Today was the White Coat Ceremony for the P3s at Ohio Northern University. A semester ago, I was one of them. Had I not changed my major, I would have walked across that stage, taken a vow of professionalism, and donned a white coat, proving to the world that I was an individual worthy of respect and trust, all because I had a coat.
Well, things changed in my proposed career plan. This morning, instead of dressing up and bonding with my family and mentor about my successes in pharmacy school, I bought flowers and chocolates and wrote heartfelt messages to those in the class I was closest to, all the while narrating my life along the plot of a Virginia Woolf novel – total English major move. I arrived five minutes before the start of the ceremony; I sat in the audience. And I cried.
Why did I cry? I don’t know. I was filled with pride and elation for my classmates, because of all those in the audience, I truly understand the adversities they face. I suppose it was a little bittersweet. But most of all, the white coat had always been an object I had respected and admired — I had genuinely longed for it.
Now, I never wanted to be a pharmacist. That we have clearly established. However, I seemed to suffer from a variation of White Coat Syndrome — I wanted to be in a profession that was admired and esteemed by the public so badly, that I chose it for all of the wrong reasons. I had forgotten about this, until the other day when going through my files and I found a paper I had written my freshman year on the topic of my major.
The prompt was as follows: “Choose a symbol of your major and future profession, and explain how that relates back to what you want to do.” Now, most chose the mortar and pestle, the Rx symbol, et cetera. Something genuinely related to the profession. However, I chose the white coat. My essay was full of comments on the respect in demands, the admiration and trust from the public, and so forth.
I wanted nothing from my profession aside from a white coat. That’s it. Wow. And I suffered through two years of pharmacy Hell for that? Commitment, alright. Well then. So, today. When I saw my peers walk across the stage in what I had so longed for, I suppose I was a tad bit envious.
But, I realize, they want the profession. They want to do it for all the right reasons. For them, the topic of their paper was probably something genuinely important to their futures. And I realize: I respect every single one of them for that. And then, my tears were of pure joy.
So, yes. Watching them was a little bittersweet. But looking back, I’ll take my happiness over an article of clothing any day. And realizing that makes me pretty damn proud of how far I’ve come; I’ve finally conquered the infamous White Coat Syndrome.