Three months of clinical medicine are in the books, roughly 18 to go before graduation. Some of my classmates are likely starting to ponder the great unknown. Which specialty is right for me? Where will I go for an internship? I get it because I know I’m doing it. I know it feels like a monkey clinging tight. Pondering life plans is the most bizarre mix between excitement of things to come and fear of the unknown.
I write tonight as someone lacking conviction. But also about why I’m ok with that for the time being.
Laying a path for the years to come seems like combing knotted hair with a dessert spoon. The tool I have for the job, my current understanding of the medical world and my potential, is completely inadequate for the task at hand. My Dad has always said to me that you can only make the best decisions with the information you have right now. Well shit. While I love and frequently offer this piece of advice I simply do not know which roles will be challenging and satisfying in 10 or 20 years time. I cannot foresee which training pathways will view me as a viable candidate, nor which ones I will want to pursue.
I’ve spent very little time in practice so you must take all I say with a grain of salt. Understand that my opinions and desires have and will continue to change. This seems a normal path for a medical student. The career of choice for most medical students is the one they are doing right now. The exception is when it’s the one they did last rotation. My point here is that we are malleable, we adapt to the environment around us. As in infancy, we respond to pleasant stimulus. We giggle and smile at a new and enjoyable experience, then we want to do it again.
“The only constant is change.”
Wikipedia tells me these words come from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. As someone in perpetual motion I can understand the sentiment. Whether it’s the need to run or the need for challenge I aim to embrace change, to feel the fear of the unknown and boldly step forward regardless. Despite that aim, I sit feeling anxious about the idea of changing my mind or choosing the wrong path as I walk the medical road. On reflection this is not helpful. At least, I need to be accepting of the changes. At most, I need to seek them.
“I have been through some terrible things in my life. Some of them even happened.”
These were written by Mark Twain in more recent times yet they are equally wise and applicable to my current train of thought. Our fears and worries rarely come to pass. And yet we brood on them. We let them direct our actions, keeping us from things we desire and sending us to places we do not wish to go. We let ourselves flinch at potential outcomes rather than reserving that response for the actual exposure. Worrying about all eventualities is both exhausting and terrifying. The relevance here is that we might let a fear of making the wrong decision hold us back from making a decision at all. Flinching with fear holds us back so although I needn’t yet make career decisions I know that when the time comes I must be brave and show conviction.
So as the saying goes, the world is your oyster. But as an addition, please remember that your favourite way to have this oyster will change as you try different options. And lastly, allow yourself to ponder options at the appropriate times but when the waitress arrives you must be decisive. Without an order you will go hungry.