Thursday, December 17, 2009

Post Traumatic Patho Stress Syndrome (or: Life is Good)

I woke up this morning with absolutely no idea what day it was.

It is a symptom of surviving the final exam in the most difficult class I've ever taken, Patophysiology. I've written about this class before, and I'm making a promise never to talk about it again after this (unless, of course, I get a C- and have to take it over again in the Spring).

Since last Thursday, I've been spending virtually every waking hour at the library studying for it. I counted 65 hours of Patho studying at the Lau since last Thursday morning. No joke bitches.
And the sad thing is that it pretty much takes 65 hours worth of studying just to pass the exam, let alone get an A. The class and the tests are hella difficult. I know a woman who cried - cried! - during the final exam last year.

I woke up yesterday at 5 am (my usual waking hour), rode my bike to school, and sat in the Med-Dent library for one last review before the 9 am final. I was exhausted and as I tried to review some of the practice tests, I found myself not understanding any of the words or concepts on the paper. Not. A. Single. Thing. How is it that I spent 65 hours studying and here, two hours before the final, I had still not learned anything? I felt the panic surge inside. I closed my notes, closed my eyes, took a deep breath with my face in my hands. I needed a little caffeine just to get the neurons firing, so I walked over to Starbucks.

I soon felt a bit better and headed over to class.
The exam was 100 questions, two hours. I found myself slipping into autopilot mode, going through each question, marking down the answer I thought was right. So much guessing, but there isn't really time to analyze all the possible choices. I was numb.

When it was over, a bunch of us headed over to The Tombs for a celebratory drink. Spirits were generally high, but I think we all were zombified. None of us seemed to feel good about the class or individual performances; we were all just glad to have it over with.

Like any time you share a difficult experience with a group of people, there's a closeness that develops. Over the last week, I've been part of a small group that has studied together for this class at the Lau and grew closer to them in that week than in the last 16. The class was an exercise in frustration and disappointment - it just feels shitty to study so much just to struggle to get a C -- but the resulting bonds formed are strong and worth it.

After The Tombs, a smaller group of us headed on to J. Paul's, the site of my first Cohort happy hour and a fitting bookend to the semester. We shared a bottle of champagne, but I found my energy dwindling so eventually Kelley and I left to start walking home. On the way, we discussed our relationships (or lack thereof), discussing developments in our lives. She was expressing her condolences to me over some recent disappointments I've had, to which I replied that in the grand scheme of things it was alright. If these are the biggest problems in my life, then things must be pretty good.
Which is true - once you get past the stress of school and look out beyond the weeds to see what my life is like - things are going pretty frickin' well for me these days. Kelley agreed and said that she's actually the happiest she's been in years, and that's a good thing.

We soon said our goodbyes and I continued walking down M St. towards Foggy Bottom to catch the Metro back home. It was dusk and it was cold and clear and you could see the monuments and the lights in the pinkish-blue sky.

The walk got me thinking that, like Kelley, I too feel like I'm happier than I've been in a long time. After a few years where I felt my life going backwards, 2009 was an incredible and exciting year for me. I've got good friends back in Chicago and elsewhere who have been very supportive to me; the sheer amount of support I feel from family and those closest to me is palpable. And I've made some incredible mates at school and I'm lucky to be at a place in my life where I can make these drastic changes and take my life in a new, exciting direction.

On Saturday I take my last 2 exams for the semester, then on Monday I'm back to Chicago for two weeks to see friends and family I've missed these four months. I'm ready. Holla.

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