As I push my way through a sea of winter jackets, I finally reach the railing. Panting for breath, I peer out onto the long strip of pavement that denotes the path for the 118th Boston Marathon. I look to my right in anticipation of the racers cresting the hill, but my gaze is only met by a blazing sun overhead. Suddenly an apparition appears at the top, as though a mirage flickering in the dry desert. To ensure that my eyes are not deceiving me, I shield my face with my hand and blink a few times. The image comes into focus, flexing strong, defined muscles and swinging long arms. Suddenly, the ground beneath me begins to vibrate as a stampede of legs materializes behind the first racer. The racers’ bodies are warmed up, their breathing at a steady rhythm. With each mile completed, fatigue builds as their muscles and lungs ache for oxygen, struggling to push on. The famous Boston Citgo Sign looms in the distance, marking the 1-mile point to the finish line. I shift my gaze to the notice hanging overhead, announcing in large, orange letters: “Mile 13…halfway mark.”
As the end of second year approaches, we, too, are runners at the halfway point of the marathon known as optometry school. Having passed all our proficiencies and finally settled into a comfortable routine in clinic, we prepare to tackle the next 13 miles, as we steadily approach the OD certificate hovering oh so tantalizingly close. However, in spite of focusing on the race, at every turn we find friends on the sidelines cheering us on. Still learning from the grades above us, and becoming mentors to the class below, there exists a sense of comfort being in the middle. At this juncture we have gained enough experience to be confident in our path, but know that there remains much to be learned and accomplished in order to complete the race.
This week NECO hosted the second annual Visionaries conference showcasing the third-year business-plan competition, research posters and first-year public health projects. This time I presented a poster on my ongoing research project entitled: “Atropine Confers More Protection Against Myopia Progression with Luminance Flicker.” It was exciting to finally show the NECO community what has been brewing behind the closed doors of the 5th floor. During my time off, I decided to check out the first-years’ public health posters. I was impressed by the excellent quality of the various unique, well-researched topics. From how oral contraceptives can be a risk factor for glaucoma, to self-made apps that force people to take breaks from their computer work, each concept was more creative than the next. In the late afternoon, I attended the third-years’ business plan presentations. Listening to their innovative strategies, whether first-born eye kits for new mothers (great idea!), or high-end designer frame displays, the third-years surely filled the shoes of future (successful) optometrists.
Saturday brought the long-anticipated 84th Annual NECO Eye Ball. On this day, our fairy godmother appeared at our doorstep to transform our raggedy old sneakers and worn scrubs into glass slippers and stunning ball gowns, complete with a magical Boston Harbor water taxi carriage. As I entered the cocktail reception, I stopped in my tracks, mesmerized by the sight of elegant and poised soon-to-be doctors. Who were these strangers and what had they done with my classmates? In the main ballroom a DJ transported us back in time to our 90s childhood memories filled with Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. As we all sang along in unison, standing in a circle, first- years to my left and third-year to my right, distinctions faded and friendships grew stronger. At the stroke of midnight, we quickly boarded the water taxi before it turned back into a pumpkin. Across the bay in the distance, hundreds of city lights twinkled in the night sky. Caught up in the moment, I uttered a sigh of love for our city, of relief and tiredness, but mostly, a sigh of pure happiness and joy.
With this thought, I leave you, my faithful readers, as a second-year blogger and look forward to meeting you again as a newly-minted OD3. Stay well and see you soon!