Archive for April, 2007

The Midnight Train to Georgia (another from the archives)

April 5, 2007

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Midnight Train to Georgia

After I got wait listed at BU a few weeks ago, I had a phone conversation with my father, in which a rather interesting aspect of life in general came to light.  Namely, I came to realize that doing hard stuff is actually kinda hard.  Perhaps more concisely, it has been the increased recognition of what exactly “hard” looks like.  I freely acknowledge that I am young, and simply by virtue of living in the United States, just about anything that I might regard as a hard or difficult pales in comparison to the struggles of others.  That said, I don’t think think that I’ve bumped into anything quite so difficult in my life as my ongoing attempts to gain admission to medical school.

They say that it doesn’t matter whether or not you get knocked down, but whether or not you get back up again.  Quite easy to say or to write, but I’ve started to find myself on the receiving end of a few knock-downs, and it has been interesting watching myself deal with it.  I’m sure you are all familiar with my sob story of working hard to build my pre-med hopes (if not, suffice it to say I worked hard on it and whined about it a lot).  Complaining aside, I’ve worked hard to get myself this close.  And I am close.  Five interviews, two waitlists, two pending decision, and one still to come.  Either of those two wait lists could have been the end of the game; a fat envelope and no worries until matriculation.  But they didn’t break either for me or against me; the damned coin landed on its side and so I wait.

They told us in Psych 101 that the real risk takers are the ones that pick the moderately hard tasks.  The others choose tasks that are too easy, because they know they will succeed, or tasks that are too hard because they know that they will fail.  The moderately hard tasks are the ones that might just be in reach; failure here means you can’t blame the task anymore.  This time it’s a very real possibility that the fault is your own.

I’ve never really taken the time to step back and look at how massive this task truly is; it’s taxing not only on your mental faculties, but on your emotions as well.  It’s hard to scrape the guts together to make that jump, to stretch for that thing which might just be in reach.  It’s hard to work so hard to get yourself to a point where the best you can say is “Well, at least now I’ve got a chance.”  This shit is hard, and the lumps along the way hurt like mad-crazy.  It’s hard because wanting it isn’t enough.  It’s a big part, and often it’s what decides in the end who will make it and who will not.  But when push comes to shove, you reach a point where you can’t try anymore, and you’ve got to let your fragile, hard-wrought aspirations go out there all alone to do battle with the adcoms.  Maybe it’ll come back in a fat envelope, but maybe all you’ll get is a form letter wishing you, Dear Applicant, the best of luck “in your future endeavors.”

Having your hopes returned to you piece by piece in thin little envelopes is hard.  But then, as my Dad reminded me, nobody ever said this was supposed to be easy either.  If you want it, you cobble it all back together and you try again, sending your hopes and dreams out again and again to get buffeted and beaten by those who have seen so many dreams laid waste one more doesn’t really matter.  If you want it, you get up again and that is hard.  They call it hard because not everyone can do it.  They’re not messing around anymore when they say this is going to be difficult.  They mean it when they say some of you are going to fail in this endeavor, and by implication, that means it could be me to whom they are referring.  That is hard, knowing that it could all have been for nothing.  It’s hard to keep working on something that may be a lost cause anyway.  The instinct is to cut your losses and walk away, to make it stop sucking.  It’s hard to fight that instinct and come back for more.

I don’t really know why I’ve decided to write this now.  For that matter, I don’t even know if this makes any sense or if it does, if it is even relevant.  We’ve all got problems, and we’ve all got hard stuff we’ve got to do.  So for those of you that have suffered through all this self-centered, whiny, needy text, thank you.  *shrugs*  This has been a big thing for me, and writing where I know people might read it helps a little.

All that heavy melodramatic emotional crap aside, things are not so bad.  I’m playing more sports than I know what to do with, my classes are easy and interesting, and the weather is finally getting warmer.  The quad is beautiful, I’ve got a great summer job lined up, and a bed waiting for me in San Francisco if I strike out in medical school.  It’s just hard sometimes to come home and check your phone and email for good news that might not be coming.

“He kept dreaming that someday he’d be the star,
But he sure found out the hard way that dreams don’t always come true.
So he pawned all his hopes, and even sold his old car,
Bought a one way ticket back to the life he once knew.
He’s leaving on the midnight train to Georgia . . . ”

As a bit of an editorial note, I got into medical school about three weeks after this post.