first quarter review

One quarter down, five exams completed, five passing grades. So far, so good. P=MD. That doesn’t mean that it was easy (not that I was expecting it to be), but I could definitely do without that sense of uneasiness over the question of “did I pass?” after each exam, the likes of which haven’t been seen since organic chemistry (for which, in those days, the prescription was this drink). I don’t recall noticing it back in undergrad, but I suspect that’s because studying engineering exercises a completely different part of one’s brain (mmm…math). As a practicing engineer, life consisted of analysis and problem-solving (and let’s not forget the metric tons of documentation generated) instead of memorizing and regurgitating. And so, there’s a bit of an adjustment period. Eventually, I’ll get to use more of those brain muscles, but first I have to learn the language. And it is basically just that–you have to learn the alphabet, then simple words, then simple sentences, before you can start to begin to think critically.

(On the other hand, if I want to be really cynical, I could say that learning about the human body is like trying to reverse-engineer a system for which no one from the original design team is still employed and zero requirements or design documents exist and you’re like “who the hell designed this shit” and you have a gazillion customers with broken systems all demanding they be fixed and you can’t just tell them to buy the upgrade.)

But the mechanics of studying and doing well on exams are fairly straightforward. It’s simple enough to analyze what I’m doing wrong and devise a corrected plan of action. (Following through on that plan is another story.) I’d much rather deconstruct the psychological aspects of being a med student who went the non-traditional route. First, some words of wisdom (from an Internet board that shall go unidentified):

…I actually had a board member pause the interview just so he could advise me not to lose the identity I’ve developed (as a non-trad with a career) because apparently many non-trads “regress” (as he put it) once they’re in med school surrounded by much younger students.

For non-trads, the difficulty is that you’re not just developing your adult identity, you’re taking on a new adult identity on top of the one(s) that you already have.

I read these quotes at the start of the quarter, but it’s not until now that they’ve started to ring true. It’s all too easy (especially for someone who doesn’t look all that different from his new peers) to assimilate into the culture and thus feel like one’s identity is being lost. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to assert myself as that old fogey of an engineer every so often; but doing so may also have the detrimental effect of creating too much of a separation between my classmates and me, or perhaps coming off as having airs when that couldn’t be further from the truth. And sometimes it’s hard to contribute the perspective of someone who’s had a bit more time to percolate and has a bit more experience without sounding preachy or condescending. So, there’s a balance that must be struck.

I don’t even have a clue as of yet what this new adult identity is that I’m crafting.

But in the end, it’s just an interesting thought exercise that I won’t get any credit for. For now, the order of business is to relax, rest, and recharge, ready to hit the ground running when the next quarter begins. (And given that it’s the cardiovascular/pulmonary block, if I don’t ace it, I should just quit right then.) Here is one more quote I found hilarious:

But the life arc is undeniable. I couldn’t stay in a night club with 18 to 25 y/o’s with sh!tty music pumping unless I was seven different kinds of loaded. And I’m not into that anymore. So.

everybody has to be someplace


On an expedition through the old neighborhood after Mass with Mom and Dad, I tried to resist going into Unabridged Bookstore, thinking of the books on my shelves that have sat, neglected; but I failed, driven perhaps by nostalgia for days past in New York spent browsing the many miles of books at The Strand.

Inside, the simple cover of No One Belongs Here More Than You beckoned me closer, testified to by a staff member’s positive, handwritten review posted on the shelf. The title, too, held a promise all its own, hinting that within its pages might be found a resolution to, or at least some brief sanctuary from, my own unshakable feeling of I Belong Somewhere Else: when I lived in New York; I belonged in Chicago; in Pittsburgh, I belonged in New York; and now, in Wisconsin, I belong… anywhere else.

Six years is a long time to be someplace you don’t belong. But–and I’m reminded of a performance of one-acts I did in college–everybody has to be someplace.

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.