As graduation fast approaches, I can't help but think about how fast the past 4 years flew by! But at the same time, I catch myself constantly following the word "graduation" with "finally!" I have wanted to become a doctor for as long as I remember, and, in a few short days, that goal will be achieved. Woohoo!! With such a big part of my life coming to a close, I can't help but reflect on all the things I (and many med students) went through to get to this point. So I decided to write a little letter to my pre-med self...oh the things I wish I knew as an 18-year-old, naive, way-too-eager-to-grow-up college student.
Dear Pre-Med Self,
You can do this! You have made a life goal that many people will try to discourage. It isn't going to be easy, but it will be worth it. You will have to make sacrifices and life won't look like many of your friends' lives. You won't be graduating with a job, buying a home, or starting a family for quite some time. And that's OKAY! It is more than okay! You will take your time, pegging away in the library, putting life on hold, so that you can wake up every morning knowing that you are doing the work that you have dreamed of. While you are going through this journey, I want you to remember a few things:
1. Live in the present. It can be so hard to not put all your focus just on what is coming next. Pass the classes, ace the MCAT, applications, interviews...ALL the things. Yes, all those things are so important to accomplish your goal, but you have to enjoy life. You only get one. The habits you form now with balancing life, work, school, etc., will continue through medical school and beyond. So put the phone down, notecards away, and close the books. Take a day to enjoy with your friends or family, go on an adventure, or take some time for some self-care. I promise, your studies will go much better if you let your brain take a little break.
2. Learn how to study now. That tiny high school might not have prepared you well for the college course load, but you can overcome this obstacle! If a form of studying isn't working, change it. Don't be stubborn. Try new techniques. Ask your peers what works for them. There is nothing shameful in asking for help. You will later learn that practice questions are the best way for you to retain information. If only you had learned that prior to the end of your 2nd year of medical school ;-)
3. Do what you love, not what you think the admission boards love. Biochemistry degree, honors college, volunteer hours, research, leadership positions. You are doing everything that you have heard you *had* to do to get into medical school. Guess what, it isn't going to get you in. Even with a resume loaded with all the "must-haves" you will still get the rejection letter. Yes, many of those things are important, but the majority of pre-meds will have an almost identical resume. So you hate biochemistry? Change your major! You can study ANYTHING! This is your chance! Yes, you need to get your pre-requisites, but you don't have to study something that doesn't interest you for 4 years. Who would have thought that your love for wine and sommelier certification would be the hottest topic for all your residency interviews?! Your passions will allow you to stand out in a sea full of stellar applicants.
4. Be yourself, and don't apologize. You are a woman, a very girly one at that. You like the color pink, you love to shop, and you know how to have a good time. Don't be ashamed of that! Wear the pink, curl your hair, fill your white coat pockets with lipstick. You don't have to fit the mold of what people *think* a physician should look like. Your hard work and dedication to provide the best care will leave the lasting impression.
5. Don't compare yourself to others. This is the hardest, but most important, piece of advice. You will find yourself comparing your grades, your pre-med journey, the number of interviews, the number of acceptance letters, and everything in between. Stop. It. Everyone has a different journey, and everyone has their own obstacles. People don't boast about their struggles, they share about their triumphs. When you check social media and see everyone around you succeeding, remember that you aren't seeing what they went through to get to that point. You are only seeing a tiny moment in their story. Congratulate and support your peers for their hard work and accomplishments! You will have your moment and they will be there to congratulate and support you!
It might take you longer than you anticipated to become a physician, but you will do it. In the meantime, you will travel the world, follow passions you didn't even know you had, marry the love of your life, have a beautiful baby boy, and learn to love yourself and who you are becoming.