My Last Day

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Actually, I remember my last day much better than I remember my wedding day….

My most vivid memory is of driving down the highway at about 9AM, after having slept in. My cap and gown were in the back seat. The sky was a deep, dark blue with these fabulous white, fluffy clouds just floating away up there. The sunshine warmed my face and left arm. Birds were singing. The wind was whipping through my hair. (The windows were rolled down because my car did not have air conditioning.) 

I was struck at that moment with an incredible sense of freedom and peace and joy. 

I had made it.

Everyone else was stuck at that very moment in the artificial, fluorescent climate controlled daylight in the hospitals on the last days of their various rotations. 

Not me. 

I had taken the day off. 

It was the only vacation time I allowed myself those whole four years. My last day of medical school. If I was not in class or in the hospital/clinics, I was working as a public school janitor, scraping chewing gum off of desks to earn a bit of extra cash to offset at least some of the staggering medical school debt I was accruing. 

I turned up “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins and pushed the speedometer over the posted speed limit just to emphasize the point. 

You can’t touch me anymore!

Little did I know, I would soon enter the dark abyss known as residency training and almost lose myself.

I have searched for that feeling, the moment of bliss that I found that day every day since. I have come very close to it, truth be told and I will let you in on a little secret to finding it: France. Being in France always helps….

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94 thoughts on “My Last Day

    • It helps a lot of things. Unless you are trying to ride the subway system and you have not been there in a few years. That was stressful. Until I found a fresh baguette. Then everything was good again. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

  1. France… one of my very most favourite places on earth! Not necessarily Paris, though it is lovely, but out in the rurals. Love it… Like the midwest, but with older buildings. And language. And beamed ceilings, and warm, yellow light over tables and gorgeous, simple food… See? All that, and I didn’t even go to med school… hahaha! πŸ™‚ Just kidding Doc… lovely post. And what an achievement! You deserved to enjoy a Danger Zone moment – however fleeting! Mother Hen

    Liked by 4 people

  2. That is a pretty good last day, stacked full of symbolisms.
    I could imagine yours felt a lot more liberating than my own. Life as an independent student in the US never fails to conjure images of horror in the hearts of Europeans.

    As of last night, I stayed in, ate a pizza, and did nothing at all. Today I wondered through the city with a stupid looking grin on my face, eating a pulled pork sandwich whilst slurping a latte. It sure feels great to be done with med school…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent question Victo. First of all that moment in time is a part of you forever. We think of time as being linear and often speak of leaving experiences “behind” or something being “over”. I suspect the truth is that it is more like the rings of a tree – everything that has happened is inside us, a part of our psyche – there forever and influencing all the time that comes after and builds on it. Few people like to think of it that way because it means you have to be able to forgive yourself for those things that are a part of you that you find repulsive. Not an easy task but nonetheless the only way through to the freedom of experiencing life in its fullness.

    The second point relates to what I call life “sheer”. Google gives synonyms for sheer as: “utter, complete, absolute, total, pure, downright, out-and-out, arrant, thorough, thoroughgoing, patent, veritable, unmitigated, plain” Much as some predators have eyesight that detects movement vs non-movement, so too we are wired to detect and appreciate differences between scenarios. So, a high stress situation followed quickly by a very low stress situation produces what I call a “sheer” between the two levels and it is the size of that sheer that determines emotions – This works positive , as in the situation you described, and also negative, for instance if someone suddenly and unexpectedly dies. It is the rate of change of the emotional state that produces the ecstasy or grief – or all the different other emotions.. I wrote a post about this sheer as i once encountered it: http://cordeliasmomstill.com/2014/08/14/blue-lightning-a-very-special-guest-post/ .

    As I progress through life, i realize that I carry my emotional baggage with me more and more and it never quite goes away – so there are always some things that are bothering me at any given time. This seems to be a part of life – it gets more complex , not simpler, unless I deliberately uncomplicate it and that is often painful. I have done that upon occasion and it produces a breathtaking freedom. I guess what i am saying is that as we gain experience we see the world less and less as distinct, self-contained actions or situations and more as a continuum. This reduces the sheer and hence the intensity of the emotions. There are a number if ways to address this – for instance I suspect this is why some people seek out extreme sports like mountain climbing or skydiving . For me, understanding when and why I feel this sense of expansiveness that you described is the first step to finding it again.

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    • This is a great response and I remember this post of yours over at Cordelia’s Mom’s place… also great. And you are exactly right. The freedom in sharp contrast to the intense stress and pressure is what made it almost euphoric. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • That show has helped me through many tough times, so that I chose it as the first CD to get through my moving-to-LA drive. There was such hope and wonder in pulling away to Lazlo Bane. I think that’s 6why it always seems to be that soundtrack, ’cause of how it takes me back to that moment.

        (I actually started watching the show after I worked on it as an extra. Most folks treated extras like cattle, but these guys were so great I had to see the show. Love at first sight!)

        Liked by 1 person

      • I worked a few times but really show up in “My T.C.W.” I’m behind Kelso in a hallway scene and JD in his cafeteria “rin-tin-tin” spiel. I didn’t track most the stuff I was on, but Buffy and Scrubs were special.

        Oh, oh, oh! And I just realized it gets even better! A worked with a bunch of the folks from Doozer, so asked me if I remembered anyone. I remembered the props guy who told me a BS story about Rowdy and the 2nd 2nd AD. The latter was not only someone A recognized, but worked with happily, and one of the three who signed his guild paperwork! Meeting up with him a decade later and saying “thank you” was a time traveling treat.

        Um. I have digressed, hard. I will stop talking now.

        (I just love Scrubs!)

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am a big fan myself! If I had the opportunity to be an extra, you wouldn’t be able to get me to hush up about it, either. Gonna go look up that episode now. πŸ™‚

        Like

  4. Victo, agree…agree…being in Italy or Greece will help too. Don’t just stop at
    France. I bet you don’t get away from doctoring as much as you “need to.” Go and get that Danger Zone feeling back! Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad to learn I wasn’t the only one scraping gum off surfaces during med school. In my case, the surfaces were tables, because I cleaned a Wendy’s restaurant every night with my hubs. Every evening about 8 pm dread would set in, because I knew I needed to go clean the restaurant. Seven days a week. Ugh.

    But like you, I needed the extra cash. Few med students have jobs. How I longed to be one of them…

    (And then we get to residency where outside jobs aren’t an option, and we realize just how much free time in med school we had!)

    Liked by 4 people

  6. you’ll probably think I’m nuts but I got that same rush when we were settting roof trusses in a boarder-line Blizzard, 20 feet in the air, toasty warm in my carharts, working with a great bunch of guys and feeling the adrenaline flow through my body. nothing like some great music with a beat to take it to the next level as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Awesome DM. I once worked in a warehouse and through a miscalculation by the big bosses we ended up having to do four days work in two days leading into a warehouse move. It was the same work by the same people and it became a totally well-oiled machine as we doubled production when we were already busy. What a rush and the error rate was lower than normal. I know exactly what you mean.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve gotten that feeling by doing yard work in the summer, getting really sweaty, then going swimming in the ocean, especially if the water is clear and the waves are just big enough to be playful.

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  8. You had it once, so you’ll recognize it the next time it happens. ☺ For me, that feeling comes by the ocean, any ocean. I bought one of those white noise machines that simulates the sound of ocean waves ..not quite the same !

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  9. RETIREMENT….I was so happy to see people say this. I cannot wait. We go this Friday to find out if the reality is four years or less than two. Either way, I hope I live long enough to enjoy all the fruits of my labors….”cause I don’t plan on leaving nothing.”
    As much as I am not a world traveler, getting away is crucial. For me it is to the River, which is in a month.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well, I’ve never been to heaven
    But I’ve been to Oklahoma
    Oh, they tell me I was born there
    But I really don’t remember

    In Oklahoma, not Arizona
    What does it matter?

    Oh, I’ve never been to SΜΆpΜΆaΜΆiΜΆnΜΆ France
    But I kinda like the music
    Say the ladies are insane there
    And they sure know how to use it

    πŸ™‚

    (Ireland, wind buffeting you nearly off the Cliffs of Moher…)

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Can’t say about France since I’ve never been there. My last day was just a tired relief. A gruelling month of exams over and a few months respite. Just down a few, sit with friends and then sleep…….. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  12. By a funny coincidence, shortly after reading this post, I left a test at Georgetown Univ. Medical center. I saw a woman who appeared to be carrying a graduation robe — obviously a professor. Then I saw a bunch of “limos” that were actually busses. And then, as I waited at the stoplight, a stream of new med school grads came filing by. All I could do was smile thinking of this post.

    Oh, and I was also smiling because I actually got to live in France …

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Okay, this may sound hokey, but three sun salutations a morning does it for me. Years ago I took a yoga class and the instruction said softly, shyly, that practicing three sun salutations first thing every day changed her life. I’ve tried to start with that routine every morning. I’m not as habitual about it as I’d like to be, but amazingly, those sun poses bring the body and mind a bit of blissful peace that can carry you through the rest of the day. Really!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post! But I’d question a little bit the “always” in the advice about being in France…In my version it would read “often”. Had my life’s worst allergy attack in Paris one beautiful spring, the whole miserable weekend in bed with fever in my central Paris teeny tiny hotel room. Had to leave for work in Morocco early on Monday morning – cured after one hour on the plane πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I know that rare feeling. For me it was the day after the bar exam, sitting on the beach with a friend, drinking beer at noon. Nearby someone was playing Led Zeppelin on their boom box. It occurred to me that I didn’t have a care in the world. For the first time in many years, there were no deadlines, no looming exams. It was a great feeling. Sadly, it was gone within days, when I entered the “real world” and quickly discovered a whole new set of things to worry about.

    I’ve enjoyed some peaceful times in France. One of my favorite spots was at the Baie des TrΓ©passΓ©s. Beautiful, quiet, relaxing. But for me Spain was the best. The Spanish have such a great attitude toward life. But those days of European summer vacations were more than 10 years ago, when zillions of frequent flyer miles were one of the benefits of my job and smart phones hadn’t yet been invented, so it was still actually possible to escape from the office for a while.

    May you have many more of those “last day” feelings Doc. Many more.

    Liked by 1 person

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