Some time in second year, I decided to start wearing bowties.
I began with clip-on ones to test the waters, but I was so delighted with my little experiment that I got some proper ones. In about a month, my whim had descended on my bank account and left me unable to afford fast food for the rest of Med school. Really, with the kind of pattern selection out there, anyone would’ve given in. The moment I realised I’d gone overboard was when I bought one with little skulls wearing Santa hats. When I first noticed it, I laughed at the thought that someone could’ve expected something like that to sell. Then, with a painful lack of insight, I ordered it.
At the start, I had this whole list of high-minded justifications for wearing them. I told myself that it was because I wanted to seem more easy-going. And that I wanted to set myself apart in an increasingly-large class. And (this one sounded the best) that I wanted to rebel against the self-importance of the whole med-school culture. But when I was honest with myself, I knew I totally did it for the attention—the same reason, incidentally, that I own pink cases for both my Blackberry and my iPod. Nothing makes an attention-leech like me giddier than constant comments on my ties and the unashamed staring of people I pass in the hallways. I don’t think I found more concrete meaning until about six months in. One day in my pre-clerkship clinical training, I got sent to do a practice interview on this wan girl about my age, who’d just been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Despite her exhaustion and anemia, she let a fledgling medical student (me) fluff his wings a little. Toward the end, I asked her how she was doing, and she summed it up with “honestly, pretty [crappy].” As I got up to go, she stopped me and told me that my outfit had made her day. I practically floated out of the room on my little bowtie wings. That’s my story. Everyone has their own, even if the only people who know it are the ones they helped. I try to take heart in knowing that there’s a piece of me-ness out there doing some good.
As far as I’ve seen, though, people’s legacies aren’t usually as ostentatious as a bowtie. I know that I have more to me than just an accessory. Others certainly do: one of my classmates’ faces demonstrates such interest in everything people say that it’s almost hypnotic. Another shares the most illuminating silences with her patients. I’m not certain they even realise it—like our own laughter, it’s sometimes hard to appreciate the light we cast. In my case, it took that little reflected glimmer to catch my eye. In others, it might take something more explicit. In fact, I think I have some e-mails to send.
I am a History student and tea-drinker in my final year of clerkship at the University of Saskatchewan. Once free to roam the professional world, I hope to teach and to work in palliative and hospice medicine