A couple of weeks ago I went and met a whole load of people off the internet in a pub in Birmingham. I was initially wary because (and this is a story for another time) I’ve had some odd experiences with meeting internet folk and also because it was going to be a gang of medics and I’m very, um, un-medic-y. AND BAD WITH WORDS.
Do you know what though? I had a lovely time, confirmed that the people I thought were brilliant WERE indeed wonderful – people say you shouldn’t make snap judgments but I happen to be very good at them – and made some new friends along the way. All in all, a very good day and night during which I managed not to tell too many rude stories or let on that I can be a bit of a cow.
What was extra special for me was that I didn’t really have to explain myself. Because I had a little mental a year ago and decided to put my back-story on the internet, most of the people there understood my path into medicine and not having to come up with an unwieldy sentence for my mature student status every time I introduced myself to someone was a huge relief. What do you say? It’s something I get asked about on a daily basis on my course; in every new study group, in every clinic, on every ward (“What do you mean ‘I’m obviously a bit older’?!”, I say and then run to the mirror, crying). I am yet to come up with a handy set-piece which manages to convey that I didn’t just have some epiphany about wanting to be a doctor in my late twenties, that I didn’t go to uni at eighteen and find the studying a bit difficult, which is what most people assume when I say that I had a hard time first time around. Personally I’d find it easier to just tell the truth, but then this tends to make the person asking feel terrible and also seems ‘a bit much’ either when you’ve only just shaken hands in a bar or are looking at an x-ray together for the first time. So, answers on a postcard if you think you can crack it. (Seriously, I love postcards, DM for address etc)
This got me thinking about how glad I was to have got that little story off my chest a whole year ago now, how kind everyone had been about it, and how accepting most people are. I’ve had a really great year. When I wrote that story I was still reeling from a miscarriage and had honestly reached the point where I just didn’t think I was ever going to get pregnant again or that I’d have a successful pregnancy if I did. Looking at the date I’d posted it though, I must actually have been tinily, tentatively, itsy-bitsily pregnant, which perhaps explains the tidal wave of hormones that led me to sit down and type-cry my life to a bunch of strangers. At this very moment, my fat little rosebud of a baby sits next to me, laughing at a cushion and bashing my thighs with her spitty fist. In addition to this wondrousness, I’d had a good year at medical school where I’d actually made friends and, thanks to doing two days a week in hospital, got a bit of validation that I’d made the right choice in returning.
This validation is important to me because, in truth, I am a terrible medical student. My friends are almost entirely non-medics, I don’t spend any of the time when I’m not studying thinking about the subject, and my life outside of medicine is, and I suspect always will be, bigger than either the course or my job when I get there. It’s easy to feel quite guilty about this, like I’m not really ‘proper doctor material’. While I think the human body and the things that happen inside us are beautiful and miraculous, I’ll admit that I only learn about neuroanatomy or the bloody renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system because I have to; rather than just for the sheer love of the science behind it. I like people, I think I’m good at listening to people, being observant, playing ‘symptoms detective’ and communicating in a way that is useful and, where possible, makes them feel good. That is my pitiful skill set and I really hope it’s enough, especially as I already have moderate fear about returning to my course in September. My friends will all be a year ahead of me by then, and I’ll be with people another year younger. I’m not intrinsically ageist, and I hope I’ll meet some more great people but there’s something a little bit odd for me in being surrounded entirely by people born in the year I started getting off with boys and surreptitiously swigging Malibu at sleepovers. So, if I start to visibly wobble a bit when I return, I hope you’ll all shout at me IN CAPITALS to crack on with it and not get weighed down by what people might think of the haggard old crone in the corner. I think I’ll be quite good at it if I can just get there.
(This is a very odd PS. I’ve seen in various forums people referring a girl to my blog who has had a similarly shit time and is asking people for advice on re-applying to medical school. IF YOU WANT TO, WILL YOU CONTACT ME SO WE CAN TALK? I promise not to compare your story to mine or to offer advice, but I will listen, I will provide the facts that I know to be true in terms of re-applying as a failed student, and if you want I’ll try and help you with the process of doing so xxx)