I have been riding my bike to campus since the beginning of MS1 year. According to the pedometer affixed to my bike handles, I’ve covered almost 800 miles. Some days it feels exhilarating to start my morning by listening to Pandora and cruising along a scenic bike path. Other days I am groggy and tired, but I do it anyway. The path itself is nestled along a ravine, with sightings of snow white egrets and other beautiful birds I can hardly identify. It winds up and down, finally dropping me off just a few hundred yards from campus. I take this path every day. It gets my heart rate up, my blood moving and clears my head before every exam.
Yesterday, just as I had asked it to do 100 times, the path did just that, cleared my head before our NBME Medical Microbiology Shelf (a cumulative final exam taken by all medical students across the country). I walked into that exam feeling like I could not be better prepared. Having completed 3 question banks of microbiology questions, my favorite topic of all things learned so far, I didn’t expect to find anything THAT surprising. I was certain some rendition of the questions would surely have been covered in one of the 700 practice questions I went over. Well, the answer to that was a resounding–WRONG. The exam had a level of minutiae I was not expecting. Although I knew the majority of questions, the curveballs killed my confidence and threw me off. Feeling defeated, I grabbed my bike and pedaled home.
My day continued to deteriorate from there. As I pedaled against a strong gust of Santa Ana wind my foot slipped and the next thing I know I am crashing off my bike head first. My helmet hit the ground, followed by my hip shoulder and wrist, all of which dragged across the bike path with just enough force to give me major road rash and tear a hole in my favorite jeans. What just happened? I couldn’t move my arm with ease so I called my husband to pick me up. The perfect humiliating ending to my already dreadful day.
My first crash. I got it out of the way. I also got my first Step 1 test run out of the way, and things need a lot of improving. Most of which are my nerves. My first exam question was something I was not expecting, it was so specific my brain started the exam in a panic. My thoughts raced. I know everything about this disease, but I forgot to memorize a minute detail and now I can’t believe they are asking about it! I began to get nervous that the whole exam would be like this. Before I knew it, my palms started sweating ( I am sitting there thinking, my god I am sweating on a mouse! Why am I sweating on this mouse?!). It took me a good 15 minutes to recover. I feel that all the questions I saw in the meantime suffered. The funny thing is, in the end when I went home and looked up the answer, I actually got that first question right. I was my own worst enemy. Herein lies my downfall. All of the hard work I put into studying and knowing the answers can be abruptly wasted if I let my nerves get the best of me. Luckily, seeing my weakness and realizing it is the first step to conquering it– I hope. I only get one shot at Step 1 and I cannot afford to waste it. My biggest fear as I approach my first licensing exam and ticket to the residency of my dreams (ie. staying in California) is that I freeze and that the two years of dutiful studying will all be wasted, never to be represented in that one little number that matters.
Also, please wear a helmet. If I wasn’t wearing mine, I would be writing this from a hospital bed or worse. Just wear one.