With the conclusion of the holiday season and the new year upon us, I’ve been engaged in my usual end-of-year musings. There’s one thing, in particular, I’ve been giving great thought to. The past year has been a little tumultuous for me in many regards (especially academic.) I’d be lying if I told you I got through it all just by sheer willpower. On the contrary, I had plenty of help.
“From who?” Well, my classmates, for one. If trying to succeed at ICO was like a hockey game, I’d consider my fellow students my line-mates; they tie up any opposition for me as I crash the net, and I do the same for them. They’re out on the ice with me and face many of the same challenges I do, fostering a profound sense of camaraderie. However, there is another group that is equally important: the fans cheering from the stands and at home.
When you think of who’s cheering you on outside of ICO, who comes to mind? Parents? Siblings? Friends? Former coaches and teachers? Many of these people have contributed in some way to your success in optometry school and in life, whether that be emotional, intellectual, financial, etc. Unlike some hockey fans, though, they are far from fair-weather. For me, my biggest supporters have been with me since day one.
For instance, my best friend and I met at our neighborhood bus stop in first grade and grew up together. We mutually trekked through the trials of childhood and adolescence until we graduated high school. However, our paths diverged quite a bit from there. I went to college while he went directly into the blue-collar workforce. His job required a considerable amount of traveling and was a major time commitment for him. Despite the massive amount of responsibility he took on, he still made time for me all throughout my college years. Our friendship has been a huge source of encouragement in getting me through whatever challenges life throws at me. No matter where we end up in life, we’re always going to have each other’s backs.
My parents are another group notable from day one. Neither of them went to college, but they don’t let that stop them from contributing to my success. I’ll admit, it gets frustrating at times when I try explaining a situation to them and they have no idea what to say. However, it’s equally comforting to know they’re willing to listen to the daily vicissitudes of a doctoral student. If I’m having a bad day, just knowing I can call whenever I want to talk to them gives me solace. Their love for me runs deep, and the feeling is mutual.
Just as how I noted the bond between my fellow ICO students is unique, so is the one between myself and my clan of cohorts back home. What makes this bond especially poignant for me is the capacity for empathy exhibited by my family and friends. They support me unwaveringly. When I look back on the year and just my life in general, I think of all the amazing human beings who have gotten me through it. Bonds based on this type of wholehearted devotion are something I’ve learned to never take for granted.
Optometry school and life, in general, can get very difficult; you deserve to surround yourself with people who are going to help you get through it. I, personally, can’t imagine where I’d be without all the tremendous individuals in my life guiding me. So, in short, don’t waste your time with the band-wagoners; those aren’t the type of fans who will still chant your name when things get rough. Recognize the real ones and hang on to them, because no matter where you end up in life, they’ll hang on to you.