Of Fire and Doubt

By Cory Anderson – Class of 2015

The clouds part and the evening sun floods through my window, setting the northern wall ablaze with flames of orange and gold as it sets.  The fire races down the wall, engulfing the heavy, wooden desk and the textbooks strewn across the floor.  Faster than lightning the flames consume the entire room.  Then in the blink of an eye they vanish.  Spent is the fuel that sustained them.  Their beauty is gone; the ashen shadow that now swallows my room the only remnant of their fleeting existence.

I laugh to myself.  Fitting it seems, that the flame’s warmth would renounce my company as quickly as insecurity’s chill welcomes it.  Appropriate that the comfort of my knowledge would leave me as I forsake my books and put on my gloves.  How am I ever going to apply everything I’ve learned?  Will I be able to make the jump from the book to the bedside?  As I become ever closer to experiencing real medicine, I find myself asking these questions more and more often.

For those of us in our second year at McMaster, clerkship is fast approaching.  Soon we will all be thrust from our classrooms into the wards where our real learning will take place.  Soon we will be responsible for assessing patients of flesh and blood instead of patients made of ink and paper.  The prospect of such responsibility is both exciting and terrifying.  I can’t wait for the opportunity to meet patients and be involved in their care, but I have no idea if I’m going to able to make a positive impact.  I look forward to the chance to apply my knowledge and pull concepts together, but I’m afraid of the mistakes my inexperience may cause me to make.  I see the clerks in the year ahead of me – people who are so calm, composed, and knowledgeable – and I wonder how I will ever get to their level.

The prospect of competence dangles before my eyes like the proverbial carrot on a string: tantalizingly close and yet perpetually out of my reach.  Just as I think I’ve learned enough to once again light the fires of my confidence, the rains of my inexperience leave me with nothing but smoking embers.  So I go back to my books for fuel to feed the flame.  I learn and re-learn, heaping tinder and kindling on to the embers in an effort to build a fire big enough to shield me from the cold dark of self-doubt.  I know that no fire can live without a constant source of fuel and so I will continue to learn and re-learn my entire life.  I just hope that one day my flames will be able to withstand the rain.

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