Stop and Smell the Roses

Four years of the academic grind can make you lose sight of the why. As she prepares for her final year at NC State, Kendall Rease ’18 finds simple ways to keep her focus.

Quick! What’s the #1 thing you are most passionate about? The “thing” that consumes your mind during your day-to-day life. The “thing” you are willing to make tough sacrifices for. The “thing” that keeps you going even when you just want to call it a day and crawl into your cozy, welcoming bed.

Occasionally, I like to go on runs. By no means am I a hardcore marathon runner, but I do enjoy it as a way to exercise and clear my head. During my runs, there comes a point when my body begs me to stop. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an avid runner, you likely know what I’m referring to. When your legs feel like Jell-O, your chest is heavy, and you feel like you can’t possibly take one more step. There’s always something that pushes you even further to your absolute limit. For me, that’s my “thing.”

If you didn’t have anything come to mind when you read my opening question, that’s perfectly okay. If you are a rising first-year, I’ll let you in on a little secret: college is the perfect place to find that passion. It might come to you in a big revelation, but often it’s a subtle and gradual realization. In fact it could be something you already knew you were passionate about, and then an eye-opening experience solidifies it for you.

Over the past few years, several of my experiences in college have strengthened the passion I’ve had for awhile now. I apologize for the cliché, but I have wanted to be a doctor ever since I was a child. I would be lying if I said otherwise. What’s most interesting to me is that no one in my family is, or has been, in the healthcare field. I’m not sure exactly what spurred the dream inside of me at such a young age. I had a very simple and inaccurate understanding of what a doctor really does, especially at six years old. Nonetheless, the ambition stuck with me over the years and my goal still remains even after finding out the true ups and downs of physician life. Most recently, my entire summer has been dedicated to preparing for the MCAT; a crucial step to making my childhood fantasy attainable.

There is a video entitled “You Are The Only One Who Deserves This Field (Motivation for Pre-med and Medical Students).” I discovered it about three months ago, and I’ve watched it roughly 852 times since. It features Dr. Edward Goljan, a professor of pathology at an osteopathic medical school in Oklahoma, and Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, a neurosurgeon and researcher. One of my favorite quotes from the video goes something like this:

“I don’t want to make a mistake. They are putting their life into my hands; therefore, I owe them to give them my very, very best…That should be in your head when you’re studying. If it isn’t, then you’re in the wrong field.”

I often hit a wall while studying, and I always turn to this video and let it play in the background. A fire ignites inside of me almost immediately. All I can think about is studying harder and smarter because I know what I want and what it takes to achieve it. Although it is difficult to envision now, I know one day I will thank myself for the long, tortuous hours of studying because I’ll be able to help my patients by using my knowledge and training.

Last fall, I had the amazing privilege of being involved in the launch of the new Goodnight Fellows Program. Twenty scholars were paired with fellows based on similar professional career goals and interests. I was placed with a dermatologist in the Raleigh area, Dr. Beth Schulz-Butulis, who was quick to take me under her wing. She welcomed me to come shadow in her clinic on several occasions over the course of the semester. There was hardly ever a time where I wasn’t learning something, whether it was how to set up a biopsy tray or general medical terms and lingo. Perhaps the most important and lasting aspect of my time spent with Dr. Beth was the affirmation I received. Every time I sat in my car after shadowing for a few hours, I vividly recall sitting for a few minutes to reflect on the day before driving home. I couldn’t avoid the gut feeling that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do. I couldn’t shake the adrenaline rush that coursed through my veins. My passion for medicine and healthcare was repeatedly affirmed, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.

One would think that as a rising senior at NC State, I would have endless advice and wisdom to offer. While I won’t deny that I have in fact learned a thing or two during my collegiate years, I’m beginning to realize how difficult it is to sit down and focus on one particular topic to talk about. This is partly because I’m still learning more and more each day, even as a senior. As I sit amidst my MCAT books looking out at the skyline of NC State’s campus and the rest of Raleigh from the top floor of D.H. Hill library, I immediately have a sense of nostalgia wash over me. I can see orientation groups scattered across the Brickyard, full of countless fresh and eager minds waiting to embark on the exhilarating ride that is college. The idea of starting my fourth and final year at NC State terrifies me to my very core because I know the amazing ride is nearing an end. Nevertheless, I am eternally grateful for what both NC State and the Goodnight Scholars Program have given me: an opportunity to strengthen my passions and grow as an individual along the way.

This summer, I lived in Raleigh with my friends and spent my days either babysitting or studying. A few short weeks after moving in, we came across the Raleigh Rose Garden which is no more than 100 feet away from our back door. If you’ve never been, I strongly encourage you to take a quick visit in the evening as the sun is setting. The Raleigh Rose Garden has hands down become one of my favorite spots in Raleigh, and it’s right near NC State’s campus. It’s a fantastic place to go and clear your mind of all stresses, worries, and anxieties. It helps me step away from reality for a moment and recenter myself.

You may be wondering why a rose garden has anything to do with the discussion of passions I mentioned earlier. For some, it may never hold any significance. For me, the rose garden is the place I go to remind myself of my passions. It’s the place where I find peace and a clear mind so I can refocus. With a large portion of my summer being spent with my head in a prep book, I treasure the moments when I can get out and remember the bigger picture and end goal. When I become overwhelmed with stress about the MCAT, applications, and applying to medical school, I know I can turn to my little heaven on earth that is the Raleigh Rose Garden.

If you’re heading to college soon, prepare yourself for a life-changing experience, and possibly one where you discover what you are most passionate about. Even if you are beyond your collegiate years, there’s no expiration date for realizing your ambitions. One piece of advice I hope you heed is to stop every once in awhile and take a look around you. Sometimes, you discover the most important things when you take a step back from reality. Reflection is crucial. Take time to recenter and refocus; remind yourself of what it is that truly motivates you, and let it propel you forward beyond what you can imagine.

P.S. The Raleigh Rose Garden is where I end my runs, in case you were wondering.