On a bulletin board at home, my parents have a picture of me and my neighbors on the first day of first grade. We all waited on the corner by a pile of boulders we called “the rocks.” I still remember that feeling: getting up in the morning, putting on my backpack, and knowing I was about to go somewhere but not knowing what that place will look like or when I’ll have to be where. But there was a confidence that if you just waited, somehow, a series of events would unfold that would arrange themselves into something I could call school.
The bus came, picked us up, and five years later, we graduated from elementary school. On the last day, we all received a T shirt. We did it. We hung tight, followed instructions, served our time-outs for fights on the playground, and were prepared to move on to the next stage.
As I waited for the bus on the first day of middle school, the anxiety of the unknown still simmered, but at the risk of falling into a Rumsfeldian philosophical sinkhole, the path ahead was a known unknown. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew what it was like to come out on the other side.
Today, I had my last day of medical school. There will be no more school buses. Graduating from my MD/PhD program in year 24 of my educational training, I feel like a spring compressed with as much potential energy as it can contain without collapsing into a ball of metal. In residency, I’ll learn more than I ever have before, but it is also an inflection point, where I approach giving back as much as I take in, and I’m ready to be useful to the world.