“We can go home if we can get all the landmarks right on one more bone,” Laura proclaimed after our four hour study session in the cadaver lab.  I agreed.  Tomorrow was our first practical in anatomy and also our first exam of PT school.  We were ready.  So, we reached into the box of bones and pulled out the humerus.  I named the deltoid tuberosity, the condyles, and every other part that she quizzed me on.

She handed me the bone and I realized the difference in the size of my humerus to the one that I held.  I made some joke about how it must have belonged to someone Yao Ming’s size and I proceeded to ask her questions in regards to the bone’s anatomy.  She was on point as well.  We didn’t miss a single question.  I was about the put the bone back in the box when a fellow classmate tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Guys that’s not the humerus, that’s the femur.”  Alicia had just pointed out that the two of us had spent the last 10 minutes unknowingly holding a leg bone (the largest in the human body).  It wasn’t Yao Ming’s arm bone, it was a normal person’s leg bone.

The beginning is often the hardest, but it doesn’t have to be.  Being a new student, a new professional, or starting a new job comes with an entirely new level of discomfort.  The beginning is marked by fear of the unknown and fear of failure.  Most of us, don’t like the beginning or the novice stage because of these feelings.  But, if we can replace these fears with a more positive outlook, then I’d argue that the beginning can be the most beneficial time (if we embrace it).


You’re not expected to know everything

The beginning is difficult because we realize how much we don’t know yet.  However, no one expects us to know everything.  We often assume that being wrong is going to define us.  That being wrong is the end of world.  Being wrong, is part of being a novice. We learn and grow from being wrong.   While confusing a leg bone for an arm bone was not one of my finer moments, it had no bearing on the rest of PT school.  

It is acceptable (and expected) to not know everything.  So, use the beginning as a time to learn and allow yourself to make mistakes.  We learn more from mistakes than we do successes.  


Everyone struggled

You’re not alone in the discomfort you’re feeling.  Everyone struggled in the beginning and most remember that struggle as a novice.  I remember having hundreds of questions in the first year of practicing PT.  I’d try to be strategic about asking questions making sure not to bother any one person too many times in a row.  But, no one was ever impatient, in fact I found the opposite to be true. Everyone understood what I was going through.

The humerus/femur mess up is funny but not because we we didn’t know what we were doing (we didn’t), but because most people can relate to it.  So, ask questions, get help, and know that everyone shared the same uncertainties and doubts in the beginning.  There are plenty of people who want to help you in the beginning, use it to your advantage.


No one remembers your beginning

Everyone remembers what it was like for them in the beginning.  I remember all my shortcomings, setbacks, and difficulties, but no one else does. If you didn’t pass your boards the first time, failed to get the job you wanted, or had a terrible first month- guess what- no one will remember.  People see you how you are in the present.  As long as you continue to improve and get better, no one will remember your losses.

The people in my PT class may remember the time I mistook the leg for the arm because I tell the story, but when my and Laura’s name come up in conversation, I doubt that story is the first thing that comes to mind.  Who you were and what you did in the beginning will be replaced with who you are and what you are doing in the present.


No one hears the name JK Rowling and thinks of her as a struggling waitress that had a book rejected over and over.  You picture the author of the successful Harry Potter series.  Don’t worry about the losses along the way just focus on getting better through it all.  The beginning may be the hardest, but I’d argue that the beginning is also the greatly rewarding. Accept the discomfort, uncertainty, and doubt, but most of all embrace the possibilities that lay before you.  


4 thoughts on “Don’t Be Afraid To Be A Novice

  1. Nineteen days until I move to college and this couldn’t have been anymore perfect for me to read. I definitely need to accept all the mixed feelings about the next 7-8 years and just run with it! Awesome post at an awesome time, Jenna!!

  2. I don’t know what it is, but your posts and topics always seem to come along at the right time when I need them the most. Started a new job last week and this post was more applicable than you know. Keep doing what you’re doing girl!

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