October 30, 2017 § 2 Comments
I’ve told myself almost 100 times now that I can treat myself to writing a blog post when I reach my goals (for that day). Clearly, that hasn’t happened yet! So here I am, sneaking time away from studying even though I’m nowhere close to finishing today’s task list.
Studying for this exam is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m literally being tested on everything that I’ve learned, every single subject simultaneously, and there is absolutely no end to it all. I could probably study for this exam for years and years. Luckily, that isn’t what is required to pass this exam.
I am 25 days out from my exam and I am officially freaking out (while still being mildly functional). For at least the past month, I’ve lost my ability to communicate like a normal person. I can tell when I am having conversations with my friends that I’m just not making sense anymore. How do I know? Because even I don’t know what I am saying! I’ve also lost my ability to come up with metaphors that DON’T have something to do with medicine (e.g. “Haha, he’s just like a retinoic acid receptor!” or “You’re just like Class IB antiarrhythmics, both of you have a predilection for damaged tissue”). I wish I was kidding about that. This sort of mania is something that I think only people who have studied for this exam before can understand. My friend Stephanie is the best example: she NEVER gets stressed or anxious for exams (or honestly about anything) and yet, even she had panic attacks while studying for this exam.
Luckily, teaching has been really helpful and I’ve enjoyed the break away from the books to spend time with my students. We are covering neuroanatomy this semester and preparing for the lessons has made me ace almost all my neuro questions. They’ve been amazing and are always so engaged. I share some of my Step 1 questions (the ones relevant to their material) in our facebook group and I love seeing how they process and discuss the possible answers. I’ve been so, so impressed with their knowledge and efforts!
So, what exactly is my life like right now? I wake up at 5:00 (sometimes 6:00 if I’ve had a rough night sleeping, which happens more often than not), throw random grains and nuts in the rice cooker (if I don’t have some leftover), do cardio while doing questions/watching Pathoma or Sketchy videos, shower, settle in for rounds of questions (UWORLD: I do a full block (40 questions), random (all subject and disciplines) and on timed mode every time. This is the best way to simulate the exam experience. The exam is as much about knowledge as it is about endurance.). Doing the rounds and their subsequent review can take the whole day (and it usually does). I study as late as I can and then I do flashcards in bed until I fall asleep. If I’m lucky, I’m asleep by 22:00. Obviously, there are various dips in energy and focus throughout the day. I haven’t been able to nap longer than 15 minutes for the past two months and now I’m even down to only 5-10 minutes before my brain starts going through uncontrollable UWORLD withdrawal. Now that I’m starting to get even more anxious, I’m going to start studying out of the apartment more. I need to dissociate my exam from my home if I am going to stay sane these next few weeks.
Everything in my life right now is 100%, absolutely full-force USMLE. I’ve tried to minimize all other obligations so that I can (a) have more time to study and (b) prevent spreading myself too thin and doing horribly in all areas of my life. I’ve pushed A LOT until after my exam. This includes my thesis and my gynecology final, as well as a huge chunk of my internal rotation (which I am doing now). My friends Marianne and Dushyant have offered to take some of my anatomy classes, which is extremely helpful. It is really important to me that my students have a good teacher and I’m so lucky to have strong, competent friends who are willing to step in when I can’t be that for them. Marianne is doing most of her rotations in Norway, but she is here for two months to do her pediatrics rotation and she’s been at my place studying almost every day.
Ok, the books are calling, so I’m going to leave you with some pictures that I’ve taken the past two months. Clearly, my life is little more than studying, cooking (I’ve been making literally all my meals in a rice cooker – those things are amazing!!), and going out for groceries or to walk Baloo. Luckily, I live in a really beautiful part of Budapest, so leaving my apartment is always a treat.
Music has been my saving grace through all of this. I listen to music from when I get up until I go to bed – and the selection is all over the place!
- Acre: random collection of my favorite more upbeat songs these past months (lots of Nigerian artists, my new obsession!)
- Blue Dream: random collection of my favorite more calm songs
- Block: This + Rainymood when I am doing my blocks!
- For the lonely hours or im closing my eyes: When I am reviewing my blocks or when it starts getting late (lately I’ve been adding Rainymood as well)
- Caffeine 300mg or 150mg: usually in the mornings and early afternoons
- They don’t know or Carrrrdddio: for my morning cardio!
November 16, 2015 § 1 Comment
I love those moments where you come across a song, picture or video, or even have a conversation, that resonates so perfectly with the way you feel in that moment that you suddenly feel connected to the universe again. You’re no longer spiraling off into the abyss within your brain. You’re back and you’re normal.
I’ve spent a big chunk of today beating myself up. I’m used to it because its something I do before absolutely every exam I have. You’d think I’ve gotten better with time – and I have – just not better enough for it to be completely gone. Its immature and irrational and the only time I feel like I split into two versions of myself: I’m completely aware of how ridiculous it is and can do nothing about it. In the 24 hours before an exam, I bombard my conscious with all the thoughts of what I should have done differently, what I should have focused on, how there is no salvaging my chances with the little time I have left, how I’ll never learn to distinguish what is important from what isn’t important – the list could go on forever. As the hours pass by, the feelings and thoughts grow stronger. I feel like I’m getting nowhere and the material feels to grow exponentially before me.
I can fight these thoughts as much as I want, but it honestly only seems to make them come back stronger and smarter. I’ve tried many different techniques in the past, especially during exam period, to overcome this mindset. And this mindset is nothing new:
- March 11, 2013: Motivation. Biophysics Midterm: Check!
- December 26, 2013: How do you calm the monsters? Physiology: Check!
- January 4, 2014: Never, ever give up! Foundation of Character
- May 24, 2015: Alan Watts. Maybe
What I find the most powerful now is sitting down to analyze it head on. Where do these thoughts come from? Why do I think that I am having these thoughts and feelings? Am I feeling afraid? If so, why and where does this fear come from? When I do this, I usually find that I’ve dug my way to my “fear of failure” level. Hello again, old friend.
This is my favorite part, because it has an antidote that never, ever fails. Its antidote appeals to a quality of mine that makes up my core being: my desire to evolve and better myself.
In a way, the fear of failure stems from this. Not in a constructive way, but as a sort of superficial, insecure extension of it: I want to improve and failure means I’ve failed at improving (hence the fear of failure).
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.”
“Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
― Thomas A. Edison
The antidote? Failure is good. It will make me better, it will make me stronger, it will make me smarter. In the end, that is what I want. I know I’m not perfect and there is no point getting by on this version of myself if there are improvements that can be made. I will give it everything I have until the very end, but I will be ok with whatever the outcome.
The video that reconnected me tonight:
Ok, enough self-analysis 😉 Back to pharmacology I go! These drugs aren’t going to memorize themselves.
Side note: I love music and I can’t study without it. I know there are studies saying it makes you less efficient and less able to memorize, but I need it. 8tracks is my go-to for discovering new songs. Here are some of the songs I’ve just discovered and have had on repeat during this 3-day cram session. And when I say, “on repeat”, I really mean it. I downloaded the Strange Entity remix last night and have listened to it 54 times since then! While writing this blog, I’ve had Antoine Malye’s Paris on repeat. Always nice to have somewhere to escape to…
May 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
…to cram for your anatomy final.
- 2 anatomy atlases – Sobotta (my absolute favorite) with drawings and Yokochi with pictures of real specimens
- 1 anatomy textbook – to explain everything
- 1 “homemade” guide of all drawings and lectures from this semester
- 1 Haytham notes (notes written by a former student turned professor who loved anatomy so much that he wrote out notes for most of the topics)
- 1 Histology atlas and textbook
- 1 school-issued histology atlas
- 1 school-issued histology textbook
- 1 embryology
- 1 pocket atlas and textbook – for when the big ones are too much
- personal notes from semester
- lots of colored pencils and/or pens
Put in about 16 hours yesterday (7:30-23:30, with short breaks to: go to the store, make dinner, talk with Jannie about how much we love anatomy and call my mama) and then maybe 10 or 11 effective hours today. It was much more challenging getting started today than it was yesterday. Hopefully tomorrow will be better!
Fueling me through these insane study periods is 8tracks.com, suited for my music-ADD needs. Here are some of the playlists I’ve been listening to today: