As I sit in my parent’s house drinking their coffee and eating their food I can’t help but feel transported back in time to the summer I half-hardheartedly attempted to study for the MCAT in nearly the same spot. I am actually avoiding studying for my medical school boards in the same room because it definitely has some bad luck.
By the time I was studying at home I had already done poorly on the test once. And studying at home was actually going to take my score down one point. Not exactly what I was looking for.
Anyway, thinking about this reminded me that I promised to write about my journey to medical school. I am not a typical medical student although I’m happy to see that medical schools are filled with people closer in experience to me. There are times when I wish I had gone to medical school right from college. Like when I see people from my class in residency now while I’m still studying in lecture halls. And then there are times I’m so happy with my choices. Like when we have discussions on public health and I kind of know what I’m talking about. Or when we learn about a clinical scenario I experienced in the real world.
I can’t change my path and overall I don’t think I would if I could. I needed the experiences to figure out that becoming a physician really was the only career for me. Not everyone feels that way, but for me it was right and I’m excited to share how I ended up where I am. But fair warning, this first post isn’t going to be so great because it starts back in my most lazy, lollygagging phase. Of course I mean college.
Part 1: The Struggle Bus
I entered college saying I was going to be a doctor without really meaning it. Logically I knew there were all these things I was supposed to be doing to get into medical school: research, clinical experiences, good relationships with professors, the right honors societies. I knew all of that and I avoided all of that.
I told myself I didn’t like research because I didn’t like lab work (ignoring the fact that research exists in nearly every building and field of study on campus). I thought since there wasn’t a huge hospital near my school that I could get away with not shadowing (it wasn’t my fault right?). I avoided professors like the plague (because I knew they would tell me all the things I was doing wrong). I wasn’t even close with anyone who was pre-med because then my friends wouldn’t see I was a mess.
And I know what you’re thinking. Why would she do that? Why wouldn’t she work harder? Did she even want to be a doctor? Well the answer to the last question is maybe? Truth be told becoming a doctor was something someone told me to do when I was kid and I said sure. I knew I was smart and I liked pleasing the adults in my life. Everyone applauded when I said it and that was enough for me. Not quite enough to get into medical school though. The answer to the first question gets a little more psychological.
I have found myself to be an anxious avoider. My own term (I think) describing my many years of similar behavior. If I am afraid that I could fail at something I don’t put effort into it. So at the end of the day when I do fail I’m able to say ‘I wasn’t really trying anyway’. Very backwards and not at all helpful in life. I also fall into the trap of avoiding anything that will make me stressed. Don’t feel confident in physics? I’ll skip to avoid stress. Know I’m behind on extra curricular activities? Won’t see an advisor who will want to talk about it. There are too many examples to this point. The anxiety I experienced was crippling at times, but for most of college it was this under current controlling my daily decisions. It wasn’t until April of junior year that I realized how screwed I was after allowing that current to run my life.
On Honor’s Day I watched many of my pre med classmates get inducted into different honor’s societies. I watched them win awards for community service, research, and academic achievement. It wasn’t everybody, but it was the people I knew and it all hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t going to be able to get into medical school if these were the people I was up against. I’m not worthy of it. I haven’t done half of what they’ve done. I am nothing.
Yes, it was all very dramatic. The anxiety of failing that had held me back from trying was turning into the depression of having actually failed. I had one more year of college and felt like I had nothing to show for it. That wasn’t completely true, but I’ll get to that in the next installment. But I truly felt like a failure. And as I always do when I fail I kept it all to myself. Didn’t tell me parents there was no chance of getting into medical school, didn’t really tell my friends how bad it was. I just plastered on a smile.
The Lesson of Part 1
This is really one of my biggest regrets. I should have talked to someone; my parents, a friend, anyone! I should have asked for help (just another thing I avoid doing). Because even though I knew I had no chance I still studied for and paid to take the MCAT twice. I still paid to apply to some schools that summer. I could have saved a good chunk of $$$ if I had talked to someone and they had said don’t waste your time and money. Instead I tried to make it look like everything was normal. I sent in applications and sat for the MCAT twice with minimal preparation (see above anxiety issues). I think it was around November when I knew it wasn’t going to happen. No applause for me. I was not going to be a doctor.
Clearly things have changed since then, but we’ll get to that next week!
Follow along if you’re interested in going to medical school or if you’re just curious! I’ll try to post a snippet of the story for the next couple of weeks.
Until then, happy quarantine and stay safe!
I think it’s important to note that I haven’t mentioned my undergrad institution in any of this and that is because I don’t think they played a part in this misstep in my life. All of the things I avoided doing were my own choices and I ignored the opportunities that were put in front of me. Plenty of people I graduated with went onto amazing medical schools and are currently residents, so this is all on me. Me at 20 years old and dumb, but still me.