The first is always the worst. Not meaning that it’s the hardest or that you do the most poorly, but in terms of nerves and anxiousness, the first practical has the potential to kill ya. No one knows what to expect, and everyone thinks they don’t know what they’re doing. We are measly first years, four years away from being officially recognized as optometrists, and here we are being tested on a procedure we will be doing for the duration of our career. Crazy.
For me, nerves are thrown out the window a little over 24 hours before a test. By then, I know what I know, and I don’t know what I don’t know, so I’ve learned to stop worrying and accept what is to come. You’ll often hear me dish out “IT IS WHAT IS IT” multiple times on the day before an exam. So when we had our first pre-clinic lab practical yesterday, I wasn’t very nervous. During the actual practical, many things were muscle memory, and though I’m pretty sure I blacked out during the exam, I remember feeling comforted afterwards — not because I did well (dude,I forgot to wash my hands. The first thing you always do is wash you hands in front of the patient) but because things were becoming second nature to me. WOW, THAT IS LEARNING!!! Isn’t it amazing? Something that had seemed so foreign a few weeks ago was like engrained in my brain. Learning is cool. And yeah I fucked up a few things, made some incorrect measurements, but it’s over now. On to the next one.
I feel so differently about tests in grad school than I did about tests in undergrad. And that’s a good thing. I try to get high test scores, but I don’t really care about my final grade (I try to do well, and whether or not I do well is supplementary). I know that whatever I do not know now I will know in the future. I may learn it tomorrow or in two years, but I’ll get it eventually. My wrong answers aren’t mistakes, they’re gaps in knowledge that I’ll fill in with time. With this perspective, I continue on my opto school journey with the chill vibes that I strive to maintain during my entire time here, which may end up being an even greater challenge than just getting through school itself.
TIPS FOR THE FIRST PRACTICAL:
- Practice after hours, but only as long as you need. Sure, you can never get enough practice, but once you feel like you’ve got a handle on the procedures and your timing is good, take a break dude. You know it. Trust yourself.
- Start practicing at the beginning of the semester AKA pay attention during pre-clinic. The more you learn in class, the less you’ll have to figure out outside of class.
- Learn how to be ambidextrous and force yourself to use your left hand (or opposite hand) when practicing.
- Observe your classmates. You’ll learn so much by seeing how other people do things. Ask them questions and offer your advice, if you have any.
- Wash your fucking hands before doing anything! DUH.