Rather than dwell on the interminable waiting game that is the medical school application process, I’ve decided to fill my time with other, less monotonous endeavors. I’ve taken up yoga, attempted to learn Spanish (or continued(?) to learn Spanish? — sorry, Mr. Hinkle), continued to volunteer, splurged on subscriptions to TIME, Rolling Stone, and National Geographic, quit my job, started a new one, become a diehard fan of Gilmore Girls (Team Logan, all the way), and developed an unhealthy obsession with cleaning my house — all in the span of four months.
Waiting on an invitation to be interviewed for medical school is like standing in the dodgeball line at gym class waiting to be picked for a team — except the room you’re in is pitch black, you’re not really sure if the picking has even started yet (or how many people are even still playing), and you don’t remember the last time you’ve eaten (because you’ve been watching Gilmore Girls on repeat).
The worst thing about this part of the process is that there’s nothing more to do at this point. My GPA and test scores are finalized, my extracurriculars have been documented and submitted, and my essays have been written. All there is left to do is wait. Or rather, all there is left to do is slip into a gradual state of despair wondering if I’m good enough and to rethink every decision I’ve made up until this point.
In my lowest moments, I give credence to that small voice of self-doubt; but even when I think about what I would do besides become a doctor — I have no alternatives; and I don’t want them. There’s a laundry list of things I hope to achieve in my life, but each item is dependent on my becoming a physician. There is no plan B.
This is the year of change; and there’s no looking back. In my mind, the faster I move, the more diligently time will keep up with my pace. As happy as I was to have graduated college, there is nothing I crave more than the structure and order that school once provided. I found complete bliss in having a full schedule, in working toward something tangible, in learning something new, and in knowing everything that needed to get done. I structured my life in a world of lists, and I found joy in marking each item complete: striking a line through it, vanquishing it completely.
For so long, this has been the life I have known and come to love; but now I live the life of turmoil and upheaval that comes with no longer knowing the future that these next few months could bring. Will I be moving forward next year in the pursuit of my career, or will I be left behind and forced to start over? It kills me that I don’t know that answer to that question; but it still doesn’t change what I’ve set out in my life to accomplish. And while I don’t know the answer today, I will in the next few months. For better or worse.
In the meantime, at least one of my recent obsessions has paid off. There was an essay written by Susanna Schrobsdorff in last week’s TIME that ended with the question of how we can respond as a society in the face of tragedy. “Maybe the answer is for each of us to choose one thing to fix and not let go. Take a tiny piece of a larger disaster and make it your responsibility, whether it means agitating for funding in Washington or sending a holiday package to a child who lost their home or a parent who lost their child. And not just this year, but next year too and the year after. Because that’s what it’s going to take to heal a nation.”
For me, this singular pursuit takes the form of making more clear the relationship between our climate and health and working to mitigate its effects, “not just this year, but next year too and the year after.”