Worth It

(As of today, there are 12 days until classes begin for my second year. I guess the pressure’s on to write what I promised to write, eh?)

I’ve only completed one year of medical school thus far, which sadly puts me much closer to the beginning of my training than the end. But I’m already deep into it — I left my first career in May of 2004, which means that I’ve already devoted three years of time, money, and sweat equity to medicine. Last summer, anyone who asked me whether I’d made a good decision probably received a confused or noncomittal reply. Sure, I enjoyed my post-bacc year, and I was eager to become a physician, but I was still technically a pre-med. I had no way of knowing whether I’d actually enjoy medical school, whether I would complete the year satisfied that I’d chosen the right path for myself, or whether I’d made yet another professional mistake. Well, times have changed. I’m now a full-blown medical student, and I’ve managed to complete my first year without any major crises. So was it worth everything? Did I make the right choice?

The answer, at least this year, is unequivocally yes.

The hours were long. The material, while not tricky, was voluminous and incredibly fast. Some of the classes were tedious, some were interminable, and some felt like they were impossible to understand in the given time. Some of our lecturers were unintelligible, others just incomprehensible. There was a lot of sleeping in class, in the library, and at home with my neck crooked unnaturally over my notes. There was far too little sleep overall. There were some moments of panic.

But there was also an amazing realization. Despite all of the things that med students (sometimes rightfully) complain about, despite the unbelievable demands of our time and energy, I loved almost every day. I was surrounded by people like me, studying topics that fascinated me, imbibing a culture of science and art that I had sought for years. While I liked most of my old coworkers, and made some great friends to boot, I never felt like I belonged in the office. Here, sitting in even the driest of lectures, I am finally an integral part of the fabric. I understand what drives my classmates, and they in turn understand me. This is all the more remarkable when I consider that I’m significantly older and in a completely different social situation from most of them, which separates me from interacting very much with them outside of class. It’s a great feeling, knowing that I belong.

There are some moments that stick out in my mind from last year, some things that I intend not to forget. Things like:

  • Pondering biology, life, and death through Gross Anatomy
  • My reaction to neuroscience — the de-romanticizing of the psyche
  • Feeling like I was gasping for breath, struggling just to pass at times
  • The comical notion that I could take control over my sleep
  • My weird place in the social network of our class
  • The real costs of being a medical student, which barely start with tuition

I will expound on these in the days to come. Seriously, I will. I can’t go into second year with all of this stuff on the back-burner! There are also some mostly-complete posts that I started back in August. They need to be touched up and published as well. But for now, just know this: Going to medical school was the best professional decision I’ve ever made. On a career basis, I don’t regret leaving the consulting world for one second.

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