Steady Slope – End of Week 4 – 9th December 2013

And that’s the end of Month 1.

I received the last of my results for the exams I just wrote. While I was relieved that I’d passed everything, I could not help but feel disappointed:

Anatomy                     61%
Biochemistry              71%
Genetics                     56%
Physiology                  72%

Which gives an average of 65%. Compared with the average of 58% of the exams of last semester (where I failed a course), it’s a definitive improvement. However, a big part of me still regrets not having done better. I was and am fully capable of achieving a final result in excess of 90% for each course; I should never settle for sub-standard outcomes.

Nevertheless, it’s important to keep an accurate perspective. Last semester, I was emotionally and mentally crippled. My first experience of crushing heartbreak occurred a few days before a major anatomy test and a month before the final exams. Fortunately, I scraped by on all but one of my examinations. I got lucky by failing a selective course whereby the conveners would rather have you write again during the break than fail you outright in an attempt to keep what little students they have in the course. This meant that there was effectively no disruption of the three-year program: I could proceed as normal. This set the stage for the second semester.

In July, before the start of the latter academic half of the year, I drew up excel spreadsheets and fastidiously gathered information to plan my assault on the work ahead. I was going to plan out each and every section and detail, getting everything done in time so that a week before each assessment I already knew the work better than the lecturer teaching it to me. Of course, reality proved otherwise.

Less than two weeks in, I broke down. I was sitting in my flat and found my old phone with nudes of my ex and videos of us having sex. The battery was swollen and barely working, but I got it started up with the charger. I knew that I shouldn’t be dwelling on the past, much less viewing veritable pornography of my ex, but I felt so defeated that I wanted to feel the comfort and solace of my old relationship in whatever abstract way I could. After looking through the images of her, of us, I called her.

That was the second time I’d called her after the break-up, and she was decidedly less friendly that time around. I read somewhere that women are only cruel when they become aggravated and annoyed by a man’s lack of a spine. I was a sniveling, groveling wreck on the phone, pouring out my heart, telling her that the pain wasn’t going away no matter how many girls I was hooking up with. And so, for the first time ever, I heard anger in her voice. She said she didn’t want to talk to me, that she didn’t need to talk to me, and that she was way too stressed with schoolwork and medical school applications to deal with me too.

The next day, around noon, I sat in a cubicle in the study center, lacerating the inside of my forearm with the blunt end of ruler. The haunting reminders of my ex, the loneliness on campus and the work that never seemed to get done proved to be an overwhelming combination. The plans I had made to achieve academically had fallen apart, since I had nowhere near the amount of mental focus, discipline and endurance required to undertake a study routine that would yield a 90%+ result. I sat there, contemplating one suicidal thought after another, completely disillusioned and sitting at rock-bottom. A friend of mine that I’d had a fling with called me and talked me through it, managing to get me back on my feet.

And so I pressed on.

The rest of the semester had its highs and lows. I learned a great deal about the nature of work, the importance of doing things instead of sitting on my ass thinking about them. I was shown what waited for me if I didn’t pull my shit together: a life of mediocrity and regret, the pain of inevitable grief and disappointment temporarily offset by repeated procrastination.  On the other hand, on those days when I aced a test or completed a full days work, I felt untouchable. Though I felt constantly assaulted from every angle, getting things right made it all go away. The strongest shield is the heaviest to raise.

However, genuine change takes place gradually over time, not all at once. While I botched the preparation for two of the four courses I took this semester, I prepared well for one (physiology) and okay for another (anatomy). Though I wish I’d done better, this still constitutes an upward trajectory. If I stay the course, then the coming months and my third and final year at this university will herald my transition from a compulsive, troubled intellectual to an optimally functioning, driven academic.

The next two months, for the time being, pose a new challenge. I need to get my foot in the door at the university where I wish to apply for the Honors program, and it’s going to take a mountain of work to get there. This involves proofreading approximately 120 late-19th century academic texts in neurology and psychoanalysis, as well as assisting with the processing of neuroimaging. In addition to that, I have the anatomy rewrite sometime in January.

And, on top of all of the academics, I need to get my gym routine and guitar practice started as well.

On the plus side, I have more freedom surrounding how I spend my days since there are no classes or other compulsory events. I also have the experience of the last few months behind me, which have given me insight about the how and why of sedulous academic industry.

I should have some interesting news next week.


5 thoughts on “Steady Slope – End of Week 4 – 9th December 2013

  1. That’s quite a courseload. What are you studying?

    I like the fact that your ex-girlfriend is in medical school. I respect people who seek high quality mates. No wonder this break-up has been so hard for you. It’s really rare to find an equal. But they are out there. As you continue to date more and more women, you begin to realize how wonderful it is to get to know someone of quality. I have a bunch of exes who are just graduating medical school right now. In fact, I just saw one of my exes on the front page of Mt. Sinai who was awarded for her pioneering research.

    Meanwhile, I’ve still to take my MCAT. Something my peers and exes have taken 5 years ago!

    It’s good to write. Not many people do. Sometimes it may feel like it is self-indulgent masturbation, but it is productive. It is not only therapeutic to write for the rough times but empowering to write for the good times. It’s important to record the highs and lows because it’s too easy to forget about the possibility of happiness when you are deep in the pit of depression, just like it’s too easy to become careless when things are good and then freak out when they get bad again.

    “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same.”

    • I’m studying what is effectively the Medical Rejects Course – the BSc that med applicants take until they can re-apply at the end of each year. It’s basically medicine without the medicine, if that makes sense. I changed my mind about applying to medical school at the end of my first year, since I’d done first aid work and deciding that the clinical aspect i.e. working with people wasn’t for me. I’d be much better suited in the lab. Right now I’m focused on neuroscience/neuropsychology graduate programs.

      Unfortunately, my ex isn’t as that great. She’s not dumb, which kind of makes her ‘smart by exclusion’. She can understand high-school level scientific concepts with a certain amount of effort, and she’s certainly capable of graduating medical school with a good deal of effort, but she’s not the intellectual kinda gal I’m looking for. When we were together, each time I wanted to talk about something deep or philosophical, she’d just go quiet. She could rarely, if ever, build on my jokes. We had completely different tastes in music. The only reason I stuck with her was because of the amazing sex and the fact that she was nice and unquestioningly loyal, a bond that I had never had with anyone before. She was also religious, so there’s that.

      The writing definitely does help; it gives a cathartic sense of relief. Sometimes I read old entries and marvel at how far I’ve come, other times I’m scared shitless that I’m still sitting with the same core problems that I’ve had for years. There’s a lot of perspective to be gained.

      What’d you do in-between high-school and deciding to pursue medicine? Pre-med? I’m admittedly unfamiliar with the American collegiate program schemes.

      • She was religious? Uh oh. That’s a deal-breaker for me. But you may think differently. I also don’t like it when girls are unquestioningly loyal. I get a kick out of being challenged, even if it makes you want to cut yourself sometimes.

        I tend to not go for girls in the sciences. It’s just too ordinary to me because it’s what I specialize in. I have many wide interests and like to be cultured by artsy girls. I love living in Brooklyn because of all of the artsy hipster girls.

        Yeah, there are a few aspects of my life that I have been working to fix for years but relapse every single time. It is infuriating. But I agree, perspective is gained and it helps immensely.

        It’s different in the US. After HS, you go to a college/university where you earn either your 2-year Associate’s degree or 4-year Bachelor’s degree, and both in some cases.

        I was on the pre-med track in college, which meant I had to take the pre-med prerequisites (year of orgo, year of chem, year of physics, year of bio, and semester of calculus), along with upper level science courses for my biochem bachelor’s degree. You need a gpa minimum of about a 3.65 along with an MCAT score above 30 to be competitive for American medical schools Of course, in addition to this, you should have research experience at a lab, volunteer hours, and whatever other extracurricular shows them that you are passionate about something somehow related to medicine.

        So after the 4-yr. Bachelor’s is obtained, the applicant can apply to medical schools (granted he is competitive in the aforementioned ways), and once accepted, he spends 2 years learning the basic sciences (like your courseload), and the last two doing hospital rotations which is basically on-the-job training. after this 4 yr medical school program, you have earned an MD degree.

        then you have to take and pass your board exams to be board certified and licensed to practice medicine in whichever state you are in.

        There are a few schools that do direct 7-year med programs. These are schools that combine the first 4 yrs of a bachelor’s education with the 4 yrs of med school. You apply after HS, so this is the only person who is absolutely certain he is in med school. The programs are ridiculously competitive, and honestly not for me.

        I loved my college experience. Met tons of great people. Many hot girls. Great parties. Great classes in everything that interested me: machiavelli, nietzsche, meditation, art history, writing, etc. I took so many classes and came in with so many AP’s (college level courses you could take in HS which can be applied for college credit) that I was a senior by the beginning of Junior year. Too bad it took me a summer later than normal to graduate because I had been putting off foreign language all that time.

        ps. how can i reach you privately on this thing. i think there was an email i had for you, but it doesn’t seem to be working. i want to ask you a few things, particularly about your study methods.

    • Fuckin’ thing won’t let me reply to your latest comment.

      Shit, should have arranged that paragraph differently: religion is a huge dealbreaker. I don’t have anything against it, but it’s historically been a bad sign when a girl still believes in something I outgrew at about age 9.

      And I agree with you with regards to the artsy girls, they tend to be more ‘fun’, ain’t bad in bed either.

      Shoot me an e-mail here:

  2. Will you post more about studying techniques? I found your post about Anki to be rather interesting and I want to know if there are other means through which I could improve my grades.

    I can see some parallels between you and me. I have also been trying to surmount a few problems for the past few years, but with little success. The past two months have been slightly more successful though, with my achievements being greater than they have been for the last few years. One thing that helped me during this process was the idea of baby steps. When I started studying, I made a commitment to study for 1 minute a day. Anything more was fine, but all I needed to do was to study for 1 minute a day. I continued this habit and the process of studying was more naturally integrated into my life.

    Controlling my lust also facilitated my endeavours at progress. You may find that it is beneficial to your life as well.

    Thanks for posting so far. I have enjoyed reading your posts.

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