“It would be cool if you documented on your blog your progression through this medical school process and how you’ve changed.”
This is what boy said to me the other evening after I pointed out how memorial day weekend always reminds me of when I started my blog. And also when I made the decision to go back to school to pursue a few science courses. You know, just a few science courses to see if I like it. To see if I am capable of it. And to see if I would possibly want to go to medical school. My response to boy after he said this?
“You know, I’ve searched for medical student blogs. There aren’t many out there. There’s a reason for that.”
Let that suffice for now as an explanation for where I’ve been. If I had used this space to document this medical school process, it would not have been about the challenges of the classes, the hardships of working full-time in an industry completely unrelated to my future goal (however equally challenging on a personal level it is – introvert in marketing and doing social media? ha, go figure), and the things that I learned from semester to semester (oh, but do talk physics to me, it’s quite the turn on). The true process has been an evolution of personal beliefs. A challenge to tame my mind and body and find faith in small actions by others and myself. Also, it’s about learning to live with myself. The process? It’s narcissism. And if I were Catholic, narcissism would be the mortal sin, the one you will never be absolved from no matter how much dishwater you pour over you or beads you finger. Good thing I’m not Catholic.
The process began when I read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I’ve spoken briefly about this before. I read this book and felt inspired to find my role in the world. I would bring up the book with boy and go off about how the journey forced me to challenge why I chose the path I chose. Was I pleasing someone else? Was I fulfilling other people’s expectations? Had I not given myself a fair chance to explore what I was good at? (Yes, Yes, and No.) I turned to boy in the car and said “If money and time weren’t a concern, I’d probably try to go to medical school.” He interrupted me and said “You’ve said this before. You realize there’s nothing stopping you from trying if you really wanted to do it…” No. No, I had not realized this. This is how unaware of myself I was. It now seems unfathomable, like I was living with no voice.
I’m sitting here procrastinating studying for the MCAT and filling in my AMCAS and AACOMAS applications and taking a break from scrambling to get sufficient physician shadowing experience. Because three years later, this is where I stand. Armed with my pre-reqs fulfilled, facing application season, sorting out my list of schools to apply to, and wondering what happens if I land on the wrong side of the 50% acceptance rate to medical school.
It felt kismet that at the same time I am wrapping this up, boy treated me to an evening interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in San Francisco. She’s touring with her latest book Nomad which I have yet to read. She came on stage and I admit that I did not look over at boy purposefully because my eyes were a little teary over the experience. It wasn’t about her being my hero as much as it was about here’s the woman who has inspired me to change something in myself. Our life stories are world’s apart, but I can’t help but feel she’s opened a road for herself thereby opening a road for me.
Prior to the interview, a few older people behind us were declaring her amongst the “intellectual elite” and discussing her politics and beliefs. Boy mockingly turned to me: “Oh! Did you know we are among the intellectually elite?” Me: “I think they believe they are the intellectual elites.” Boy: “Didn’t you know that’s all the intellectual elite are? Those that believe they are.” He helped me to feel justified in my presence.
The interview concerned issues about perceptions of the Muslim world, truths and statistics about the Muslim world, back and forth over cause and effect of fundamentalism and radicalism, and what Ayaan believes the necessary actions are for change. Even the issue of America’s liberal arts colleges was addressed, which I found entertaining and curious as a graduate from a liberal arts school. I’ll be honest, while interesting, I did not attend this event to hear about the Muslim world. (Albeit my issues with women’s rights concerning Female Genital Mutilation and the desire by men to judge a woman by her virginity drove me to the study of medicine – best quote of the night “human beings, not hymens.”)
Ayaan is unpretentious, speaks her personal truth unabashedly, and asserts her personal truths to the society she lives in. She doesn’t need an SAT vocabulary to speak concisely on the issues she addresses. She doesn’t need pant suits, a stern frown, and a title to her name to confront a room of men in suits to elaborate convincingly on an issue. She doesn’t need to project or drop her voice to a female shout to be heard because she makes it such that every word has value and if you don’t listen, shame on you for missing a carefully thought out point to drive an issue home. She speaks bravely, and I walked away thinking there’s no reason at all I should not be the one up there speaking my personal truths. We should all be living a life honest to what we believe so that we each can speak about it so passionately.
I walked away encouraged to be more brave and bold about my pursuits. The premed process has been about learning what my weaknesses are and challenge them. I project my weaknesses onto others, get paranoid I’m doing everything wrong, and sit unable to start projects out of fear of knowing the end result will not live up to my expectations. I fret over how people perceive me, criticize my body relentlessly, and can easily work myself into a frenzy over past humiliations such as misused words or that time I told someone Pyongyang was the spokesperson for North Korea. I’m neurotic and my own worst enemy. And if anything, the past three years have amplified this adorable quality of mine. I challenge all of this by not giving up. I came uncomfortably close to failing physics last year (yet somehow managed to be far from failing in the end.) If you could see where my MCAT practice scores are 3 weeks prior to my test date you’d probably wonder what I’m thinking while simultaneously affirming to yourself that no, she is not among the intellectual elites.
So maybe this has not been about evolution of personal beliefs as much as it has been about giving them voice and action. About silencing the world to filter out the things that matter. Something that challenges me every single day.