does the young acorn
ever question whether it
will become a tree?
– The Stethoscopist
Yesterday morning, I ran some errands in preparation for the Fourth of July. I needed a beach towel to sit on while watching fireworks that night, but since I had a coupon to Kohl’s, I decided to pick up some kitchen items at the same time. Afterwards, I ran to another store to buy some granola bars, as they are an all-important nutritional group in the Food Pyramid of Busy Students.
Having secured the necessary granola bars, I started my car and began backing out of my parking space. It can be a small adventure backing out in parking lots—it sometimes seems that I am crossing a stretch of wilderness dotted with shifting landmarks. Watching for cars and pedestrians while trying not to brush the vehicles on either side, I eased out, my head twisted over my right shoulder.
Suddenly, a car appeared in my left field of vision. It looked so close that I had to immediately press down on the brakes, jolting to a stop. And in that instant…
…the driver honked at me.
You probably thought I was going to say that we had a fender-bender. Thankfully, it wasn’t that dramatic, but the fact of the matter is that I was honked at and it didn’t feel fair. After all, I was moving slowly, so the oncoming driver should’ve had time to see me pulling out before the car reached me. He or she could’ve simply pressed their own brakes and waited just a moment, rather than honking and driving on past me. It just seemed unnecessary.
As I finished navigating the parking lot, I tried to let the incident become the proverbial water on a duck’s back. I felt a slight twinge of hurt, though, and nothing I told myself could seem to make that little prickle of emotion go away.
Then, the thoughts began.
You shouldn’t let a honking car horn get to you.
You’re too sensitive.
How can you be a medical student?
How on earth are you going to survive in the hospital if you can’t even take a honking horn?
You’re going to be an embarrassment to yourself.
I’ve heard them all before. They are the self-doubts that dog my steps at times, even though I’m officially a med student. Even though I now have a name badge and a white coat, I still face them.
I’m sharing this because I hope that it will reach someone—some aspiring pre-med or fellow medical student—who also has doubts and thinks that he or she is the only one out there who does. Perhaps you think that everyone else is perfectly confident and has it together.
I know, because I sometimes feel that way myself. But I also know that I’m not defined by my doubts. They are challenges to overcome, and although they make me feel vulnerable at times, I will be stronger for facing them.
The acorn’s roots push against the solid ground, and with time and patience, the roots break through. The earth—which at one time must have seemed an insurmountable barrier to the tender shoot—becomes an anchor for it as it matures into a majestic tree.
Perhaps you are an acorn right now, facing the earth and needing encouragement for the journey ahead. Or perhaps you are a tree, having already overcome many challenges and able to share encouragement with others. I think we all have elements of each. Regardless of where you are in your journey, though, please know this: you’re not alone.