I have a confession. I’m a bit of an overachiever.
And maybe not just “a bit.”
But I’m not an overchiever about everything. In fact, I’m not an overachiever in most things. Housework. Exercise. Crafting. Flossing.
Rather, I choose my obsessions carefully. I set goals. I achieve them, most of the time. I’m just careful not to set goals for something I can’t or won’t achieve.
I’ve been at the top of the academic programs I’ve gone through, but not because I’m super smart. It’s that overachieving workaholic in me whose claws come out when I see a textbook, some notecards, and a lecture outline. Studying 100 hours for a single test was the norm for me. By the time I finished PA school in 2005, I had a stack of flashcards taller than me. That was only from 1/3 of my classes. And I knew them all. Back and front.
Of course, this tendency toward overachieverhoodness leads to a fair amount of ribbing. I still get teased on a regular basis for my perfectionistic tendencies, and my driven approach to my select goals. And that’s okay, because I know that deep down inside, people want their physician assistant and/or professor to be at least a bit of a perfectionist, especially if they enjoy the personal impact of a lower rate of medical errors that accompanies a hefty dose of overachieverhoodness.
My overachieving ways have landed me in an academic setting, which I love. Unfortunately, that same overachieving nature has led me to teaching Medical Physiology each summer, which covers 700 pages of physics as applied to the human body in 12 weeks. And every summer that I have taught this class, I have ended up nearly blind by the end of the summer. The first summer, I thought my prescription had just changed. My second summer, I thought it was eye strain. This is my third summer, and sure enough, by the first few weeks of class, I was struggling to see.
My vision always gradually returns to normal in the fall, but during those summer times in which I have to cover 80 pages of text in a week, having a visual problem is very disturbing.
So when I scheduled my annual appointment with my optometrist this year, I told him about what was going on. We talked about typical eye strain issues — proper lighting, computer positioning, reference material placement, but I had tried all these and they hadn’t helped. (After all, as an overachiever I had figured those things out myself!)
Then he got a quizzical look on his face, and stated that he had an idea. He examined my eyes, and sure enough, he was right.
When my eyes are tested in a clinical setting, they like increasing amounts of correction, even beyond what I need. So I end up with a prescription that is much stronger than needed, and my eyes have trouble accommodating for the extra strength. If we backed off on my prescription, rather than increasing its strength, we might be able to break the cycle of the syndrome.
“Really? That is very interesting. Does the syndrome have a name?” I asked, knowing that I would go home and at least Google it.
“Yes,” he replied. “It’s called Overachiever Syndrome.”
“Is there another name for it?”