I saw your result on the notice board and noticed that it didn’t turn out the way you expected. You are probably not in the mood to speak so I thought I could share my thoughts via this letter and help out in my own little way.
On a hot Wednesday afternoon in the Medicine Out-Patient Clinic, I checked my phone to see that my Medical Board Part II Examination result had been released and I had failed Pharmacology. In that moment, the entire world came to a stop with the only audible noise being my heartbeat and the blood rushing through my ears. My world came to a stop. In hindsight, I can’t help but wonder how the Sun kept on shining, the earth kept on revolving round the Sun and people kept working while my entire universe seemed to come crashing down.
Oblivious to all questions, I walked out of the Clinic in a haze while looking downwards and blinking back the tears rapidly. I remember a day in secondary school where my Introductory Technology teacher beat me black and blue and I just had to walk back to my seat, holding the pain in while fighting tears so that my crush won’t see. Yeah, that kind of pain.
I had failed. You see, this statement bespeaks something obviously a part of life. But in medical school, after bagging all the A1s in WASSCE and completing 100 Level with a First Class cumulative grade point average, this does not seem to apply. Being surrounded by people that are successful in more ways than one, “banging” seems to be an exception rather than a norm. However, it is not so clear-cut.
In my estimate, at least one-quarter of a class in the average public university would have an issue (either re-sit or repeat) in an MB exam and despite this seemingly large number, there is no resource online/offline that tells you what to do or how to cope when you fail an MB.
In the following days, I was really depressed. No will to eat, drink, laugh, socialise or go to school. There was seemingly no point to these activities. After all, a public figure like me with all the popularity and “impact” in extracurriculars had fallen from “grace to grass” with this failure! What even made it worse were the “courtesy” visits from all my friends and the accompanying “get-well-soon” messages. During these, I had to smile and even pretend to have moved on with my life. But inside, I was broken. Due to all my commitments, I still had to keep making public appearances, when in reality, I just wanted to remain curled in my bed and bemoan my failure. The first mistake I probably made was not allowing myself grieve properly. I just wanted to keep up appearances that I am a “big girl” who was not affected by this blow.
At this point, I have to give credit to whom it is due and acknowledge the role Chidinma and Aminat played in my life. Sometimes, the best support is given, not by talking, but just being there in the dark times. They recognised my need to just heal by myself, but at the same time stayed with me to ensure I wasn’t permanently scarred. Of course, I still had relapses from time to time, with dark thoughts coming through in those moments. Eventually, time as it does all wounds, healed mine.
Another thing that helped me was an acknowledgement of the fact that as bad as I had it, some people had it worse. From people who had prior self-esteem issues to people who were battling their second failure in MB, I took it upon myself to help them out in any way I could. Thus, we were able to shore each other up in weak times. Sometimes, healing involves giving out a part of yourself.
Of course, it was not easy combining my Senior medicine postings with pharmacology classes again. This is where discipline and time-management came in. I had to cut down on many things I really loved doing to ensure I was not behind in any of the two spheres but it is possible. Identify anything that happened (both within and outside your control) that caused your failure and ruthlessly remove them.
People’s inevitable tactlessness would definitely shine through from time to time. Ignore those that always come with the “What happened?” question (If I knew it or could control it, would I be here? *eyeroll*). Ignore the lecturers that would insinuate your dumbness because you had to retake some courses. Surround yourself with serious-minded colleagues/tutorials geared towards your passing.
From time to time, these thoughts would creep out while reading or just chilling: “I am a failure.” “What did I do wrong?” “Am I no longer intelligent?” You cannot let them weigh you down or become your dominant thoughts. Try not to be alone or listen to those sad self-pity songs that just make it look like life is not worth it (You know, Passenger and co.)
Tomorrow might be bad. The management might implement another rule tomorrow that would cause “clinical failure” and the like. I mean, it is medical school—anything could cause your failure. You might trip, stumble, fall, but, most importantly, please keep moving.
Of course, I passed. You can too.