I am sitting in a cozy nook of my new home, preparing for my two stressful and upcoming back-to-back exams: the rheumatology board exam, followed by the MSK U.S. certification exam two weeks later. My armchair vantage point allows uninterrupted views of the carpenter ants’ pathway in the adjacent kitchen, on the wall above the cabinets. With persistent accuracy, they adhere to the same route with occasional random aberration and exploration of various other areas of the kitchen. If you are not familiar with these little creatures’ habits, I learned, during the pest control man’s two visits, that they are not seeking to share our food, but are instead looking for water sources. They are large and annoying, but pose little threat to human health. They may, however, destroy the wood in a house and so must be eradicated.
Finally, separated from the hectic trials and tribulations of fellowship, over the past few weeks I had some time to think. Observation of my ant companions’ repetitive motions provided me with some solemn reflection about nature’s dependable constants in contrast to the recent twists and turns of my life. At times I’ve been angry that my decisions upended my life balance and steered me into a realm of seemingly endless uncertainty. In that respect, I envied the ants (at least before the exterminator came to visit), with their lives of predictable rhythm. Like many medical school graduates, fellows or residents, I find myself yet again at a conflicting crossroads of my career where, although I have a job and duly executed employment contract, it feels like a few screws were shaken loose after graduation. I often identify with scenes from The Graduate in which Dustin Hoffman appears carefree, basking in the sun while floating on a raft in his parents’ pool, but his sunglasses and outward serenity mask quite a bit of internal turmoil, mixed feelings and doubt.
Observation of my ant companions’ repetitive motions provided me with some solemn reflection about nature’s dependable constants in contrast to the recent twists & turns of my life.
Not Yet an Attending
Here, in my comfortable armchair, as a freshly minted, board-eligible graduate, I am pleased with my recent accomplishments, but simultaneously apprehensive of the certainty of once again being the insecure new kid on the block.
By all accounts, I should have been well prepared for this post-graduation period. I attended the ACR Annual Meeting sessions in which well-respected colleagues gave well-intentioned, sound advice about future career choices and navigating the netherworld between graduation and employment. Due to administrative delays, my time in medical professional limbo unexpectedly was extended from a planned 60 days (relax, study, get licenses) to more than 90 (Where is my paycheck? Why is COBRA insurance so expensive? Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?).