I’ve finally come to terms with my current situation- not that I’ve necessarily been in denial this entire time, but rather, I am finally ready to do something about it.
I did not do as well as I had hoped, despite an exhausting amount of hours of study, on the MCAT last summer. A direct consequence of this has resulted in me not getting responses from medical schools during this first attempt in applying. No, I am not the only one in the universe that has been in this situation, but it still stinks.
With that being said, at least I know a specific thing that I can refocus my attention on in order to reap a better harvest this upcoming Summer/Fall.
I am now in the process of redeveloping self discipline.
It takes some serious, I mean SERIOUS self discipline to do this MCAT thing. This isn’t just some simple final exam that you take at the end of a year of Organic Chemistry. This is even more than a final exam for all science classes a premed student takes within his undergrad, because it’s more than simply listing off random facts, figures, and equations. I don’t have to get into the details of the test to say it is the biggest challenge that I’ve ever faced (and will soon face again, come April) in my entire life.
It far trumps the difficulty of learning a completely new language, like I experienced in the Dominican Republic.
It will demand much more dedicated time than I ever sought to dedicate to my college exams.
And the hardest thing so far has been justifying the act of taking significant time off of work, spending most of my day away from Katie and Cooper, and shutting off the ongoing hustle of world events in order to prepare for a silly test.
What I need to remember is that this isn’t just some silly test. It determines my entire future, so I should take it that seriously.
I also need to realize that it will reap more rewards than a simple number score and sigh of relief that it’s over.
It’s worth more than million dollars.
It will directly determine whether I become a doctor or not. Which greatly influences everything that lies ahead of me and my family.
If someone was to sit me down in a private meeting and say “Look, we want you to take an 8 hour test. It’ll take months of intense studying, but if you dedicate yourself and develop some serious self discipline by studying day in and day out, here a little and there a little, during any spare minute you get during the day…. we will write you a check for 1 million dollars and give you the one career that you dream of having….
…yeah, I’d do it. Why not?
Yes, it will not be pleasant. Yes, my brain is going to gag every time I try to force myself to sit down and study for hours on end (at least at first. I hope this gagging feeling doesn’t last the entire time!!!)
Am I doing this for money, fame, fortune? No. I’m doing this because I can’t see myself doing anything else for the rest of my life except for working in health care in a career that I don’t regret ‘settling for’.
Am I doing this at the expense of my deep and cherished relationship that I have with my wife Katie? No way, Jose. We have every intention of doing this thing the right way. Sure, we won’t get to spend the time together that we would WANT to spend (which would basically be all day every day). But hey, ANY occupation I choose, healthcare or otherwise, would still require time away from home and spouse. That’s LIFE!
But if I see cracks start to form, no matter how small, I will, I WILL make a conscious effort to treat the wound as if it was a simple laceration on the arm – I’d stitch it up with kind words, attention, empathy, and love; I’d put down a layer of antibiotic repentance (meaning, I would take advantage of the Atonement by identifying an error, apologizing, make up in ways that I can, and recommit myself to becoming a better husband) which will ensure that such a wound doesn’t become infected by sin, despair, discouragement, or regret. And finally, I would remind myself that ‘This too shall pass’, that I won’t be studying this intensely forever. I won’t have to go weeks or months without vacation forever. I won’t have to go hours without food or drink or bathroom breaks forever (yes, I’m trying to simulate testing environments and timing NOW, so I don’t burn myself out when it’s time to take 8 hour MCAT practice tests). ……..However, this doesn’t mean I get to justify myself away from fatherly duties either. Nor does it mean that I put off everything but medical studies for 12 years, when I FINALLY become a doctor and get my first paycheck towards mountains of debt. I can’t put off being a good husband and father now with the intention of being one later. I must still fulfill that calling today, and everyday. What matters is how our family determines I can do that- whether it’s simply doing a set of dishes at the end of a day’s work of studying, or simply talking to Katie about the ups and downs of her day. These little things are important to continue doing. Yes, my competitive co-students that are my ‘competition’ in medical school might not have those responsibilities to worry about and have the luxury of extra time to study and play that I simply don’t have. But guess what… I knew what this snake was before I picked it up. I knew this would be the case- that if I were to marry my high school sweetheart and have kids before even scratching the surface of my medical education, I would be dealing with a TON more on my plate than others… but I have an eternal perspective in mind. And when I think long-term, this is exactly what I would have my life look like, even if it isn’t easy or simple or fair or fun right now.
That snake phrase, “You knew what I was when you picked me up”… it was mentioned in our Eternal Marriage class the other day, I believe. That story of the boy and the snake has always carried a negative moral of a story regarding sin and its consequences. But while we were talking about the difficulties of marriage, and the responsibility we have of fighting through those difficulties… Brother Hunsaker reminded us that we chose to do this marriage thing. Without really planning on saying it, it just seemed to fit within the flow of the conversation. “You knew what I was when you picked me up”, he laughed. We all laughed, but it hit me hard that it was true, in a whole different context.
Both marriage and medicine, and the MCAT can be like a snake sometimes. Sometimes it unexpectedly bites. And then it stings really bad! And maybe I even have the urge to set it down and not have to deal with more bites again… but I know better. I’m gonna show this snake who’s boss.
Again, this twist to the classic snake analogy doesn’t really fit perfectly, with a moral of the story and everything. But I do like the idea that I’m gonna tame this snake- this beast of a test. And I’m gonna fight through the pain and tame this snake no matter what it takes. This snake’s venom, unlike any other, will actually make me stronger.
Speaking of stronger, that’s another thing I’ve implemented! Between bouts of studying, I’m pumping out some pushups. My muscles ache (and my brain is starting to ache too!), but it’s a good pain, because I know it’s making me stronger. As part of my redevelopment of self discipline, I am disciplining myself to exercise a little more.
I think my plan from now until I take the MCAT is to lock myself in empty computer labs whenever possible. This evening, I’m currently in the Family Life building. I really need to take advantage of my current situation of being a computer lab consultant, because it gives me access that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Here’s me on the lab webcam!
I’ve studied here for the past 4 hours. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the building this late on a Saturday. In fact, I’ve probably been the only here for awhile. I study there, where I’m sitting, and get up do pushups over by the blue chair in the righthand corner.
Anyway, I knew what Pursuing Medical School was before I picked it up. It bites, but I’m feelin the burn and trying to enjoy it. It too shall pass.
Back to studies! I just took a Verbal Reasoning test and am going over every single question, whether I got it right or not, in order to learn what I’m doing wrong and how to improve on my Verbal Reasoning skills. The Verbal reasoning section is very different from the others because it’s less knowledge based, more skills-based. So like any skill, I need to practice and practice in order to develop the skill.
Side Note: After writing this, I thought I’d add a picture of snake to remind me of my altered analogy with the snake. It’s interesting that I found two different pictures of a snake, both of which contain symbolism that I hadn’t thought of before, and very relevant to my life:
Medicine & Christ.