This is a post I’ve been contemplating and circling on whether to write or not. I feel like I have a lot of fears and opinions regarding this topic.
So picture this. Think back to the moment you got the call/letter/email that you were accepted into PA/PT/Pharmacy/Medical/Nursing etc. school. You remember what you’re wearing, what you were doing, and the emotions after. I, for one, was wearing an oversized yellow t-shirt with my pink and white candy striped pajama bottoms. It was around 1pm, 2/13/15 and I checked the voicemail saying to call the school back. I called them and heard the good news. I even repeated the good news in a question form to CONFIRM that I was not delusional and hearing things. It just so happened that day, my parents were both home for lunch. I ran down the wood stained stairs towards my mom and cried happy tears. We cried (no really, I just cried) and hugged as we both jumped up and down. My dad hugged me and said he was so proud and never doubted me for a second, even when I was so doubtful and so insecure about whether I was ever going to be good enough for PA School. Easily one of THE HAPPIEST moments in my life. I was happier than when I graduated from college, got my Aggie ring, and even all of my best birthdays combined.
Fast forward. They tell you grad school is hard. I remember at orientation, the director told us that it would be easily one of “the hardest thing you’ll ever do.” I thought he was kidding..and I’ve never been MORE WRONG in my LIFE. Like many of my classmates, we worked hard in college to be competitive. I graduated a semester early with a minor and with honors. I worked 12 hour shifts during spring break, summer, and Christmas breaks to be competitive. One summer, I took classes while working full time at the children’s museums with toddlers and early elementary children, mentored for camp, AND applied to PA School. Ask your classmates sitting next to you, and I’m sure a similar story will be told. Surely, PA School couldn’t be that hard if I could do all of that before?
WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. It is SO DIFFICULT. There’s so many tears, frustrations, self-doubts, and uncertainty during this time period. Everyone has them. Everything is so high stressed and heavily weighted. No wonder so many people in medicine struggle with anxiety and depression.
Sometimes, life happens. Sometimes you have an off day. Tests don’t go well (believe me, I’ve been there), quizzes go poorly (also been there), or that class just isn’t clicking for you (definitely have my feels for a class or two). And sometimes, because of the standards that are put in place in our very competitive programs, you fall short. You’re on academic probation, you remediate, you get dismissed. I’m sure it’s a pretty awful feeling and a fear that keeps me up at night as I try to fall asleep to the ticking of my clock. But these fears and feelings are real.
If you’re in this situation, I want you to know that you are LOVED and you are NOT ALONE, and you are SUFFICIENT.
- If you know the Lord that I know, I want you to know that His love is sufficient and His grace is merciful. It’s easy for Christians to say the classic church sayings when you’re in a not so optimal situation, that “God has a plan for you. Everything happens for a reason”, especially when your emotions are so real, raw, and painful. I use to HATE these church answers, because it felt like it was such a round about way to tell me that everything was going to be okay. I mean, EASY FOR YOU to say that because you’re not going through this crummy situation, you didn’t bust your booty to get into grad school, study your butt off, and still be insufficient by the rules. But what I realized and was once told, is that sometimes, the things said most often are so because they are TRUE. Although it feels like such a cop out answer, sometimes I think of all the ways the Lord has provided, in ways bigger than I could imagine (also super churchy answer, I know). But through my experiences and many emotions, it’s true. Make a list of all the ways the Lord has provided, no matter big or small. Look at how He cares for you and has loved you through your life before grad school.
- Matthew 6:25-34
- Some people make the argument, “Well if God really loved me, why is He letting this happen to me?” And honestly, I do not know the answer to that. I’ve been thinking and struggling with this thought a lot also. Why would such a loving and merciful Lord put you through so much pain and anguish?
- I think of Job and his struggles. In Job 1, Satan and God are talking. God tells Satan that Job is faithful and a good man. Satan replies, “Duh. Look at Job. He has it all. It’s easy to believe in You when life is going well.” So God lets Satan cause Job all of this pain because God is faithful that Job will remain faithful…Spoiler: Job does. Job loses so much and is in so much pain, he wants to die and prays that God just does it so the pain and suffering will end. He cries out his emotions and has his questions and doubts. But at the end of the day, he remains faithful. So if you’re a believer, you let those emotions out. They’re okay and normal. Even the most loyal servants are tested.
- James 1:2-4. Rejoice with trials (it’s okay if you’re not feeling this one because sometimes I want to roll my eyes at this verse when it feels like life is going horribly)
- You’re not a failure. Just because you’re on probation or you get dismissed, you are STILL ENOUGH.
- It’s disheartening that the world we live in for graduate school is “black and white” and ruled by numbers.
- But I want to remind you that you are more than a number and a grade. Whether you get test taking anxiety (ahem me), sitting in that frightening zone b/w probation and dismissal, I want to remind you of this:
- You are NOT a number.
- Letters after your names do NOT define you.
- You are more than your career
- During this delicate seesaw moment in your life, let me ask you this. Are you going to let your fear rule you or your faith? Even if you don’t know the Jesus I know, are you going to let that stomach wrenching feeling get the best of you, or are you going to choose to believe that you’re here for a reason, sitting alongside with your peers, to pursue a career that will help you fix the things in the world that break your heart? Choose the latter.
Even if there’s that feeling where your heart drops to your stomach, and the world is over, just know that it’s not. I know, it’s scary and it hurts. But the beautiful thing about healthcare is that we went into this to serve and help people, and as awful or bleak it may seem if we’re not doing it as a PA/MD/DO/PT/pharmacist/nurse, I have trust and faith that the quirks that make you who you are, will also be the same things that help you figure out the next chapter of your life.
There’s a Chinese proverb my parents tell me, is about where you’re sitting on a horse riding through the desert. Eventually the horse gets tired and stops walking. What are you going to do? You’re going to get off that horse and keep walking forward. As much as it hurts and as confusing as it may be, there’s not a single doubt in my mind that the impact you’ve had on your peers has been sweet and memorable, just as they’ve impacted you. As this chapter of your life written by the Lord ends, isn’t it painstakingly beautiful that a new one is about to start? So whether you’re scared out of your mind of that quiz/test that you’re about to take because it carries so much weight, you just got on or have been on probation, or even if you’ve been dismissed, I want to end with that you are LOVED and you are SUFFICIENT. And until the “end” is here (and even then, it sometimes truly isn’t the end), continue you work hard and face your fears of uncertainty, and choose to march forward as you wipe the tears from your eyes, stand proudly with your chin lifted high, and stare at the next thing life has in store for you.