Just a Quick Pep Talk

Written by Sabrina Lue Tam (c2017), Photograph by Aixin Liu (c2018)


Hey, you know what? Yes, you. You’re doing okay. You’re doing just fine.

I thought you might need to hear that today. Tomorrow. Any day. Sometime. Whenever.

We often forget that the scrubs we wear do not function as armour and our stethoscopes are not amulets of invincibility–we seem to be viewed in this glittering spotlight shining on an impossibly high and impossibly narrow pedestal. No room for even the slightest misstep, no room for “failure”. We feel like our patients see us this way, our preceptors, our friends. And weirdly enough, we can’t really help ourselves from seeing our peers on that same stupid chopstick pedestal in that obnoxious, over-bright, (probably eco-unfriendly) incandescent light. Unconsciously, we are seeing people through the pages of their CVs rather than through the real-life struggles they’re going through, just like us. We are all just people trying to do our best.

And here you are, doing your best. Keep in mind that “your best” does not mean “perfection”. Doing your best means working hard and making mistakes along the way. We are all making mistakes–I had to read about pulsus paradoxus on 4 separate occasions to even remember why you would want to test for it, much less why it happens at all. These occasions were all precipitated by a preceptor asking me a pointed question about it and me floundering and admitting I didn’t know. You are gonna make mistakes. But mistakes are great because they help you learn. You identify the gaps in your skills and/or knowledge, and you aim to fill them. They’re like blue pawprints giving people around you clues on how they can help.

If you don’t remember anything else from medical school, please at least remember this: ask for help when you need it, and needing help is not a weakness. It will not make you inferior to anyone else. It will not hurt your chances of finding whatever you define as success. It will only pick you up when you hit your lows, give you an opportunity to see your friends/family/support network for the glorious amazing group of people that it is, and make you see that you can do incredible things.

You’re doing great. You’ve made it this far. Tomorrow is another day. Things will work out, and things will be okay. You are not alone. Sometimes things go wrong, but you will make it out on top–just remember that this means you might make it out on top of an entirely different mountain than the one you originally set out to climb, but you still overcame a freaking mountain and that’s awesome. You’re awesome.

There’s quite a bit of evidence about this elusive concept of “resilience” and how it affects patients, physicians, students, etc. etc. Nobody is born with resilience, but nobody really teaches you resilience, either. Resilience is something you need to find for yourself, like all the best Pokemon in Pokemon GO; people can point you in the right direction, but if you never actually look for yourself, you’ll never be able to catch it. Grasp it. Tuck it in a Pokeball and carry around with you for the rest of your life to get you through the hard battles and the good times, too.

In order to have gotten here today, you must already be pretty resilient. Wicked. Resilience is something that you can continue to strengthen and fortify along the way–the more obstacles you encounter, the more opportunities you have for learning, growth, self-discovery, and levelling up your resilience. So congratulations on being a pretty resilient person already!

If things are going really well for you and you’re having an awesome day, I just want you to know that I’m happy for you! Great job. You’re amazing! It’s so exciting and I hope you share it with as many people as you can.

If things are going really crappy for you right now and you’ve hit the mother of all roadblocks, take a second to freak out. Really, it’s okay. Your sympathetic nervous system needs a chance to blow off all that steam, and that’s alright. (But be safe please!) When you’ve given yourself a minute, think about this: every single person in your class and the classes before you and the classes to come has, is, and will be in a position really similar to yours. They’ll need a chance to freak out too. Be gentle with them when it’s their time. Right now it’s yours–be gentle with yourself. If that means you need some chocolate therapy, then I suggest some chocolate PO q2min PRN. Then you can take a breath, deep, in and out. Someone out there is rooting for you–maybe it’s your best friend, a sibling, your mom or dad, a grandparent, a mentor or preceptor… maybe it’s just me. I’m rooting for you. I think this situation sucks, but you’re gonna be okay. And if you don’t feel okay now, that’s also okay. It’s okay to not be okay. But let’s move toward being okay. That’s the first step to getting back to your awesome fantastic self. How do you want to start?

(By the way, I just wanted to remind you that you’re doing just fine. You’re gonna make it. There’s light at the end of this tunnel, and those people that are rooting for you–me included–are here to stumble blindly in the darkness with you every step toward that light. But we know you can do it, even if you are unsteady or unsure. We know you’ll make it.

And if you go in the wrong direction we did bring drills and stuff so we can make it up as we go along. The road less traveled is supposed to be the better one and stuff, right? Well if we make our own road I can guarantee you it’s the road less travelled.)

Did you make it to the end here? Really? Cool! Because if you made it to the end of this, you’re gonna make it to the end of today. And the end of this week. And this month. And medical school. It’s gonna be okay, you’re gonna be okay, and this will be a pretty great story to tell in hindsight.

(I was going to make a lame “You rock, don’t ever change!” quip here, but I will refrain from doing so.)

Go climb your mountains and dig your tunnels and do your thing the way you do. Here is where you might be expecting a Dr. Seuss quote but nope I won’t give you that satisfaction since you’ll get much greater satisfaction at the top of that mountain and on the other side of that tunnel. You can do it. You’re doing great so far!

One thought on “Just a Quick Pep Talk

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s