Thursday, June 12, 2008

The train

By the time I started medical school, the drive to succeed had impregnated my dura mater. It had always been all about getting the best grades, doing the best extracurriculars, getting into the best college, logging the best pre-medical school research, and finally, getting into the best medical school.

I went to a medical school that has the reputation of being ultra-competitive. It's easy, in that environment, to only know one direction: up. Of course I would continue on my trajectory, get the best grades, do the best extracurriculars, get into the best residency. Of course I would put career first for now. How would a family help me achieve? (I also was not married at that point, but still.)

When I heard the same lecture as Fizzy's OB, the one about rates of fertility declining after age 30 and rates of chromosomal abnormalities increasing, I have to admit, I, and I'm sure a good percentage of my female classmates, had a small identity crisis. I remember having conversations with my female classmates and friends about how would we balance the pulls to start a family and career. I remember feeling confused and frustrated and conflicted. As much as I wanted to succeed academically, I wanted to be a mother too. Maybe more so.

Nevertheless, I pushed on and got into that hard but glorified residency. Along with me, several of my female medical school classmates did as well.

Deborah* was one of my residency class who went to medical school with me. She was a serious student with a long history of overachievement. I was honestly surprised when she got pregnant during residency and even more surprised to learn she was planning to take a non-academic "cushy" job after finishing (that younger me felt threatened by the word 'cushy').

"I'm getting off the train," she confided to me.

Yes, I realized, I was on the train, sitting in one of the passenger cars, speeding ahead to some unknown destination. How did I get here? Do I want to get off? (I don't know; Not yet.)

Now, with my second child just being born, I've been thinking about the train. After residency, I transferred to a slower train (probably a local). The transfer itself was a bit unsettling: going from a modern, shiny, speeding express one to a bumpier, older, slower model, but I've grown to like this train. I'm still enjoying the scenery going by, and I've taken advantage of its multiple stops. I like the promise of a career destination. But, I also wonder if, in the future, I'll ever want to get off entirely and whether I could ever be okay with that. Or whether I'd ever regret not going faster.

*name changed


  1. I just found this blog, and I'm so glad! I'm a first year med student... and I'm about to turn 30. I'm getting married this summer, and we're trying to decide if I should wait to get pregnant until I pass Step 1. It certainly rules out competitive specialties. It's interesting to see what others are doing around the country; thanks for an interesting read.

  2. I feel the same way with education. There are tons of things I would like to do with my teaching position, but I need to balance it with my 2 preschoolers. We are going on a nature adventure now.

  3. I am TRYING to get off the train. I even switched residencies. But the train isn't stopping!!!


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