So, it seems that I am going to start just about every one of these posts with a whinge about how tired I am. So, how about I just get it out of the way: I. am. tired. I am mostly tired because I am finding it hard to get into a routine – or at least – find a routine that also allows me to a) earn a living for my family b) get my study done and c) get more than 3 hours sleep a night. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am running a web design business and studying a full time load, so it’s pretty exhausting.
I came home one day last week and noticed that my son (18 months) was heavier. That is generally a sign that I haven’t seen my kids much, and in this case, it’s right. I haven’t seen my 9 year old daughter in what feels like months, and the middle boy (nearly 5), well, the only time I see him is when he seeks me out. It’s not a good balance.
And the thing that scares me, at this very moment, is that I am about to get a whole lot tireder.
I am genuinely surprised about the knock-on effects of this decision to become a Doctor. I am not sure if it is related to turning 30, or that I have opened a Pandora’s Box of figuring out (and asserting) what I want out of life, but something major has shifted in me. I feel a little bit like I am suddenly evaluating all of the choices I made up to this point – all of the things I have done out of obligation, or habit, or societal expectation… and its like the decision to uproot my life and try to do Medicine has made me question everything else, including my marriage. Like my previous career (s!), my marriage is not a bad one. I’d be okay if I stayed, but there’s just something that I am yearning within it that makes me feel incomplete. And I need to be separated to figure it out.
Because the feeling that I have when I am at a Lab, or studying the Sciences? It makes me feel complete. It might sound crazy, but Chemistry was something I was told was hard, that I was a creative-brain and that I wouldn’t cope with it. So I didn’t do it. Same with Physics. Others expectations of what I should do and how I should feel prevented me from finding my passion. Because to me, Chemistry & Physics are simply applied Philosophy. Nobody ever told me that Aristotle is as much the Grandfather of Science as he was of Political Philosophy. Noone ever said that Classical Philosophy had as much of a scientific application as a creative one. And I feel a bit let down by that, because if Chemistry had been explained to me in terms of the search for meaning or understanding the world around us, or explaining the Universe… I would have taken to Science 10 years ago. I think it might be a failing of the public school system that they don’t show the overlap between the Arts and the Sciences. My only exposure to it in high school was Bicarb and vinegar and memorising the periodic table! But, if you show me how osmosis applies in the body, why they put physiologic saline in a drip with drugs… I not only retain it, but I love it.
So I feel a little bit of sadness at how I was a Scientist for all these years and never knew it, purely because the system doesn’t encourage us to find our passion, but to pick a job we can do.
And I am sure all the Doctors that read this will laugh, because right now, I am studying only to get my GPA up so I can get in to Medical School and I am studying basic Chemistry, basic Histology, basic Physics… the sort of thing all you eggheads take for granted. And I may be right-brained but I am home, because I understand *why* these disciplines exist – and that they are a philosophical hypothesis like anything else, and it’s a discipline based on Millennia of thinking and reflecting, like anything else. If anything, I feel that having studied the classics n Philosophy prior to approaching the Sciences will make me a better Doctor, because I get the why as well as the how. Understanding things at the molecular level, and applying it across disciplines… excites me in a way I have never ever been. I want to be a Scholar, not a subset, and the discipline of Medicine is so broad, I am truly excited about my future.
And like cells have an enormous impact on the whole world, that one little decision to pursue my dream of being a Doctor has had a butterfly effect I could not have foreseen. I am truly excited.
Having said that, there are some practical hurdles that I keep coming up against. The main one is time with money a close second. And University bureaucracy is doing my head in, to say the least. My University decided that in order to graduate with the new triple-minor in Politics, Public Policy & Biomedical Science, I needed to take a whole bunch of Politics Units… it meant an additional year of study in something I had already done, so, me being me, went on a bit of a Twitter tanty. We finally negotiated that I could do as initially promised, plus one more Politics unit and that would be fine. I was a ball of stress about all of this, because as it is, the numbers are against me even getting into Med, without being stuffed around on top of it.
As I said earlier, I am full time at University, and working in a business that requires a lot of time. I got out of bed last Monday morning at 6am, to catch the train for an 8:30am lecture, to have the lecturer pretty much read from the slides that are available online. I started the Semester with the intention of attending every single lecture (to show I was committed), but at this point in time, I felt it was unsustainable, and an inefficient use of my time, so I decided to dedicate blocks of time for the whole week’s revision, instead of FOUR 1 hour lectures, on different days, per unit. I feel like I am functioning a little better this week because of it. Because it’s not so much about my commitment to the degree or to getting into Med School… for people who are grown-ups, with jobs and families (and in my case heading into single parenthood for at least a little while), it is about my time being valuable and needing to schedule efficiently. I am still attending all compulsory Labs & Tutes, and doing my best to go to lectures, but at the same time, I need to be aware o burnout. Because I have health issues, stress is not good for me and I need to learn strategies to be efficient rather than super-human.
I hope that I can at least be an example for those other older people considering entering Medical School – that it’s not about the right timing, or having enough money, or being able to take it on. As you get older it only gets harder and more complicated… and if that burning desire is there, and refuses to subside, leap now. It is really hard. It is really exhausting. And it may open up feelings and thoughts that you didn’t expect or realise. My personal growth since the decision to try for Medicine has been a combination of surprising, invigorating and downright terrifying, and you need to be prepared to feel like a different person on the other side. But, I’ll tell you… after my histology lab, with the microscope that was too high and hurt my back, and the eyestrain from staring at my own eyelashes for 2 hours, and the migraine that followed… I felt a sense of bliss like never before. The week before, I was wrist deep in cow’s guts and I have never been happier. And I was in a first year dissection lab, fighting back tears because I was just so overwhelmed with excitement and privilege to have gotten even to that point… it is so worth it.
And I know that on my first day of Medical School, I will sob like a baby. Because it has taken not only a tremendous amount of physical energy, but the emotional and spiritual transformations I have inadvertently discovered along the way, and I will feel so lucky to have the opportunity to even be there.
Which is why, whenever I feel tempted to pack it all in (which happens at least every second day), I think of that moment. Not even finishing Med School, or being a Resident, or finding my speciality, but I think about that very first day of Medical School, and that feeling that I have discovered my calling and my dream, and that feeling of nothing but pure excitement, and an immense feeling of privilege and humility, that will make all of this tiredness, separation logistics, forever teetering on bankruptcy, worth every second.