I wanted to be many things growing up as a child. Journalist, lawyer, author, university lecturer, television presenter, veterinarian, I flirted with many ideas. I have since crossed off several of these from the list, however for some the infamous phrase “never say never,” still applies (looking at you author and lecturer).
It was halfway through high school when I realised in a few years I would need to make a decision that would alter the course of my entire life. I started thinking about what I could seriously pursue as a career, and options such as law and veterinary science were lined up at the top. There was nothing I felt truly passionate and certain about, but I believed I could find myself enjoying them. However, as with every decision I’ve made in my life, it was not without doubt and apprehension. My parents were fairly convinced I didn’t have the moral fluidity to become a barrister, that I would struggle to navigate the perilous tightrope that is involved in manipulating the law. And although I adored animals and saving their lives would bring me much happiness, I wasn’t sure their salaries justified the years of study and toil that came with a seven year degree (sorry my fellow vets). My fantasy job was (and still is) to become an actor, but I was pragmatic enough to know how unlikely it’d be to succeed and that it was not a smart choice. By the time I was in my final year and it came around to submitting preferences, my list was an absolute mess.
At this point you may be wondering, isn’t she a medical student? When is medicine coming into the discussion? The truth of the matter is, it was never something I truly considered until I was well into my Bachelor’s degree and realised I had the capability of doing it. In some ways you could say I ‘fell’ into medicine. Sound extremely pretentious and arrogant doesn’t it? I have always been a high achiever throughout my entire life, having never gone through a year without being one of the top students in my grade. Science and maths were my forte, and I enjoyed excelling in difficult subjects. I thrived during tests. Chemistry and biology were among my most enjoyable subjects. I was a typical nerd. But not only did I not consider medicine as a pathway whilst choosing university courses, I avoided it. I didn’t have a real reason as to why I ignored it, and told my parents it was because I was grossed out by cadavers. What a stupid excuse. It was not until meeting with my school’s career counsellor did I have to confront the obvious question.
“Why aren’t you considering medicine?”
I didn’t want her to know I was as clueless as she was. I ended up stammering out the same excuse about seeing corpses and she scoffed at me, calling me out on my bullshit. Apparently it was clear that according to my academic record and excellence, I should be striving to become a doctor. She was more certain about my future than I was, and today I wish I could let her know she should have pursued fortune telling. I went home deep in thought and eventually decided that since I did not know what I was interested in, it would be prudent to reach as high as I could and work my way down. I had already sat the compulsory entrance exam required for medicine earlier in the year to keep my options open, but because of a lack of interest and study my marks were not outstanding. Nonetheless, it was worth a try and so an undergraduate medical degree became my top preference and everything else shifted down one spot.
I didn’t get in. My ATAR was high enough but the combination of my entrance exam and interview was not enough. I was a little disappointed at the time but not that upset. In hindsight, I see it as a blessing because I was nowhere near mentally prepared enough to take on a five year medical degree and survive. I needed a few more years to mature, but at least I knew it was a tangible achievement. I was slowly inching towards embracing medicine, and I am still on that long journey today. Therefore, due to a fortunate scholarship offer I found myself undertaking a Bachelor of Biomedicine at the University of Melbourne.
Now, anyone studying at this university can tell you that the basic undergraduate degree does not give you many job prospects. Many students choose to study on, and so in three years time I was once at the same fork in the road deciding what I would become. This time round, I was more prepared. I studied for the postgraduate entrance exams, I submitted my preferences with a little bit more confidence and I knew what to expect in the interviews. Well, we all know what happened next don’t we? Here I am another three years later, twelve months away from finally earning that title. What a ride. I enjoy it, I love my patients and I still thrive (somewhat) in my exams.
Sometimes I still worry that I am not passionate enough about this career choice. I’ve met many colleagues who tell tales of becoming certain they would be a doctor from a young age, or heartbreaking stories of loss and death that led to their desire to help others. Unfortunately I have no story. I only have a feeling, a feeling that I may find some joy, purpose and satisfaction in this job. A feeling that one day, all these years of study and work may pay-off and I’ll look back on my life with contentment and pride. I have no certainty in this hunch, and there are definitely days where I believe I have made the wrong choice. Days where everything has gone wrong and I cannot imagine sitting exams for the next ten years to finally become a consultant. Days where the thought of fifteen hour shifts without toilet breaks makes me dread graduating. Days where I just wish I could have be something else. I hope I don’t sound like I’m whining and ungrateful for this opportunity, but it is daunting to think of all the responsibility we will be burdened with and the hard work that is yet to come. Being a doctor is not as glamorous of a profession as some may think. I remember once speaking to an anaesthetist, and he said, “If you asked whether I would go back and do it all again, I probably wouldn’t.” Words of encouragement hey?
But I like to think that there is a reason I am here today, that the universe knew I had to be in this very spot. Despite not having come into this field with a fiery passion and eagerness, I like what I do and I cannot see myself doing anything else. Medicine has already given me great joy and a sense of achievement, and I haven’t even started yet. If anything, medicine chose me.