2016 was a year of growth.
I wasn’t always the brightest student. High school wasn’t easy for me, so I gave up during my secondary education. I felt stupid – worthless, even. I hated it. I wanted to be useful. My interests had always pointed towards medicine, but I had neither the intellect nor, more importantly, the work ethic to frame my interests in a manner which wasn’t met with laughter.
So, prior to beginning my first term at Ohio State, I promised myself that I wouldn’t revert to my old ways. That’s literally it. I told myself that I’d work hard. And I faked it until I made it.
First semester was hell. I studied all day, all night. I wasn’t particularly involved, nor did I commit to research. But I studied. I soon learned to work well, to work smartly. I began to focus on learning the material, and I even began to enjoy my classes. The practice left me with a salvageable GPA.
I expected to take the paved route – four years of college, followed by medical school. But I remembered the words of my high school teachers – “He has potential”.
The thing is, I never, ever lived up to that potential. At the end of my first semester, I deduced that distractions were the cause of my failures in high school. Ohio State was – is – a second chance. This is my time to buck up, or get out. College wasn’t going to be a repeat.
I never, ever went to a party. I avoided alcohol at every cost. And I ensured that maintaining my health became a priority outside my medical career. Most importantly, I decided to squeeze my curriculum into two years; that, I decided, would test my potential; I’d never know my limits unless I tested them. I learned to learn, for the first time in my life.
But I soon recognized that my practices were largely unsustainable. I’d get tired. I’d fall short. Or I’d feel lonely. I needed a human touch to live.
I began to speak with my floormates. I made friends, organically. And I learned to speak with others on a level beyond logic.
I learned that it takes humility. Every single person other than myself can teach me something, from biochemistry to conversing with girls I like. I learned to live with respect for everyone and everything. It’s logical, really; I’m human, therefore I don’t know everything. But someone can teach me where I fall short – all I need to do is be humble enough to ask.
My philosophies gave rise to a new world. I ensured that I spoke to everyone on meaningful levels – even a simple morning greeting needed to have meaning. If my conversations didn’t better a friend’s day, that was a day wasted.
My grades didn’t fall. Because I was happier, studying was easier. But there was -is – still a lingering question: Why do I like medicine enough to push myself to the limit?
Fundamentally, I truly didn’t have to push myself. I could have spent four years in college like everyone else, and graduated with full decorum. There’s no denying that I’m already privileged to study at Ohio State. But there are too many others who don’t share my luck.
And that’s why I believe I haven’t actually sacrificed anything for the decisions I’ve made. The “traditional” college experience is arbitrary; where some choose to follow other paths, I’ve learned to genuinely enjoy working hard to achieve my goals. Success without struggle isn’t success at all. Where those less fortunate face more difficulties, it’s my duty to use my opportunities to balance the scale.
I believe that success is rooted in health. To attain a goal, an individual requires the weapons needed. The weapons are best exploited when sharpened.
I could help people in any field. An engineer builds technologies, a teacher builds a generation, a politician builds relationships, and a businessperson builds an empire.
But there’s only one field where I can work with an individual to build weapons they’ll use to build themselves, and to hopefully build the success of others: Medicine.
As I move into my second year, the MCAT, research, and the AMCAS application, the respect I’ve developed for those around me only continues to grow. Whenever I see a wheelchair-bound patient as I jog past the ER at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, I no longer think of how I can singlehandedly cure a patient, but of how I can work alongside the patient. Through my first-year experiences, I’ve learned that where medical practice benefits a patient, it bolsters the understanding, maturity, and intelligence of a physician doubly.
That’s why I’ve come to understand that my life won’t be a life lived exclusively in service of individuals; my service as a physician will pale in comparison to whatever I experience, learn, and feel during that service. That net benefit is exactly why I’d like to become a physician.