Plans, Physics, and Parenthetical Phrases

a.k.a. Careers and other boring stuff*

a.k.a. Why I’m effing Terrified

*No offense intended to any who, like me, are set on a career path-of-sorts.

In case you have not guessed, dear readers, I am long since returned to the shores of my home country. An extended stay abroad is bound to make me wax poetic about my home nation, and the longer the leave, the more rose-tinted my vision becomes. But I’m far from settled quite yet.

I returned home to the Pacific Northwest just in time for Thanksgiving in Seattle, after a brief stay in Johannesburg and a visit to Kruger National Park (I swear, I’ll get pictures up here someday). The two months since November have alternated between breathtakingly perfect and vanquishingly boring. (Looking for menial work kinda sucks, but taking physics, which I loved in high school but was terrified of at Reed, is *totally awesome*.) I’m less than thrilled to be holed up in the corner of Montana I call “home”, but I’m finding out a lot about myself and where I want to “go in life”, in occasional intermittent bursts between vast stretches of Netflix bingeing. (“Go in life” in quotes because I think a lifetime commitment to a career is too often overrated. But phrase also valid because I am committed heart-mind-soul to a career as a physician.)

In short, the year after graduation is hard.

But, in two months, I’ve not felt the need to close out this blog (in a wonderfully thought-provoking post like Mick’s).

Because I’m not done yet: I am returning to southern Africa in May, this time to Mozambique, as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

 

(That’s the Most Important Thing in this post. Feel free to read no further.)

*      *     *     *     *

I’m really confused. I’ve realized in the last month that I don’t know who I am. My entire life, or at least the part I remember, I’ve defined myself as a student. Early on, that meant “homeschooled”. Later, it meant “overachiever”. Even later it meant “Reedie” (whatever that means). Now I’m done at Reed, and I’m not sure where that leaves me.

But I am sure of a few things. I know I want to go to medical school. I’ve known for a long time, but now I’m more sure than I am of anything else in my life. I’m also sure of two other things:

1.) I’m not ready for medical school.
I’m not ready for a 8 – 10 year commitment (medical school + residency + loans) and I’m not ready to give up being young and in my twenties and free to travel the world. I’m not ready for the emotional turmoil of a competitive academic environment like the one I just left. (Not a day goes by that I don’t miss Reed’s community, but I don’t miss the self-denigration I load on when I don’t meet my own high standards.) I have a lot more growing to do before I commit to a career in medicine.

2.) I don’t stand a chance at medical school right now.
Ok. I stand a chance. But it’s a really small one. Too small, really, for my risk-averse preferences. By accepting a Peace Corps position, I not only dramatically increase my acceptance chances for medical school (according to every admissions officer, med student, and dog that I know), I also get to put off the final decision on medical school for another two years!

 

But I’m really conflicted about accepting the position. I have very mixed feelings about the Peace Corps as an organization, and feel very strongly that this is not the best model for international support (more on that at a later date). On the other hand, a lot of people whom I hold in high regard, even some who share my cynicism, have said that the Peace Corps is the single most life-changing choice they have ever made, and I will not regret it. Coming from people whose views I share and whom I respect, that means a lot.

So I’m confused. I’m effing terrified of what I’ve done (27 months in a country where I don’t speak the language and stick out like a sore thumb? Introvert’s nightmare.) But more than either of those, I’m excited, and going to do something completely outside my comfort zone. I’m going to push my limits in a way that nothing – not traveling, not running away to sea, not going to Reed – has done before. And I thrill with excitement every time I think about it.

 

P.S.  But seriously, I’m frightened and have no idea what I’m getting myself into. But before that, MCATs and pre-requisites to complete!

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