There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. – Oscar Wilde
Everyone reacts to medical school acceptances differently. My parents were overjoyed, smiling and dancing when they first heard I was accepted. My siblings reacted loudly too. My sister was at the library when she found out and she later told me she made such a racket that the librarian threatened to kick her out.
I had friends who wanted to celebrate with me and friends that were sad because I was leaving them. I heard praises of, “you must be so smart to get into x school” and criticism such as, “I heard x school is easy to get into.” A lot of people swore at me, “HOLY SHIT, I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU GOT IN” and with words like, “SON OF A BITCH, I wish I was in your shoes.” I had friends who did not know I was applying to medical school , and even stranger, some relatives who had thought I was already in medical school.
As for me, when I read those words in the title of this post, I went through so many different emotions.
- Joy – I shouted a victory cheer. I was beaming a smile from cheek to cheek. “I GOT IN, I GOT IN, I GOT IN!”
- Disbelief – the next second, I stared at the letter to see if this was a dream. I couldn’t believe it! I reread the words, to make sure I had read it right. I was sure they made a mistake, how could they accept me over all the other qualified applicants that won’t make it in this round.
- Satisfaction – All those nights of studying, preparing for tests, writing lab reports finally added up. My efforts had paid off and I felt satisfied. It was gratifying.
- Gratefulness – I was thankful for this acceptance. It could have just as easily been someone else receiving it. Lady luck was with me and I was thankful.
- Relief – I was exiting the rat-race known as pre-med. No more organic chemistry reactions, no more marks squeezing. Pass/Fail here I come!
- Emptiness – I was surprised that I felt this way. All my dreams and goals of becoming a doctor was finally accomplished. What was there left to do?
For the past 5-6 years, I had set my sight on becoming a doctor. It started in high school, when I first wrote down that goal and researched the path needed to get there. Over the years, I had moments of self-doubt. I wondered if I should continue in this direction, did I have the right motives? Do I like doing what doctors do or do I just like the idea of being a doctor? What if, out there, the dream career was waiting for me and it wasn’t medicine? I read dozens of books on medicine, trying to understand it from another perspective. I tried to reason myself out of this choice to become an architect, engineer or anything else. At other times, I had surges of confidence. “If I don’t get in the first time, I’ll try again for a second, and third and so on, I’ll do whatever it takes.” When I had no motivation to study, I reminded myself that being a doctor required hard work and persistence. During one extreme month, I ate, slept, dreamt getting into medical school. I had an unhealthy obsession.
When you have been consumed by a goal or passion, it becomes part of you, your identity. And when you finally accomplish that dream, you lose a part of yourself. It feels like an Olympic athlete past his prime. You worked so long and hard for it, and after you get it, then what? But after musing over the last few months, I have come to accept that this is a new start. I won’t forget who I was before, but I must also look forward to who I will become. The road of medicine is long, the education is at least a decade long and afterwards life-long learning. I know that this is not the end, but just the end of the beginning.