It’s not quite a pounding. Nor is it a swirling, dizzying feeling. It’s almost like everything is just shifted off a little bit until nothing quiet feels right. It’s disorienting. It’s depressing and overwhelming. It makes you want to curl up in a ball while free falling down an infinite chasm.
That’s how I feel when I think about my future nowadays. What seemed like a sure decision merely a year ago is now a hollow mug filled with doubts. The ever-present question. What will I be when I grow up? It didn’t seem like a big deal. It was in the future, a glittering palace where everything is perfect. When you are younger, it all seems so far away and inconsequential. You figure you will know what you need to when you get there. After all, how can you not know what you want to do in your life? But before I could blink, the future has become the present and I am farther away from all the answers I thought I would have by now than I have ever been before.
It was the expected reply when I was younger. I will be a doctor when I’m older. As part of the Indian society, the answer was either doctor or engineer. Any other answer was met with amusement at the antics of the child. I had unknowingly separated what I wanted to be and what I will be at a very young age. I knew I dreamed of being an artist but that I will be a doctor. It was a simple fact of life for me. Like saying I slept at night. I did not consider what it meant and whether there was any truth in the statement. Nevertheless, the statement became so ingrained in who I was that it became truth…until now that is.
Why do you want to go into medicine? Uhhh….I like science and…I don’t really know honestly…it’s just what I’ve always wanted to do.
The closer to reality this illusion became, the more I forced myself to believe it was reality. I did like science. The human body was extremely interesting and cool. Spending over 10+ years studying and training to be a doctor was worth it. I tried to placate myself with these words. I ignored the fact that I wouldn’t be able to travel until I was over 30. I ignored that my parents would want be married by then. I ignored how little freedom it seemed I would have. But there is only so much ignoring one can do.
Reading MCAT books and looking up medical schools I could apply to, I finally had to face all the little niggling doubtful thoughts plaguing me for over a year. I realized it should not feel this forced. I should want to study for the MCATs because it would get me into medical school. I should be looking forward to everything I will learn in med school and feel excited. I should not dread the life I will be starting. Hard work is nothing if it leads to what you really want. But is being a doctor what I really want?
I have reluctantly opened up my options again and it feels like I am floating in the middle of the ocean with no life preserver or land in sight. Opportunities to reach land swim by but each land is poisoned in one way or another. I have to pick my poison and hope it’s something I can survive.