Monday, November 9, 2009

The Gauntlet

That's what they should call Anatomy, or at least the anatomy final. In addition to the comprehensive dissection of a dog, the course includes lectures on anatomy, histology, and embryology, histology and radiology dry labs, and a series of self-directed wet labs that cover the comparative aspects of the 4 major body regions. I came back from the mid-term motivated and ready to settle in and study as much as humanly possible, but the only way to study enough is to forgo eating a nutritionally sound diet, exercising every day, maintaining a socially acceptable level of personal hygiene, completing household chores, and walking the dog. Having written that list, it is glaringly obvious to me that neglecting all those activities is clearly a recipe for insanity, but it is all to easy to believe that studying enough is possible. The key to success in anatomy is not to spend all your time studying, but to spend some time not studying. I spent a few weeks after the mid-term trying to study enough, until I realized I was seeing my dog for an hour in the morning, during which time I was focused on getting ready and out the door, and for an hour or two between getting home from school and going to bed, during which time I was getting ready for the next day and for bed. When I had that realization, I made an effort to spend a few hours at home in the afternoons. I'll admit, I still didn't always walk the dog, but at least I wasn't thinking about anatomy.

During the weeks between the mid-term and final, I also made some new friends/study buddies. P–– and E–– live in a neighborhood just a couple of miles from my house, and it was a combination of factors that brought us together: E–– and I were in lab together, my car was on the fritz, and P–– and E––, and the rest of their housemates watch The Office together. Thinking back on all of that now, it literally is a blur. Our schedules were hardly the same one day to the next, but the pattern of going to school, studying in the library, eating dinner, and studying some more was still enough that the days and weeks run together. Even once my car was fixed and I was spending more time at home, the routine was still such that I felt buoyed along, caught up in the torrent.

And then, seemingly overnight, the final was just a few weeks away. Those last 2 weeks are what I imagine the last 2 miles of a marathon to be like: every muscle (brain cell?) hurts, but the end is almost within sight, and that's enough to keep going. I couldn't have done it alone, either. My friends and I studied together, and that was important, but we kept each other sane, too. P––'s brother J–– even bought us pizza one night. P––, E–– and I planned out our studying, and looked at our cadavers every day. I didn't walk the dog. The heap of dirty clothes grew, as did the stacks of papers on my desk. I ate cafeteria food for lunch and Ramen noodles for dinner. On Friday, I spent 15 hours at school. And finally, on Sunday, after studying all day, E–– and I took the afternoon off and cooked butternut squash soup. It was sooo good! I'm reminded of a quote I'm fond of (Brian Andreas is the author):
There are things you do because they feel right & they may make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other's cooking & say it was good.
Vet school often doesn't make sense, and it certainly makes no money, but boy does it feel right.   

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