It occurred to me during a lazy, yet productive, day at the Toronto Reference Library, among stacks of deliciously old-smelling books – this ain’t so bad. Although I’ve taken to whining about it in previous posts, summer studying doesn’t really have to be that terrible. Here are 7 ways to find beauty in sacrificing some our best months of the year for the sake of education:
1) The advantage of having an excuse to escape the wall of concrete jungle heat and humidity and enter into a more civilized, man-made climate. I shoulder the guilty pleasure of seeking out an air conditioned place, when I know I should be soaking up all the heat and vitamin D that I can during these months. Today, however, I’m obliged to study in crisp, cool comfort. I release the need to feel guilty.
2) The pleasure in nestling in among insulating and comfortable stacks of books. The knowledge of thousands of years, the combined genius of the human race, all leaving their mark on our time, and I am a product of it. Right now, I’m in the middle of it. A library is a place of refuge from the violence of our society. It’s a jaccuzzi of enlightenment that we can all soak in, just by being in its proximity. It’s almost as if the words on the millions of pages can become volatile, entering the air, then my lungs and finally my brain, adding to my knowledge and making me wiser.
3) The enjoyment of a satisfying moment with a fruit and nut bar and a coffee, bought with a Starbucks gift card, which was given as a mid-summer bonus to all the teachers at the school I work at. The warm, bitter taste, the friendly jolt of energy and the buzz of caffeinated well-being give me a delicious pick-me-up. There is nothing better than the need to study as the perfect excuse for indulging in a bit of mid-day caffeination except, perhaps, knowing I didn’t have to pay for it.
4) The fresh airiness of the pretty sitting room on the 3rd floor, which is full of climbing plants and cute wicker chairs, each one occupied by a silent summer scholar. I take mini breaks by gazing mindlessly out the floor-to-ceiling window, observing people whose lives are currently in action, who don’t have the privilege of slowing down: people in their apartment pools, shoppers and the construction workers across the street, making measured progress, which will slowly transform the city.
5) The delight in noticing at least two other people with USMLE Step 1 textbooks. They’re probably medical students. One of them takes the seat right across from where I’m sitting. Amazingly enough she’s also on the same chapter: gastrointestinal pathology. Although we never speak, we share a wordless moment, appreciating the fact that, on this leg of the journey, we’re both accompanied. We don’t need to exchange words but we can walk together on this road for a while. We tackle the information, sharing brain waves that are transmitted telepathically. We’re in slightly different fields of study, but in this moment we have the same goal and we’re working towards it in this shared space. It’s silent solidarity at its finest. Neither of us is alone in the struggle. It’s nice to know.
6) The reward in the form of a break in which I stand up, stretch and meander down to Book Ends, the used bookstore on the first floor. I take time to peruse the categories, and discover buried treasure, for a dollar. The next time I come back here, I’m bringing a wallet full of loonies and I’m bringing home new friends.
7) The flood of relief as I finally reach the last page of the GI section and triumphantly close my book. I can head for the subway to relax at home, have dinner and play with the dog (or prepare tomorrow’s class). My daily obligations are completed and the sense of accomplishment feels nice. I’m that much closer to the end. It’s like finishing a tough 5 km run, uphill, and knowing that I’m that much closer to running that marathon.
To all the naturopathic medical students writing NPLEX on Tuesday, ALL THE BEST! We’re almost there!