Saturday, February 10, 2018

My NEET experience

I could start off by mentioning how daunting it is to study for this particular exam, but I don’t think I need to. Nearly everyone, from their own experience or that of others has known and feared the NEET preparation. 19 subjects, 10 months, and in my case, the year of internship. Weekdays were spent running around the wards, weekends, trying to stay awake in 10-12 hour long classes. This was essentially 2017 for me.

It took me a while to get used to the amount of work and studying, both of which were never ending. The first week was like being thrown headfirst into a deep pool without knowing how to swim! Several coin sized haematomas later, I finally learnt the basics of what an intern was supposed to do.

Then came the first class of the year. If having 500 students in the batch wasn’t intimidating enough, the teacher more than made up for it. And so began my journey of fear, hurtling towards the NEET with no idea how to brake. Things became clearer in retrospect, as they should, for that is what retrospection is for. I wonder if I have had a calmer, even happier year if not for the constant weekly badgering. That being said, I knew I would have never stood a chance if not for the highly concise and valuable course material given to us by our classes.

In the weeks that followed, I managed to juggle both my duties with difficulty, not quite succeeding at doing justice to either. Nevertheless, I was happy, probably because the gravity of the situation hadn’t quite caught up with me.

‘There’s always a next year’, I thought to myself every time the dark thoughts about the exam loomed nearby.

Now, this blissful ignorance was beneficial in some ways, because it allowed me to adapt to and deal with the various perks of my job. The daunting working hours of the heavier departments, being constantly exposed to blood and bodily fluids and being in a frightful sense of awareness about the the hazards they carried, being addressed as ‘sister’ while my male colleagues had the privilege of being ‘doctor saab’ and the eventual satisfaction that came with staring a patient down till they squirmed and called me ‘doctor’, to name a few.

Reality caught up with me sometime around July, and brought with it a portion of self esteem issues and demotivation, much to my dismay. Try as I might, I just couldn’t rid myself of the notion that I would falter and fail. The previous mantra of ‘there’s always a next year’ didn’t seem comforting anymore, not when I saw my batchmates grinding it out everyday in the library. I tried to buck up my pace but kept zoning out, distracted by the very thing I was supposed to focus on. This mental inertia lasted for almost 2 months, relapsing and remitting, for lack of better words.

It spilled over to aspects of my life other than studying. I began to lose interest in work. It didn’t help that I was posted in Surgery, which is one of the more trying postings with shifts running upto 30 hours on emergency days. Imagine being an intern in surgery and not wanting to learn suturing. That is how demotivated I had become and that is how worthless I felt.

In the midst of this, there was a marathon 3 day session from our classes. Maybe it was the 42 hours worth of lectures that finally pushed me off the edge, but I ended up having one of the worst breakdowns of my life on the last day of the marathon session.

Thankfully, crying it out is something that has always made me feel better and this time was no exception. “Where there’s tears, there’s hope.” the Twelfth Doctor had said, and I truly realised the significance of that simple but powerful statement that day.

After that, I made a vow to pull up my socks and put in every effort towards my goal. Regret is a terrible thing, and nothing hurts more than knowing one could have done better. I made a list of the subjects I was not good at, and allotted more hours to them. I signed up for a series of mock tests which helped me keep track of my progress. I split the remainder of my time into revision sessions of 15-20 days, as per the advice of my extremely helpful seniors. When I was actively doing all the things, it was easier to put the crippling self doubt to the back of my mind, and assure myself that I was doing everything I possibly could.

Did I falter every now and then? Of course I did. My mock test scores had reached a plateau I couldn’t seem to overcome. There were times when I couldn’t remember the simplest of things that would lead to gross errors, at times simply because I did not read the question properly. This was more distressing than it should have been, mainly because I was functioning on such low levels of self esteem, and tended to be very harsh with myself for making errors.

With time, I realised this attitude was getting me nowhere. However, changing something that is so deeply ingrained in yourself is easier said than done. Nevertheless, I tried my best to build up my confidence by working on my weaker subjects, cutting myself some slack, and when things got difficult, confiding in my parents and friends and basking in their endless love and support. I also pampered myself with my favourite Murakami novels and endless mugs of tea. It didn’t make the stress go away, but it certainly made it more bearable.

Before I knew it, my time was up and it was time for the exam. I went in, promising myself that no matter what happened, I would not be drawn into the pit of self loathing I had escaped from. Surprisingly, I didn’t need to be. The weeks after the exam passed in a blur and then the results arrived, when I was on a train to Gwalior. My mother’s excited phone call rang through the sleeping compartment at 5am and I could barely stop smiling when I heard that I’d sailed through, and with a good score to boot!

I could hear the relief and pure joy in my mother’s voice, and then the tears fell, for what it had cost to get here. Back then it was almost impossible to believe, but in the end, it was worth it. Every extra hour, every missed question, every mediocre mock test, every stepping stone that had eventually paved the way for this.

If I had a few words of advice for the next batch of students preparing for the NEET, it’d be this. Surround yourself with people who love and support. Keep encouraging yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes. Don’t ever withhold the things you love as a twisted form of positive reinforcement. It never works and ends up being a punishment for something you haven’t even done wrong. Be nice to yourself. You’re doing your best. Have faith and never stop believing in what you can achieve!

- Written by Aditi

Aditi decided to write the emotional aspect of NEET which very few students address. Hope it is helpful and relatable to those beginning the journey :)

1 comment:

  1. Hey Aditi!
    You write so well! Looking forward to read from you :)

    ReplyDelete

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