ndab Ah Yes, Medical School: Decisions, Decisions...

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Decisions, Decisions...

I think I'll try to be a bit more serious this time.

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time thinking about things and evaluating how my year has been, courtesy of the mind-numbing boredom induced upon me by Congregation Mogen David (Shana Tova! WOO WOO!). One thing I do know about Rosh Hashanah is that it is the time you are supposed to evaluate your year and think of things to improve upon, etc., especially since the big guy/girl/whatever upstairs is keeping a book of what's going to happen to you this coming year if you don't shape up. In thinking about these things, I can't help but think that the previous year (Jewish calender year, of course), was defined by a single decision of where I was to spend the next four years of my life. In choosing medical schools, I had narrowed it down to two schools with relative ease. One was the cheap(er) school that had a very good reputation and would likely have every resource I could need. It was very close to home and had a certain familiarity that might make my adjustment easier. The other school was a helluva lot more expensive and had about as good a reputation as one can ever hope to have (not sure which school I'm talking about? that's ok). It was very far from home, very cold, and had a newness about it that would be (at least initially) very neat to explore. The newness was in the school itself, the surrounding city, and the entire coast, its people, the school's academic environment, etc.

To make a long story less long, I ended up choosing the cheaper closer option. In retrospect, I feel I made this decision because a) people say that where one goes to medical school only slightly contributes to success in residency applications and b) I already accumulated some debt from Stanford and was not about to add another 45k of debt PER YEAR to that sum. Honestly though, (b) was the deciding factor because it enabled me to rationalize choosing one school over the other via (a) (ok that made no sense - SINCE the one school was too expensive, I rested on the fact that in theory it doesn't matter where one goes to medical school to feel better about choosing the cheaper school even though there was a decent sized gap in rankings between the schools...and yes I know rankings are often bullshit, but it can be really hard to ignore a difference of about 14 spots). As I look back on that decision, I can still understand why I made it and how it makes sense in the longterm.

Unfortunately, it's killing me inside right now that I didn't choose the expensive school. I know that I am unhappy where I am at right now...not because I don't like the school - I've met some absolutely incredible people that I hope to become great friends with in the coming 4 years (and of course I've met some not so incredible people - see 'hypertalkers' below, but that's a given at any school full of premeds), and I know I'd be learning the same stuff anywhere.

I think it's because I have romanticized the adventure/excitement of living somewhere totally different and experiencing such a unique environment (both social and intellectual), and to know that I passed up on that for what seems to be the financially safer option is getting me down - while cheaper, this option still ain't cheap, and it's so much more of a known quantity. I know this city. I spent 18 years here, and I'm about to spend 4+ more. I've found myself already thinking about other cities I can go to for residency, just to get out of here, and that's not normal for someone whos 7 weeks into school. To know that I had the chance to go out and explore via this seemingly golden opportunity while I was still really young and not really tied down to anything is painful for me to think about. Of course, the logic is that it's not worth another ~200k of debt for this adventure, but right now this logic is eating me up inside. However, now all I can think about is that I didn't sack up and take the risk of this massive indebtedness and take the distant path.

First, I know that some people might be thinking that people would kill to have been in my positon, because we all know that getting into medschool, ANY medschool, is really tough and that I should stop whining. I hope I'm not coming across as whining, as I'm just trying to barf out in words what I've been thinking about the last few months. Also, I don't really know how to respond to people who say they would kill to be in my position, because everything is relative to unique experiences - of course I wouldn't be agonizing over this if I wasn't given this incredible gift in the first place of even getting into medschool, and I know how fortunate I am. But I can't comment on something I did not experience, and can only describe what I'm feeling right now...

This is what I was thinking about the last two days in shul, as I have thought about it every day since I intially made that decision. While trying to help me decide on a school, one person offered the advice that in life, the seemingly big decisions (i.e. choosing medschool) often pale in comparison to other unexpected or seemingly innocuous decisions in life when one looks retrospectively.

I really hope she's right.