• SB


Updated: Apr 21

It is crazy to think I did not type a blog in almost a year. The truth is, I have not wanted to sit down and recount everything. I started this blog because of a calling, without understanding God's reasoning behind it. I feel for completeness sake I must finish the phase I was stuck in when I started writing HowesYourDay.

"The Mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

- John Milton Paradise Lost

The USMLE Step 1 exam is the first board exam for medical school, summing up what feels like your "life's worth" of education in only 280 questions. For me and a lot of others, that test is the absolute worst experience we will have in our training. When I failed, I turned to a community- Google. Only to discover there weren't many, if any, conversations regarding failing Step 1. That was part of my rationale in starting this blog, as a potential resource for someone else. I equated failing a test the same as calling myself a failure. The lack of community just made me feel more isolated, fueling the self-doubt within.

I took a break from studying for a couple of months (see Answers) and decided I would not let a failure hold me back. If I was meant to be a doctor, I believe I would be one. I truly believe God led me this far, in this direction, only to succeed. How I wish He could make it easier, how I begged He would give me all the right answers, the knowledge, the strength, in passing this test with the highest score ever made- in the history of USMLE Step 1 exams.

I failed a second time.

The drama plays up when you learn you can only attempt this exam three times. Three. Three strikes and you are out. So, looking back- that second time- I had given it my all and I was honestly at a loss for words. At this point, the question was not:

"Did I study hard enough?"

"Did I study long enough?"

"Am I smart enough?"


"How do I pass this test?"

Listen, at the time I'm asking these questions, I've studied three times for this test. Three.

Study Attempt 1: April 16th- June 29th 2018

Study Attempt 2: July -September 2018

Test Attempt 1: Fail

Study Attempt 3: March 2019- May 2019

Test Attempt 2: Fail

I prayed. I cried. I experienced depression, considered a career change, and just really felt like I was worthless.

All of these feelings centering around a test? No, it was much larger than that, but I couldn't see what God was doing and why. That second failure hurt. Really hurt because I knew I did absolutely everything I knew how to do.


I admit it. I didn't know how to perform better. So I accepted I didn't know how and needed help. Across the country there are a few programs, all of which lecture for hours at a time on material. I didn't need lectures, or material, I had the confidence to believe in myself enough to know that.

Mind you at this point, some said "you are smart, but maybe not smart enough".

You don't get through two years of medical school without being smart enough.

Words I wish I knew to have said then.

Yet, those words stung, and reminded me of my past, where others told me I wouldn't make it. Bad things were my fault. I was nothing. God doesn't love me. God did it to punish me.

It was a rabbit hole of false accusations said by mean people bubbling to the surface. Those words resonated though because it's the only reasoning I could deduce from my situation.

The logic being: I'm just not smart enough.

See, the irony is, I believed God called me to be a doctor. I really do. In my prayer time I felt the Spirit reassure me of that calling even in the midst of failure. Yet, I had self doubt.

That is why this story of self growth is so beautiful.

I did not realize I was not just doubting myself, but my Father also.

I found one program, only one, that taught how to pass Step 1, without sitting through hours of lectures. The The Institute of Medical Boards was where I was headed, all the way to Kansas City, Kansas. We were blessed with help in funding the opportunity and I am blessed with a husband who was able to push me to move long distance to accomplish my dream. At this time I didn't know if it was my dream anymore, but he wouldn't let me stop until I gave it my all.

A new city, alone, among other people who had failed, was very - very scary. I have lived in my hometown my whole life. The only time I was away, was when I lived in Memphis, Tn at St. Jude for that whole cancer ordeal, but even then I had parents around. For the first time, I was without Tony's seasoning and in... the North. The shock was so real I honestly forgot how to brew coffee. Ask anyone, I somehow made the coffee pot boil over every time, so much so, my husband bought and shipped me a Keurig.

IOMB taught me the skills to take the test, reassuring my ability, and honestly my intelligence. I was told, "Few are able to sit down and face taking it a third time."

I genuinely asked them if I was capable.

"Would I succeed?"

I was told, "Don't give up, you improved between your two attempts, it is only going to keep going up."

Retrieve the knowledge.

The knowledge is there.

The answers are in your head.

You know the answers.


I was open to everything. I traveled across the country- so I finally had to admit I didn't know it all. Yep. It was hard. That year's worth of studying made me feel entitled, like I was suppose to know everything. But I wasn't passing, so obviously I didn't.

"You need a stress outlet"

Hello... I exercise everyday- I literally run or ride my bike every single. day. to make me less stressed. I know how to deal with my stress

"You need to try something like boxing"

I started boxing.

"You need to meditate"

I don't know how. What is the point. Just teach me to pass this test!

"You need to be able to deal with yourself"

What's wrong with myself- I know how to deal with my stress.

I started meditating.

Being alone for the first time in seven years made me process things that happened the last time I was alone. No one could help me.

It was stress that was hindering me.

It was myself holding me back.

Not my intelligence, but my subconscious and all the memories with it.

Nightmares upon nightmares occured in Kansas City. I would wake up in sweat and in tears. It wasn't the nightmares that were the most bothersome, as the feelings felt when I awoke.

I had to deal with it.

Not just shove it down, but get it out. So I did.

I cried. I boxed. I meditated. I ran. I yelled. I prayed. I recited-

Every morning, per my husband's idea, I had to look in the mirror and tell myself:

I am loved.

I am smart.

I am beautiful.

I am safe.

Years of being told otherwise, laid a foundation that was based on fear.

The foundation cracked.

I am loved.

I am smart.

I am beautiful.

I am safe.

Every wrong answer, every failed test. It didn't matter, it wasn't a reflection of my worth, I had to keep trying.

I am loved.

I am smart.

I am beautiful.

I am safe.

Every nightmare where my mother died again and again, would result in me waking up without her there. She left by her own hand. It was my fault. I wasn't good enough for her to stay.

I am loved. I am smart. I am beautiful. I am safe.

Get used to it. It happens. Part of being a girl. You brought it on to yourself. It's because of what you are wearing. You made him do it. You are a slut. You are a whore. Why didn't you stop him?

I am loved. I am smart. I am beautiful. I am safe.

You aren't worth my attention. You are nothing. God punished you because of it.

I am loved. I am smart. I am beautiful. I am safe.

Three months of conditioning. Three months away from home. That twenty year old foundation shattered into a million pieces.

I passed.

God gave me the opportunity to breath and recover. To rest, when all I knew how to do was fight. I am a survivor of many things, many things I refused to acknowledge ever happened. Turns out pretending it didn't happen doesn't prevent it from reappearing.

I finally dealt with it. I finally connected that I am loved, I am smart, I am beautiful, I am safe.

The freedom in recognizing that, allowed my body to finally adapt. Granted, I had a full blown panic attack during the test. I cried during lunch and called my husband to apologize over and over again to my husband, feeling like I had wasted time, money, and effort.

It was not in vain.

Turns out these past few years in the midst of my safety, my body decompressed. Discovering now I had panic disorder, PTSD, and nightmare disorder as a manifestation of the stress I went through growing up.

This year off taught me more about myself than I could ever write, but the act of writing was the start of discovering myself.

I started my third year of medical school January 2020. Yes, COVID-19 is awkwardly abrupting it, but it doesn't matter. I never failed Step 1 because of my lack of effort, my lack of intelligence, my lack of strength, or perseverance. I failed Step 1 because I didn't believe in myself. I passed Step 1 because of my resilience.

I know a lot of others can relate. Just remember, no matter your roadblock- you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you- and

You are loved.

You are smart.

You are beautiful.

You are safe.

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