I remember when we dragged ourselves to the large lecture hall every morning, backpacks slung over our shoulders and cups of coffee in our hands. Six to eight hours of lectures awaited us.
I remember where we all sat in that lecture hall. I remember the future ophthalmologist who sat behind me and made snarky comments while certain professors gave their lectures facing the chalkboard. I remember students sitting six rows behind me who told me after class, “We saw you falling asleep today. If you sit in the back, it won’t be as obvious.”
I remember the guys throwing around a fluorescent Nerf football between classes. Some of them would take off their shirts (and one would look around to see if women were watching) and relive their days of playing college sports.
I remember when we wore shorts, tee shirts, sandals, tattered jeans, dangling earrings, and tank tops.
I remember going to parties and watching people drink wine and beer out of those red plastic cups.
I remember when we received the short white coats. I remember how stiff they were, how awkward we looked in them, and how annoyed we were that we had to buy “nice clothes” in preparation of training in the hospitals.
I remember that we exchanged ideas of where to find “nice clothes” for “cheap.”
I remember how tired and haggard we looked after we took call. I remember when our scrubs were wrinkled, our hair was unkempt, and our hygiene was suboptimal.
I remember when we wondered how we would ever survive our intern year.
I remember when we contaminated sterile fields and didn’t know what size sterile gloves we needed. I remember certain nurses rolling their eyes and yelling at us for our ignorance. I remember when we would see each other in the hallways and stairwells, holding order sheets for signatures, carrying baskets filled with gauze and tape, and trailing behind the medical team that was into its third hour of rounding.
I remember when we tried not to cry when attending and resident physicians said unkind things. I remember when we shared strategies about how to manage certain doctors. I remember how much we said, “I don’t know.”
I now see current photos of my classmates from medical school and, to my surprise, they actually look like doctors. They have wrinkles around their eyes. The men wear white collared shirts, mild neckties, and dark business jackets. The women wear conservative jewelry and shirts with modest necklines. The long white coats fit their frames. Their smiles radiate confidence.
They look mature.
Which means I must look that way, too.
Maria Yang is a psychiatrist who blogs at In White Ink.