Family ties

StudentSpeak is pleased to publish this guest post by Jesse Goldfarb, MS2. Jesse participated in OHSU’s student-led peer mentoring program for first-year and second-year students.

Questionably competent second-year medical student, 24, seeks slightly less competent and moderately impressionable first-year.

I don’t have any real little siblings. My mom wouldn’t have one for me. And when thinking on that deficit, all I am left with are her empty, feckless excuses. “Your father and I are divorced,” she would say. Well, not good enough, Mother. “Jesse, I’m past reproductive age.” Uggghh, whatever Mom.

I would daydream about it. Teaching a little brother that if he forgets the words to the Blessing of the Candles on the first night of Chanukah, he should just make up new words with a lot of ‘cccchhh’ sounds in them. Or introducing a little sister to The Pixies when she was feeling angsty or to David Foster Wallace books when she was feeling… well, angsty. Or just asking them to stand up for their friends and to not be mean to anyone and to think for themselves and to find the things that they loved and explore them with everything they had. I never got to do any of that.

Aside from wanting to love them and be there for them and grow old with them, I wanted to be a resource. I spent most of my childhood longing to be the cooler, smarter, older brother who knew things, which made it an enduring challenge to accept my fate as the lamer, dumber, younger brother who didn’t.

You’ll do well to know that I have finally forgiven my mother for only being able to produce two children alongside her sparkling career. I’ve even accepted my place as the baby of the family. I do, however, still have a desire to be helpful. And, until recently, that desire has been mostly unrealized.

Here’s something: medical school is hard. Even for those who don’t find struggle in the material itself (and most of us do), finding the time and energy for all of the things outside the classroom that make a person whole and interesting is challenging. As hard as one might scratch and claw to keep those things close, they can begin to melt away.

There is little room for excess fat. Very few allowances for inefficiencies. We are expected to achieve at an exceptional level. If you want to meet your standards in school, eat and sleep well, start an elective, preside over a club, record and upload a cover of “Girl on Fire” (your educational but quirky PSA on the dangers of recreational Jimson Weed use), and continue to make your mother proud, you must be a different beast.

That’s the idea of the big and little sibling program at OHSU. As second-years, we spend most of each day being reminded precisely how little we know about the world of medicine. But we are experts at exactly one thing: We have done what the first-years are doing. We know the tricks, the shortcuts, and the resources. Most places you, as a first-year, are about to go: we’ve been there. Most of the triumphs and disappointments that you are about to feel: we’ve been there, too. We won’t tell you what to want. We won’t tell you what your priorities should be. But if you let us, we’ll do whatever we can to help you. Because that’s what you do for your siblings.

3 responses to “Family ties

  1. Thanks Jesse.Great post.

    Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam
    asher kidishanu b’mitz’votav v’tzivanu
    l’had’lik neir shel Chanukah. (Amein)

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