Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart

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This quote will always mean a great deal to me.  If you’ve read my info, it includes something about me finding myself in this big world.

Growing up, especially in high school and even into college, I always felt like I was the girl who knew who I was and knew exactly who I wanted to be.  Two years ago, my world was rocked by the fact that I truly had no idea who that person was.  Don’t get me wrong, I will always remember where I came from, what I stand for, how to act like a lady, and the manners and morals by which my mom raised me.  I guess you could say what changed for me a few years ago were my priorities.  From around age 13 to age 22, school, cheerleading, and whatever relationship I was in at the time was what my small world revolved around.

When I started college (a small liberal arts school in Western PA) in the fall of 2008, I really wasn’t sure as to what my future would hold.  In fact, I started that September eventually wanting to pursue a career in forensic science (why? I couldn’t tell you).

After my freshmen seminar course, I soon discovered my love for biology, and my interest in medicine would soon follow.  The great thing about my undergraduate college is that it is an extremely small school, meaning that students have tons of access to professors and career resources.  Long story short, I was determined by my junior year that I would be accepted to medical school following the completion of my undergraduate degree.

Trust me, it wasn’t easy, I, along with my family, did everything in our power to land me acceptance into an allopathic school of medicine,  including applying to numerous schools, flying around the country for interviews, and paying a sickening amount of money for an MCAT review course.

After graduating from my undergraduate college, I felt like I was ready to take on the world, and that all my dreams and aspirations were slowly falling into place.  Little did I know that you should be careful what you wish for.  I soon discovered that this dream wasn’t for me.  It took months, in fact over a year for me to admit this to myself.  I did extremely well academically, but I felt myself deteriorating as a person.  I started losing an unhealthy amount of  weight (most likely due to developing Celiac Disease during this period in time), I pulled away from who at the time I considered ‘the love of my life,’ and I felt myself becoming needy (especially with my family) in ways I have never been before.

Overall, I was just purely unhappy.  My life was consumed by something I realized wasn’t for me.  Before going to medical school, I did consider what a great commitment it would be, but that was 20 year old me.  Three years can make a great difference with what you find you desire in life.  I knew this wasn’t it for me.

Finally admitting to myself and my loved ones out loud that I no longer wanted to pursue this dream could quite possibly be the most liberating moment in my 25 years of life.  I finally felt free and could go back to the person I once was, I liked her a lot better.  The months following weren’t easy, with this being more than an understatement.  I also realized that the relationship I was in was no longer serving me in a healthy way.  I lost a great deal of my identity within a few days, my career path and the person I had loved for over two years.

When I was experiencing these events first hand, I felt so weak.  I was embarrassed of who I was and worried about what people would think of me.  I went from the girl who had ‘the world at her hands’ to having no idea of what direction my life would soon take.  But looking back, this was probably the strongest I’ve ever been.  I left the person behind that I thought I wanted to be to face who I really was.  In my opinion, it takes an extreme amount of courage and strength to face your real self, no matter how pretty or ugly that person may be.

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I swear all of my rambling above has a few take-home points.

1.  Why should you honestly give a crap about what other people think of you?

I went into my medical school experience with an inflated sense of self.  After all, that’s what everyone encouraged me to do.  I felt ‘expected’ to be a physician with my good grades, desire to help others as well as my want to hold a professional role in society.  I felt ashamed for ‘quitting’ and figured that people would assume the worst happened.  Looking back, who cares?!?  It was something I tried and didn’t like.  Even if I didn’t succeed, which wasn’t the case, how many people even say they have had this type of opportunity to further their education?  Three years can do a lot for your maturity.

2.  Never be afraid to take risks or make mistakes.

Do I consider my choice to go to medical school a mistake?  Nope.  Not one ounce of me thinks this.  Sure I could beat myself up over a deflated ego and a semester of student loans, but if I wouldn’t have tried it, I would have never known.  I once thought that this was what I wanted with my life.  If I would’t have tried it maybe I would have felt regret for not going for most of my adult life.  You never want to remain with what ifs.  

As much as a risk as it was to go to medical school, it was an even bigger risk to decide it wasn’t for me.  People to this day still tell I’m crazy because it is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’ve been there, there’s a lot more than what appears on the surface, at least for me.

With this risk I found a new dream.  If I was not accepted into medical school, my backup plan was always to become a nurse anesthetist.  After spending time in the OR in college, I realized how cool this job was.  And if I’m being honest with myself, which clearly I am learning to be, I wanted to do this more than go to medical school.  But I had told people for years that I was going to be a physician, so who wants to disappoint, right?

I love my new career choice and where I am in my education.  I feel fulfilled everyday and what is most important is I haven’t lost me quite like I did in medical school.  Who could ask for more?

But here’s the best part of this decision.. if I wouldn’t have moved back to Pittsburgh and pursued new dreams, I wouldn’t have met new amazing people or discovered new things I love.  I’ve found new friends in nursing school who I truly couldn’t imagine my life now without.  Specifically, I’ve formed a friendship that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the entire world.  In the past year, I’ve also found an unexpected love in the restaurant industry.  What once to me was just a job while in school, turned out to be something that I truly enjoy and find fulfilling in so many ways.  I’ve also met a few great friends in this position who I feel so fortunate to have crossed paths with.  I’m a firm believer in fate and that things happen for a reason.  They may not make sense when they do happen, but eventually it all will.

I’m not saying everything in my life is constantly peachy – but I really do love my life now.

3.  Rough times show you a person’s true colors.

During my time making extreme life choices over the past few years, I’ve left some people behind, and solidified relationships with others.  I’ll leave it at that.

4.  Follow your heart (with brain functionality in check).  If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not.

I’m still working on this.  I’ve discovered that this is truly the case in all aspects of life from career decisions, relationships, or even picking out the right pair of shoes.  I’m okay with the fact that I’m still refining my intuition (trust me, my mom has this mastered).

5.  Your career is not everything.  What matters is who is by your side.

I’ve lost a dream that I thought I would be devastated without.  Turns out I’m doing pretty well.  I’ve realized I’m passionate about a lot of different things I would have never expected.  Everything and everyone deserves a chance and things take time.  I could have the most prestigious job in the world, but it would mean nothing if I couldn’t sit at the bar and share a glass of wine with my 88 year old great aunt or call my mom to share the events of my day.  Life is most about who you spend it with.

So with that, may all of you find your calling and what you’re passionate about in life and learn not to be so hard on yourself in the process.  Always work towards a goal and continue to redefine yourself.  Don’t be afraid to take a risk.  As for me, I’ll be continuing to regurgitate medical information in excruciating detail while maintaining an ideal bedside maneer.  In the meantime, Nordstrom sales and my Maltese can keep me preoccupied until Prince Charming comes along.

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xoxo,

Jess

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