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  • Writer's pictureLFaits

Arrested Development: Pretending to be an Adult and not Succeeding

When you see license plates from Oregon, Texas, and British Columbia on Indiana Avenue on a hot August day, it can only mean one thing: it’s Move-In Day at ICO.

Now that I am far removed from moving in, I can look back on the beginnings of ICO with fondness, instead of what it actually was.

(insert “Jaws” music)

The first few weeks of ICO are fun and games until someone pokes an eye out. Luckily, we have all chosen a profession where eyes falling out are child’s play. A second year can suction that bad boy back into your orbit and continue studying for Pharm.

The start of a new season is always met with an elusive combination of excitement, anticipation and a touch of fear. At least for me. I was the kid in elementary school who laid out what I was going to wear for the first day of school every September. I am now the adult who looks forward to the excuse to buy new pens because I am an elitist stationary snob and if it’s not a fine-tipped RSVP pen, it might as well be a crayon.

siva watermelon

Full disclosure: Alex Golden and I won that contest. I don’t care what anyone says.

Fourth year is a delicate transition between being a student and being a doctor. I think the majority of us are ready to immerse ourselves into the clinical aspects of optometry and forget the minute little details that bogged us down in the first three years. But I’m coming to realize you are never done learning. Every detail matters, even though we sometimes wish it didn’t. Being a doctor, or even an almost-doctor, requires constant education, constant growth, and an insatiable thirst to improve ourselves in order to improve the lives of our patients.

Since we all voluntarily chose eight years of formal education beyond high school, we all fit into the nerd category. Sorry, it’s true. But don’t fret my little pumpkins, much like the side ponytail and high-waisted acid wash short shorts, being a nerd is on its way back to being cool.

I had my IEI externship site first during summer quarter, carefully chosen so that I could witness my friends in third year cry about Retina while I laughed in their faces. It was nice being at school first, because I was comfortable with the logistics. I knew where the suites were, how NextGen works, and that Darnita and Nina–the amazing customer service associates in Advanced Care–would bring jellybeans for me to eat between patients.

However, being comfortable with the logistics and having bursts of a sugar rush is only half the battle. You still have to graduate from seeing two patients a shift to 98. And more importantly, you have to have six days worth of clinic attire, which, let’s be real, is quite the adjustment. I’ve never appreciated my jeans and flip-flops more than when I wasn’t allowed to wear them.


The leaves start to change color.

The air is crisp and fresh.

The dulcet tones of the ambulance going up and down Michigan Avenue become background music.

The first years move in and you can spot them in the crowd because their faces are still alight with joy. They sign up for every club under the sun because they were lured by free pizza. They go to class. They smile. The second years are refreshed from a summer off and excited to see each other again. The third years made it through the fire, and are the now the big guys on campus. The fourth years are manic, shoving granola bars down their mouths as they sprint from ER to Pediatrics, BIO wrapped around their wrist like a $2,000 bracelet.

Not being at ICO is weird. I know the majority of my class did their first externship site away and will do their IEI quarter in the subsequent nine months. But I waited until August to cut the ICO umbilical cord. I love my new site and the doctors I work with are incredible. I learn something new everyday, and I’m challenged clinically every moment. My Spanish is going from non-existent to ¡Lo siento, no hablo espanol!

But rolling out of bed and running into ICO was a luxury I didn’t appreciate until I now have to commute. Chicago, I love you. But I hate driving on your roads. Those potholes on Cermak feel like a rollercoaster. I hate your traffic, your loosely defined pedestrian crosswalks, your disregard for lanes and speed limits. I feel like I love you enough to be honest, Chicago. Don’t take it personally, but it’s you. Not me.

(It’s probably me.)

The other transition is pretending to be an adult. Adults wake up early without complaining. Adults pack their lunch. Adults own things like irons and ironing boards. Adults use things like irons, and ironing boards. Adults don’t nap at will, eat frozen pizza for dinner, or use plastic cutlery instead of washing dishes. Adults don’t secretly look at the time and hope the last patient on Friday afternoon doesn’t show up. Adults do their MediTrek on time. Adulthood is but a myth to me–as I have yet to enjoy waking up to early without immediately thinking about when I get to go back to bed. And I’ll admit it shamelessly–my affection for frozen pizza knows no bounds.

Being a student is a luxury. It’s being able to call the shots, because you dictate the amount of time and energy you put into it. I love being a student, even though I hate taking tests (or writing exams!). It’s a stunted adolescence that has allowed us to be twenty-something and look like an adult but think like a teenager. Graduate students are in arrested development–full-fledged cerebral people who are still getting stoked for $1 Bud Lites and free swag.

I’ll let you know how it turns out–maybe one day I’ll do the dishes, read a book, and go to bed by 10 p.m. Maybe one day a patient will say “Thank you, doctor!” and my first instinct won’t be to reply, “No way, sister. I’m a student.” But in the event that I remain in my perpetual state of confusion, I’ll go pop in that frozen pizza and meet you back in the lounge to watch the Kardashians.

P.S. Is Bud Lite even worth that dollar? I’m starting to think it’s not.


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