One More Step…

Twelve hour study marathons have become my new normal. I started out only being able to study productively for a couple of hours, and then my eyes would get droopy and my brain would feel foggy…. but now, I’ll only realize how long its been when I get hungry or life stuff happens to pull me away from the q-bank review or stack of flashcards.

Its so funny to me how nervous I get, how hesitant I am at trusting my recall. I know some of you will just roll your eyes at this, but I’m not really talking about thinking I’m not smart enough for my grand educational venture. What I’m talking about is a CONFIDENCE factor. And how blown away I am to see evidence that I know what I know.

Case in point: Just got second mid-term grade report, and nearly cried seeing the high pass score.

I had a flashback to that first year when I returned to undergrad in my mid-40s, determined to see if my brain could handle a pre-med curriculum without any foundation whatsoever. And how I’d study for hours and hours trying to get to the point of answering every question correctly on General Biology tests.

This time, I only missed two questions.

In just two more weeks, I’ll sit for the final. It will be a test of my courage, as well as a test to see if I can adequately recall all those little details of Biochemistry. I’m nervous already! But I’ll say this: it helps tremendously to have my little pile of stonesthe growing mountain of evidence that says YOU CAN DO THIS.

You know what’s funny? This isn’t “hard”. At least not in the way I thought it would be. Its simply a whole lot of information. And, I can do this!

Choices

I had changed my phone’s ring tone to be something a little less harsh, but it didn’t help much when my alarm went off at 5:30 this morning.

One super cool thing about being an IUHS student is that the courses are all available online. A part of that is the creative scheduling that needs to happen to accommodate our professors’ very full schedules. This morning, that meant my classes began at 6am.

Now understand, I’m pretty much a night person – my brain seems to do its best work right up until midnight, and mornings… well, not quite my favorite time. However, I crawled out of bed this morning, grabbed a steaming cup of coffee, then sat in my recliner, laptop on lap, and let the lecture roll over me as my pup curled around my fluffy slippers and kept my feet warm.

I’m convinced, SO MUCH is all about choices.

Every day I have people tell me, Oh I couldn’t do that – I don’t like studying. Or, I couldn’t do that, I can’t manage my time well. Or, I couldn’t do that… <insert excuse>…

Hold up now. Its ALL about choices! And it has very little to do with my particular choices, and everything to do with the fact that EVERYTHING IS PRETTY MUCH A CHOICE!

I can choose to drag my sleepy butt out of bed at 5:30 and join a lecture a couple of hours earlier than ‘normal’. I can choose to do it with a smile or not.

I can choose to treat people well. I can choose to complain, or not.

I can choose to take chances or I can play it safe.

I can choose to change my life no matter how hard it is or how long it takes. Or not.

See, EVERYTHING is about choices.

Not only the literal direction of my life. But perhaps even more importantly, the ATTITUDE I choose while on this amazing journey.

Now, going to refill my coffee and get settled for today’s class #2… while I choose JOY for the day.

How about you?

 

A Lesson From Water

There is power in water. Just watch a river cut through stone, create a completely new pathway regardless of the obstacles in its way. Watch a single drip of water, repeated over time, wear away rocks or help create fantastic stalactites and stalagmites. In fact, watch water literally shatter stone as it freezes, polish pebbles, create new shorelines…

One molecule of water is so simple, so small. So seemingly useless. Yet taken in concert with many others, with consistent action over time,  the effects are rather amazing.

I strive to be that water molecule – in consistent action that is changing my world.

Studying efficiently, twelve hours every single day, is resulting in understanding a volume of material that was completely unfamiliar to me just a few weeks ago. Every time I return to the question bank and know the information I’m reviewing, I am amazed. When I bump into something I don’t know well yet, I’m excited.

Because just like that stream of water cutting a new path, this studying experience is creating a new and exciting reality in my life.

I could apply the principle to so many areas besides just academics …. but I’ll leave that to you. Think about it.

 

Through the Blah Days

It was bound to happen. After days and weeks of intensity filled with preview, review, studying, flash cards, q-bank frustration and conquest, and seemingly endless pathway drawings on the whiteboard that started looking like the chicken scratchings of a three year old…

Then today, its just a “blah” day.

No excitement. No tingly feeling of anticipation of the next pathway beautifully drawn, no feeling of accomplishment over perfectly remembering that enzyme or obscure disease state that the prof said “is high yield on Step One”.

That’s it! No feeling.

And, since when is my commitment, my choices, my continued studying routine based on my feelings?

When I was younger, how I felt so often dictated whether or not I had a productive study day. If I didn’t feel it, I somehow couldn’t pull together the mental focus to efficiently study. I’d waste time surfing social media sites, then end the day wondering where the time went. And I’d later berate myself for that lack of focus.

STOP!

I now know this: My commitment is not “feelings” based.

My commitment is just that: a commitment.

I define my commitment this way:

Actions I will take in this moment regardless of my emotional state, that move me steadily toward my stated goal.

So… if you find yourself smack-dab in the middle of a BLAH-day, take heart! Your commitment to action in this moment need not wait for your emotions to be “ready”. In life, in school, in business, as a mom, I’ve learned this.

When my emotions aren’t in that place of excited joy-filled experience, its a little harder to dive into the q-bank, draw biochemical pathways, and memorize things like lysosomal storage diseases. But from a few decades’ experience I know that as I continue taking action, my emotions will catch up.

So… back to the white board. This time I think I’ll draw smiley faces as I review pathways… hey, ya gotta have a little fun with this stuff!

A Mushy Moment

I’ll admit it – I’m pretty dang tough.

Over the last few decades, life has kicked me in the teeth more often than not, and I’ve learned to keep a smile on my face and quietly stand up and continue moving forward. Watch my outsides, and most often you’ll only see my super-intense and driven self, living life in italics!

And then there was today.

I’ve been reviewing, endlessly going through note cards, drawing Biochemistry pathways, remembering enzymes and disease states and co-factors. Its a lot of information, coming very fast. I joked today to a friend that one sentence in med school encompassed a week’s worth of undergrad lectures. And by now we’ve stepped beyond anything covered in undergrad and are into completely new territory, but still moving very fast.

After many hours of review, interspersed with what I do to stay sane (like a little real food, and a little “dirt therapy” in my front flower beds), I bumped into what’s called the Aspartate-Malate shuttle.

And I didn’t get it. Tried to draw pictures, and still didn’t get it. Read the words, replayed that portion of the lecture recording, tried again to draw it, ummmmmmmm felt a little dumb because it just wasn’t clicking.

Went to Youtube, and hit gold.

So this is my little mushy moment – and a ginormous shoutout to Andry at AKLectures.com who has such a gift for combining words and pictures so it made sense. Finally.

When I turned back to the q-bank questions and didn’t have to cross my fingers and guess…. well, I’ll admit I got a little teary.

I’m an old musician, so what’s most effective for me is a dynamic photograph in my head that pulls a subject together – once its there, I remember it forever. The trick is to record it correctly in the first place. And for whatever reason, this AK guy did the trick.

I’m grateful.

And now, after 16 hours of very productive studying today, I’m turning off the computer. Tomorrow is another day – of learning, growing, mind-expanding wonderfulness. And maybe another little mushy moment.

My Pile of Stones

I always thought medical school would be hard.

Mental images of bleary-eyed students stumbling through caffeine-filled days and nights struggling to drink from the proverbial fire hose – those images rather frightened me, if I’m honest.

Maybe its partly that I’m finally at a point in my life where I simply do what it takes. Maybe its partly that I’ve finally figured out how to effectively study for understanding rather than rote memorization. Maybe its partly this particular school, these particular professors, this particular format.

All I know is, midterm scores are in, and I did well. Not perfect. Not as good as I want to (I suffer from terminal ‘its-never-good-enough’ syndrome), but well. While my colleagues are complaining about how hard the test was, I’m being very quiet feeling amazed at how easy it was.

Through the past week, any time I’d think about writing a new blog post after the midterm, I’d include the caveat (in my head) that I could always just take the blog down completely if I didn’t do well. After all, I wouldn’t want to totally humiliate myself – or be “one of those” who put up a rant about how inhumane medical education was. Those old fears about my ability to do this were lurking around the edges – especially yesterday when for twelve hours I continued to study even though I felt completely disconnected from the material and was certain I wasn’t retaining a single thing.

So begins my pile of stones. The first of many small bits of evidence that, taken together, become the mountain of evidence I will rely on that says, yes, you can do this. 

Building Stamina

Its late on a Friday night. My son is at the fair – that annual blend of 4-H projects, little old lady’s knitting creations, and greasy elephant ears.

I’ve been home studying.

Its an endurance thing now. I’ll start feeling a little sleepy….. and keep going. In 30-minute segments of full-on intense focus, the time adds up as I train my brain to keep on learning far beyond what it thinks it can.

Funny, that.

I forget what I know. Read a review question, draw a blank. Guess. Realize I was right. Learn to trust my first choice because it really is based on knowledge that’s packed in there. Somewhere.

Go even further and stop calling it “guessing”.

SAY IT OUT LOUD. Let the pup look at me funny… say it out loud again, and connect it to the last thing, and the next thing. Say the enzymes all the way out, remember this is easy, the names define the function, most often. The pathways connect to symptoms and diseases… everything is connected. It makes sense.

Put in the time, review enzymes and pathways and activators and inhibitors and organelles and diseases… Add in little bits and flesh out the mental picture. Do it again. And again. For understanding, not memorization. Understanding too what’s happening with my brain to know I’m establishing new physiological pathways called memory. Keeping the rote memorization to a bare minimum because there’s a whole lot of days ahead.

Building stamina.

Now to sleep. 6am comes so soon.