A year ago today, I got a fat envelope from the med school associated with my undergrad university. I pretty much jumped up and down, right there in the mailroom, called my mom, and went around for the rest of the week grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
The rest of the application cycle brought luck but also heartache. Around November, I had a serious crisis (precipitated by love for my thesis) wherein I was just an email away from withdrawing my applications everywhere and applying to English MA programs.
Crazy, I know.
What was I afraid of? Partly the work (and there’s no denying that it’s rough; I study about 4 hours a day and more during the week before exams). Mostly the culture of medicine. You know, those people who insist that medicine is supreme, more important than family or sanity or outside interests. It may be heresy, but I applied to medical school because I like stories. And medicine is pretty much the only profession (besides Starving Writer) in which narrative is supreme. I was afraid that “they” would find out that I secretly love stories more than duodenums (duodena?) and that “they” would summarily kick me out of med school, leaving me disgraced and jobless.
In my mind, “they” were pretty much Nazis.
In the end, I decided to stick with medicine because I met a physician who showed me that I was not strange or somehow demented for seeing disease in the framework of a story. That there would be opportunities in medical school to pursue stories. That becoming a physician might actually improve my own stories. I honestly think that that woman is the reason why I am where I am today.
And how do I like it here? Bloody awesome. School is very school-like — lectures from 10-12 daily, anatomy lab twice a week from 1-5, nightly studying until 9:30 or 10. I’m working much harder than I ever did in undergrad, and failure is a very real possibility (albeit with shadowy, ill-defined consequences).
But I still find time to cook, to read; I even get up an hour early every morning to write. There are many other writers and artists here as well — we have book clubs and musical performances and writers’ workshops — and I think that’s contributed a lot to my rapid adjustment and general joy. It’s almost a frightening sort of happiness, as though some Greek god were about to strike me with the plague, just to even things out.
So that’s why when Dr. B. asked this morning if med school was all we imagined it to be, I thought, “No … it’s much better.”