As a child, I was raised on a healthy diet of isolation and broadcast television. These two forces combined to shape my world view into the healthy grounded state that governs my every decision as an adult (and unwittingly prepared me for pandemic life). The bulk of shows that I watched as a child were mainly cheese-tastic sitcoms with a lovable lead, their wacky family, their on again off again love interest (WOOOO) and their obligatory friend/sidekick. These shows were designed to make viewers fantasize about themselves in the role of the main character, with the entire world filtered through the lens of the protagonist as they dealt with their crisis of the week. However, I never imagined myself as the protagonist in these tv shows. For some reason, I always identified with the poorly fleshed out sidekick characters. These characters only existed to support the lead characters by making snappy quips or providing some absurd comic relief to lighten the mood when the episodes got too heavy. They were the nutritional equivalent of junk food, but for some reason that resonated with me. Throughout my life, I never felt like the lead character or that I belonged on center stage. I felt like my life was one of peripherally existing quietly in the shadows with occasional guest appearances in the main event of everyone else’s lives – coming out of isolation, only to add a sassy phrase or say something agreeable to help continue the character arcs of the stars as they continued their prime time journeys.
At some point, after seeing hundreds of patients, the way I normally thought of myself began to change. My optometry life was one filled with these moments where my actions, my words, and my decisions took part on center stage with my patients hanging on my every word. They weren’t reaching for the remote to change the channel, but instead were turning up the volume and telling their friends to tune into Doctor Heimlich Thursdays at 7:30 pm eastern time (The coveted spot immediately following Jeopardy!). My journey through optometry school wasn’t one of me finding some long buried self-esteem, but instead, was a journey of seeing myself in a new role with respect and trust in the fact that I could take the lead. I began optometry school uncertain, questioning everything about myself and ended the process feeling a new sense of purpose and belonging. I feel like my character is more fully developed and worthy of the titular role, and no longer just some cameo.
Alright, that’s enough about television. I feel like I talk about television a bit too much sometimes. Speaking of television, who else is exhausted by the inundation of these schmaltzy television ads where it pans from living room to living room of various families with some narrator voicing that “In these uncertain times …. we’re all in this together! So from all of us at *Insert mega corporation who would push you off a cliff for a dollar*, we just want to say blah blah some faux sincerity about perseverance and the eventual return to normalcy. Buy our product!”? It’s ALMOST enough to make me stop watching television altogether …. almost. Television is the lynch pin of my quarantine routine and without it, I’m left with few entertainment options. I’ve nearly exhausted the infinite content available on the internet and its abundance of Top 10 (or whatever random number they decide) lists for any and every topic. It seems like a list arranged according to quality is a pretty stale and lazy way for authors to generate new content. So in honor of phoning it in and the retread of tired ideas that are continuously recycled to occupy our time, may I present my Top 5 things about my experience of optometry school at THE Ohio State University College of Optometry:
#5 The Post-Test Euphoria
It was rare that you turned a corner in Starling Loving or Fry Hall without running into a test. From my first official class exam to my last Board’s exam, I was petrified and nightmare filled in those agonizing hours leading up to the main event. Eventually, the results would come through and the sense of accomplishment showered the body with a boost of serotonin resulting in wondrous euphoria. Each little victory was one step closer to becoming a doctor.
#4 The Secret Cheerleaders
Seeing a patient as a student is amazing. You could almost feel the patients bursting at the seams with pride and boiling over with anticipation for the end of the exam so that they can tell you, “You did an AMAZING job!” The patients that frequent Ohio State’s clinics are so excited to help in our learning process and excited to give us the ego boosts that we rely on to keep motivated. The next time I examine a patient, I’ll be a doctor and I’ll lose that sense of cheerleading that patients do when being examined by a student. It will be bittersweet.
#3 The Knowledge Gained
Every day in patient care for me started with the fear of not being able to handle what was to come my way. As the day began, that fear proved to be fleeting as I began to realize how much I had learned and how prepared I was to handle my patient’s problems. While it’s humbling to know there is still so much to continue learning, it’s encouraging to know how far along I’ve come.
#2 The Realization That It’s Only Just Begun
Optometry school’s end is just the beginning of a host of new optometry careers. Careers involving continuing education, conferences, reunions, and numerous life events that will reunite our class for years. Graduation is not a goodbye, it really is an “Until next time!”
#1 The Best Damn Family in the Land
Walking through the doors of the Ohio State College of optometry is a sure guarantee to run into a high quality individual. From the faculty to the staff and the students, everyone is inspirational. It’s as if a master curator placed the most eclectic, vibrant, interesting and fun group of individuals all into one building. I am going to miss everyone and my biggest regret was that I never used the time I had to make the friendship bracelets and give the hugs that I wanted to give to each and everyone in my class. Whether I shared a few brief conversations or filled weeks of my free time with those around me, I genuinely appreciated each and everyone. I can’t go around again and make up for any lost time, but I know the future will be filled with many reunions with my optometry family.
I’m so proud to have gone through this experience and I am excited for my future. Congratulations to the class of 2020. You are all going to do amazing things. Now go outside, wander your alleys and find the cutest alley cat to do a celebratory dance with as a doctor, because that’s exactly what I’m about to do with my old pal Mr. Business and it’s going to be so incredibly sweet.