Short White Coats and Goodbyes

It’s all over.  103 of my classmates and I graduated on Saturday.  Four years and a lot of blood and sweat (some of it ours) went into this project that culminated two days ago.  Now we are Doctors.

The ending of medical school has been a gradual process, starting many months ago such that when things were officially concluded on Saturday, there was no great sense of completion.  A lot of final good-byes had already been said by then, although at the time I don’t think many of us knew that those partings were to be our last.  Medical school has ended more with a peep than with a bang, with people spending their last days here with their families and their closest friends, rather than as together with the class as a whole.

I have always been a hopeless sentimentalist.  I am terrible at goodbyes and partings.  The endings of middle school, high school and even college were difficult for me as I faced the prospect of never seeing many of these faces again.  That is not to say that some have cropped up unexpectedly from time to time, but on the whole those final goodbyes always weigh heavily in my heart.

For many of us, these four years have been the hardest of our young lives.  We are leaving them behind for something else, and I think that a lot of us are ready to put them in the rear-view mirror.  A lot of challenges have been faced.  Some of them were surmounted, and some ran us over roughshod.  For me anyway, I look back at medical school as a mixed bag of successes, failures, and ambiguous endings.

I think now at the end a lot of us are happy to get those years behind us, and hurriedly consign them to the dusty annals of memory, ready to move forward to the next adventure that awaits us in residency.  Some of us have burned our short white coats, a symbol of the feelings some of us hold towards those days as medicals students.  But I have never been one to destroy pictures of past romances, and for the same reasons neither am I one who will burn his short white coat.

That coat and I have been through so much together.  It has carried my food, my books, my notes.  It has traveled up and down the hallways of hospitals, watched from the hooks in the trauma bay and the OR, borne witness to a lot of my triumphs and failures.  There are still marker stains from the pen I used to communicate with an intubated patient in the SICU.  Underneath that short white coat, I have grown into the person I am today.  For better or for worse.

It seems wrong to me to destroy that legacy.  I want to keep the coat with me, to remind me of how much I have been through.  Whether I like it or not, these four years are part of my life and it does no use to try and forsake it.  And in the same way, these people who walked across the stage on Saturday are perhaps not my best friends, but we have been through something together that we do not share with anyone else.  I imagine something like war buddies, we have had this shared experience which is very hard to describe to an outsider.  We may not be best friends, but we have been companions in this journey.  Walking this same road together for four years, you cannot help but form some bonds with your fellow travelers.

But this road has been hard, and I think many are happy to see it end.  Ready to move on to the next journey.  But for me the hopeless sentimentalist, I want to savor it a little longer.  I want to remember these people and these events that have shaped me.  I cannot say that these times have been an unbroken string of positive experiences.  But they have been intense times.  And they have been genuine.  I cherish these times and these people for that.  These times have changed me, and these people have both contributed to that change, as well as borne witness to it.  To walk away from that with little or no fanfare does not do the occasion justice.

I am going to miss you all.  I do not know when we might meet again, if ever.  But in these four years that we shared together, I want you all to know that you have changed me.  For better or for worse, I will carry these changes for the rest of my life.  And so I acknowledge you, Class of 2011, for being a part of not just the last four years, but of the rest of my life.

“It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

– “For Good,” Wicked.

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One Response to “Short White Coats and Goodbyes”

  1. postbaccalaureate Says:

    congratulations! i hope you keep blogging 😀

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