After moving to Des Moines, my first attempt to understand Josh's life in medical school was demonstrated by joining the Des Moines University Student Advocacy Association (SAA). The SAA is a social group comprised of about 30 women (and 5 unlucky and embarrassed men) who are the spouses/significant others of DMU medical students. The club holds a social meeting every month to talk about the life of a DMU Student Advocate (i.e. the forgotten other half) and also holds numerous sub-groups one can sign up for such as book club, knitting, cooking, sports, etc. All clubs (except for the "Men's Club" which is comprised of drinking beer, eating pizza, and playing poker... my idea of fun) have an organized schedule and meet on a weekly/monthly basis. I joined the book club - and I'm reading some great books!
At my first SAA meeting, the club invited a DMU staff member - a mental health specialist to discuss with us what life is really like for our spouse/significant other in medical school. This is how she opened the discussion:
"Hello everyone. Don't tell me... I already know. Let me guess - your spouse/significant other was the smartest student in high school, top of his class in undergrad, most popular at home, and considered to be Gd's gift to the world by his/her parents"
(sounds very familiar in my circumstance...)
"Well... now that same person is in a class of 200 students who were all the smartest in his/her class and who all think they are Gd's gift to the world. All of a sudden, your honey may not be the best or the smartest or the sharpest. All of a sudden, your sweetie is struggling to pass tests and remain in the "upper half" of his class. And guess what... this is a huge blow to his/her ego."
(she couldn't be more right....)
And that's when she said it. The lady said that life in medical school/studying in medical school is like trying to drink water from an overflowing fire hydrant. It's almost impossible. There is so much material. There is so much water. And it's all pouring out so fast. Our mouths are only so big...
It's true. Here's the real scoop from a medical student's wife: Josh is learning more information at one time than he ever did in his entire life. There isn't enough time in the day (or night... since they are pretty much synonymous at this point) to learn, study, and review all the material he is taught. He'll learn an entire biochemistry curriculum (a year's worth in undergrad) in about 3 months. He'll have a "suggested reading list" that is comprised of about 25 1,000 page books on a specific subject. He's expected to know the entire human anatomy before he meets his new best friend for the first time... a once 86-year-old-woman cadaver.
And then the testing starts - and that's when the mental health specialist was referring to the student's ego. Remember always striving for the A? Remember never getting below an 89%? Now, Josh just prays to Gd that he passes his exams. 70% is a very special number in our house. A 70% equals a pass. Of course Josh says, he doesn't walk into a test saying he wants a 70 - of course he wants a 100! But if he gets above a 70... he's probably luckier than about half the students in his class.
Oh that's another thing... the specialist said that when your husband stresses and becomes anxious saying "I really think I'm going to fail this test" or "I really think I'm going to fail this course" -- he's not lying.
She brought up a good point. The students think we (the advocates) don't understand. And I can understand why they feel that way. They think that we think they can do anything. They think that we think "oh, you always say you won't do well - but you always do!! You'll be fine" It's not true... I don't understand what he's going through. All I can do is tell him that he can do the best he can - and I have confidence that he'll get through it.
Bottom line is - Josh is currently drinking water out of a fire hydrant - or, he's attempting to. But you want to know something? Sometimes in my life I also feel that I'm drinking water out of an overflowing hydrant. Here I am, mother of an 18 month old - about to have #2 (Gd willing), living in Des Moines for Heaven's sake!!! with no friends, no family, juggling all aspects of the house, working 24 hours a week for my company in DC and teaching Hebrew School 6 hours a week...
I know what it's like to have so much thrown at you and be expected to perform. I don't have a choice - I have to perform, I have to pass the test - because I am responsible for other people besides myself.
I do want to go on record for saying that Josh and I are so lucky to be Frum and understand the importance of family and Yiddishkeit. It really gives us both the proper perspective on what's important in life. Sure, Josh may be drinking the overflowing water - but he's also making time for his family (as best as he can), going to minyan (because believe me, they need him here!) and learning every night over the phone.
I'm glad I went to that SAA meeting. I'm glad I got a perspective of how difficult and demanding medical school is for Josh. This will be one of the hardest times he goes through. I hope that he knows - and everyone knows that sometimes we all feel like we're drinking water out of a fire hydrant. Our mouths are only so big and our capabilities are only so much - there's only so much we can handle.
Even me - the Frum wife of a medical student in Iowa - is desperately trying to drink the water!