The Irony of Being a Student

Cole Sterling

True difficulty lies not
           In school, or staying involved,
           Or scoring well on tests.
Time and dedication are mandatory.
Everyone can distinguish black from white,
And everyone can sculpt something from clay.
           But being able to paint the empty spaces with color,
           Fill the cracks with laughter and passion and spirit–
           Such an art is easily forgotten,
           Or easily ignored.
Rhodopsin alone could suffice for reading resumes,
So why waste the time developing a genuine heart?

True difficulty lies
           In learning when to slow down–
           When to surrender yourself to life’s passions and wonders,
           When to paint or skydive or even just breathe.
           When to enjoy whatever you have at this very moment.
True difficulty lies
           In knowing how to balance the scales–
           How to reach the success found in monochromatic TVs
           Without chewed-up cuticles and tightened shoulders,
           And a cast-iron soul.
Indeed, true difficulty lies
           In trusting yourself.
           Trusting that becoming the person you’ve always dreamed of being
           Is far more important than reaching the position you’ve always dreamed of having.
           Trusting that the path toward finding yourself
           Will always lead you to the right destination.

Because once we’re past this preliminary stage–
This necessary but disparate sculpting of mere clay,
           Only by understanding the cracks and shades within ourselves
           Will we be able to paint this world
           And sculpt the lives of people here.


About the poet:

Cole Sterling is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences at Auburn University with hopes of going to medical school in 2013. “In my spare time I enjoy playing piano, going to concerts and watching SEC football. I began writing poetry in seventh grade to better understand myself and the world around me. Today writing helps me to slow down, stay grounded and remember who I am.” 

About the poem:

“I wrote this poem at 2:00 am after a long night of studying for the MCAT. I remember feeling so emotionally drained at the time that it was actually more difficult for me to relax and enjoy myself than to sit down and continue studying. This experience reminded me of how often this must happen to students at all levels, and how dangerously easy it can become to live life as a machine rather than a human being.”

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro

About the Poem

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Comments

1 thought on “The Irony of Being a Student”

  1. As a premed student, it is sometimes difficult to remind yourself of this. Thank you for the reminder and the inspiration.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Poems

Popular Tags
addiction alcohol addiction allergies anatomy lab bedside manner bigotry breast cancer cancer caregiver stories caregiving chemotherapy child abuse childbirth children chronic illness complementary therapies connecting with patients coping with death coping with illness coping with patient death cross-cultural health care cultural competence death and dying death of a parent dementia depression diabetes disability doctor-patient communication doctor-patient relationship doctor as patient doctor poems doctor stories drug addiction end of life end of life decision making faith family medicine forgiveness frustration with healthcare system genetic disorders geriatrics getting the news healing health care policy health care politics health insurance HIV humor ill parent immigration inequality international health labor and delivery leukemia medical errors medical student stories medical training medicine memorable patients mental health mental health professional stories mental illness military medicine miracles miscarriage mistakes neuroscience nurse poems nurse stories ob/gyn palliative care parent stories Parkinson's disease patient-centered care patient poems patient stories pediatrics personal remembrance physician assistant stories poem poems/poetry pregnancy PTSD race realizing human mortality resident stories role modeling self care social determinants of health social issues social worker stories spirituality stress and burnout suicide surgery thanksgiving the bad doctor visuals war veteran
Scroll to Top