Bittersweet

Things can always get worse. This is one of the cries called out now, reminding us that, even though the world may be poised for mayhem, the bottom is never rock.

Conversely, things might not be so bad, or at least, there may be some value in this time. My personal experiences are pretty mundane and vanilla compared to the fears that currently stalk the earth, yet the Learning Point may be very useful. (Aside: medical education was all about Learning Objectives, but now it seems to be moving towards something called “competency based education,” which seems to mean “now nobody knows what these metrics mean!” Another time.)

Once upon a time, I applied for medical school. Just for the ones in my province. Nothing big. I was in third year of undergrad, so it was a long shot. And I didn’t get called for interview. Shrug.

Fourth year, I applied to ALL the schools in Canada. Every last one. Filling out those damn forms took days from my life. Over and over and over. But, if you put the effort in, you’re more likely to get it back, right?

Wrong. The world does not actually care how much effort you put into something. I didn’t get a single interview.

I was pretty pissed. And, with a major in Bio Sci and a minor in Latin, I decided to carry on with an after degree, since if I was going to do something that wasn’t medicine, then it was going to be with an arts degree. Philosophy and religious studies, ahoy!

Easily one of the best years of my life. Getting to play around in thought and the fine arts, like creative writing and drama and hagiography. From the position of someone who already knows how to write a paper and do the readings, it was a BLAST. I looked forward to my career of scraping out funding as a philosophy professor. I applied to the University of Alberta and The university of Calgary for med school out of habit.

And I got interviews at both (I’m now convinced that the recipe for my success has been having the Most Interesting Resume possible).

Declined from U of C, waitlisted at U of A, and then, a few days later, BAM, I was in. Accepted to med school. (Woot! I didn’t have to take that sociology class! But man, I was annoyed to miss out on Linguistics.)

Med school was a four year grinder, as I’ve noted before, but then, then came CaRMS, and that spelled the path to Residency, where I’d get to do what I want.

Except that, after again applying across the country for psychiatry programs, I was totally unmatched in round one. Unwanted by any program, at risk of never having a medical career.

I really had a think over those three weeks, in between writing the 52 letters and sitting the Skype interviews. Did I want to be a physician? Was this another hidden opportunity? What value did I find in myself, since others seemed to find so little?

Victor Frankl has stated in Man’s Search for Meaning that suffering brings meaning. In a similar vein, Calvin’s dad in Calvin and Hobbes talks about misfortune “building character.” I have to agree. There is something about being hammered on an anvil that changes you, makes you able to take future blows.

Don’t mistake that I think that what is happening right now is ultimately a good thing. I do not like fascists, or the death and horror being wrought in the Middle East. There have been some terrible decisions made by powerful people, and by the mob.

What I am saying is that whatever 2017 brings, I hope you will become more yourself, and find strength in what you have already suffered. Perhaps you will be able to avoid the worst. Perhaps you will be able to contemplate your purpose.

Happy New Year, come Hell or high water.

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