“Me is doctor?!? Right meow?” This was the exact thought that coursed through my doctor brain right before I performed my first exam on a real patient. This is the eloquent refined kind of thinking that the public has come to expect from our nation’s hard working and talented health care providers. I realize that I am hamming it up hardcore right now, but that’s because I was a nervous wreck for my first exam and I couldn’t hide it. The moment my examination began, it felt as if my brain hopped out of my skull, put on a cute little bowler hat, grabbed a briefcase and said, “You’re on your own for the next two hours!” as it sped out of the examination room, leaving my body to fend for itself in front of a phoropter and an unfortunate patient. Who was I to think that I could be in charge of someone else’s health? What kind of nerve I must have to place myself as the liaison between a human and their vision! Just as doubt tried to pin me down with its absurdly thick forearms, something incredible happened. All the training and preparation from the last year and half took control and I completed my exam, impressing the patient and myself. The transition from day 1 of optometry school to patient number 1 was so gradual that I didn’t even realize the changes that have happened within me. Sure I’m still kind of a nervous quirk, but I am also a reasonably confident and knowledgeable practitioner who is only going to become more competent and confident over the next 2.5 years. I was so elated after my successful exam that I rushed home to tell Mr. Business, my favorite alley cat, all about my triumph. However, he was nowhere to be found. In fact, he has been giving me the cold shoulder all winter. Sigh. It’s okay, I know he’s still around somewhere because I see his paw prints throughout my yard on the regular whenever there is a dusting of snow, as if to say, “I’m still here, but I’m deliberately avoiding you.” Cat drama. Without my confidant around, I instead decided to relax by working on my meme skills.
After my first successful patient exam, I was sure that self-confidence would permeate throughout every other task this semester. Eh, not so much. Confidence is hard to come by sometimes, especially as we learn more advanced skills. No one is immune to a bad week and the fear of failure is hard to shake, especially when you want to become the best practitioner you can possibly be. It also doesn’t help that nervous energy is dangerously contagious and the class of 2020’s collective fear of anything less than perfection can sometimes feed on itself creating a tsunami of stress (It’s possible that I contribute 90% of our class’ anxiety … but who’s counting?). This is why it is essential to find a coping mechanism to remain sane in the face of the numerous challenges school presents. Whether it be counseling, deep breathing, cat cuddling, mustard organizing, or whatever, it’s important not to let the stress win. I was recently watching the Winter Olympics and I noticed that all of the ice skaters paced back and forth before their routines as if they converted their nervous energy into kinetic energy in an effort to dissipate their nerves. So naturally, being the impressionable person that I am, I have taken up pacing or flailing all my limbs before stressful events in an effort to literally shake all the nerves from my body. Surprisingly, it has proven to be effective. Unfortunately, it looks as though I am having a seizure before every proficiency or test. Oh well, whatever works. Lastly, it is important to reward a job well done in an effort to maintain morale. This is why I planned a relaxing week at Disney World for a mental retreat during my last spring break ever! Unfortunately, my desire to unwind for a week ended up being even more stressful than my normal routine at school. The artificial ‘paradise’ Disney created was filled with constant stress. There were large crowds, obnoxious wait times, the need to schedule EVERYTHING months in advance for the opportunity to do ANYTHING, the high prices, the disgruntled strangers, Daisy Duck’s aggressive libido … it was all too much. By the end of my spring break, I was clamoring to trade out my vacation stress for my much more manageable everyday school stress. So I guess in that regard, spring break was a success. Now I’m ready to go back to school and continue my journey to becoming an optometrist.