I have to decide whether to return to medical school next year or not. Looking for lots of perspective.
posted by schmichael to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hi everybody. At the start of this year I entered my third year of medical school in New Zealand. In April I decided to withdraw for the year. Then I went to America and travelled on my own for three months. I've been home for about another three months, and it's finally getting close to the point where I have to make my decision: do I go back next year or not. It's a really big issue and the decision involves so much of my life and me that I apologise in advance for how long this post is going to be.
I left high school and went straight to university in a NZ town, living with my Dad. In NZ you do a preliminary year for competitive entry to med. I got in. I finished second year.
I was miserable. I was very lonely in my first year, among other things, I was living with my dad and his girlfriend for the first time, it didn't work out, also I missed out on student life. And I was also young and very insecure, and I hadn't even started to understand myself or the world around me or the hurt of my childhood. My first year of university was very bad - I was unhappy, I blotted it out with study, my marks and my discipline deteriorated, I wasn't enthusiastic about what I was doing anyway.
I just went into medicine because it was there, it was obvious. It was right in plain sight, and it required no risk. It was safe. I didn't actually want to do it for it's own sake. Nobody in my family is in medicine.
I hoped that when I got into medicine, with the smaller classes I would meet more people and be happier. And while this was initially true, once the excitement of the new had worn off, the same problems sprung up again. My new friends quietly drifted away. I stopped going to classes. I avoided myself in mirrors. I stopped trying to make jokes in small group work, and just sat there like a zombie. I stopped paying attention or studying.
I was also working on the med school yearbook in 2nd year. I was the editor, and I ended up spending an entire month slaving away at it. I didn't try and delegate so I just did the majority of it myself. I wrote about a quarter of it, and did all the proofing and editing work myself. I'm not being arrogant when I say the end result was amazing. My classmates were blown away - I still get enthusiastic compliments about it, a year later. There's some significance to this that I can't quite think of the words for right now.
After throwing myself into the magazine - to give myself an excuse for not talking to people? - I had to spend a solid month working nonstop, 9am-midnight studying to catch up and pass my exams. I am intelligent, so I made it.
Again I hoped that the next year would be better. I spent the summer being lazy and smoking pot. Towards the end of the summer the pot started to destroy my self-esteem. By the end of the summer, and the start of third year, I was in tatters. Within a week of the new term, I didn't want to go outside. I barely listened in lectures. I didn't go to labs or tutorials.
I also started to fixate on my female flatmate and I decided that I was in love with her and that she would fix my life. It was classically insecure. I tried to use her to make me happy. But she did manage to talk some sense into me by getting me to admit how unhappy I was in medicine, and then helping me decide to leave and go travelling. In May I realised how selfish I had been with her and apologised and put my bad behaviour to rest. Then I went travelling.
My family is largely Americans who have drifted to NZ. I didn't consider this when I chose America, so it was basically an accident that I met my father's side of the family. They helped me realise how much I had blamed myself for the awful things he did to my life. I also met a girl and had experiences which made me start to like... and even love myself. I felt good about myself. I felt powerful, I felt brave and wonderful. I'd never felt like that before.
Then I came back to NZ. It's taken me a while to get back on my feet and get a job, and I've been thinking about next year, thinking about myself, talking to people and trying to come to a decision.
Why would I go back to medicine? Because I'm still scared and it's still 'safe.' Because it's easy, and there's a job at the end of it. Because I've already started and I might as well keep going.
These are terrible fucking reasons. I know that.
I get scared of lots of things. I get scared of starving to death and being unemployed in a recession-stricken resource depleted globally warmed world. But I have to accept that medical school won't protect me from the collapse of civilisation. Nothing will protect me from that.
I think that if I go back to medicine I will feel the same way. I won't be taking a risk. I think I will sink back down into misery and feel ashamed of myself and never know what to talk about because there is no passion in my heart.
I am passionate about books and words and language and I think that the only thing that would be fair to myself would be to throw myself into the unknown and push myself as far as possible.
I keep trying to imagine some course of action that leads me to a job that is: of absolute value and meaning, satisfying, monied-up, I am passionate about, immune to The Collapse of Everything, morally invulnerable, ethical, invulnerable to my negativity and critical analysis, respected, safe and easy, so-on and so-on.
I think I have to accept that there is no such thing. If I have tied myself up into knots and made myself miserable by constantly searching for some rational way to justify my actions, and I have failed and know in my heart that perservering will lead to only more failure, then the only logical thing to do is embrace the irrational.
I think that there is something beautiful about being in the middle of a recession and saying, 'you know everyone does an arts degree because they have no idea what they want to do, but I'm not everyone, I'm beautiful and I want to dive into the arts because it's in my soul.' What is life if you don't take risks? You might not make it, but if you don't try you'll never know if you could have or not...
Maybe I have answered my own question. There is the fact that my mood and attitude fluctuates a LOT and I have changed my mind so many times (each time for what felt like perfectly sound reasoning at the time) that it is dizzying. Still, I am looking for perspective.
What would I do other than medicine? Go to university and try and study whatever the fuck I'm interested in. Get a job and make some money. Go live somewhere that isn't a fucking cold empty New Zealand village where I can find people who are like me. Become an academic. Write my book. Get a job doing something ethically dubious like working in marketing or corporate psychology or something. Embrace the fundamental flaws of human life that I've spent so long trying to think my way out of.