Nothing is more irksome than when someone thinks their opinion is superior to your decisions. Often, unsolicited advice is irritating, invalidating, and sometimes, just plain ignorant. And other times? Unsolicited advice can bring out such a powerful emotion that it releases us from our complacency.
I caught up with an old friend this last week and let them know where I’m at in my life. I’ve been really enjoying my engineering internship, I’m still in love with my scribe position, and my MCAT was not as strong as I was hoping, but I already had myself on a new schedule and registered for an August session. Things are great, things are smooth, things are working out.
Then, out of nowhere, my friend blankly states “I’m surprised you signed up for the MCAT again.” “Why?” I ask.
“Because if you were really serious about going to medical school, you would be really going for it.”
I work at least 45 hours a week, half of that in a hospital directly interacting with staff and patients. If I’m not spending my weekends on an overnight shift, I’m spending them studying or volunteering in the four organizations I’m committed to. I pay the majority of my life expenses from my hard-earned paychecks, I don’t party every night, I’ve been spending more nights at the library or the hospital than I have at home, I organize outreach events, etc, etc ,etc. What do you mean I’m not really going for it?
The conversation politely continued, and to be honest, the impact of that statement did not really hit until the conversation was long over and we had both gone our separate ways. Now knowing this person has little, if not any experience in healthcare, I just kept thinking to myself, “What else could I possibly be doing?” As y’all know from previous blogs, I’m sensitive to the fact that I didn’t declare pre-medical until halfway through an engineering degree. I still feel far from understanding how the application process works. So on top of wondering what else I could add to my plate to achieve validation from this person, I sensitively thought, “What else are pre-meds expected to do?”
It weighed on me for some time, but I looked to my role models (@nataliemwall, @nontradmom, @pissedoffpremed, @doctormeowskis, @callie_mt). In each of their unique journeys, I see that they may have not have taken the most traditional path. But, each of them are phenomenal pre-meds, medical students, and physicians. I see their journeys and I think, “Look how cool that each of their individual experiences affected their careers positively.” And I can’t wait to see where they will all be in five years.
In some ways I’m happy that my friend mentioned their curt opinion, because it made me reconsider my current actions and if they will ultimately feed into my vision for myself. (Maybe its not the strongest idea to try achieving a full time engineering position or agreeing to plan that not-interesting-at-all engineering event.) And in some ways, I resent that I allowed someone’s quick opinion to question all the validation I had built for myself in the decisions I have made recently for my future career in medicine.
Overall, I share this experience for the other pre-meds out there that are also interested in engineering, art, politics, geography, video games, fitness… It’s okay. It’s beautiful! You shouldn’t give up your side passions to adhere to a cookie cutter path. Never let yourself or others invalidate the other portions of your life. Take each piece of advice with a grain of salt, but I also caution everyone to still take it. Know that 99.99% of the time, people wouldn’t waste their breath unless they cared about you enough to share their wisdom.
Your path to your vision will be unique. You may be a crazy engineer turned pre-med interested in becoming an academic trauma surgeon turned senator and also a parent and grandparent and a potato lover… and that will all be quite all right. At least every day through to my very end, I will know that I really went for it.