Recently, the Harvard class of 2014 took its last exam of the year.
We filled our usual amphitheater, took a 60 multiple choice question test on viruses, parasites and fungi, and went to go see X-men in the afternoon. I told my mom last night that I expected people to exit the lecture hall in hysterics, falling to their knees on our marble floors and weeping at being 25% closer to becoming a doctor.
None of that happened. We exited quite calmly. I sought out our professor and shook his hand to thank him for a great 11 weeks. Then I went running, took a long shower, and did some laundry. I called my mom to let her know that the test went well. I played some music and read the New York Times. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
I’m not sure when it will hit me that I just finished the hardest year of my life. To think about the fact that I have grown up so much in such a short span of time. Or to the fact that it will only get that much more intense.
I feel like I’ve run a dozen marathons this year. My body aches at the thought of it, and my mind feels bewildered and wild and so much vaster than it was just ten months ago. A friend and I were talking into the night in my room earlier this week, when all of a sudden, she reached out to clasp my hand and said, as a complete non-sequitur, “This year has been just tremendous, hasn’t it?”
I laughed at her then, because she’s given to these sorts of histrionics every so often, but I think that it’s true. I’m waking up to the idea that no, medical school wasn’t just another step in the long sequence of higher education. I didn’t take time off after college, and I have to admit that for a long time, I continued to think of this experience as just that, albeit with heavier reading schedules.
It’s not true. It was never true. Yes, I went to my room after my exam and ran some errands as though it was any other Friday afternoon. But if I stood down the street and stared up at the glossy marble buildings and Harvard’s magnificent quad, and the hustle and bustle of the biggest and busiest medical district in the world, I’d think differently. This is a profession that may be moving from “a calling” to shift work, but nonetheless, medicine is still the only one of its kind. I’ve got to remember that.
Samyukta Mullangi is a medical student who writes at her blog, Samyukta Mullangi.
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