It was hardly surprising that I had to learn a great deal while preparing for Step 1. What was a complete surprise to me was what my dedicated study period so far has taught me about myself, my parents and most of all my decision to try to rise to their example.
As we make our way through the path of medical education first as pre-meds and then as medical students it becomes all too easy to view each assessment simply on its own terms. I admit at the start of this dedicated period this was my view of Step 1; simply yet another important test. Having spent the past few weeks studying at home however, this view has become untenable. Whether through stories of their own patients or loving but unyielding admonishment of particularly egregious errors regarding critical concepts, my parents have forced me to look beyond this test to a lifetime of patients who will rely on me for decades yet to come. At the same time as I take these first from the pre-clinical to the clinical years, I have also begun to see a shift in our interactions as the unconditional love they have always shown me begins to blend with the role of mentor. Earlier on this transition proved a little difficult for me as I felt their demands were excessive and arbitrary. Now as I face the final few weeks before Step 1, I am simply grateful for their exertions and concerns on my behalf.
Beyond our direct relationship, Step studying has also allowed me a better view of the impact on my family my decision to pursue medicine. While I was always cognizant of the enormous financial investment my education represents I had never fully realized the emotional weight incumbent on watching a person you love walk a difficult road you know all too well and the possibility they may fall short. While other parents can offer support blind to the true cost of failure, that is impossible for mine and seeing the strain this places upon them has been among the most difficult aspects of the last few weeks. My sister has not escaped the consequences of my decision either as despite all her success academically and on the college application trail her accomplishments are somewhat overshadowed by my parents’ focus on ensuring I am exerting the proper effort to see this critical time and task through. None of this is to say that our home is not filled with joy and warmth and mutual support, merely that what I thought was an individual choice is very much not.
Ultimately, I will have to face Step 1 surrounded by strangers and armed with whatever knowledge I have built these past few weeks. I now realize I will not face it alone, in fact, nothing in my medical school career up to this point has been truly done alone as the knowledge, love, inspiration, worry, and conviction of those I love and who love me most are inextricable intermeshed with the entirety of my experience and self.