[This is a piece that I originally wrote back during the fall of my senior year of college (September 2014) after my final interview for medical school. At the time I had no further interviews scheduled, and it ended up being my final one after all. I wanted to re-post this onto the UTMB blog after having spent time this year as a UTMB Student Ambassador and interacting with interviewees at the school. I was reminded during those interactions of the thoughts and insecurities that I felt during the process myself, so I hope that this piece is an encouragement for whoever might be facing interviews in the near future or has recently just passed them by.]
“Is it really over?”; this is the rhetorical question that many of us ask ourselves when a previously daunting task is finally completed, and today I had to ask myself that as I finished my last medical school interview. Maybe more loom ahead, maybe more don’t, but either way for now that task seems finished. If you were to ask me in person I would probably tell you I’ve enjoyed each of these interview days, filled with touring hospitals, hearing about each school’s innovative curriculum, and having 30 minutes chats with a couple faculty at each school; however, that’s not the whole truth. In reality, there is an overwhelming aura like a tense fog that hangs over the entire day. Whether you are the social butterfly or hermit crab of your class, feelings and emotions of anxiety do enter into the equation when dealing with these interviews. They’re exciting, but also draining at the same time. For me, this anxiety was by no means a crippling fear, but was more of an ever-present caffeine shot that kept me on my toes all day, and made me try and put my best foot forward continually in a never ending game of hokey pokey.
Per usual, my way of recovering from this type of day-long, anxiety-driven event, was to jam to loud music in my car afterwards and to sing out loud to songs that are my secret guilty pleasures (cue any Katy Perry song). This was followed by an insatiable appetite, because that same anxiety from the day kept me from chowing down at breakfast and lunch as is my normal custom any other day of the year.
I celebrated the “last interview for now” with a trip to Rudy’s (as I was coming from San Antonio, and San Antonio is home to the original Rudy’s, and I am a sucker for all things BBQ). I figured since I was in a rush to make it on time to my YoungLife club at Crockett High School tonight, I should probably get the grub to go. But then a magical thought came to mind. What if I spared an extra ten or so minutes to enjoy the BBQ at a picnic table outside of the restaurant, as opposed to in between traffic on I-35 (the worst highway known to mankind – short explanation, but one time a few of my friends and I wimped out of camping at Pace Bend Park because it was “freezing” outside and so we drove back to Austin late that night, about 1am, and hit stand-still traffic on I-35, yes at 1am, hence proof that I-35 is in fact the worst highway ever).
Today, I stopped to smell the ribs. I sat outside of that Rudy’s, with a large, ice-cold soda, while the sun warmed my skin, but did not make me sweat. I sat there enjoying the ribs, which tore apart from the bone with ease just like you want it, and brisket, which had that beautiful, essential smoke ring covering it. I sat there with a to-go cup of their sauce, so that I was not bothered by the “caps from hell” which do not allow BBQ sauce to flow easily from the normal Rudy’s sauce bottles. I sat there staring at the suburban neighborhood adjacent to the restaurant, which was devoid of the hustle and bustle I normally experience each day in Austin (or as today would have it, San Antonio). I sat there and enjoyed the texture, grain, and stain of the picnic table which supported me comfortably. I sat there, and simply sat, and for that I was thankful.
Through my emotions of anxiety from the day, I was able to experience a form of pain. Without having experienced those emotions and feelings, I might have simply chowed down on my food, gone to YoungLife club, and never given it a second thought. But instead, I had the stark contrast of a stressful morning and a peaceful afternoon meal, which made that meal just oh so much more enjoyable. I was distinctly aware of the blessing it is to possess a human mind, soul, heart, mouth, eyes, and ears which can fully, and entirely, enjoy what a BBQ meal outside in Texas in the Fall can provide.
So here’s my charge to each of you readers; today, tomorrow, tonight, next week, I don’t care, just pick anytime gosh darn time to enjoy life. To enjoy a meal. To enjoy a conversation. To enjoy a hug. To enjoy a laugh. To enjoy sleep. To enjoy a hot shower. I know for a fact that each and every person on this earth right now is in some way or another experiencing pain, anxiety, stress, fear, and due to the mixed blessing of those emotions, can more fully enjoy and appreciate something else. With all our senses tuned in, and our hearts full of joy and gratitude, we can experience so many more fulfilling moments in our days, which are absent of those feelings of pain or anxiety.
One of the most tragic things that I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.
[Another aside not from when I originally wrote this, but I recently had the opportunity to attend the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians annual conference in Dallas. The first speaker at the conference was a specialist on anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. He spoke on the fact that we all will experience anxiety in our lives that is appropriate given the circumstances and brief in duration. For him, the best example that came to mind was before his first ever medical school exam, where he had a pretty significant bout of diarrhea. Funny thing was, many of his classmates had the same thing happen on the same day and the line to the men’s restroom was out the door for the first time that he could ever remember. My anxiety experienced during interviews is completely in line with a normal interview experience. For some though, anxiety can become a persistent, and debilitating issue, and at such a point treatment is often needed, but rarely actually sought after. Another speaker at the conference spoke on the delay that exists for people with anxiety related disorders before actually seeking treatment or help. The mean amount of time from the onset of the anxiety to seeking treatment is 20 years in the United States. We as a society must be better about recognizing and acknowledging anxiety such as this in our family, friends, and future patients so that we do not let it cripple so many people’s lives.]
-Also, photo cred to Franklin’s BBQ in Austin, TX.