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I should be in bed, but I’m still awake and it seemed remiss to not comment on tonight, if only briefly.

In the morning, I will get up and put on what BWB and I affectionately call “grown-up clothes”, also known as work-appropriate attire. I will then go to the hall closet and take out the coat I spent most of the evening prepping. It is a long, white lab coat with my name embroidered on the right side with the initials MD after it, and the name of my hospital on the other. My ID badge is already attached to the lapel, my prescription pad is in one pocket, a pocket reference text in another, and still another holds a granola bar, my wallet, and some chewing gum. Other than looking terribly new, it is a bona fide doctor’s coat, and it is mine.

My friend C recently graduated from nursing school and has been having approximately the same experience as I have during orientation the last few weeks. We’ve been texting each other photographs of ourselves in our new attire, pictures of our ID badges that indicate our new positions, and sharing virtual glee over being given our signature stamp — because the stamp makes everything official.

Today I sent him a photo of myself in my coat, following one from him in his nursing uniform. He responded back, “So official and profesional!! Do you think they can see our fear deep down?”

“I sure hope not!!”

Because it’s true. I’m quaking in my cute yet sensible flats. Today I was introduced to a patient as “Dr. Girl” for the first time, and I think my heart skipped a few beats with shock. What if I can’t remember anything I’ve learned in medical school? What if the senior doctors think I am an idiot? What if I AM an idiot? What if I screw up someone’s medication? What if I make a mistake? There are so many systems in place to prevent anything major from happening that I know it’s not really worth worrying about, but the part where I look like a fool? That seems less unlikely.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited, too, and proud to have made it to this point. But tonight my nerves are reigning supreme, and that is why I am still awake at this late hour. I am afraid of letting everyone else down, but I think even more than that I am afraid of disappointing myself, having come this far.

But there’s no getting around it. In a few very short hours, the time will arrive and so will I, in whatever condition five hours of sleep and the butterflies in my stomach allow.

Tomorrow morning, when I walk into the hospital as doctor (a lowly intern, but still a doctor), it will be the end of a very, very long road. Through that door, I will take the first steps into the next phase of the journey, in my very new, very long coat.

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I’ve wanted to do. — Georgia O’Keeffe

I am afraid, always, all the time. There is always something I am worried about, something that scares me, something that terrifies me. I am afraid of being attacked when I walk the dog, of missing our plane when we go on trips, of not matching, of matching badly, of not being allowed to graduate. I’m afraid of public speaking, of large groups of people, of meeting new people, of sounding like an idiot on the phone. There is always something about every day that makes me fearful.

Don’t get me wrong, I have developed all kinds of self-talk and management techniques which keep this constant anxiety from overwhelming my existence, but that doesn’t mean the underlying monologue of fear is any less present. It’s just less in control. BWB tells me sometimes that he is amazed at how difficult it must be to be me, and that he wonders if I realize how strong it makes me that I don’t let it break me. I don’t know about that — this is just the way my life is — but I do know that it can be exhausting and frustrating to constantly fight with my instincts.

As a result of all this, the O’Keeffe quote I started this post with has become something of a mantra for me. My mother gave me a matted, decorative version of it ages ago, probably because she knew how applicable it was to my frame of reference. I am always scared. I am always anxious. I don’t expect either of those things to really ever go away. I do expect to live my life in spite of them.

The sermon this week at church was about choosing love over fear, and one of the points the guest preacher brought up was that one of the most often repeated phrases in the Bible is some variation on, “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid, we are told, because God is with you. And He is, I am certain of it, but sometimes in the darker, scarier moments of life it can be hard to remember. Many of the hardest choices that I have had to make in my life were ones which revolved around taking a step off the precipice into the very murky darkness of the unknown when it would have been much, much easier to stay where I was and be assuredly safe. I don’t think that when we are told to not be afraid, the intention is that we should not do the scary things. Quite the contrary, the point is that the scary things need not be quite so big and scary in the first place, because we are not as weak and alone as we might feel in that moment.

I have been absolutely terrified every moment of my life, but I do my best to make sure it never keeps me from doing a single thing I’ve wanted to do. God is with me; I can trust in Him and not be afraid.

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