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Diary of an undecided post-bacc student

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14 years 8 months ago #70455 by lawtomd
Hello everyone,

After reading all of these interesting diaries, I thought I might like to start one myself. I always find that I express my own thoughts best through writing, and especially with this complex decision that I, and many of you, are dealing with, I thought it might help to keep a diary.

I titled this diary "diary of an undecided post-bacc" because that's exactly what I am. I am so incredibly on the fence about whether or not to apply to medical school. Here's my story:

I'm in my late 20's, married and have a law degree. While in law school, I decided that practicing law was not for me. I just didn't have the passion for it, and the thought of spending even a year or two trying it out didn't appeal to me at all. Instead, I decided that medicine was where my true passion was. I was pre-med in college for the first two years until I finally got fed up with science and realized I didn't have the work ethic at that point to do well in it. Then I went to law school out of default, because I really had very little direction as a senior in college, and thought that it might be a good idea.

Once I made the decision to do medicine, I decided to immediately start a post-bacc, so right after graduating from law school I started a post-bacc in my new city. In a year I did all the pre-reqs, and did well. I took the MCAT this past April, and am awaiting my scores, and I did all the volunteering, etc. and I also worked full-time for pay in the hospial as a tech for 9 months. That brings us to today.

As a result of my full-time employment in the hospial, I was exposed to a lot of downsides to medicine, and it started planting the seeds of doubt in my mind. I really started to wonder whether or not this was the right choice for me. Especially because I felt like my full-time employment showed me the bad sides of medicine the way my volunteer work never did. However, even with this doubt, I still spent the winter studying for the April MCAT, the results of which should come out next week or so.

I'm scheduled to take an upper level bio course for the second half of the summer, so I really want to decide before then. Plus, June 1 marked the beginning of the application season. I have my AMCAS all filled out and ready to go, my rec letters are all lined up, but I just don't know if med school is the right thing for me.

Everyone in my family are doctors; my husband is a doctor, but they're all very neutral about my interest in medicine--not encouraging, not discouraging. There are so many pros to medicine, but at the same time so many cons as well. I'm already in my late 20's, have one professional degree under my belt, and generally feel like I'm floundering all over the place. Besides my hosptial tech job, I've never had a full-time real job, since I went from college to law school to post-bacc, and I am kind of craving some real world experience. On the other hand, though, there's no career that interests me as much as medicine does.

One of the cons about the 8-year medical path (med school, internship and residency) is that of delayed gratification. I feel like I've already been through college, a law degree and a post-bacc, and I'm ready to start "living" now. The thought of 8 more years of toil and drudgery of studying kind of makes me feel ill. Plus, besides working full-time in the hosptial, I've had the benefit of being with my husband all through med school, internship, and residency, and I see firsthand how hard it is. Internship and residency for him have been far more time consuming and exhausting than med school ever was, and I'm not sure I'll have the energy to work 12 hour days plus study afterwards and be on call ever four nights when I'm in my mid to late 30's. He's in his late 20's and he's totally overwhelmed by all of this as it is.

I just don't know. I've been waffling back and forth for months, and I know from reading other threads on this board that many of you have, too.

I really, really don't want to be a lawyer--and I've searched and searched and haven't found any other professions that call me the way medicine does. Although we have no kids, I know now that I want to be a career woman, with a very high-powered and demanding career. And I can't seem to find what I'm looking for in any other career, I wish I could.

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14 years 8 months ago #70456 by lawtomd
If anyone has any comments or advice, please private message me. I will respond quickly; I am very eager to gather new ideas and feedback.

Thanks.

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14 years 8 months ago #70457 by lawtomd
Well, it's 8 am on a typical weekday for me and I've been sending out resumes and cover letters for 2 hours already.

I've been job searching for two months now, and have yet to find anything at all. I'm in a pretty decent sized city, and every day I send out between 5 and 10 resumes. But the job market must be terrible b/c while I have had some interviews, I haven't been offered any positions. At the same time as I'm applying to all these (full-time) jobs, I must say that my heart really isn't in it (though I try to write perky and upbeat cover letters.) The thought of sitting in a cubicle for the rest of my life makes me feel ill. None of the jobs I've come across have I had any passion for. They're just something that I hope will fill the void that med school will leave if I don't go down that path (plus I need a full-time job anyway for the glide year.)

I consider myself a pretty self-aware person, and I've done a ton of career research, but I truly have yet to come across any job or career that will be more than just a tedious job to go to everyday. I know many people hate their jobs (even docs) and I know you just have to suck it up and deal. My mother says, why can't you just be a housewife and not work but that's not an option for me, for self-esteem reasons. For me, personally, being a working woman now and eventually a working mom is something essential that I need to do to feel my own sense of self. Plus, having gone through college, law school, and now post-bacc with only my hosptial tech job in between, I feel the need to get out into the real world.

Does not being able to find another career mean that if I don't choose medicine I'm always going to be unhappy in this aspect of my life? I've always been driven, ambitious, and full of energy for a career, but if I don't choose medicine I won't be able to put all of this towards anything. The fact that medicine has been the driving force in my life for the past two years has made me very happy. I like the structure of medicine (always knowing that your path is laid out for you) and I like the fact that you go through pre-set stages as you progress towards your ultimate career goal. I am a person who thrives on structure, and my current structure-less existence is kind of getting to me.

When I think about saying goodbye to medicine--not submitting my AMCAS application this year--I feel incredibly sad. It's as if a part of me that has been nurtured for the past few years since this idea has become a reality will have died. I know there will be a mourning period, but will I ever be able to emerge from that and feel the way about a new career that I felt about medicine? I feel as if saying goodbye to medicine will be very hard because I liked having medicine as part of my identity--it gave me something to work towards, and always think about, and I liked that. Is there anything else that can take its place?

At this point in my life, I feel so directionless. I'm 28, but I feel like I live the life of someone fresh out of college--knowing mostly school and little real-world experience. I feel more confused and directionless now than I did as a senior in college. Maybe I'm going through the quarter-life crisis, I read an article about that once. How do I find direction again? I can't afford career counseling or therapy or anything like that. I talk to my husband about this all the time but I think he's probably getting tired of it. I really don't talk to my friends about this because I don't want to weigh them down with such a complex issue, plus I just don't think they could ever understand where I'm coming from. Until I read this board, I didn't think any other pre-meds felt the way I do about medicine.

I also feel that medicine is the "project" that I need in my life right now to fulfill me. At age 28, married, with no kids, and in a city where I don't know many people (just moved here a few years ago), I have enormous amounts of free time (even with a full-time job) and I need something to fill it. Thus far, medicine has been that project, as there's always volunteering to do, an extra-curric to do, etc. My husband is a resident with a grueling schedule, so we don't get to spend much time together, and I love having an ambitious goal of my own to constantly strive toward. But at the same time, my major reservation about medicine is the fact that you have to spend eight years narrowly focused on one thing.

I don't know if I'd be able to do that, especially since now I have more well-developed hobbies and interests than I did at age 22. How do residents and med students cast everything else aside except medicine and their families? I would think even for someone like me, married with no kids, I'd be spending virtually every waking hour for the next 8 years doing something medically related. All other interests--reading books, painting, playing an instrument, fitness, would fall to the wayside. And this would be especially the case because I was a humanities major and I have only at this point taken the basic pre-reqs. Does anyone else have a similar concern about being so narrowly focused for 8 years? Because I know this has been the case with my husband. Since he started internship and now throughout residency, I think the quality of his extra-curricular life is extremely diminished. He never has time to read a book for fun, or to go out for a whole day without feeling guilty about not studying.

What to do, what to do.

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14 years 8 months ago #70458 by lawtomd
Hi there,

It's me again. It's early on a Saturday morning, I'm sending off more resumes, and I'm filled with doubts again.

Last night my husband and I went to a potluck dinner and of course, the dreaded question came up: "what do you do?" (I always hate that question and would never pose it to anyone; I find it too intrusive.) Why is it that we as a society automatically ask another person (usually within the first two minutes of meeting them) "what do you do?" Why don't we as a society instead ask, "what are your hopes and dreams or what are your interests?" or something similar? Why is the fact that how a person spends her time between 9 and 5 her "identity" according to current social norms? Does this strike anyone else as kind of ridiculous? However much I find it ridiculous, I admit I get sucked into this trap as well. It's hard not to in today's society.

Well, I just said "lawyer" because what else am I really going to say. If I said the truth I'd have said, "well, I'm in-between careers--my "job" right now is being mired daily in a web of uncertainty, lack of self-esteem, inner turmoil."

I wish so badly I had a career--medicine--which would fill me with pride whenever I thought of it. Despite my rantings on the "what do you do" question above, I long so badly to identify myself with a career--something that I can be proud of and feel good about. Instead, I will never identify myself with "lawyer" or any of the careers I've applied for in the past two months: "associate marketing specialist," "assistant editor," "customer service specialist."

To me, the difference between a career and a job is that a job is something you do for money, just to make ends meet, and that you really don't have an interest in moving up in, whether or not it's dead end or not. For instance, if I were to be a lawyer, that would just be a job. I would be doing it for the money only, I would have zero interest in promotions (i.e. being a partner in a law firm or whatever). In contrast, when I think of "career," I think of something that you can personally identify with, that you're proud to be a part of, and a job that you personally want to keep advancing in and growing in, something that lends itself to different avenues that you're interested in (i.e. writing, teaching, etc.) and something that will keep you a lifelong learner in. For me, medicine is a career and everything else will only be a job.

A new dimension to my ongoing med school analysis is what sort of job will I ever manage to get if I don't go that route? Everyone knows the job market is awful right now--or, it could just be me, I don't know. I just think that the fact that I've sent out personalized and targeted resumes and cover letters to a ton of places over the past two months and have received no offers is really quite sad. With a J.D. like I have, it's next to impossible to find a non-legal job. Even with a B.A. it's still pretty hard, unless you're in a high-demand field like computer science, etc. I just wonder if I don't go into medicine if the lack of job security is going to weigh me down with worries for the rest of my life. I mean, I must work--for my own self-esteem and to feel like I'm making a significant contribution to the family income. But the lack of job security for someone who is not a "professional" is pretty scary. It keeps me up at night sometimes worrying. I worry about how to make ends meet with my resident hubby's salary. Right now I haven't found any job that pays more than $7 per hour, and I feel like it's not worth my time to take a job like that. I've applied to over 200 places in two months, including restaurants, retail, etc. And nothing that pays even remotely close to what someone with a BA should be making. So that's another plus for medicine--always a guaranteed job.

Another thing that's been weighing on my mind is the studying aspect of med school. For me, personally, I now have a great work ethic, thanks to the post-bacc that whipped my butt into gear. I ended the post-bacc with a 3.8 GPA. However, that was taking at most three courses full-time as a full-time student. I worry about the work load in the basic science years. I know that it's not difficult material--but I know that the volume is enormous. I worry about struggling, about being stressed out all the time, about failing out.

Do all of you out there enjoy studying? I mean, I love learning, but if faced with material to study or faced with surfing the web, I'd choose the web. I have a tendency to procrastinate big time and I really don't know how well I'd be at memorizing tons of information. I don't feel like the pre-med classes (at least the basic pre-reqs) really show you whether or not you'd be good at all the memorizing. I did take anatomy and physiology this year and was number one in my class, but then again that was just a college level course and I was only taking that class, so it was not like the real deal.

Do I want to spend my entire 30's studying? I just don't know. For those of you who do want to do this, especially with kids, how do you reconcile this fact? To spend 8 long years studying nearly all the time--Step 1, Step 2, licensing exams, oral boards, tests all through med school and all through residency--is all the studying and the pressure to be on top of the latest developments really worth it? I mean, at age 38, when I'll finally be a practicing doctor, I won't be young anymore--I'll be approaching middle age. Some people might say that the late 20's - early to mid 30's are the best years of your life--filled with the most new life experiences, getting married, having kids, buying a house, getting established in your career, settling down, etc. There are an awful lot of new experiences here not to be a part of because you're in the library studying. Others might also say that this time period is your last healthiest time period, I know that many disease incidences start to increase after age 40--something else to worry about in the back of your mind. Do I really want to spend my last "carefree time" with my nose in the books? I really don't know.

As a post-bacc, during the first semester I took orgo, bio, and physics together, I was so incredibly stressed out that it was unbelievable. Life was not very pleasant then, I had numerous crying episodes out of frustration, and while I felt pleased that I was "on my way" towards my ultimate goal--medical school--I was a stress case, to be sure. I fear turning into that stress case for the entire 8 years of the medical path. How do you know ahead of time how you will deal with this--all the stresses? Can college upper-level bio classes ever prepare you? Also, I was a sociology major, and in college I did not take any science classes. To me, failing out of med school or having to quit b/c I can't handle the academic load is far worse than not entering in the first place. If I quit for whatever reason, I'd be more in debt, I'd have more gaps of time on my resume with no work experience, and I'd be in some random city (Grand Forks, anyone?) and my husband would be committed to a job. Is all of this "trouble" worth it?

On the other hand, when I am applying for all of these jobs now there's nothing that interests me.

Then another facet to all this is the self-esteem issue. For me, an MD=self-esteem and always has and always will. This could be because I grew up in a family of doctors, where being a doctor was exaulted as the ultimate career, and no other career was. You "made" it if you got into medical school and were treated like royalty in my family. As you might imagine, I, who have taken what my family considers the "flighty" path--no science in college--law school/no practice--post-bacc--am considered immature and unfocused. And everyone knows that it's hard to un-do certain aspects of how you were raised--many times, they become imbedded and incorporated into your psyche.

That's probably why, right now, having no career and no real career interests other than medicine, my self-esteem is suffering. This, in turn, is affecting my relationship with my husband. I no longer have the self-confidence I did when we first met; when we first met when I was in law school, I felt sure of myself and sure of where I was going in life (that was when I thought I knew that I wanted to practice law, this soon changed after I experienced law practice in my summer legal jobs at firms).

I know that for some women, being attractive or feeling attractive is what gives them their confidence, what makes them feel sexy. For me, it's always been about the brain. My academic ability, career-related success, and brain power is what has always made me feel confident and sexy. When that's not there, I feel totally un-self confident and not sexy at all. I guess in that way I probably have more of a "male" perspective on what feeling self-confident is all about. Some women need external validation from the world that they're beautiful, I need external validation from the world just on one thing--that I'm smart. Is that weird, does anyone else feel that way? I certainly didn't pick this up at home--my mom is a stay at home wife and urges me constantly to be the same, saying that now that I'm married, I don't need to be "anything"--let my husband be the success in our marriage and I can just stay home and keep house. That's all a woman is good for, my family believes. I cringe at this every time I think about it. I've never been encouraged by my family to "be all that I can be" to achieve and reach the top echelons of my ability--in general, all this drive and ambition comes just from myself.

Now that I'm so on the fence, and possibly leaning slightly away from medicine, I feel like I'm wasting my brain and my communications talents in any other career but medicine, and this depresses me. I know it's not good to feel this way, but I do. Maybe it's because my parents saved to send me to such good schools (why did they do all that when they never encouraged me to be a successful woman?????) and now I feel like I'm "wasting" all of that education if I take some low-paying, low-responsibility job, which is all I'll be able to get if I don't go back for more schooling. I long for a high-powered career, where I can be a top-notch mind in my field. Can I find such a career anywhere else but in medicine?

I've heard adults so many times bitterly say, "our dreams don't always work out; sometimes in life you just have to give up your dreams--just settle and suck it up." To me, this is just so incredibly sad. I hate to think of myself as turning into one of those bitter adults who will end up settling for some pointless career, running on the treadmill of life but never really getting anywhere. Am I going to be the person who goes to work every day to her boring, cubicle-filled job and wistfully longs to be in the hospital? But at the same time, when I'm going to sleep every night at a decent time, instead of being up all night on call every 4th night or however frequently, I'm going to be glad for a "normal" life of going to bed regularly, reading books for fun, and having my weekends to spend however I want, instead of being filled with studying and being on call. For every pro of medicine it seems that there's a con.

My husband says, "choose the path where you'll have the least regret." But I honestly think that's kind of fifty-fifty. I guess all said and done the path with the least regret--and the least risk--would be NOT choosing medicine, but will I truly be at peace with this decision? Would I regret not doing medicine? Absolutely. Would I regret doing medicien? Yes, because of missing out on many key moments and experiences of my thirties. But would this regret and all these feelings fade with time? My husband thinks they will, and eventually--even if it takes years and years--I would come to peace with saying goodbye to medicine. But I really don't know. I don't want to be turning 40 and knowing that I've become one of those people who has "settled."

What I regret most of all is being 28 years old and faced with this decision instead of being 22. If I was 26 or younger, I'd probably head into this withoug all this angst and second-guessing. But at 28, the view from the top is different, I have more life experience and self-awareness under my belt, and I also know a lot more about the medical path, having gone through all of med school up through end of residency with my husband. I do regret going to law school, of wasting those three years when I could have been doing a post-bacc, and now of being 6 years out of college and really being no further out than when I started at age 22. Yes, this is by far the biggest regret.

I know this post has covered a lot of ground. It's a very complex decision for me with many nuances. And--I've only just scratched the surface with couple of posts so far. Thanks for reading all the way through! It helps me to lay all this out. :)

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14 years 8 months ago #70459 by lawtomd
Hi again,

Well, my weekend sucked. I was hoping to have a great summer but so far being unemployed (with all the frustrations of conducting a diligent job search), being completely 100% confused about med school, and generally feeling totally directionless, it hasn't been a very good summer so far, and it's already nearly mid-June.

What to do, what to do. Today I've been sending out more cover letters and resumes, I have a whole job search strategy that includes informational interviews and cold-calling in addition to responding to want ads online, etc. but it's just not working. How many more months will I be unemployed? I guess I could take one of those horrible $7 per hour jobs, but is that really a good use of my time? I guess those $7 jobs are looking better and better as the unemployed days go on. And of course the 4 temp agencies I'm registered with are completely useless.

Sorry for the rant....

I thought this weekend I might find some answers but I'm still as confused as ever. Has anyone else felt like this? I always thought as you get older and your "ducks get in a row" things would become more clear--but I really think things were a lot more clear 6 years ago when I was 22.

I've definitely been feeling really unmotivated lately. The weight of this decision kind of makes me just want to do nothing. Normally I feel pretty motivated but now I have to force myself to send out these resumes and do these cold-calls. All I want to do is lay around the house watching Nick and Jessica (the Newlyweds). I look at Jessica and she seems so carefree, the way I used to be around age 22. Now I don't feel carefree at all. I wish I did.

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14 years 8 months ago #70460 by lawtomd
What is the meaning of life? What are most people's goals out of life? Of course, being happy is probably one everyone shares, but what does that really mean?

Is happiness finding a career that fulfills you, and gives you a sense of purpose.....or is happiness the ability to do what you want--having the free time after work to pursue your interests, etc.

I've always been the type of person who is "fueled" so to speak by having a variety of ambitious goals and going for them. Having goals and drive has always made me happy because it gives me something to constantly strive toward. Which is another reason why medicine appeals to me--it's structure is totally set up for this--i.e. always knowing what you're striving for, whether it's a good board score, etc. When I don't have goals to strive for, I feel quite depressed, actually.

However, lately as I meet more and more people through my various activities in life, I am starting to wonder if maybe most people work some awful job during the day to make ends meet (it seems that most people hate their jobs, that's why I saw awful) and then their "real life" starts after work. For me, medicine would be "real life" and I guess I wouldn't have much of a life "after work" because work never ends.

Are people happier when they seek fulfillment in their outside lives, and view their job as just something to make money and get over with for the day? But then again, that doesn't seem like such an ideal situation either.

I'm so confused.

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