Sunday, October 5, 2014

It's way more studying than you think it's going to be...

Well then, how did it get to be October already?

Block break is in twelve days. (!) It's been a heck of a block, it feels like undergrad on steroids - biochemistry, skeletal anatomy, genetics, immunology, microbiology, pathology, and some actual "how to be a doctor" classes involving taking histories and all that jazz. And that was just the first 9 weeks.

It's interesting living 300 miles away from everyone you know and being forced to adapt to a new environment and a new group of people. You make the best of it. You try to remind yourself that the days may be long but everyone says the years are short. And then there's the people who try to make it funny. I had a professor tell us that while we might have worked very hard to get in to medical school, we were going to have to work just as hard to get out.

The best way that I can put it when someone asks how it is... well... it's medical school. I'm very happy to be here and I feel very fortunate to be having this experience...but it's also sort of terrible. I basically study, sleep, go to class, and take about 5 hours a week for myself. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depends on how much I get done in a day... but yeah. It's way more studying that you think it's going to be. And before you know, you imagine that you can't possibly study that long - believe me you can.

My coping mechanisms involve food. I cook a lot. On my light weeks, I will go on monster cooking marathons, making whole big family dinners every night and freezing all but one portion for some "future impossible day." This has made things so much better when it comes to those 'terrible weeks' with four exams.

I've also been going to the gym a lot - it's where I watch television and don't feel bad about it. I use the gym at my apartment complex because they have free WiFi and it's like fifty feet from my door. It seems impossible to get out of it with it's location.

I talk to people back home and they remind me who I am. It's easy to start to lose yourself in an attempt to fit in and make friends. You find a few people that you connect with - you complain, you share, you giggle about the most horrible things, and then sometimes you just cry. I try really hard to limit that, but sometimes there's just no getting around it.

But overall, it's somewhat like I expected it would be. But yet not, if that makes any sense. Anyways, back to the biochem in preparation for tomorrow's exam. And maybe making cookies.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Off into the breach...

Found an apartment, moved in, set up household, looked at booklist.

Nervous, excited, apprehensive, happy.

Will I be the weird old one? Will I make friends? Will this be fun? Will I be able to do this? Will I miss my family so much that it's distracting? Will people actually come to visit? Will my son get along with life at home without me?

So many feels.

I had three weeks between leaving my job in the ER (which was amazing, by the way, and deserves it's own special post once I've had time to cogitate properly) and starting medical school. I had minor plans to move house, go on vacation with my mates, and spend some quality time with my family.

And now it's the start of the last week of that time. It seems like I don't know where the time went. And it seems like I don't know how to best, or more appropriately, spend my last week of freedom.

I've had some great times with friends. Friends that have shown me how much I mean to them, and how much they are going to miss me. It's a good thing to be loved by so many wonderful people. But it's hard to be present in the moment when everyone is telling you all these things, because really feeling that moment would involve being all sappy and emotional. And that's hard to do for three weeks.

It's a long goodbye, and I've never been good at those.

I'm trying to get on the other side of this - to see those moments that come after, the weekends together, the vacations, the holidays, the moments in the apartment studying where it seems perfectly natural and normal. I'm trying to envision my new life as I separate myself from my old.

Everything changes after this moment. There will be things that continue, relationships that go on, hobbies that still get attended... but this life changing experience will be nothing short of that. To be anything other than a bundle of confusing feelings seems like a failure to understand the gravity of the situation.

I'm mostly excited to come back to this moment, years from now, and reflect on how all my worrying was for naught, and that this was the start of my greatest adventure.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Second Star to the Right

After the first interview, I received three more interview invites, one of which I accepted. The first school I was accepted to was within driving distance of my hometown, so I stopped entertaining offers that would require an airplane. Ultimately, I decided upon the second school. They are within 100 miles of each other, but that hundred miles makes a huge difference...

I had no idea how to compare med schools, having never done it before. Ultimately, I used two different metrics - the percentage of students passing their COMLEX on the first try, and the percentage of students getting their first choice residency. Not only were both of these numbers higher for the second school, but it was in a town I liked more, had more of an international focus, and devoted an entire "block" (8 weeks) to board review. Also, the free parking didn't hurt.

Finally, on my acceptance letter from the second school was a personal note from the president telling me how much everyone who met me enjoyed the interview and how much they all hoped I would pick their school. A subtle shift in the interview tactic - we hope *you* will pick *us*. It made me feel like a stellar candidate, and someone worth pursuing.

That was November. Schools that accept you that early want a decision by December 15th. So, I took the acceptances I had and picked the best school. I took a different tactic to the whole selection process. I didn't have a "dream school". I picked ten schools in cities I wouldn't mind living. I planned to attend every interview I was offered, but in the end, really only attended interviews I could drive to from my hometown. In the end, I decided which of my acceptances was my "dream school".

I didn't see the point in picking a dream school before I knew my chances. It seemed a surefire way to set myself up for disappointment. I'm happy with my choice. I've put down a deposit, signed a pre-lease on an apartment, and have begun acquiring housewares. Oh, and the spouse and I have decided to try living in two different cities for at least the first year. It will give us a chance to get some things settled back home, allow the spouse to maintain his current level of tenure at his place of employment, and allow us to keep our house.

I'm getting my ducks in a row. Filling out forms, faxing things (like it's 1985, yes), and just enjoying the time off. I'm even entertaining the thought of learning a foreign language or learning the piano. I'm also, truth be told, trying to finish the published books in the Songs of Fire and Ice series. Silly, yes, but it feels good to do silly things.

Every now and then I peek my head up and take a look around and realize... this is what it feels like when your dreams start coming true.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I got in to med school.

I had an interview this past Friday and I found out yesterday at 9:56am that I was accepted. I still have up to seven "pending" interviews, but it's nice to have my first acceptance.

I really enjoyed the school, the people, the town, and the interview process. It was a little hard not to get emotional sitting at the interview waiting to go back, thinking about everything that brought me to that moment.

It was conscious decision that made everything happen - conscious decisions and a lot of hard work. I feel relieved and nervous and excited all at once. I am probably still in a bit of shock, trying to come to terms with the fact that Yes Virginia, I made it in to Med School... and now the real work can begin.

Above everything else, I'm unbelievably happy and thankful for all the endless support, patience, and love that helped me get here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why do all these moments make me cry...

I have an interview Friday.

It's my first interview. I'm understandably nervous. I did all the reasonable things - buy a suit, hem the pants (I'm 5'2"), pick out accessories, print directions...and now we're down to "freak out."

I do a lot better when I have "to do's" on my list. Things like update CV, etc.

What I need to remember is that I worked very hard for almost three years to get to this moment. I never wavered in my commitment to this goal, even though there were plenty of stumbles. The important thing is that I got back up, I dusted myself off, and I tried again until I finally got it.

I earned this interview and I deserve to be driving down there Friday morning. I have a lot to give, and I have my own perspective on why I want to practice medicine. I want to contribute to the field, to my community, and to the world at large. I want to give something back for all the opportunity that I've had.

I think I'm just trying to organize my thoughts into concise answers to anticipated questions. And I guess I'm nervous about being around the other applicants who will, no doubt, have done some amazing things with their pre-med years. I also think I'm probably forgetting about the amazing things I did with my pre-med years too...

At any rate, Friday at 12:15 EST, I'll be interviewing for med school. And that's kind of an amazing thing.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Well. Here we are. It's almost 5 in the morning, I'm drinking a blood orange San Pellegrino I got from a patient, and tonight will be my last night here on the oncology ward. The MCAT is done and in the dust. My score put me firmly into the osteopathic camp, which really, is probably where I've belonged this whole time. I graduated college. I missed summa cum laude by .02 GPA points, but I'm still graduating with honors.

I made it through my school's pre-professional committee process and was rated as a "strong" candidate. This is the third ranking in the list of six rankings they give out, with the top three usually scoring interviews and ultimately acceptances. In the end, I had five letters of recommendation from some of my professors, an adviser, and my research mentor.  I then received a letter from the committee itself, and the another one from a DO that I shadowed in June.

July 14, 2013 I applied to med school through AACOMAS. I picked out ten schools, one as close as three hours away, some as far away as the other side of the country. August 14th I received my first secondary, and this past Friday I sent in my last secondary application. I received secondaries from all ten schools I applied to, but I elected not to complete one of them. The school that I decided not to continue applying to had a residency requirement of five years post-graduation...and really... I didn't want to live there.

I made it through the pre-med years!

In the next year, I will (hopefully) be invited for interviews and then be weighing my options when it comes to offers. I have a few top choice schools, but I'd really like to wait until I've visited the campuses to make any sort of determination of what I consider my top choices. My very supportive spouse has no real inclination towards one city over another, but ultimately he needs to be happy too so his opinion is certainly a factor.

In the meantime, I've accepted a promotion to the "Advanced" version of what I'm currently doing, which will increase my responsibilities to include starting IV's, drawing blood, performing EKG's, and probably several other things I'm forgetting. Oh, and, it's in an emergency room closer to my house that doesn't involve paying for parking or driving across the city anymore.

I'm looking forward to the next several months - I'm also taking some time to watch tv, read some books (Game of Thrones for one...), sleep late, and just enjoy being alive. I'd like to take a moment to encourage anyone who's been following the journey so far to go and do that thing you've been waiting for the right moment for. Your moment, like mine was, is now. Capture it.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This journey started at one of the low points in my life. I failed. I nearly lost everything that mattered, but somehow survived and was able to create this amazing opportunity from the ashes. 

Several years before any of this even started, I read The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. This book is a modern allegory that follows the journey of a young shepherd on his way to finding amazing treasure. Throughout the book he loses everything but gains so much more than he lost. 

Sometimes, I feel we get stuck where we are simply because we're afraid of losing what we have. When in reality, we aren't fully satisfied with what we have but we've settled out of fear. We tell ourselves this is good enough because we are too afraid to go after what we really want. 

In my case, I needed a little help from the universe to push myself into chasing after what I really wanted. So, after losing my job, almost losing my life and my loved ones, I realized that I was being given another chance. A chance to start over and do whatever I wanted to do - I just needed to figure out it was. 

That's another thing that holds us back. We are full of endless possibility and worlds of perseverance but lack direction. The old adage of "You can do whatever you put your mind to" chafes against us because we lack a "whatever" to actually put our minds to. This was, for me, by far the harder thing to overcome. 

It was not a meticulous and logical rationalize that got me to where I am - it was almost a whim. My heart told me to go answer the question of "what if...". I literally received some sort of lightening bolt thought into my brain one morning that told me - Hey. Go to Med School. It was October 14, 2010. 

From there I began investigating if that was a real possibility, and what it would take to actually accomplish. Along the way I learned that this career path held real hope for me - the satisfaction of everything I'd ever been seeking in a career, in a life, in a dream. 

It was easy in the beginning - Beginner's Luck they call it - and the road rose up to meet me, ushering me along the way, as if you could sense the very excitement in the air. As I get closer, it gets harder. It asks more of me, and demands that I redefine how I will continue along the path. You have what it takes - but it will take all you've got. 

So now we come to this place where the journey continues, but the terrain is about to change. I am finishing my coursework, I am studying for the MCAT, I am preparing to apply. And I am so very thankful that these chances are mine to explore. This has been the most frustrating and challenging things I have ever attempted to accomplish. And once it's accomplished, it starts a whole new journey of difficult navigations that will also demand everything I have to give. 

However. I am beyond convinced that this is the road I want to take. I know without any doubt that this is the career I want to have. And its not just because I've sacrificed everything to get here or because I've been following it so long I can't conceive of another way - it's because my heart is in the journey with me. This may not be the scientific answer I'm expected to give when asked why I've chosen this direction. It may not make logical sense or fit nicely into an AMCAS response, but it is the reason I can keep going. 

Endless joy. For me this journey has consisted of both unmatched frustrations and unequaled joy. These simple tasks with which I am entrusted may be humble, but they give me a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. I am not maximizing profits or workflows, I am maximizing human experience. I am easing the suffering of individuals, if only for a moment. And in the end, when there is nothing more that can be done, I am taking a few precious moments to prepare things for their next step - with respect for the life that has just ended, and compassion for the family that is left behind. 

There is nothing more I can ask of the universe, and no greater tasks which I will hope to accomplish. These next few steps in the journey are simply the things that I must do to continue doing what I love. They are the obstacles along my path, and with both my heart and my mind committed to the goals, they don't stand a chance of stopping my forward progression. 

It is often said that to reinvent ourselves, we must destroy ourselves first. I truly believe that for me this was the case. The journey ahead is full of unknowns and difficult roads - but there is a pathway through it if only I would follow my heart and my mind - my compasses leading me on. In the end, I don't really believe in fatalism, but I do believe that there are certain things which will bring you great joy based upon what you find satisfying and what you are capable of. For me, the marriage of these two things is the treasure. For me, my genes, my experience, my talents, my abilities, have all written a code for me - a possible future that will bring me the greatest joy possible. That... to me... is what it means when I say... 

It is written.