Friday, May 11, 2012

The Question Everyone Should Ask Themselves, Part Two

sad doctor

If you haven't read Part One of this post, I strongly recommend you do before reading this.

dr sanjay gupta cnn
In my last post, I promised to ask you a question that everyone should ask themselves before they die. I know I joke about kids reading my blog, but the truth is I don't have many young readers (well, besides the Beliebers who occasionally send me hate mail for my Justin Bieber memes). Most people who come here have graduated or are studying for a degree.

I bet you've worked hard to get here you are now. I want you, for a moment, to think about that journey. To remember your hardest, darkest hours, as well as your greatest triumphs. I want you to recall some of the faces you remember from those times. To feel the pain, the sweat, and the joy that all those moments brought you.

Now. Considering all you've endured to be where you are today. I want you to look back on it all and ask yourself -

Was it worth it?

Did you end up exactly how you thought you would end up, all those years ago? Are you doing what you imagined you'd be doing?

Do you love what you do?

One of my drama directors back in Cambridge asked us this once. He said at the end of every play, he'd ask his cast and crew this question. And his goal as a director was to make their experience so enjoyable that they answered yes.

Let's face it - I didn't want to be a doctor. If I could go back in time, before I went to med school, and do something different, I would. Because I may be a good doctor now. But I could have been a great something else.

But I lacked the courage to chase my dreams. In my second year, a friend of mine from another college failed many papers. When he went to see his Director of Studies to arrange resits, his DoS told him frankly, "I've seen this pattern of results before. It usually means that deep down inside, you don't really want to do medicine." My friend took his advice, and left medical school. He is now earning a six-figure salary at a law firm in London, and wakes up every day knowing he loves what he does.

Darth Vader quoteI envy him.

But like Darth Vader said to Luke, "It is too late for me, son." But not for you. You can still change your life. So ask yourself today, "Was it worth it?"

I sincerely hope the answer is yes.


A Doc 2 Be said...

I read yesterday's post and watched the video. Since I know many Brits, just let me say, I kept my stiff upper lip while watching.

My dream since I was 5 was to be a doc. I LOVE the sciences, love learning, love being pushed, love helping people; need to understand "why" more than "how" and...

But, I'm also 47. And I think I am "done" as in, my path has concluded.

I can get into a Caribbean school and probably some here in the U.S. (am not interested in D.O.) but, at what cost?

Right now, before I make any decision about whether to take the MCAT or not (U.S. entrance exams), I'm going to let things settle. This semester kicked my ass from here to there NOT because of school but because I'm NOT 20 with no responsibilities.

I am a mom to a 20 year old and caretaker of my elderly parents who both have early stages of dementia.

Was this worth it? Was it worth staying up nights with limited sleep, wondering how I was going to pay the bills, wondering how I was going to be happy?

Hell ya!

Each day I spent in school I smiled and every day I looked back at my executive life, I cringed. I hated being an exec... sure the well into the 6-figures USD salary was really nice, allowed me to travel internationally along with my son and show him the world (literally) but the rest of the life that went with that salary?


My only regret in any of this, is that... me chasing my dream, me following my heart, put others in financial harm's way.

And for that reason alone, I think I need to step down and re-evaluate.

Life has a plan. I will find it... and I will continue to write!

Anonymous said...

So far it was worth it, all of it. My life is happy BECAUSE I direct it taking into consideration what others have to say. I always start up with partnership, it's fair, who proves me wrong is:

Stick achieved point b.

The Angry Medic said...

A Doc 2 Be: Wow. That is a genuinely amazing story, as is your follow-up on your blog. Thank you for sharing it with me. Seriously.

I have an even greater respect for you, now that I know you threw away all that and voluntarily put yourself through your current dilemma just to chase your dreams. But I also envy you. You found your passion and are chasing it - which many would argue is the only way to live.

Yes, do keep writing. Because some of us will keep reading.

The Angry Medic said...

Iron-WIlled Anonymous: I am genuinely glad to hear that. Like my reply above, that means you're chasing your dreams, which is the only way to live, really.

It sounds like you have a clear idea of what you want to do in life, which is half the battle won.

ImAFatBastardWhoAteMyKitten said...

Unlike Doc2be up there, Medicine wasn't exactly my dream, but I was 'pursuaded' to go for it by my very Asain family at a young age. During my GCSEs and A-Levels, I became a social reject in order to get the grades to get to Med School. Now on the other side, I realise I have very few friends and spend most of my days trolling blogs and making up strange usernames. *sigh* 18 years well spent...

Anonymous said...

'chasing your dreams' - I'd never call it that.

'It sounds like you have a clear idea of what you want to do in life, which is half the battle won.' :-)

I never have a superclear idea and that is the point. Life is about being elastic. If you are able to adapt, you do adapt, if you are able to influence others to adapt, you do adapt as well, to their change, if you are not able to adapt yourself or influence others, that's another matter and it differs in daily life/bsns.

In my life there are no half battels or half anythings, in fact I don't do battles at all - if others do them with me, that's another matter.

Life isn't easy, but I have some universal rules, to make life easier and it gets easier that way. Besides, I'm happy.

The Mildly Irritated Medic said...

As a medical student in pretty much exactly the same position as where you were three years ago, this post strikes a chord with me. I've often wondered whether I would have done better pursuing a different tripos, with varying levels of enthusiasm for the idea.

Yet I still haven't quite given up on medicine, partially through the hope that clinical school will be different...and partially because part of me still believes the last section of the blog you linked. If I try, I can still make myself believe that I can make this work, yet I know that I need to find out quickly if that faith is misplaced.

What would you choose, if you could go back and make that choice again? And what would you say to a medic who has lost his way, but not his hope?

Anonymous said...

Oh babe, you still can be whomever you wish and do whatever you like and want to do, u're a poet, do poetic things, that makes you happy.

Besides, you're also very good at trolling :-)

I'm proud of you.

The Mildly Irritated Medic said...

As a medical student in pretty much exactly the same position as where you were three years ago, this post strikes a chord with me. I've often wondered whether I would have done better pursuing a different tripos, with varying levels of enthusiasm for the idea.

Yet I still haven't quite given up on medicine, partially through the hope that clinical school will be different...and partially because part of me still believes the last section of the blog you linked. If I try, I can still make myself believe that I can make this work, yet I know that I need to find out quickly if that faith is misplaced.

What would you choose, if you could go back and make that choice again? And what would you say to a medic who has lost his way, but not his hope?

A Doc 2 Be said...

@ TAM:

Had this been a career change by choice, I would have been far more settled.

However, I turned my company in for fraudulent financial reporting and because I was an executive, I was not protected by the laws in the U.S.

I was destroyed financially by the company after I settled my lawsuit against them. Had I known that the company executives would say and do what they have, I would never have settled.

So, I chose to take that as a sign to chase my dream.

And I still have no regrets!

Final Year Cambridge Medic said...


Having spent the last 3 years shadowing/ sitting in with/ assisting doctors at all levels of training, I cannot imagine any job I could do that would be as simultaneously fun, interesting, challenging and rewarding (emotionally and financially)as medicine.

Yes an investment banker or corporate lawyer would make more money, quicker. But like someone once put it to me, the only reason they get paid that much is because their job would be otherwise so unfullfilling that no-one would want to do it. As a doctor you finish work and go home with the feeling that you made a difference to people's lives. You used your talent/ intelligence/ hard-earned skills to help those less fortunate. That is a feeling that no annual six-figure bonus could get you.

Anonymous said...

@A Doc 2 Be
''I turned my company in for fraudulent financial reporting' and 'after I settled my lawsuit against them.I was destroyed financially by the company '' - that would be a doing of an idiot. No wonder you have no regrets, coz still nobody caught you reg. your alleged fraudulent activity.

@The Mildly Irritated Medic
'I can still make myself believe that I can make this work, yet I know that I need to find out quickly if that faith is misplaced.' HA HA HA, gotcha.

'And what would you say to a medic who has lost his way, but not his hope?' I'd say, HA HA HA, gotcha.

ImAFatBastardWhoAteMyKitten said...

@Sympathetic Anonymous
Aww thank you. In all seriousness though, I think I gonna grow to love Medicine - after all, all the guys commenting above me certainly do!

ImAFatBastardWhoAteMyKitten said...

okay well, not the guy exactly above me maybe, but I didnt see that when I posted.

bisquit bastard said...

yes, medicine, what that would be, smelling salts or strobili lupuli...

Dr. Courtney said...

Very thoughtful posts! I actually caused alot of pondering on my part and weighing in on my choices I've made as of late. Has it all been worth it so far for me? Definitely! Granted, on the other side of the spectrum still pursuing my undergrad, but with a unique perspective. I was going towards this path 3 years ago and knew, or thought I knew, at the time that becoming a doctor is what I wanted to be. But I had other passions and I decided to pursue them instead, and after 3 years of pursing these different passions and interests I realized this:

Acting/Theater: Couldn't imagine myself fighting for roles and going on auditions for the rest of my life.

I loved dancing: Same as above.

I loved cooking: Cooking imagine slaving away in a kitchen for other people at a restaurant week after week for the rest of my life. That would suck the passion right out of it for me

I loved writing poetry: Definitely couldn't sustain a good lifestyle doing that.

Then I realized all these things I loved doing, were things that I could still actually do in any free time that I had, while doing what I was meant to do. Which was caring for people. Nursing them back to health, or easing their transition into death. I love the science behind it, I love the impact it makes, and that I could make, on their lives. That is what I'm most passionate about.

Thank you for the thought-provoking posts!

Dr Erhumu said...

So Doctors in countries we are dreaming to work in are complaining too??? *wailing*- Mama, why oh why did you allow me chase this childhood dream?

Anonymous said...

Dear Angry Medic (and mildly irritated),

Regrets, i have had a few, but then again too few to mention...

I enjoy my life and love being a doctor, even eight years from retirement. As well as a great job I get to nurture and train an enthusiastic bunch of idealistic youngsters. It wasnt always this way, there were times when I hated the life, times when I thought medicine was destroying my soul, there were times as both a medical student and junior when I wanted to quit, and came close to doing so.

I stuck to it and that commitment becomes part of the reward, medicine like marriage is only satisfying if it endures. Most of the doctors that I admire came close to quitting, or did so for a while. Consider it as reflective learning.

I enjoy many other parts of life but can enjoy them without having to earn a living by them. Medicine has been good to me in the end, and looking back, I see some of the tough times and some of the unsatisfying times were nessecary. We know that medicine sometimes requires giving people what they need, not what they want.

Dr Phil

--Sunrise-- said...

This struck a chord with me. It reminded me of a Bollywood movie, 3 Idiots. In it, there is a dialogue that says, 'Chase excellence, and success will follow you, pants down.' and I guess the only way to chase excellence would be to chase your passions. I have often wondered why I am in med school too, and I wonder where my life will lead. But there are many different ways of expressing love, and love for a field or a subject need not mean you need to dedicate your life to it.

And I genuinely believe there is not a lot in terms of subject material knowledge, to being a great doctor. Most of that skill comes from the kind of human being you are and the way in which you express that love within you towards your patients. Unless you're in a supertop specialty and you need to have a ridiculous amount of brains, I think the distance between a good and great doctor is covered by your personality and attitude.

I'm rambling endlessly now, but thank you for this post, definitely strikes a chord. :-)

A Doc 2 Be said...

@ anonymous - it would be better a better troll, if your English was understandable

Myra said...

Heya Angry Medic ;)

I've asked this question myself since our A-level years together, but being in denial my heart wasn't really into it and continued self-soothing it'll get better as I come to the real medic-y stuff (which it didnt btw lol)

I decided I had enough and left, to date I think it is the best decision I have ever made. I am truly happy and at am a state of inner peace I never thought possible for me to have ;)

There have been what-if moments had I continued, and there have been times I kinda envied the career progress friends are making. But when I think about my current life I dont think there is anything that can convince me to re-live it once again haha. It was a big and tough decision, but I am truly happy now :)

It was definitely worth it! Deciding what to do with my life gave me a sense of control and relief, personally i think it was all laid out in the Divine Plan anyway hihi.

zewt said...

Hey Medic!!!!!!

Interesting question... though one which has been asked many times i am sure.

Anyway... my answer...

if you were to ask me this question 2 years ago... my answer would probably be no. i would rather do something else, things that i enjoy, at least i am not so miserable.

but having moved to singapore, i am actually kinda enjoying the shite that i do... maybe it's because i finally feel i am compensated appropriately... hehe... as i can say now that i am living a fairly comfortable life because of what i do, and that i can provide for my family... i guess it's worth it.

Ms-Ellisa said...

At the moment, sadly, no, not really.

Too much hard work, too much sadness, and dealing with people at their very worst times.

The salary is way too low, patients call for me in a far worse way than if I were, say, a waitress, and at 25 I feel already tired...

...but then again it's hard to stay optimistic if you live in Greece at these times.

I hope that if I ask myself again in a few years time I will have a different answer.

The Angry Medic said...

Fat Bastard 12.19PM: Sadly this story* is common among people like you (and me). Though most of us get indoctrinated along the way and fall in love with it anyway, or at least learn to tolerate it and work hard at it. I wish I could.

*And by this I mean the family thing, not the strange username and trolling behaviour. Though some of us do that too.

Fat Bastard 9.34PM: Was that sympathetic comment meant for you?

Was it, in fact, YOU? Haha. I never can tell.

The Angry Medic said...

Iron-Willed Anonymous 12.29PM: Wow. You really have a unique point of view on life don't you? Fair enough, adaptability is a very VERY useful trait. Sounds like your rules are working.

And yes, as long as you're happy. :)

The Angry Medic said...

Mildly Irritated Medic: I feel for you, I really do. Know that you are not alone, and that every year loads of Cambridge medics feel like you. But perhaps I can offer some hope by answering your two questions.

1. If I had to go back and choose again, I'd have done law. In a hearbeat. My most successful subject in med school was Medical Law and Ethics. It didn't feel like revision to me; I loved memorising the cases, Gillic competency, Re T, the lot. It's hard to admit this now knowing that door is forever closed, but there it is.

2. What I would say to you is yes - clinical school changes EVERYTHING. I was so deliriously happy when I first went to clinical school, I even went to Rounds on Saturdays. (Turns out they didn't want me. But I didn't care) It is a total change from Cambridge's sit-on-your-bum-in-lecture-theatres-for-3-years, stuff-loads-of-theory-down-your-throat approach. It WILL reinvigorate you. SO my advice is, hold on.

P.S. Also, re your name: I see what you did there.

The Angry Medic said...

A Doc 2 Be: That is an amazing story. Have you written to your local press? This sounds like a story that should be shared with the world.

True courage. Simply inspiring. Yes, if you believe with all your heart and soul that this is what you were meant to do, then congratulations, you are among the 1%. Chase it even if it kills you, but chase it.

The Angry Medic said...

Final Year Cambridge Medic: Amazing. Do I know you? One of my juniors actually told me something similar to raise my spirits when I complained to her.

Turning this into a blog post.

The Angry Medic said...

Anonymous Keyboard Warrior: WOOP WOOP! DOUCHEBAG ALERT! Who invited the Anonymous Arsehole Squad? I bet you're their famous leader, Captain A.N. Al Penetration! Known for fearlessly leading the digital charge (into rectums. Digital Rectum Exam. AHAHA SEEWHATIDIDTHAR?) from safely behind his computer screen whilst chugging his Big Macs with one hand and washing it down with his momma's breast milk with the other!

Does it feel good trolling other people courageous enough to post their stories? Does it make you feel less of a loser sitting at home in your hot neighbour's stolen panties and your five-day stubble? At least you're not yanking off to your dad's vintage porn collection anymore, are ya? Isn't your mom proud of you?

Speaking of your mom, why don't you get back to sucking her teat, she's complaining her nipples are dry. Get off my blog. Don't forget to shove your head back into your ass on your way out, your 'roids are getting lonely.

--Sunrise-- said...

Best response ever.

The Angry Medic said...

Bisquit Bastard: ...uhm...yes.

What'll it be today, Prozac or Eye of Newt?

The Angry Medic said...

Dr Courtney: You are most welcome. I visited your blog, and it does indeed reflect your philosophy. I am truly glad you found that this passion outweighed the others - it looks like you had time to ponder it. I too did a lot of acting at uni, and my CV reads more like an application to drama school than to med school. But you seem confident you can balance it all and still indulge yourself.

I genuinely hope so.

The Angry Medic said...

Dr Erhumu: I know right? Perfect case of 'grass is greener on the other side'.

And trust me, I ask my mother that same question every day...

The Angry Medic said...

Dr Phil: Brilliant, brilliant comment. I really hope The Mildly Irritated Medic saw that, it would really help him.

And of course it really helped me, too. I know it gets more difficult before it gets better, but it's always uplifting to hear from someone who's come out the other side.

Real honour to have a "real" doctor blogger on my site. I've added you to blogroll and will stalk you.

The Angry Medic said...

Sunrise: You're not rambling at all. I agree with your trepidation at being in med school and wondering if it'll be worth it - if anything, this post lets you know that the trepidation never goes away, even after graduation!

And thanks for your kind words about the difference between good and great doctors. You are most welcome for the post :)

The Angry Medic said...

Myra: Wow. I had no idea you left. Thanks for sharing, and I am so so happy that you had the guts to quit despite all the pressure that must have been piled on you. I am even happier that you feel it was worth it. True, I also believe in a Divine Plan, and that everything will work out in the end. I really really envy your strength.

The Angry Medic said...

Zewt: OMG Zewt ol' buddy ol' pal! You're alive! Man does seeing you bring back the memories. You need to blog more, biatch!

Thank you for sharing - I agree Singapore compensates appropriately, heh. And I am really glad you feel it's worth it. It's always worth it when your family benefits. Sounds like you've put your regrets behind you like a truly matured man.

The Angry Medic said...

Ms-Ellisa: Wow. Yep, you're a doctor alright - those complaints are the same every doctor makes, even the ones in the UK. I really hope the answer to the question changes for you in several years.

I admire the Greek people - they're paying for a crime their politicians and bankers committed, and everywhere in Greece there are examples of quiet courage as you go about your daily lives.

The Angry Medic said...

Sunrise 2 @ 4.55PM Really? Someone who actually LIKES my crappy analogies and anus jokes? Excuse me, I have to go faint.


Seriously. I hate trolls. Thanks though.

The Mildly Irritated Medic said...

Cheers Angry (and Dr Phil), advice muchly appreciated. I await clinical school with baited breath :P

It has long occurred to me that, at least in Cambridge (but I suspect the same applies elsewhere), the separation between those at different stages of medical training is unhelpful. As an undergrad, just having people come up and say "oh yeah, I remember that bit" is worth more than it ever seems. Med school is a very unique type of hell, and it's always good to have some company other than the peers who are trying to set you on fire.

Exams in a week and a half. Should probably do something about those.

Robin said...

A prestigious med school accepted me fresh out of college (U.S.) when I was barely 20. I was a country girl with no city experience, and the interview really made me consider what I really wanted in life.

I eventually decided to not persue a medical career and chose research instead. I hated it. I took a year off and got my degree to teach chemistry, biology, physics, and math. Soon after that, I was married and had my first child within a year.

Two awesome daughters later, I chose to stay at home and raise them. When the last one started school, I started teaching again.

I have absolutely loved what I do. The money is terrible, and after a divorce when my girls were still in school, it was tough. But we are so close, and they are fantastic gals who worked their way through college and grad school. They make the big bucks and we all enjoy life so much.

I now have a grandson to spoil and two awesome young men in my life as the mates of my girls. Life is so good.

I do have a second vocation and I love it also. I have taught database design and programming for a large corporation.

I've also dealt with a major rare disease while still doing all the above.

The bottom line: I wouldn't trade my life for anyone elses life. I LOVE MY LIFE. I don't believe I would have had the love that I have in my life if I had gone on to med school. I may be wrong, but I know the time I spent with my girls (and still spend) is worth so very much and that is hard to beat.

peace said...

This particular entry brings tears to my eyes. I can relate. I wish I can go back in time & start over. I was full of life once. Then I joined medical school. I couldn't accept it. I kept failing. Worse yet, I sank into depression. I tried to end my life, many times that passed unnoticed, but the last attempt left permanent damage. Yet, it was a wake up call. I guess I was convinced that regardless of what I do, I'll not die before my time. I decided to live life a day at a time. My status went from probation to straight As (only for that semester though, then my Fs & Ds were replaced by a mix of ABC). Now I am a somehow good medical student, but I still have an almost monthly, if not weekly doubt that medicine is not for me. But as soon as I open my books or enter the wards I forgot that feeling. I am in the last week of my paediatric placement now & I know that all that suffering changed me, to the better. I accept my weakness (including the need to join a proper English class, & I am saving money to attend one) & start from them. I know what I don't want to be.

Edit, umm sounds more like a trailer. I couldn't figure the point of what I wrote. It seems I lost my train of thought. Nevermind, I just clicked publish & go to bed.