I recently started reading Reddit… I know, I’m late, whatever. I’m progressive on other forms of social media, okay?!
Reddit is kind of annoying because it’s got its own hive mentality. Of course, I peruse through the r/medicalschool subreddit occasionally and there are memes like this:
I don’t feel qualified to talk about being a physician because I’m not one (LOL) and I have not gone through residency or attending or post-attending life so I don’t know how I will feel about my career BUT I will say that I do not regret going to medical school (as of now, emotions are subject to change at any time without warning!).
One of the questions I get asked a lot on my instagram is: “How do you have time to do fun things? Aren’t you in medical school?” And the answer is, it’s about priorities. Let me share some of my past with you. Come, let’s walk down memory lane... In high school, I worked hard. Very, very hard. Like, wake up at 5am, go to school all day, then do my after-school extracurriculars, homework, studying until 12-1am, repeat again. I was in both the IB and engineeering programs. IB was actually a breeze compared to the engineering program, which was grueling. I was constantly exhausted, and I did not enjoy life. My close friends and I constantly talked about how nice retirement would be as reprieve. (We were teenagers.) All we talked about was school, which was our entire life. After this nonstop grind for 4 years, I went to college… and I realized, WTF!! it’s the same shit. Why had I worked SO hard in high school, only to continue this same BS for another 4 years?! I was burnt out, and I took college as a chance to relax and chill. I tried to keep my grades fairly high, but I didn’t care as much if I got a 98 or 89. I had fun with my friends. I stayed up until 6am watching tv shows. It was a blast! Never again would I go through the pain that I had endured in high school.
In hindsight, I wish I’d reversed the order: not gave a shit in high school, and redeemed myself in college, because ultimately the most recent thing matters the most. But what I do appreciate about having worked so hard in high school, was I recognized that it was not sustainable long-term. I endured the hardship for 4 years, with the idea that “as soon as I get into college, my life will be great!” without thinking about what would happen after… It’s a constant trap of thinking: “As soon as med school and residency is over, my life will be great!” Perhaps, but perhaps not. Thinking that life will improve as soon X is over is maybe helpful for short-periods of time, but I’d rather try to enjoy the bumpy ride instead of waiting for it to be over, with no guarantee that it’ll ever be over. It’s rough. Life isn’t without trade-offs. I had a 2 year gap between graduating college and deciding to apply for med school, which led to a lot of thinking about what I wanted from life, my career, etc. I came to the conclusion that the most important thing was my relationships with other people, which is how I justify having fun vs. studying. (The trade-off is not knowing as much as others who spend their time studying.) It is a trade-off, but it’s not as easy to decide which is better. No matter which option you choose, there’s FOMO. Even when I was out eating or hanging with my friends, at the back of my mind, I always had the thought of “Oh, but I should be studying” which dampened my mood and increased my anxiety. But let’s say you stay in and study, then you think “Ohhh man I wish I was having fun!” It’s a no-win situation. But I really do try to maintain fun and chill as much as I can, because I learned from my high school years that working tirelessly doesn’t mean you’ll ever catch a break. So I try to catch as many breaks as I can 🙂 Thankfully, as I’m writing this, I’m on my last month as a 4th year med student which is known for being the chillest year in med education, ever.
The other point I will touch on is that in these Reddit threads, everyone says “Don’t go to med school for money or fame” which I agree with, but everyone also says, “I couldn’t picture myself doing ANYTHING else but medicine!” which I think is ridiculous. Are medical students really so one-dimensional? I can see myself doing dozens of other careers: photographer, stylist, business, personal assistant, beekeeper, jeweler, etc. Now, would I want to pick those careers OVER medicine? No. Is that because I want to help people and those other careers don’t? No. You know what’s really interesting and something I almost never see anywhere about reasons to become a physician? The personal knowledge and power of understanding what’s going on in your body, and of your loved ones. I didn’t write this in my personal statement for med school and I don’t know if one should, but perhaps the strongest reason I wanted to become a physician is because I’m a skeptic. Like most young people, I had no understanding of how the human body worked, and I wanted to. I’m very risk averse, and I knew that medical knowledge was precious and powerful; after all, kidnappers keep doctors alive in case they need their help (same in Outlander with the nurse!!!). I knew that at some point, someone close to me was going to have some medical problem, and with nobody else in my family working in healthcare, we would have nobody to verify information or help make decisions… and I can’t just let one person dictate a disease course without any verification! I read something on Quora before medical school that said something like, If you’re not willing to give up $1 million dollars to become a physician, then it’s not for you. And I said, Oh ok, lemme apply to medical school. Because what’s really really cool is that, unlike money or material things, your knowledge can never be taken away from you.
Next up: Why I chose to pursue medical school over physician assistant school or nursing