So far, I’ve been trying not to shoot too many photographs so as to avoid having to choose one that gets the “official shot of the day” title; but I couldn’t avoid it for today’s post. Between a photograph with more meaning and a photograph with more visual appeal, I chose the one with more meaning.

The sticker appeared on that pole in the last week or two. I was struck by its economy of message–a black-and-white print of a nondescript, if somewhat creepy, face paired with a simple statement that people who encounter it are free to interpret as they wish. (Geez, doesn’t that sound like I’m reading too much into it.) There’s little question that I wouldn’t have paid it much attention were it not for my own struggles with goals: not so much that I lack them, but rather that I’m hard-pressed to make any progress towards achieving them. The situation is such that there is but one logical path I can follow–only one choice to make–and it may or may not lead where I want. The reasons for this could occupy their own blog entry, but I will, in the interests of time and discretion, leave them unwritten.

One foot in front of the other, I suppose.

what’s in a name, and in a similar vein.

At tonight’s FAST orientation, I did something I haven’t done in awhile: introduce myself as “Tony.”* It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment choice occurring while filling out a stick-on name badge; a question not normally asked but nonetheless answered, in the blink of an eye; an action ostensibly with no consequence, though, in retrospect, laden with symbolism. It was a small gesture that signifies, I think, by its nature, a new beginning; the anticipation of not just a new decade but a new path in life; and at the same time, harking back to a distant former existence, a return to what was.

Oh, and the orientation was rather inspiring. I am now booked for something like 25 hours of training and at least as much of actual service–and wishing I had found this team sooner.

* * *

The name of a blog that Saralyn, a fellow Northwestern SCS pre-med survivor, is rebooting, “Med School Maybe,” reminds me that this whole becoming-a-doctor thing isn’t written in stone…being accepted to a med school somewhere isn’t guaranteed at all, and there is a ton of crap yet to be done just to get my application ready. Hell, when was the last time I actually applied for anything? Must have been my job interview…six years ago. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the panic and worry over college apps. With grad school apps, or even the job interview with GE, there was less of a concern since I had fallback plans, so you’d think that should be the case here, but I’m really waiting for the other shoe to drop. Med school admissions committees: I should think that going through the hell of applying to med school when I’ve got a reasonably secure** job that allows me to contribute something to society shows some level of commitment.

* Ever since I graduated from high school, I would always first introduce myself as “Anthony,” answering “either is fine” if then asked if I preferred “Anthony” or “Tony.” During high school, though, it was pretty much “Tony.” And if I met someone through a high school friend, or if someone were associated with my high school, I would introduce myself as “Tony.” Come to think of it, it might have been a mixed bag during college.

** No doubt that, by stating that, I’ve now jinxed it.

that sinking sensation

It was probably safe to say that after slogging through over a year of bio and chem, I had committed myself to seeing this whole “med school” thing through. There’s something about registering for the MCAT, though, that brings it home; almost like you knew there was no turning back even before this, but now there is no question. Not to mention that the specific task of “taking the MCAT” was such a nebulous concept that I could safely ignore it–but now that that confirmation email is in my grubby little paw, it is very real.

And a bit scary.

aaaaaand…we’re back.

Now that I’ve had a bit of time to recover from this whirlwind school year, I have to say that it really feels like the year went by kind of quickly. If you were to have asked me how I felt during the school year, my answer would have been completely different–the year couldn’t have been over fast enough–but in retrospect there is a twinge of sadness accompanying the sense of accomplishment at having survived a year of classes (and organic chemistry in particular).

The problem is twofold, I think: now that classes are pretty much done (I may have to take a couple more classes, but I have the next two years in which to complete them), it’s back to the [more than] full-time grind at the job for me, replete with the reminders of why I’m doing this in the first place. The slow realization that I’ll be at the job for another couple of years is, sadly, rather soul-crushing; it has caused me to wonder on more than one occasion if I shouldn’t try to find something else to do during this time, such as do something more healthcare-related, something that will help to answer the question “do I know what I’m getting myself into?” (Which is, apparently, what med school admissions boards want to know.) Normally, I think that would be a fine plan, but given the state of the economy, it’s probably best if I remain at my job and try to complete my responsibilities as best I can.

The other thing that makes this ending somewhat bittersweet is that I didn’t take the time until later in the school year to start to get to know some of my classmates… and now that school’s out and it’s back to 40+ hour work weeks, I just won’t have the time to hang out with them all that often. (Not like I had free time during the school year–but scheduled class time kinda counts. Ahh… that brings back memories of all-day cramming sessions before organic chemistry exams…) Whether or not that actually ends up being true is well within my control, however.

Oh yeah, and there’s the MCAT. I should, uh, get right on that.

It’s not a total downer, though. It’s admittedly nice to be able to focus more of my time and attention on a single thing, rather than trying to juggle multiple things. People seemed to be rather surprised (and perhaps a bit amazed) when I explain that I’ve been working full-time hours and taking two classes; in retrospect, I’m amazed I pulled it off. (Of course, I know how I pulled it off… by shortchanging at least one area of responsibility, though I won’t say which one(s)…) Speaking of, last quarter saw an A- in bio and a B in chem. My requirements were to not get C’s or lower–so I think I can consider that requirement verified. (eeew, engineering-speak.)

The best part, though, is being able to spend non-working hours actually doing fun/relaxing things, hence actually having the time to futz around with my poor, neglected website, finally putting up that photoblog I’d been meaning to do for quite some time now and actually writing this stupidly long blog post. (I feel as if I need to make up for a few months of inactivity… and also, a brain dump in this manner is remarkably freeing.) Of course, whether or not I’m just typing into the ether is a different consideration entirely (but some of us prefer illusion to despair).

What’s next, then? Catching up on what feels like a year’s worth of backlogged work responsibilities (not to mention culling/editing 1800+ photos from Jessup week), working on the whole med school application process, and maybe actually trying to enjoy life. (‘Cause there probably won’t be any time to do that once I’m actually in med school.) Who’s with me?

study-ousness progris riport

Before the start of this quarter, I said to myself that I was going to be better about studying, especially for organic chemistry. As I waste time on the night before class, time that should be spent doing study problems from the chapter but instead I am spending pounding out this blog post…I can say that, so far, I’m failing miserably: I opened my chem textbook and, after skimming through some scintillating reading about the reactions of alcohols, I decided to do something else.

I can maybe claim some small amount of success, first having actually opened the textbook, and second not running towards the TV after abandoning hope of school-related progress. Maybe.

My working theory at the moment is that my apartment is not at all conducive to doing homework. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good solutions to this particular problem…

2008 fall quarter: the results are in.

  • BIOL SCI 210-A, Genetics and Evolutionary Biology: A
  • CHEM 210-A, Organic Chemistry I: B+

I can live with a B+… considering that I had very little indication of how I was doing, especially relative to the class (it’s curved around a B-), and I wasn’t devoting as much time to studying as I should have. So–what that seems to indicate to me is that if I actually study more… I will pwn.

Okay… now, once I catch up on work, I can go on vacation and actually enjoy it.

that vague sense of panic

Classes for the fall quarter started off with a bang on Wednesday. The first batter in the order? Organic chemistry. Now, jumping into organic chemistry cold feels a bit like being dumped in the deep end of the pool and you weren’t that strong of a swimmer to start with, except I was pretty competent at chemistry back in the day. That’s what happens when you don’t exercise that part of your brain for awhile, I think. I’m pretty sure, however, that if I flounder around a bit–um, I mean, work hard, with tenacity and determination–I’ll get my sea legs.

Let me explain. During the first 30 minutes or so as the prof talked about acids and bases, a vague sense of panic crept in, replete with an overage of self-doubt and fears that I may have to go back and retake a year of chemistry. The experience was what I suspect being lost in France and only barely remembering bits and pieces from the 12 years of French you took in grade school and high school feels like.

The rational decision may be to go back and take general chemistry, but I’m stubborn. Well. I’m going to go off and do some problems from the textbook, and depending on how the first quiz goes, I’ll make a decision then.

Perhaps relief?

The post-baccalaureate pre-med program at Northwestern assumes that you are a complete career-switcher (for instance, you studied the humanities in undergrad) and have never taken any of the med school prerequisites in college. With that in mind, they provide a structured program with chemistry, physics, and biology courses that should satisfy most medical schools’ requirements for admission.

All well and good, but I did happen to take some of the prerequisite courses–definitely physics, and maybe one or more chemistry classes (general and physical). Now, back when I formulated my plan of working before going to med school, I got the impression that my college credits would be good for about five years before I’d have to take them again. Given that it’s been six years since graduating, I have been preparing myself to retake some classes that probably I don’t need to take again, like physics. At a rate of ~$1300 per class, though (and I would have to take three physics classes), if I can get away with not having to retake classes, I’d certainly save some money.

The admissions counselor at Northwestern with whom I spoke said that it’s a good idea to find out directly from the schools I’m interested in what their policies are regarding academic requirements. So, I sent out emails asking about how recently prerequisite classes need to have been taken to the addresses I could find for the various admissions departments of the schools in the area: Northwestern, UIC, Rush, UofC, UW-Madison, and MCW (Loyola admissions doesn’t have an email address published, only a phone number). Registration for fall classes at Northwestern has started and it would be a good idea to know whether or not I really need to take chemistry and physics this upcoming quarter…

The responses? So far, no one has said that there’s any “expiration date” on credits. Hooray! Pre-med might not be so expensive after all! 🙂 Now, all I have to do is try to remember just what classes I did take back in college and match those up against the schools’ requirements…

And so, the journey begins.

As I begin to execute parts of my exit strategy from my current job (engineer) to points unknown (med school), I thought I might start to chronicle on this site my journey out of the desert.

It all started with an informational session at Northwestern University for their pre-medicine professional development program–well, to be really honest I guess it started back when I was still applying for the job I have right now. I was pretty up-front then when I said I intended to stay only for a couple of years before transitioning to med school. Now…it’s been five years (six since graduating) and I figure I’ve put in my time (woot–three weeks of vacation!) and can move on now. Only problem is those pesky prerequisite courses I need to get into med school, and the question of whether my undergraduate credits still apply. (Do I really need to take physics all over again? I aced it back in college, and I’ll do fine it if I have to take it again… but that would be such a waste of time and money.) So I figured the program at Northwestern was the best option as it is structured and offers guidance for a career-changer like me.

Knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (for this stage of my life, at least) and seeing that light have an effect on one’s outlook in life. Admittedly, I’ve gotten myself into a comfortable rut, but I could definitely do without corporate politics and the general malaise that accompanies life in an office. Were the years I’ve spent working a waste? I don’t think so. I think I’ve grown and matured a lot since I started and has given me a bit of perspective. But I can’t help but think… when I finish my prerequisites, I’ll be close to 30, then in my mid-30s when I finish med school… a part of me thinks that that seems so… old. (I know it’s not necessarily old, but still.) Shouldn’t I be settling down and raising a family by then? It’s trains of thought like that that give me pause as to whether I should be doing this at all, but deep down I am confident this is for the best.

So, here I am today, in the middle of taking a biology course at Northwestern (I’m a student again! Haha. STUDENT DISCOUNTS, BITCHES.) and trying to juggle work at the same time. Challenging? Definitely. The long commute from WI makes things interesting (and makes me question whether I shouldn’t just quit my job right now and move to Chicago) and is a strain on my wallet, to be sure. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to pull this off without too much financial hurt.

If nothing else, the trips to Evanston have infused a part of my weekly routine with the environmental stimulation you can only get in a big metropolitan area. And it’s made me remember how much I miss living in a big city.