I had a whole 'nother post planned in my head, but after I read Kyla's post, I thought of a story that I had to write about.
The story takes place way back when I was just a little premed. Well, truthfully, I was never really premed in the precise sense of the word. I was a math major and chemistry minor and I fit the rest of the premed classes in as electives. My biology major roommate reacted with shock when she found out I was considering medical school, because I was "much too laid back." In fact, among my friends in my chem classes, "premed" counted as dirty name-calling:
"Oh my god, you're studying on a Saturday?! You're such a loser premed!"
"I'm not a premed! You are!"
Of course, then it turned out they all got PhDs in chemistry or became i-bankers (?) and I was the only "loser" who really went to med school.
Anyway, when I declared that I was applying to med schools, I was assigned a premed adviser. Because I expressed an interest in pediatrics, I was assigned the chief resident of pediatrics at our university's hospital. Since he was going to be writing some kind of letter for me, he told me I should come shadow him one day in the NICU. I enthusiastically said sure. (That's how you knew I was a real premed: my ability to act enthusiastic about something I was dreading.)
He told me to come to the NICU what seemed like insanely early at the time, but was probably something like 7AM. I failed to get to sleep before 3AM the night before and was thus exhausted when I dragged myself to the hospital. I accompanied my adviser on rounds, meanwhile throwing a pity party in my head because my feet were killing me from standing so long and I was so tired from getting so little sleep. I was miserable. Then to top it off, when he was giving the history of this baby with retinal attachments, I started getting queasy and had to excuse myself (I had this "thing" about eyes).
All in all, it was quite the disaster. I had lunch and got the hell out. He invited me back but I said I was too busy.
In retrospect, it puzzles me that in light of that truly awful experience, I didn't for a second question my decision to go to med school. Maybe it was because I'd had experiences shadowing attending physicians in the past and found those experiences enjoyable. But this was my first time working with residents and I feel like I should have paid more attention to how unpleasant this was for me, and not just blown it off as a one-time thing that had nothing to do with my future career.
In actuality, med school was much more like that experience in the NICU than any of my other shadowing experiences. I hated waking up early, I hated standing for long periods of time, I hated giving up my weekends. Okay, yes, nobody likes those things. But I HATED those things. Enough that nothing else mattered except my own discontent.
As a result, I spent a lot of my clinical years being miserable. I spent a lot of the pre-clinical years being miserable too, actually. When I got into PM&R, things were considerably better and I'm light years happier now, but I think if I truly knew what was ahead of me when I started med school, I would have taken another path. I think there were other careers that could have made me happy without making me miserable for years first.
As for the moral of this story, but I'm not entirely sure what that is. Maybe it's that shadowing a resident might be the best way to figure out if med school is right for you. Maybe it's that you shouldn't go to med school without making a careful pros and cons list (using different colors and fonts for pros vs. cons).
Or maybe the moral is just: for god's sake, don't be an idiot like me.