I was crushed.
I sobbed like something had died in me,
like THIS might be the end.
I felt BROKEN.
I had been feeling on top of the world for the past few months:
- I had honored my first 2 rotations of 4th year thus far
- Just last month, I found out my Step 2 CK score increased 27 points from my Step 1 score
- My letter writers had informed me they were uploading glowing letters of recommendations for my residency application
I felt like I was finally approaching harvest season, that all my hard work was FINALLY starting to pay off.
Then this happened.
This was the biggest blow, the biggest CRUSHING I could receive.
Up until that week, I had NEVER, I repeat, NEVER failed a medical school exam.
Yet, here I was, thrown the biggest curve ball.
I didn’t just fail any medical school exam, I failed the United States Medical Licensing exam (USMLE).
And no, not Step 1 or Step 2 CK, both incredibly hard 8 – 9 hour exams that test your basic science and clinical knowledge, respectively. No, the exam I failed was USMLE Step 2 clinical skills. An exam that was reportedly so easy and had a 95% pass rate on first attempt, that there was a petition for it to be eliminated. An exam that a friend called a “glorified English exam” to “make sure you can speak English, and have good bedside manners.” An exam that cost me over $1700 ($1290 exam fee + travel) and here I was staring at a “FAIL”. And not just that, but the fear of my future career, my dreams, and everything I had worked so hard for, possibly going down the drain…
I was DEVASTATED
I had been waiting for my result for a while. It typically takes 6-8 weeks, and it was exactly 9 weeks on that day – late. I wondered if something had gone wrong with reporting, if this was a bad sign to not have received the email by now, so naturally, I was obsessively checking my emails. That morning, I was heading to the gym when my husband, Ric came home from a overnight call shift. We were both working out when I got the email alert – excited I went to the website, heart pounding.
I clicked “score report”, and my jaw dropped.
I had failed. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I got off my machine in utter shock, I began repeating “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh” over and over again as I walked over to Ric. He could see from my facial expression that something was wrong, yet I couldn’t find the words to say it. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh” I kept repeating as I thrust the phone into his hands.
“This CAN’T be happening, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE!”
He gave me a hug as we rushed out of the gym.
Y’all I sobbed SO HARD in that car. Through the blurry eyes, I dialed my mom. Yet, I couldn’t utter the words. “What is it Derin? What happened???” My mom kept repeating, but all I could do was cry until Ric took the phone and explained what happened.
To me, this result was unexpected. I had prepared for the exam – practicing clinical scenarios with a classmate, practicing my note writing on the website interface, doing my school’s practice session…I had prepared. And on the day of my exam, despite the rough start due to a random rain storm, and no power at the test site initially, everything had gone well. Or so I thought. I left feeling, Yes, I had conquered this! Last licensing exam of med school “DONE!”
So yes, this was a curve ball.
To make this even worse, since my result was out, every single residency program I would be applying to would see that score. I was submitting my application in 2 weeks!
I had several conversations with God. This couldn’t be the end. There HAD to be a reason for this. Yes, I have a blog called “Curveballs and Med School,” maybe this was an experience I needed to have, maybe this was a curve ball meant to inspire others. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to hide in shame, but rather tell of this test turned testimony. THERE HAD TO BE A TESTIMONY. Maybe, just maybe, this experience was supposed to humble me. Perhaps, I was feeling like I, Derin, have GOT THIS. Perhaps, I needed to remember that I needed God all the way, that all this was not my doing, but God.
That people will know THIS can only be God.
THIS, my success at the end of it all, can only be God.
Having this revelation, I posted this quote on Instagram the following day:
“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. OWN IT.” – Oprah Winfrey
And I got to work. Studying and preparing for my retake. For the next few months, I read through the entire First Aid Step 2 CS book. I prayed. I fasted. I simulated the testing environment at home, using Ric as my standardized patient, and then I retook the exam.
I was waiting at the airport to board the flight back home when I came across Bishop T.D. Jakes book “Crushing: God Turns Pressure to Power” at a book store. I had just finished the 8 hour exam earlier and was feeling crushed in that moment. I had no idea if I had passed. Shoot, the first time I took the exam, I felt good and THOUGHT I had passed, but yet failed! The book captured my attention. It was timely, perhaps a sign from God, just what I needed at that moment. So I bought it.
I found inspiration in its pages.
- “Even in the moments of your greatest anguish, you often find unexpected blessings alongside and commingled with your losses.”
- “There is purpose to your stumbling.”
- “God’s pruning, those events He allows us to endure even though they cause us pain and discomfort are never intended as punishment…God allows such pruning just as a loving father disciplined a child so that the child will mature and reach her full potential.”
- “Without the crushing, there would be no crowning.”
- “Your crushing is not the end, it is only the beginning.”
The book was a blessing during those weeks of waiting, praying, and hoping. And you know what?
[Drum roll!!!] I passed the second time around. Yep, I sure did.
I hope this post encourages someone. Your crushing is NOT the end. I passed, and this is my testimony. Hallelujah!
“For the Lord God helps me,
Therefore, I am not disgraced;
Therefore, I have set my face like flint,
And I know I will not be ashamed.“
8 thoughts on “On Being Crushed, Pruned, and Humbled”
Derin! I am so thankful to God for you! Thank you for not giving up and thank you for sharing your story! This has inspired me in so many ways as I’m preparing for the same. God is definitely using you. You WILL be the doctor that you’ve always dreamed of! You WILL fulfill God’s purpose in your life! Keep holding on!
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Amen, amen! Thanks girl! Happy this inspired you. So excited for you as your journey continues. Great things ahead!
Praise God! This is so inspiring! I’m currently preparing for an MCAT retake and this came right on time! Thank you so much for being so transparent during your journey. It has helped me tremendously! Congratulations and best wishes! ❤️
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Thank you! Glad it encouraged you, all the best with your exam!
Fantastic to see you’ve passed! I know a little something about curve balls in med school. Sometime’s you have to take the hit, there was nothing you could do. But that hit does something to you. It changes you. And when you bounce back as you did so spectacularly, you realise there may have been a reason for that curve ball. Very excited for you!
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It sure does, thank you!!
Whoa I just came across this post; I’m so freakin’ proud of you Derin!!! I’m all too familiar with the feeling of being crushed and stunned and it is incredibly difficult to have to swallow that bitter pill and press on with life. Still, I can’t imagine the horror and sadness you must have felt when you first saw that “FAIL” on your score report. I’m so glad you had Ric, your mother, and the rest of your support system to help you through that difficult time. But like you told me two years ago: THAT SCORE DOESN’T DEFINE YOU!! And you proved it by passing the second time around and matching into Anesthesiology!!! Thank you for your transparency and inspiring others with your story!!
This is such an inspiring post! I really admire your positivity and perseverance even in the face of disappointment! Wishing you all the best as you continue on this journey!