on ‘failure’ and detours


Since I was a kid, I always did my best to do the ‘right thing,’ especially when it came to my education. I was never that straight A student but I always worked hard. I felt like I had to work harder than everyone else to be average and it was difficult to feel the imposter syndrome from such a young age but I found ways to push through it, with the support of my incredible parents and some of the most amazing teachers in the world.

In high school, I signed up for classes strategically to ensure a good GPA when I applied to colleges, trying to find the perfect balance between between taking enough IB/AP classes and having the time to do my best in them, while juggling ECs. I chose to go to UC Irvine over more prestigious schools because I was thinking ahead to applying to medical school. I didn’t want to get lost in a sea of overly competitive premed students and not reach my goals. I took my classes on a schedule that allowed me to do my best, not the ‘traditional’ one that most students took because I knew I couldn’t handle that. I took an even lighter load the quarter I was studying for the MCAT. My schedule was ‘nontraditional’ but also ‘traditional’ in that I went straight from undergrad to medical school. I got married that summer in between and, two years ago, started this new life adjusting to being a wife & partner and working towards my professional goals. I paid attention to where I needed extra help and did my best to arrange my schedule so that I could be successful.

But then came medical school, and we were back to our schedules being decided for us like in elementary school and I couldn’t adjust it to make it more manageable. Instead, I had to adjust my study style and do the best I could to set myself up for success. And for the most part I did. Out of the ten blocks that make up our preclinical education, I passed eight of them on my first try and two of them on my second (and knocked them out of the park the second time, if I may add). And I am so very proud of myself for making it through two academically, mentally and emotionally difficult years. Many times I thought about quitting, more often that I’d like to admit. I thought about taking time off to center myself and make a schedule that allowed me to succeed to the best of my abilities. But I didn’t because I didn’t want to ‘fall behind’ or be forced to take a path different than my peers. I often wondered why I couldn’t handle a schedule and plan that the majority of medical students go through. Why wasn’t I strong enough? Why wasn’t I smart enough? Why is it so much harder for me?

And then I failed step one. Part of me saw it coming and another part of me was just wishing for a miracle – ‘please God, just let something work the first time.’ I know I’ve done everything I was technically supposed to do, or at least what works for most people. But it didn’t for me, as it hasn’t for most of my life. And that’s so much more than okay. Because this is my journey and each detour I take helps me become the person I’m meant to be. And I truly believe that, at the end of all this, I’ll be a better physician for it.

I’ve taken a leave of absence from medical school until January. During that time, I will be doing some traveling, reconnecting with the people I love, with God and with myself, taking a class to help me prepare for step one and knocking this test out of the park – on my second try, because sometimes that’s what it takes. 

Thank you for your company on this journey. Thank you to my village that keeps me going – I’d be lost without you. And thank You for all the blessings, especially the ones I’m so privileged to not even be aware of.

r & r in redlands 

The past few months, pretty much since 2016 started, have been nonstop studying – exam after exam. And it also felt like the stakes were getting higher and higher as time went on. Now, I’m in independent study time for USMLE step one and the pressure is on. This exam is known to be the most difficult of many licensing exams and also plays a huge factor in what and where you’ll practice medicine.

I’ve always prided myself in understanding that test scores do not define me or my ability to be a good physician. When struggling with the MCAT, I knew that somehow things would still work out because this was my calling. But the step one boogie monster got to me and I started doing all the wrong things: not taking breaks, staying up too late to finish my study ‘to-do’ list, focusing on quantity instead of quality, comparing myself to others and making this test my life.

Earlier this week, I performed pretty terribly on a practice exam and after crying & wallowing and talking to one of my best friends, I realized that I was essentially setting myself up for failure. So I decided to take a couple days off and remind myself of the life I live outside of this exam. I went to a neighboring city and just explored. I dusted off my DSLR and just roamed around eating great food, shopping at local stores, hung out at a local coffee house and drank delicious coffee while reading and journaling.

Going to be back at it tomorrow, while fasting for Ramadan (which I’m nervous about but also excited that I’ll be taking this exam in such a blessed time). I’ll have even less ‘chill’ time between starting third year and taking this exam but pushing it back was just so necessary for my own well being. I’m committing myself to doing my best on this; I won’t sell myself short but I’m also not going to look at what others are doing (especially if they’re vacationing while I sit here stressin’ out).

This is my journey. It’s had a lot of twists and turns and loop-de-loops but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m going to be caring for actual people one day very soon and I can’t wait. But this is just something I have to get through until then. Thank you all for accompanying me on this journey – you all push me to constantly renew my intentions and better myself.


my premed journey: is medicine for me?

The ‘my premed journey’ series is going to be a series where I share my journey to medical school – the ups and downs. I wish I had started blogging about this journey earlier because I could’ve to share how I got here. Many of you who follow this blog or my Instagram are still in that premed leg of the journey and I want you to know that no one ends up here without many bumps in the road. I hope that you may find inspiration here and that it serves as a reminder that it’s all going to be okay.


 

In my previous post, I talked about how I chose which college to attend after high school. Next, I’ll be talking about how I decided I wanted to pursue the premed route and eventually apply to medical school. While I knew that I found science moderately interesting, I knew I needed to expose myself to clinical settings to really understand medicine, what it was all about and whether that was what I wanted to spend my life doing.

Read More »