As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll probably be talking a lot about paths on here. The subtitle of this blog is “A conglomeration of things I love,” and while I can’t say that I always love the journey, I’m working on embracing it with my whole heart.
I’ve found that the more I fight back, the more I resist and adhere to social norms or what is “expected,” the more I hurt.
With this in mind, and after months of deliberating–knowing fully well, as we always do, what the right decision was–I let go of a long-held “dream” to choose a new path. Within seconds of speaking my decision aloud, I felt nauseous and scared and exhilarated. That alone showed me two things: 1) I made the right decision and 2) I’ve come so far with regards to being comfortable with discomfort.
Like many of us, I run from that which I’m afraid of and do everything in my power to prevent pain. But over the course of the past year and a half, with the help of blogs and mentors such as Dr. Lissa Rankin, I’ve started to learn how to be comfortable with pain. How to, dare I say it, embrace the pain without judgement. Its not always easy and Universe knows I don’t always succeed but I am trying.
And despite what Yoda says, some things aren’t so clear cut as do and not do. Some things are a journey that meanders in and out and around. It looks a little something like this:
For years I believed I wanted to go to medical school..for all I know, I might still. When people ask me why and how it always came down to a couple of things: my love for science, my need to heal, and my fascination with the human body. Add in the desire for job security and a degree that offers me flexibility to do various things (practice, research, teach, etc) and medicine was the perfect fit.
Yes I realize how silly that sounds. How some people know their whole lives they want to go into medicine and for me it just seemed to FIT some idea of a perfect job…how I had to choose a path that is ridiculously difficult, highly revered, and increasingly despised. If you know me well enough, then it makes perfect sense. Otherwise, I might just sound crazy.
But I ask, are there really any better reasons to go into a job than following one’s interest, both personal and practical?
I truly believe that this whole medicine-just-fits concept shone through extraordinarily clearly in my med school applications and interviews. In fact I have no doubt. Maybe some misconstrued it as me not wanting it enough while others thought I was too lackadaisical and idealistic about the medical field. I wasn’t inside their heads so I guess I’ll never know. But one thing is for sure: I was accepted to one school, rejected by twenty. And I chose not to go.
Told you I might sound crazy.
In fact, tons of people told me I was nuts. They also said that when I refused to take my Passion Parties business off of my application. But none of those “tons,” which include the greater medical school applicant pool and current medical students, are part of my inner circle. And those whose opinions I actually take to heart, well they told me I was brave and intelligent for following my heart. The same people who have called me on my BS and put me in my place agreed with me that med school is hard enough as it is without being miserable because the school I’m attending isn’t the right one for me.
Why is it that with colleges, everyone condones the whole, “You’ll just know when you walk on campus” mentality but for medical schools we lose that right?
Logically, I know the answer. Logically I know that I should have attended that school because it would lead to my dream. Logically I also know that I would have been miserable at that school. So what the heck do you do when logic is dictating that two opposite and incompatible things are true? Get illogical, of course.
Anyway, after my final heart-breaking rejection letter, lots of tears, anger, and chocolate cookies, I started applying again. I was full of motivation. I redid my AMCAS, gathered my letters of recommendation, and sat down to rewrite my personal statement.
I learned the hard way what the wonderful Danielle LePorte can articulate so succinctly: motivation isn’t enough. I needed to be inspired. Usually I love to write (case in point). I can pound out an amazing first draft for just about anything in little time at all. But here I was stuck with writer’s block about why the heck I still wanted to be a part of a system that didn’t want me and had shattered my heart.
And I couldn’t write. I have about five first drafts, some rather bitter and others just unfinished. The concept, that I am destined to be a healer, was there and strong, but I could not break it down into anything tangible or, worse, reflective of my true self. I was too wounded and too conflicted.
But thats only the half of it. At the same time a small voice inside of me started steering me in the direction of public health, something I had planned on pursuing during medical school anyway. I started to see how much of what I do in everyday life–my clinical research, business, and internship–were all different manifestations of this somewhat ambiguous field. So for two months I put off inquiring minds who asked, “How are your apps going?” and I hemmed and hawed because just the idea of letting go of medical school was terrifying. I couldn’t do it.
Until I had no choice.
I acknowledged what I had known to be my decision for weeks and verbalized the fact that I was not, indeed, reapplying to medical school. Not now and maybe not ever. Instead I was going to pursue public health, an equally fulfilling, healing, and flexible career if not one that is as secure (as in, I’ll always have a job) or revered as medicine.
Some are undoubtedly thinking that I’m still hurting too much or am too jaded to reapply to med school. This is certainly true to a degree. But what really pushed me over the edge was Lissa’s idea that healing and curing are not the same. I began to realize that I am happiest when I am healing others, whether it is counseling them at parties, explaining the latest research related to nutrition, or advocating for healthy food access and school nutrition reform. Why are these forms of healing, specifically education and empowerment, any less transforming or powerful than the
bandaids medicine doctors prescribe?
Tangent alert: Now let me make it clear that I am by not means anti-medical intervention. When my pulsox dipped to the 80s, I wanted my nebulizer treatment. And my thyroid meds have been a huge help. So please don’t misunderstand me – medicine have their time and their place. But few would disagree that we are a grossly over-medicated and undernourished. And I’d wager that a number of those would agree (at least in theory if not in practice) that our medical system should look a little more like this:
Anyway, my reasons for letting go of medicine can be boiled down to three: 1) a realization that I can still heal outside of the medical field, 2) increasing jadedness over the current state of healthcare, and 3) the pain of just thinking about reapplying.
In short: I’m not sure I even want to be a doctor anymore. Or ever. Maybe it was just convenient and maybe it was just a “good” dream to hold onto. But I’m far too lazy and free-spirited to want to work or even begin to train within a system that is insanely broken and likely won’t ever accept me fully. I’m much more of an entrepreneur than a business person. I want to wear cute clothes or pjs or impractical heels rather than conservative business wear that I can never seem to get right. I want to have a flexible schedule that I, rather than profit-driven hospital and insurance folk, decide upon. I want to wake up and want to do work rather than begin dreading the end of the weekend as soon as said weekend starts. I want to not really feel like I’m doing work at all. I want to screw the whole “work your ass off now to reap some intangible reward later” mentality and begin reaping yesterday. I want to be able to speak freely without worrying about upsetting my employer. I want to not have to constantly fight for and defend what I believe in because its different or outside of the mold (and yes I know I’ll be doing that anyway). I want to move my body, teach others how to do the same, talk about sex, educate others about sex, and glow constantly…
Some would call me a coward. But in case you haven’t figured it out, I tend to ignore what “some” say.