Last year (the first year of med school) was the hardest in several ways - it was a huge shift in schooling style, it was scary because of thoughts like "what if I fail an exam" (or worse a CLASS) or "will second year be easier or harder than this?", and it was the first time in years that I'd been separated from Wife for extended periods of time. First year was the beginning of the unknown. Stress.
Happily, I've found 2nd year to be much easier emotionally, and the life- and study-styles are much more enjoyable, personally. This year is definitely easier, because it actually feels like I'm learning things that will help me be a doctor, not just things that will help me learn things that will help me be a doctor. Things about sickness, disease, malfunction, and how to fix it all. That's right in line with my personality; much to Wife's frequent frustration, it's instinctive and preferable for me to listen then FIX, rather than simply listen. So, I suppose it makes sense that I find this year an all-around better experience.
However, this year is also TERRIFYING in its own way. I now have six months, one week, and six days until I take the Step 1 exam. It feels like just yesterday it was a whole year away. Anyway, in these six months, I will hopefully pass through the Cardio, Pulmonary, Urinary, Digestive, and Metabolism/Endocrine/Reproductive Domains. I'll get 5 class-free weeks and 5 days to prep for Step 1. This test essentially determines what caliber of residency I will be able to aim for. It has the single largest say of what I do with my life. More than grades, more than recommendations or clinical year evaluations, the Step 1 is the deciding factor.
And that's terrifying. And just like that, I've found my motivation to study hard this semester - fear. I'd like say that it's excitement to discover my personal potential, passion for the material, and an overwhelming pride in the profession that I'm seeking. All of those things are definitely present, but at least right now, the biggest motivator of all is that smooth icy sphere of fear resting in my abdomen. And that's okay. It's just like the twenty minutes before I take any exam, just drawn out over almost six months. I always calm down the second I start the first question.