you of your strength, your confidence and your faith in yourself. It makes you doubt your ability to make it through and throws you naked and weak into the arena with your worst enemy, your self-critic.
In my favorite motivational video (which I’ve mentioned several times before) Rocky says, “It ain’t about how hard you’re hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward!”. When things are really hard, when I am seemingly completely devoid of strength, I think of that line. I envision each bad thought as a hit, some of them knock me to my knees and some knock me completely off of my feet. Then I envision myself getting up, staggering and bloodied, and waiting for the next one. It’s the hardest thing I know to keep pushing forward when you feel you have nothing left, nothing but a sliver of hope that your persistence will move you even just an inch forward.
While having breakfast this morning, I treated myself to a TEDtalk by Diana Nyad called Never, ever give up. In it, she talks about her experience swimming the 100-miles from Cuba to Florida at age 64. In the beginning, I expected to be inspired for a little while and then head on with my studying. But it ended up being more than that. She spoke of the times they had attempted to make the swim before, each of which they (her and her team) had failed. But she didn’t seem saddened by it. Instead, she spoke of her “failures” and how much they meant to her.
And as I said, when I turned 60, it wasn’t about that concrete “Can you do it?” That’s the everyday machinations. That’s the discipline, and it’s the preparation, and there’s a pride in that. But I decided to think, as I went along, about, the phrase usually is reaching for the stars, and in my case, it’s reaching for the horizon. And when you reach for the horizon, as I’ve proven, you may not get there, but what a tremendous build of character and spirit that you lay down. What a foundation you lay down in reaching for those horizons.
Her comment about character really hit me. I have thrown myself completely into this. I sleep 7 hours and study the entire time I am awake. I’ve left the apartment exactly two times since Christmas: once to the store to get energy drinks and then on New Year’s to watch the fireworks at midnight. This is not how I would like my exam period to be, but I can’t change it. I can’t spend time doing other things because then I won’t feel like I gave it my 100%. The only thing that makes me feel better is studying. Giving myself more days to prepare for this exam only ended up with me using that time to read more, not to take a coffee break with a friend or even just go stand in the park for 5 minutes.
After all of that time and energy invested, the stakes are high. A bad outcome could make me feel like all of this was time wasted, that I could have used my time for things that returned on my investment. That’s where I would be wrong, because, no matter what happens on Tuesday, I will have gained. I have been forced to come to terms with my insecurities and to work on my ability to self-cope. I have improved my method of studying and learned how to turn off my perfectionist qualities. I have learned a lot of anatomy (most of which I won’t be examined on – since we only get 4 topics – but am grateful to have learned regardless). So, in the video, when she said “tremendous build of character and spirit you lay down”, I felt proud. I felt proud and untouchable. And that, it what everyone should feel when they challenge themselves in any way.
Those are my ramblings for the night, hopefully it made sense (14 hours of studying does not make for a clear head) and hopefully the inspirational part made its way through that heavy beginning 😉 . Here is the video and below that is our topic list for this exam, so you can get an idea of what we are up against in anatomy this semester.