This is my 12th year of university. Gross. I think about that and I get a little depressed. 12 years and 4 degrees. I guess that’s not too bad: I’m averaging 3 years per degree.
You think I wouldn’t complain about having all this education. I do, however, because I feel that in my current degree (MD) I am so much further behind my peers. I look at some of my classmates and they are 4, 5, 6, even 7 years younger than me. I think about how much further ahead of me they will be in their lives. I think about some of the residents I work with and how they are younger than me. I think about some of my mentors, like K: she graduated medical school 12 years ago, yet she’s only 7 years older than me. That puts her 5 years ahead of me in the “life plan.” Just in case it’s not glaringly obvious: I often get down on myself for being so far behind in my life.
This past weekend I wrote all my personal letters for my residency applications. In one section of some of the letters, I commented on the research I did throughout med school. I then segued into my research background:
… I have a strong background in basic research that I developed during the completion of my Master’s of Science degree. My thesis involved … While I eventually decided that I didn’t want to continue a career in basic science research, I am excited to apply the skills I acquired previously to a field of medicine that I am passionate about.
Today I was re-reading my letters and I thought about how very few of my classmates can say anything to this effect. I worked hard on that Master’s degree. I learned so much, I have an experience that many people in my position don’t have. K doesn’t have a Master’s degree; Most people I know don’t have a Master’s degree. It’s got to count for something, right?
As I thought about this today, I realized that maybe I don’t give myself enough credit for the things I have accomplished in my life. So I made a career change… That is the reason I am “behind.” I have experienced something that has bettered me and made me an interesting person. I have skills and knowledge that set me apart from other people; things that probably make other people look at me and think “wow, that’s pretty awesome” (or impressive, or some other worthy adjective). I need to remember this more often and I need to be confident in what I have done up to this point in my life.
I have to stop saying that I’m behind. I’m not behind. I have taken a different path to get here and it has made me who I am. I need to not be ashamed of the “lowly level” I am at in my medical training and focus instead on all the parts that make up me, as a whole. I am an amazing, hard working, skilled individual who has so much to offer. I just happen to be in medical school now and I haven’t learned everything that other people who are further ahead of me have. That doesn’t make me a bad person, or a person worth less than the other people around me. I just doesn’t.
And just to add a little more “oomph” to my argument here, I also have an English degree. How many people can say they have a science degree and an arts degree? That’s pretty cool, I think (maybe I’m biased). In fact, I asked some people to read my letters and give me their opinion: I had more than one person say something to the effect of, “I don’t think I can offer any critique to the person with the English degree.” Again, like the Master’s degree, I seem to forget that I have acquired something in the time that “put me behind” in life. And this something makes me a more interesting person.
It all counts for something and I need to take more pride in all of that.