My classmates now look mature, which means I must look that way too

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.

And old.

Which means I must look that way, too.

Maria Yang is a psychiatrist who blogs at In White Ink.

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  • Anthony D

    “My classmates now look mature, which means I must look that way too”

    Looks can be deceiving and can give a mistaken impression!

    You of all people should know that doc!!!

  • SBornfeld

    They look like smiles, but maybe it’s just a gas bubble.

  • meyati

    What’s the point? I can’t believe that KEVINMD turned down an article I wrote about having an atypical BCC next to my nose for almost 30 years-it looked like a pimple-and all the reasons that doctors gave me for not removing it. I wanted any doctor that sees a person, especially a woman that complains of a pimple being there for years to take it off- to have curiosity. My dermatologist doesn’t get it-I’m Irish, lots of sun exposure, I’m nice, I don’t bug him about most things that other women do. I have a god awful mole on my collar bone that I’ve never fussed about.

  • Rob Burnside

    A beautiful piece of writing–part memoir, part essay, and 100% authentic. The odd thing is, I’ll bet you’ll find many of your classmates have “blocked out” similar, wonderful memories. When some of us grow up, we do, in fact, grow old. Others are forever young–an excellent quality in my book.

    • Suzi Q 38

      Some people just do not age well.
      We laughed about that at the last college reunion.
      I stood next to a classmate who no longer had much hair.
      The little hair he did have was white.
      There I stood, looking a decade younger only because of a bottle of hair dye and the fact that I was blessed with really thick hair.

      I still remember the fact that he always was, and always will be, in a word, “charming.”

      • Rob Burnside

        Ask not for whom the phere moans…and let me clarify, Suzi. I wasn’t really thinking about our outer shells, though, in general, those who left town do appear older for some strange reason.

        I was thinking about something deeper, but I know not what to call it. That certain je ne sait quoi? Wooly Bully? Polly Wally Doodle All Day? Testosterone? (Nah, that’s a Ferrari model) A little help, please….

        • Suzi Q 38

          Thanks for clarifying.
          I go to a high school reunion every year.
          I still go find the “kids” at the lunch table, the home room, the volleyball team, the swim team, the water polo team, and the photography club members.
          When I was in high school, I hated being Asian and considered different. I longed to be anglo like almost everyone else.
          Now, I relish our cultural differences. The feeling is mutual when we meet each year.
          I love aging well.

          Just don’t pry my dead hands away from my Clairol, eyelashes, and Benefit makeup.

          It also helps to be funny and witty, except when your husband gets embarrassed about what you just said to a group of people at work.

          • Rob Burnside

            You clarified much better than I did, Suzi. And it sounds like you’re having fun–that’s what I really meant. Perhaps Oscar W. said it best: “Life’s too important to be taken seriously.”

  • Richard Willner

    I was asked at McD’s if I want the “senior coffee”. I get the AARP solicitations. At the bank, the personal banker gave me “the 50+ special” checking account. My daughter’s new friends call me “Dr W”. I wonder how can this be? Just 10 minutes ago, I was 40. Yes, 20 years went by that fast. Yes, we all grow older and hopefully, we treasure a life well lived.

    • Suzi Q 38

      Well said.
      I get the “senior” discount at Ross Store on Tuesdays.
      I try to qualify for other discounts, but alas, I am only a “child” of 57. My 65th birthday is “just around the corner” and probably going to be no “big deal.” I hope.