Hey, friends! New kid on the block, here! I’m Shelby May, an incoming third-year student at Southern College of Optometry (SCO). For students, the overarching goal of this blog is to offer perspective, advice pieces, and a bit of tale-telling. For ODs, I’m hoping these writings trigger at least some reminiscent humor of studenthood.
This initial blog falls squarely into the tale-telling category of “why I love optometry,” but I feel this particular tale is a great way to introduce myself.
Related: How patient care resembles parenting
Growing up in optometry
There are few memories of my childhood that do not involve optometry. My dad was a student at SCO, and we ate, slept, and breathed based on Dad’s school schedule. Dad took Mom and me to SECO every year because, bluntly, family vacations as a grad student are expensive and conventions cost less.
I would be introduced to a few hundred people with tiny handshakes and many, many pieces of candy. Dad would let me wear his name tag with the shiny, soft ribbons hanging off the bottom. I said next to nothing, my head on a swivel, taking in all that the booths offered in what my parents called “record mode.” Back at the hotel, I would talk non
-stop about everything I had seen. I loved every moment, but ultimately the experiences were tailored to Dad.
My father never pushed me into optometry, but like so many other children of optometrists, I found myself disappointed with anything else. Still, I worried about seeming like an heir to the title.
When I started at SCO, I never felt as if SCO owed me anything. I kept quiet to avoid seeming haughty or entitled. It felt (and sometimes still feels) like I was standing in a long shadow. Throughout the first and second year, school felt like a dream played at Mach speeds.
The words I lived by were:
• Just learn the task, pass the test, practice, repeat.
• Keep your head down; there will be time to decide later what you think
• For now, get the grade.
I finally looked up to find myself halfway through school, past clinical checkouts, and in an exam room with a breathing, living, actively complaining patient. That, too, passed like a blur, though (It took two hours, but who’s counting). I was glad to be seeing real patients, but it still didn’t feel like my own success.
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My turn to shine
I held the head-down mentality even through packing my bags for the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) Optometry's Meeting without much thought about the future. When I arrived, I realized I wasn’t sure how to attend the convention as myself instead of as my father’s daughter.
I can pinpoint the exact moment my viewpoint shifted. I had just registered and received my nametag, and I was walking over to the ribbon board. I pulled a student ribbon, a school ribbon, and an American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) ribbon from a colorful wall of achievements.