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I had my first medical school science exam this morning, and I can say the following with utmost sincerity: I had a phenomenal weekend.

For 60 hours, I locked myself in my apartment and delved into the vast oceans of cell biology, pharmacology, muscle physiology, metabolism, and molecular genetics. When I was not in the nebulous depths of slumber, I lay on my bed with more than 200 pages of notes from the past six weeks, and proceeded to memorize everything. I read my notes aloud, rewrote them on sheets of scrap paper rescued from Hersheypark, studied from self-made electronic flashcards, and even sang some biochemical pathways to commit them to memory. (For example, the CAT (carnitine acyltransferase) shuttle in the mitochondria somehow transformed into “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” from Disney’s The Aristocats… or more accurately, “Everybody Needs to Have a CAT.”)

CAT aristocats carnitine version 2

On both Saturday and Sunday, by the time I finally put the binders to rest and settled down for dinner at midnight, I was quite literally burning from a stress-induced fever. Even as I write this almost nine hours after the end of my exam, I still feel a little delirious.

And yet, I savored every moment of my weekend.

I don’t think I’ve memorized any significant quantity of material for the past two years; my senior year of college was primarily spent in the research lab, and my gap year schedule was partitioned between the lab, the clinic, and an assortment of airports. I’ve now come to realize that I actually missed this adrenaline rush – the uncomfortable wave of warmth pulsing through my ears, the distinct sensation of intertwining diagrams seeping into my skull, even the lingering sweet taste at the back of my throat from stress-induced fasting hyperglycemia. (As I write this, I feel an inexplicable urge to map out the effects of norepinephrine and epinephrine on adrenergic receptors in the sympathetic, fight-or-flight branch of the autonomic nervous system.)

If nothing else, I’ve confirmed one thing: if I’m excited about nonstop studying, I must truly be in the right profession.

UPDATE: I previously forgot to mention that my laptop computer, which I needed to take the secure electronic exam, decided to shut down and go through a Windows Update at exactly the wrong time. Nonetheless, as you may guess, I managed to stay calm and finished my exam two minutes ahead of schedule (on a laptop loaned to me by the proctor.) Phew – all’s well, that ends well!

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