I go back to school in a month, and just typing those words creates a nervous flutter in my stomach. I’ll be starting my Master of Health Science, Physician Assistant program, and let’s be honest, I don’t really know what I’m in for. The PA program is roughly about a year less than the MD program, but we learn just as much. As our program director gently described, it’s like “being on a treadmill at full speed…at full incline.”
Full disclosure: I started the program last year, and ended up deferring two weeks into it. It was a case of severe anxiety, depression, and mismanaged logistics. Moreover, I wasn’t ready to be away from my mom for so long. I had spent the last few years as her caretaker, and she still hadn’t reached optimal health. I worried about her being alone. I worried about how she would get to her appointments. I worried about her being stuck at home all day. And even though I chose the school closest to home, it didn’t help. The time I thought I would spend with her quickly depleted as I navigated through 12-hour days, and a commute that took hours (because…Los Angeles). I was mentally exhausted, and there was no room in my brain for any new information.
In addition to that, all of my classmates seemed to be ecstatic. They were itching to start studying, excited for exams, and happily diving into cadaver lab. Having this as a reference point only confused me more. Was I supposed to be feeling that way too? Why was everyone so excited and happy? Was this not hard for them to adjust to? I felt like an outsider. During lecture, I found myself googling things like, “how to know if you should quit med school,” “best work from home jobs,” or “how to find your passion” (side note: don’t google stuff like this unless you want generic articles that will further confuse you). I would cry every night when I got home, miserable because of how I was feeling inside. I had to do something, but all I saw when I closed my eyes was: quit.
Since school had already started, and we were halfway through the second week, I didn’t think deferring was a choice. And to be entirely honest, I didn’t want it to be an option. I just wanted to close the door and move on to a new chapter. A mundane 9-5 job never sounded so good. But, for whatever reason, a deferral did become an option, and something (I don’t know what) made me take it. So, here I am, almost a year later, starting to feel that same anxiety creep up on me. It doesn’t help when I see social media posts from other students talking about how full their schedules are, how much studying they have to do, or the good ol’ reliable post about the absurd number of cups of coffee they need just to get through their days.
Still, I notice a bit of a difference this time around. The most important one being that my mom is doing so much better- it’s almost night and day with her, and I could not be more grateful for her progressing health. The second, is that I have bouts of courage that peek through at the most random times. These are my “I can do it!” moments, or my “I can’t wait to learn how to ____ (usually, suture)” thoughts. I find myself envisioning future mission trips to other countries, and being able to help family members in emergency situations. I will be that person who can really help in just a few years.
I also think a lot about destiny. I applied to schools three years out of college- in a rather impromptu way. After earning my Bachelor’s, I looked for something to feed my soul, but kept coming up empty-handed. Nothing was satisfying me. Ultimately, I figured I would apply just to cross the finish line. After all, I was Pre-Med throughout my undergrad and spent more time hanging out with my books than at parties or social functions. I put all that work in- just to give up last minute? No. So, I applied. I was invited for interviews. And then I got accepted.
I got accepted, and then, I basically quit. Without a deferral, this door would have closed permanently (because I was not about to go through the whole application/LOR/interview process again- and the possibility of having to do my prerequisites again? Absolutely. Not.). But the door didn’t shut. Something kept it open. I’ve spent the last few years fighting tooth-and-nail to find a different career/passion. I’ve tried esthetician school, I’ve dipped my foot in the entertainment industry with modeling & acting, I worked retail, and I almost took a job in Real Estate. Yet, here I am, back at square one. Needless to say, I think it’s pretty clear that I’m meant to do this, and I realize I’ve taken the scenic tour to get to my future. No matter which way I try to go, the Universe keeps redirecting me back onto this path. Maybe God wants me to contribute in helping to heal the world (Lord knows we need a lot of that- especially now), and I should be honored, not afraid. It’s not going to be easy, but it might not be as hard for me as I anticipate. I need to work on shifting my thinking- to start considering the positives more than the negatives, and to stop fearing things that haven’t even happened yet. On that note, I think I’m also going to do myself a favor and stay away from the realm of med student social media. Stress culture not only permeates that world, it’s very glamorized (!!?!?). I know we’re all different people with different personalities and abilities, but seeing all of that continues to psych me out.
One thing is for sure, all signs point to: I’m meant to do this.
Therefore, I will succeed,
and I will be great at it.
I accept you, destiny. I’m not fighting it anymore.