“You are never ready, you just run out of time.”
This statement, out of every advice I was given in the weeks prior to starting school, has stayed with me the most. It is true, at least for me. I am as ready as I will ever be, but it is difficult to measure that in quantifiable terms.
I decided not to go to medical school right after undergrad, because I wasn’t ready. I even deferred for another year after getting accepted, because I still wasn’t ready. I wanted some more time to myself, to accomplish the goals I’ve set aside for my personal life, outside of my professional aspirations. It may seem silly to think about goals outside of medicine, with such a demanding and time-intensive career track. But for me, this was just greater motivation for other personal ambitions. My career is absolutely important to me, but there are also other important things, and I want to make sure I’ve accomplished what I can, before committing fully to medicine. Dean Balser said it best on the first day of orientation – “getting to medical school is not the step towards the next thing – this is it; this is the thing itself.”
I reminisce on the past four years. I think about sitting on the back of a pickup truck, crossing the border from Chile into Argentina, winding high through in the Andes mountains. I think about a ten-hour bus-ride in Nepal, where humans, chickens, goats, and farm produce were squeezed in so compactly, that I was certain not a single other thing could fit, much like how a solid precipitate would form from a solution after max saturation. I think about my road trip across the United States when moving to a new home in California, and the excitement and relief of making new friends, after leaving most of mine behind in Boston. I think about waking up at 4 am in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia mountains, hiking up in the dark, making it just in time to catch the first beams of sunlight casting its rays against rock towers looming high over an alpine lake. I think about the ten months I spent teaching English at a secondary school in rural Malaysia, and all the feelings of uncertainty and confusion at the beginning, being unsure how to reach my students, to connect with my peers, and to navigate the unfamiliar cultural environment. I think about the end of that year, at the gratitude and fulfillment I felt after successfully making meaningful connections and creating positivity in my community.
With so many recent experiences to be grateful for, how could I not be ready for school? I find myself wishing I had one more week… just one more. But would that ever be enough? Perhaps I would always fill whatever time I have, brimming to the point of wanting another day.
Maybe now, the time really – finally – is right. I am ready to explore a new city; I am excited to be in class again; I am eager to get in the clinic. I have contentment in my heart, preparation in my mind, and I feel ready to commit to this journey into medicine.