Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Category of Impossible Things


Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There

Occasionally someone who's
genuinely curious but has no personal interest in becoming a physician, asks me if there are advantages to attending medical school as an older student. This is a hard question because it sounds like they're asking if there is something to be gained by putting medical school off until later in life. I can say with confidence, that was never my plan. As a matter of fact, there have been numerous occasions along the way when I've wished the path of my life had led to medical school, but I couldn't see how to alter my direction at the time. Consequently, the choices I made and continued to make only reinforced the route I had already taken.

What I believe people are really wondering when they bring up the subject of "advantages" is, "Are there good reasons for pursuing medical school later in life?" Now, that is a question I can answer, having decided there were for myself. And those take a person into the realm, into the category, of impossible things, and I'm convinced that's where medical school (and graduate school, generally speaking) dwells.

It's the nature of impossible things to expect and even demand more than any person could possibly deliver and presume it's perfectly normal to do so. At some point, I'd wager every medical student comes to this conclusion, no matter what their age. It just feels that way.

Impossible doesn't mean it can't be done, because it can and this is where we get to the good reasons part, one of them being, it's impossible not to go, i.e. it's impossible to delay any longer. A person arrives at a point where they realize there is a life within them that will remain unfulfilled unless they do something about it. And, frankly, refusing to leap into whatever darkness they will face seems more unbearable than anything they might encounter afterward.

This is all deeply personal, but to my way of thinking, the best of the good reasons comes down to the only reason: it's something you have to do. It's the kind of decision that conditions all of those to follow. Whether it comes about as the desire to go to seminary, attend college for the first time, or try to enter medical school, when the heart speaks, you are compelled to listen. And then, you close your eyes, cross your fingers, whisper a silent prayer to whomever you hope is listening, and step across the threshold into the Looking Glass.

Come what may.


(Creative Commons image of Alice Through the Looking Glass by sammydavisdog via Flickr)

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