After years of parental pressure and self-conflict, I no longer know: do I want to be a doctor or not? I am paralyzed with self-doubt and indecision and have repeatedly shot myself in the foot. How can I stop spinning my wheels, climb out of the deep rut I dug myself, make a choice and act on it with conviction?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The stereotypes about immigrant Asian parents are true for mine: pressure to excel academically, expectations to become a doctor, etc. My parents were controlling about not just my goals but the specific way I should achieve them. When, for example, my mom found out I was secretly entering (and winning) short story contests with the encouragement of my h.s. English teachers, she angrily confronted them (“Don’t distract her. Don’t give her any ideas.”).
I went to an Ivy League college (not even of my own choosing--I was forced to rescind my initial choice as it was not HYP), and it was assumed I’d be premed. Sophomore year, I decided, Fuck it. I wanted the chance to explore. I took only classes I wanted, got straight A’s, received a summer travel grant, etc. My parents pulled out all the stops to pressure and emotionally manipulate me to return the grant and attend summer school. In the end, I relented. I hated myself for not being more assertive, but I couldn’t break free of filial obedience and the psychological power my parents had over me. The momentum of my awesome sophomore year was broken; I was back to being premed. Junior year was a nightmare. Despite studying most of the time, I got C’s and D’s in my premed classes and was put on academic probation. I must’ve been rebelling on some level, but ultimately I sabotaged myself.
After college, I escaped abroad. The irony: during those 4 years working in global health, I slowly realized I wanted to be a doctor after all, so long as I could carve my own path. I grit my teeth, retook my premed classes as a post-bacc, and did well. I didn’t ace my MCAT but did ok. But my parents thought my score was sub-par. Despite supposedly gaining emotional independence abroad, I did as told: did nothing but study for 8 months to retake the test. And I did worse. Once again, my momentum vanished. I applied to medical school (i.e. completed the common app) but failed to submit secondaries for nearly all of them. (Secondaries are the follow-up mandatory essay questions individual to each school). The next year, I re-applied, but did it late in the application cycle (a disadvantage, compounding that of being a re-applicant), and again fell apart on secondaries. I know it was partly to protect my ego and have something else to blame. All this while, I have languished as a poorly-paid, lowly research assistant--a dead-end job premeds take to bolster their apps.
So here I am, wondering if I should apply one last time, before my better MCAT score expires. It's my last shot--I need to do it right. But I am again self-sabotaging. I'm even later in the cycle than previously. I have not had the courage to beg my college to endorse my application again (contacting them for help so belatedly would underscore their reasons to lack confidence in me). Instead of focusing single-mindedly on doing my application right, I procrastinate and wander the internet in desperation because actually logging into the application website makes me feel sick and scared. I am overwhelmed by all I need to do, the accumulation of my fuck-ups, and my sense of failure. I dwell on the past, wishing I could rewind. I feel I squandered my 20s and my abilities. Increasingly, I worry about my biological clock and going through med school/training while raising kids. I've disappointed and cut off my support systems. (“When you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they've given up on you.”) Even worse, it seems I’ve given up on myself.
I used to be driven, resourceful, hustling after opportunities. Now I’m verging on 30, without spirit, savings, hard skills or experience applicable to another field. I know I'm still dealing with internalized parental expectations (i.e. do I only think I want this?), and conversely, emotional baggage (e.g. resentment, shame) that colors my attitude and has been (clearly!) hard to cast aside. Working hard to replace D's with A's shows that I really did want this. But I’ve been trapped in my headspace and dragged it out for so long, I no longer have any intuition about what I really want. (I flipped a coin and felt numb.) If only I had a sense of agency and empowerment, like I have a chance. But I simply don’t believe I can get into medical school anymore. Meanwhile, I am clearly depressed, and my procrastination and avoidance have seeped into all areas of my life.
Things I've tried: exercise (I run); CBT (spent $3K+ on various therapists for a year at center for anxiety disorders, no avail); talking to my parents (who claim they were only trying to “guide” me benevolently -- it always ends in fighting and tears); no contact with them in 10 months; being accountable to friends; and considering Caribbean/DO/NP/PA schools rather than MD (but after conversations with people with these degrees, I’ve concluded that what I want to do in medicine, beyond clinical care, would be best achieved with an allopathic MD).
Way, WAY TL;DR. I am lost and floundering. Is it still possible for me to become a doctor? Should I consider the past decade a sunk cost, leave it all behind, and struggle to find a wholly new direction to take my life, though I have no clue as to what that would be? (I would feel a great sense of loss. I cannot shake the vision in my head of myself as a doctor, feeling fulfilled, happy.) Most importantly, how do I believe in myself again and turn my life around??