il faut d'abord durerIt seems fitting as I begin my final rotation of medical school. Wisely, I have chosen Medical Humanities in an attempt to reflect upon everything. Has anything changed? No. The pain is always there, especially with my son. Besides, that was after only two tragedies, not three. And yet, something has changed. The depth of my understanding, perhaps. I have endured. At least until today, and I hope for each day after, as well. In a short time, I will have those two little letters after my name. But nothing magically changes on that day when I have earned the degree. I am the same person before and after. But speak to me of residency. Forged in the crucible of soul crushing pain, an alchemical element begins to form. The Greek element Fire. Kindling. Passion. Change. Destruction and Creation. The wisdom of the Gods from whom Prometheus stole and gave to mankind. The tiniest of candles, no bigger than the thin ones that sit atop a birthday cake, a flame burns ever so meekly.
Hemingway was known to sign personal letters with the French phrase il faut d'abord durer. Idiomatically, it translates as "first, to endure". It's been my motto ever since my brother died. And it's a hard axiom for me. I always enjoyed excelling. Being above average was fun for me. In football, I played to win. And you don't get into med school by being middle of the road. So it's a hard pill to swallow to set my sights at this point on merely surviving. It feels like I'm settling. But with the trifecta of med school, death, and my dad's condition.....I remind myself that it's a lofty and noble goal at this point. If I can just get through all of this intact, that's no small victory. So entering into the next round of exams, woefully unprepared, I remind myself, "first, to endure." Go easy on myself and let go of the notion of honors and be content to endure.
December 1, 2014
il faut d'abord durer
Three years ago to the day, I wrote these words: