In medical school, I started over… suddenly, I was a kindergartener again relearning colours, space, and letters. Here, in medical school, I learned beginnings and endings have a lot in common, you lose yourself in them.
In the hospital, i relearned colours. I taught myself what each scrub color meant so I Knew who I could ask questions. I learned the hard way that in sterile operating rooms, blue meant i should stay away lest i get yelled at. It was there, i was most aware of how i took up space. I was careful that my awkward body would not touch the blue. Medical school was also a space where I was even more aware of my own color. Yet again, I was Black in predominantly white spaces. I am uncomfortably reminded that students who color outside the lines are seen as difficult, there was no space for them. So I used the bland crayons and traced the patterns that were set out for me. And I swallowed my words as I was constantly reminded that I was a stranger to this space, a visitor who should feel honored that I was even allowed in. So I colored in the lines and tried to take as little space as possible. And I hated myself for it.
Here in the hospital, I re-learned about space. However, this time I had to learn that taking up space meant being visible enough to look interested but not too visible that I was in the way. I learned that space is funny when you struggle with anxiety because even in the biggest rooms, the largest hospitals, I often felt the walls closing in around me. As I was asked a question I didnt’ know, suddenly i felt that the room was tiny and I did not fit.
Here in the hospital, I learned a different alphabet. COPD, PROM, PPROM, CHF, BM. My life became a jumble of consonants as I learned a different language. And this one was harder for me. I wasn’t the charming little girl who said “z’ in the british way instead of Z in the american way; I was a girl who stumbled through presentations and thought BM meant baby momma instead of bowel movements. I wasn’t a gifted student reading at higher grade levels, I was struggling to keep up. And here in medical school, I became familiar not only with new letters, but also new words, here I became uncomfortably familiar with the word “imposter”.
The colors, the spaces, and the letters all whispered to me that you don’t belong here, this is a fluke and everyone can see through you. So like all kindergarteners who struggle, all I wanted to do was go home and just hug my mom. And then another set of letters changed my life all over again, COVID-19 and again the world kept spinning while I was doing my best to keep up.
I am 26 years old and I often feel as if each year I’m starting from scratch. I am transported back in time to what I thought were rudimentary lessons- colours, space, and letters and I am reminded that the seemingly simple things are the big things. So I am working to colour outside the lines, take up more space, and use letters to create my own words. But most of all I am working to give myself the grace we give kindergarteners that are figuring it out, that mistakes are part of the growing pains. And how could I not give myself that grace? Because if there’s one lesson that life will not stop teaching me is that we never stop growing.