“To become a doctor, you spend so much time in the tunnels of preparation—head down, trying not to screw up, trying to make it from one day to the next….” — Atul Gawande

This has been the summer of Atul Gawande. I have read his articles, listened to his commentary, and appreciated his tweets about the World Cup and Wimbledon. It should come to little or no surprise that I read Atul Gawande pieces on a regular basis; after all, I am in a Comparative Health Systems course and Atul Gawande has written excellent articles that highlight the failings in our healthcare system and he looks to other industries to provide potential fixes for the system. The most recent Atul Gawande piece that I stumbled upon is “Piecework”– Gawande walks through how the prices for medical procedures are determined. It’s a fascinating read and upon reading it again I stumbled upon the quote that I used to set off this post: “To become a doctor, you spend so much time in the tunnels of preparation—head down, trying not to screw up, trying to make it from one day to the next—that it is a shock to find yourself at the other end, with someone shaking your hand and asking how much money you want to make.”

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“The patient, though conscious that his condition is perilous, may recover his health simply through his contentment with the goodness of the physician.” ― Hippocrates

In two hours, I will begin the last exam of my undergraduate career. In five hours, the exam will be out of my hands. In six hours, I will sleep. In light of the end, which of rapidly drawing near, of my undergraduate career, I want to think about what comes next: medical school.

Last year, around this time, I was panicking about my personal statement: what could I write that would communicate how I felt about medicine; what would medical schools thing about what I wrote; how would I compare with others? I wrote an essay that was simple (no bells or whistles) and the process of answering the AMCAS prompt: “Why medicine” (paraphrased) re-affirmed my passion for medicine and my interest for public health. And so, I applied to programs with strong MD/MPH programs or medical schools renown for global health initiatives.

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“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skin in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” ― Hunter S. Thompson

Spontaneous is not the first adjective that my friends would use to describe me. I toe the line between fun-loving and responsible; spontaneity falls outside of my comfort zone. I have known this about myself for a long time and I don’t think these attributes are necessarily bad, but this quote has been making its way back to me a lot this week.

Yesterday I woke up at 7AM and reworked my resume. Before, I had a plain, one-page resume, with Times New Roman size 10 font (it’s actually not difficult to read) which details a few work-related experiences from high school in addition to my college experience. Of course, I cut out most of my extracurricular activities (Princeton Premedical Society and Her Campus Princeton) for my abbreviated/creative resume. When I looked over my work-related experiences from tenth grade until now, I realized how much time (and free time) I dedicated to preparation for what comes next. As an eleventh grader, I was the social media campaign head for a new company. I spent my free time writing newsletter, tweeting, writing articles, conducting market research, and connecting the CEO with like-minded corporations. That’s strange. It was a great opportunity and I greatly enhanced my skill set, but the truth of the matter is that: I haven’t taken a summer off (entirely) since the summer after sixth grade and I think that’s incredibly unhealthy.

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Atelophobia: the fear of imperfection, of not being enough.

In the past, I saw New Year’s at the opportunity to have a perfect year. I aimed to be put together (all the time), be well spoken (all the time), be amazing (all the time). I was shooting for perfection and this desire to be perfect is extremely present at Princeton. In part, it is a good thing, it pushes us to work extremely hard but it has a cost. Each failing, every deviation from perfection comes with a shame and disappointment.

I’m made an effort to not put too much pressure in regard to resolutions and I make small, meaningful, and achievable goals for the upcoming year.

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“I don’t know where I am going but I am on my way.”

I take comfort in what is certain: there is one day until my birthday, three days that I will spend in Atlantic City, six days until I move into the house I rented for the summer, eight days until I submit the AMCAS, and thirteen days before I start my senior thesis research. Numbers. They’re never wrong;  this brings both an feeling of  security and an aspect of fear this is (as you fellow premedical students can relate) inextricably linked to my academic career.

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