A slight gust of warm wind gently tickles my face. I raise my head from the beach chair to leisurely observe my toes peeking out from a pair of flip-flops. The bright sun hovers high overhead in a cloudless, clear blue sky, indicating around noontime. I watch hypnotically as the waves wash against the large rock formations protruding from the sand. Tiny particles of limestone and coral bear witness to thousands of years of continuous erosion. White foam caps dancing on the turquoise water add the finishing touches to this idyllic setting. As I lift up my ice tea to quench my thirst from the heat, I let out a long sigh. Together with my breath it draws out all of the stress and anxiety that has filled my body during the past year. I pinch my eyes shut, willing the dreaded alarm clock to remain silent and not to intrude into this blissful dream only to pull me back into the real-world of 8 am classes and eight-hour clinic days. As the seconds tick by, however, the only noise filling my ears is the soft song of the ever-changing ocean edge.
It’s funny how quickly the human spirit forgets. When I think back, I am convinced that this year wasn’t so grueling after all, that we learned a lot and that it was challenging in a constructive way. The remaining, positive feeling must be our way of rebooting and making room for more information. This time, however, instead of filling our mind with endless facts about eye diseases and clinical trials stats, it will be used for clinical-reasoning skills, patient care protocols and forming connections among all the knowledge stored within our memory banks.
This summer will serve as a training session, a crash-course in Clinic 101. Sure we’ve gotten patient experience throughout second year, but that was just an overture. Now we are 3rd-years, the top dogs on campus. We are traversing the deep end, actively treading water so as to not drown in clinic three days a week. No longer will there be third-years ready to throw us a life-line when we are weighed down by complex patient histories and mystifying diagnoses. Now we are the captains of our own ship as we head out into the vast ocean, confident in our knowledge. but terrified at the same time as we prepare for anything that Mother Nature throws our way.
Before I embark on this journey, however, I will be spending some time exploring new places on land. From trips to Newport, RI, to attending the AOSA meeting in Philadelphia to tackling a new research project, I plan to make the most of my six-week hiatus from the optometry world. Suddenly, the gurgling sounds emanating from my bottle signal the end of my ice tea. I reach into the cooler, eager to deposit the empty cup of yesterday. As I contently lift out a sparkling new one, the glistening water droplets adorning its sides seem to ring in a wonderful new beginning.