It was Friday night and the sun was slouching. The house was quietly holding its breathe as both of my roommates and I were intensely concentrating on squeezing every last bit of studying we could before sundown, which brings not only the Sabbath, but also a glorious day of guiltless enjoyment and relaxation. Guiltless because we don’t have to study; it is our day of rest and time off from work. If I took time off from studying any other day of the week, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it because there would be a nagging feeling in my stomach telling me I should be studying. I’ve never found it easy to study on Friday afternoons with the Sabbath being just hours away, but with the finals of next week looming over me easily provided the focus and motivation to work through an obscenely tall stack of notes, nearly making me wish for a few more hours of light…….nearly.
The tension broke with the setting of the sun, and a nearly verbal figurative sigh of relief went up as the three of us each emerged from our rooms, almost simultaneously. We piled in a car and took the scenic route to a friend’s house for dinner, where we welcomed the Sabbath in with our stomachs over-stuffed from haystacks.
The Sabbath is something I look forward to every week, like a goal, or a prize. It’s like a couple of weeks ago, when I signed up to go to SACHS, a community health clinic in San Bernardino where medical students are able to go every first and third Thursday to practice and learn the skills we will need to be a successful, compassionate physician. I missed out on four hours of prime study-time by going to it, but it is a sacrifice I’d make readily again. It’s an experience that puts all of our studying efforts into context; it’s what we’re working towards. As a first year, I don’t have too many skills yet. Actually, I have none. The night before, my second-year roommate taught me how to properly take someone’s blood pressure, a skill I eagerly used at the clinic with quivering hands and an active sympathetic nervous system kicked into “flight” mode. I’ve spent countless hours observing physicians before, but never have ever actually been able to touch a patient, which is why this first time was such a clammy-handed event. I hope I get to have experiences like this occasionally to serve as the “next exit” sign as I travel through all these PowerPoint slides, notes, and atlases in preparation for finals.
The Sabbath and the hope of someday being more useful in the clinic don’t make the constant studying any easier, but they do make it bearable and understandable.