I’ve been spending large portions of the day trying to map out everything. Putting pen to paper to clear out my mind and bring reason to my thoughts.
The journey through medicine is only a small part of it all.
Though I felt intensely as a doctor and medical student, it isn’t the only facet of me that requires attention.
My quest to find myself and my passions, who I truly am. I believe I’ve been living behind the facade for so long that I’ve forgotten my own interests and real self.
After listening to multiple podcasts by Heather Fork I decided to take time out each day to self-reflect. Different to my usual rumination, it was with a purpose. To break down from start to present what was happening in my life, what I was doing and what I enjoyed.
One of Heather’s podcasts discuss creating this timeline, from the decision to enter med school to now, and rate your enthusiasm. I took it slightly further, because I think my past cannot be separated from the present. It’s all interwoven.
This helped straighten some things out, I was actually excited to start med school. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Because I’ve been nothing but honest here I’ll be raw again. There was an incident in my first year of med school that really broke me down. I was assaulted and it left deep psychological scars. I’m still working to recover from this, to this day. I can see the spiral of negativity was after this event. It wasn’t all medicine.
Then the other large realisation was focusing on what I did for free. Heather discusses the importance of looking at what you do in your life without any expectation of financial return. You do it for the pure joy of doing it. Wow, another break through. From my earliest memories I’ve been creative.
I spent my spare time writing plays, choreographing dances, drawing, painting, and creating stories. I would write and print out pretend newspapers with fake headlines. Today I rediscovered my secret high school alter ego, I had an online following on fanfiction. As a teen I was obsessed with manga, and I’d spend all of my time reading it, drawing it and writing fanfiction about Naruto. Nerdy? Maybe…yes definitely. But I loved it.
Finding my account today sparked a bit of an ‘ah-ha’ moment. One of my stories had 17 chapters, 17! Plus 252 reviews, countless people telling me they loved my writing. I was thirteen at the time.
Flunking high school
At the same time, while I was spending every waking moment devouring online manga and churning out fanfictions, I wasn’t really paying attention to school. It wasn’t interesting me, and I’d never studied before. I figured I could show up to the exams and wing it. It’d be fine right?
Well, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. I got a few 80s, 70s, 60s and some ‘just passes’. In my first year in high school I was in the highest class, but after these scores, I got demoted.
‘Losing’ didn’t feel good. My mum’s reaction was even harder. She labelled me ‘just an 80’s student’ and saw me as average. The disappointment was real. Love and attention was taken away, because only exceptional things were rewarded. I know she only meant the best for me, and was trying to motivate me to apply myself, but it hurt.
If I could speak to my teenage self now, I’d say, ‘look at what you’re doing well in!’ I had hundreds of online reviews and people were waiting for my story chapters to update! Instead, I hung up my writing cap.
The account was closed overnight and I never wrote a fanfiction again.
Connecting the dots
So this was 2007-2009. In 2008, I decided that I didn’t want to be seen as ‘average’. This sparked a whole fire in me to study, and try at school. I began to do my homework and strived to get the marks. Only 90+ would do, I didn’t want to be ‘just an 80s student’. Those words were seared into my mind, I felt like it extended to my whole being. I was the marks, the marks were me.
Then I started getting 93%, 98%. One exam I got 99%. My mother’s response? Why didn’t you get 100? It never ended, only perfection was expected. What did I do? Well my next set of exams I got 100. But then what? It didn’t really make me feel love for myself.
In 2010, I made the decision to become a doctor. I was 15. It was definitely a decision made from external pressure. It was me chasing that feeling of getting ‘100%’. Of succeeding. At this time, my writing fell off. I didn’t write again until residency. I also stopped reading manga and novels. No time for that. I had to study, and improve my weaknesses – which were chemistry and maths (med prerequisites).
Today, seeing my fanfiction account and then realising the year I decided to be a doctor made it click. I connected the dots and discovered the year I chose medicine I gave up a large part of myself.
Destruction and reconnection
I firmly believe aligning with your true self is a destructive process. I’ve been in that state of destruction for years now. It was almost a free fall until I hit rock bottom. Then, when I got up I started to wonder, how the hell did I get here?
At first all I felt was confusion, anger, sadness, self-hatred.
I didn’t accept myself for who I was and called myself terrible names.
Weak, too sensitive, crazy, unstable, overly emotional. I was embarrassed to feel what I was feeling and guilty.
‘Medicine is a privilege’. So many people wish they are a doctor, why wasn’t I grateful?
After years of squashing my sensitive self, for being too much, I had kept it all contained. Then at rock bottom it came bursting out. I was having a break down, at 25.
It was a painful and destructive process. I’m just starting to come out the other side, after years like that.
Now, I’m starting to reconnect with my younger self. Writing and creating. Being vulnerable. Accepting that I am sensitive and emotional. It’s who I am, and it isn’t something to be ashamed about. Vulnerability is beautiful, and true art is born from being vulnerable.