To date, I still remember the gush of blood and heartbeats I felt exactly 10 years ago, when I was told to choose my career and life path. The decision had to be quick, and there was frankly not much of a choice to make, nor time to think or understand, for the excellent grades I had somehow forced me into med school.
And let me be clear about the forcing part. You don’t get to choose medicine because you love medicine. There is no such thing. You know nothing about medicine when you’re 18 years old. Being curious about the human body or biology doesn’t make you a better doctor. The only 2 justifications that answer your medical career’s choice are the fact that you either have to continue your doctor parents’ legacy, because you know, the clinic, the customers and efforts put are gonna end up in the garbage if you don’t do so, or you were top of your class and you’re “super smart”, and while you could literally go anywhere and do anything, the Lebanese society would force you to become a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer because if it’s not gonna be you, who else is it gonna be?
I could add a third one, which is the fact that you were so forlorn back then, that opting for this maze sounded the safest of adventures, being unaware of the surprises it would bring you. For every labyrinth has its traps, and only one exit. And lucky are those who could find it.
Med school drains you. You’re never gonna be the same afterwards; neither physically nor emotionally. Maintaining the shape of your life and the healthiest of lifestyles is never gonna be easy, especially as years pass by and responsibilities add up. You skip meals, sleep less, gain weight, barely exercise, and drown in coffee and late-night fatty food. You also become cold, apathetic, and start wondering, after being confronted to many deaths and difficult situations, how you would react if this scenario happens to one of your beloved ones. Fear creeps in, but tears, hardly so.
You also grow old, and in doing so, you realize that the world around you has grown faster than you. While you’re still barely getting remunerated despite working for endless hours, and many times even counting on your parents’ support to survive, others your age have already built a family and a house.
They tell you your time will come, and that one day you’ll collect more money than all of your friends combined. But truth is, if ever it happens with the plethora of doctors graduating each year and joining the 12000+ tally in the country, what’s the point of doing so at 40 or 50? Is it to spend them and enjoy life when the wrinkles start to appear and the body starts to give up?
And the worst of it all, are the newcomers, who reach out to you for advice and think you’re just jealous of them becoming one day colleagues of yours, and end up realizing when it’s too late, what you really meant when you said: think twice before embarking on this journey.
Last but not least, the love life! We know how long and tough the path is, but parents cannot fathom that. They think there’s always time for love, to find a partner and to build a family. This is a nightmare, particularly for women, who are making their way through the labyrinth, and find themselves faced with the neighbors and family’s pressures of becoming spinsters, while most male doctors in the making could also barely afford paying the rent of their car, house or even daily living. Can you even think of getting married to somebody outside your domain? Who is gonna be ready to make so many sacrifices, to barely see you, and be forced to sit down with you and friends of your domain, the only ones you retain after almost all others would have given up on you, listening to your medical conversations while not understanding a single word?
You could say this is a very depressive article, and that I should seek mental health support. But I could pretty much tell you it’s not the case. We are all crazy in some way. And these tormenting questions I put on paper for the first time in years, are part of my crazy world and of many others who have chosen the same path I’m sure. I hope this way to be able to help them reflect realistically about their career, because what’s the point of living without pondering every action you take? Think once, twice and three times before choosing - and while - undergoing this. Don’t succumb to the pressure around. Society kills you and looks to stereotype your life. Don’t waste your chance of living it the way you want to.
I may contradict myself big time when stating that I am enjoying every second of what I’m doing right now, because nothing beats a patient’s smile and to find yourself able to make a positive change in one’s life, but on the other hand, everything beats a doctor’s path. The job might be tiring and rewarding, but it comes too late, when there’s nothing left inside of you.
And if you take me back today to the same moment in 2008 when I said yes to med school, and ask me the same question again, I wouldn’t sincerely know what my answer would be. Maybe in a few years’ time, I will look back at this post and smile, but right now, all I wish for is to live a few years at least for myself, and myself only.