Mama M: I Can’t Retain Everything

Columnist

Dear Mama M,

I am a student in the School of Medicine, in the middle of my first year now. I love school, I love studying and learning, and I love being here. But I get so insecure when I realize that I can’t really retain everything I am supposed to be reading.

I have fallen so behind in my studying, and I am so nervous about our exams. We are supposed to learn so much about things I have never heard of (I was not a science major in college). I don’t know if I can cut it. How am I ever going to become a good doctor if I can’t remember all this important material? Please help.

Sincerely, Can’t Cut It

Dear Can’t Cut It,

Welcome to my world. I had to keep rereading your question because I kept forgetting what you were worrying about.  Seriously, I am pretty sure you don’t need to retain “everything.” We learn by repetition, and, sugar plum, they are gonna repeat the really important stuff over and over and over and over again.

And did I mention over again?

The thing about medical school is that it feels like everything that is said is important to memorize. It is not possible to remember everything, honey. Someone (I forgot who) once said, “Real learning is what remains after everything that has been memorized has been forgotten.”

The kind of doctor you become will not be determined by the amount of minutiae that you can retain, but by your ability to retain what matters.

And, I am repeating myself, but what really matters will be repeated repeatedly. Don’t worry, sugar. You will become a good doctor, sugar, because you will remember what is important.

You know what I love about you?  You love school! You love studying. You love learning. You love being in school. You are awesome. Really, I love you.  I love you because I want my doctor to love learning above all else. The rest you can look up on your iPhone.

I can feel your joy from over here, and that is friggin’ refreshing. I love joy ...  it is infectious.

Insecurity is a fact of life, my sweet joyful one. You can cut it. You are cutting it. And what is more, you are enjoying it. That is hard to come by.

A practical exercise for you: Go to the movies. It will help relax your mind, and when your mind is relaxed, it will retain what you need to remember.

Sincerely,

Mama M