Easier said than done.

So I implied a couple of days ago that it would be my last post before going on vacation and then starting medical school, but I realized this is probably also my last chance to honestly write about how I am still scared that this isn’t the right choice for me. Amongst apartment hunting and packing for vacation (and watching reruns on the WB), I’ve pretty much managed to avoid thinking about it as much as possible, but I finally brought it up with Guy a few nights ago.

Me: So, I know neither of us really has a cemented place to live yet and you don’t have a job or anything, but I’m still really worried about medical school.

Guy: What do you mean? You don’t mean the work, right?

Me: No, I mean clearly the classes will be hard, and I might not be in the right mindset about it so it might be difficult to study at first and I’ll probably do horribly on the first set of exams or something like that — but whatever, I can always pull that back up if that’s the case.

Guy: So you’re still worried that this isn’t the right choice.

Me: Well, yeah. And what with making you move down here and everything, and getting my parents’ hopes up …

Guy: Don’t worry about me. I mean, yeah, you made me quit my job a little earlier than I’d planned, but I’m going to get a better one, so that’s fine. And your parents would rather you be happy than be a doctor, unless those two coincide.

Me: I know. It’s just that it’s really coming down to it now. I really am going, and it really might not be right for me.

Guy: Well, you’re lucky enough that it doesn’t matter that much. You want to explore your options, so you’re doing so, and that’s good. And if you hate it and we get to move from Home State after only a year, so much the better. … Kidding.

Me: Ha. Ha. But if I figure out this isn’t right for me … if I realize that I don’t really want to be a doctor …

Guy: You’ll have no idea what else to do.

Me: Yes, that would be an accurate assessment of the situation.

Guy: Well, don’t worry about that until you get there.

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Perceived, or imagined, pressure.

I’ve mentioned before that I can be over-sensitive. I think that’s why I felt like I was being pressured, from all sides, to apply to medical school. I don’t think all of this pressure was imagined, but a lot of it probably was.

For one thing, there were my parents. I’ve discussed my dad’s opinion in some length: basically, he has always thought my attending medical school would be a good idea, if for no other reason than to get some more higher education.

My mom similarly feels that higher education is always valuable. But more than that, she always wanted to be a doctor herself. Now, I would never become a doctor just to fulfill someone else’s dream, even my mom, to whom I owe more than anyone else I can think of. But she paints the medical profession in such a glowing light, as this ideal she could never quite reach herself, that it’s hard not to think she might be right and that being a doctor would be the best career for me, or for anyone for that matter.

My parents are my parents, and they’ve given me enough over the years that, while any pressure from them irked me, they kind of deserve that right. What bothered me more was the pressure (again, real or imaginary) I felt from people outside the family.

Like people within our community, family friends that I’ve grown up with for years. They always ask what I’m doing. A natural question, but for some reason I feel like they think that now that I’ve graduated I should have a magic formula for the rest of my days. If I tell them about my current job, which is not exactly challenging, they look at me like I’m a slacker. But if I add that I’m “taking a year off before I go to medical school,” they breathe a sigh of relief. Oh, medical school. That’s understandable. It’s as if they expect me to get my year of break over with as soon as possible, so I can get to my real career.

Sad to say, I always felt like my boyfriend of the time was pressuring me, too. The situation was more complicated because he began working in the summer, so he was definitely tied to his new location, whereas I was still deciding where to live in my year(s) off. A normal girlfriend — we had been dating for three years — would probably have lived with him, but I wasn’t ready for that. Nor was I ready for his steady stream of suggestions that I “volunteer at a hospital here,” or his suggesting I apply to the easy schools near him so I could up my chances of living there.

Re-reading this I sound kind of like a whiny little bitch. Oh, poor me, family friends ask what I’m doing and show an interest when I say I might pursue medicine. Poor me, my boyfriend wanted me to live with him. Like I said, a lot of this pressure was quite possibly all in my head.

But I think what bothered me was that nobody really encouraged me to take a break, or made me feel like it was okay to be indecisive about the future. I always came away from this type of conversation feeling guilty for taking a year off, as if I needed to get on with it already, as if choosing a career shouldn’t have been so difficult for me.

I shouldn’t have cared what those other people thought. Or should I have? They were important people in my life, should I have taken their feelings, their opinions into account? Or should I have said no, my career is just for me, and I’ll take just as long deciding about it as I need, thanks?

Whether right or wrong, I think I ended up choosing (am still choosing) the latter.

An outsider’s view of investment banking.

From my blog stats I see that a few people have gotten here by searching for something having to do with ibanking (actually, the last one was “ibanking hate my job,” which is pretty sad). I’ve only actually mentioned investment banking once, I think, so random Google searches win again. Even though this blog has nothing to do with ibanking, I’m going to write about it, because I have an opinion on it.

When I graduated college, my boyfriend of the time, whom I’ll call IBanker, went into ibanking (bet you didn’t see that one coming!). I’d been with him for over two years by then, so I’d known about his career plan. He moved to New York City, where basically every ibanking job in the world is, and started with a very good investment bank. I debated following him there, but after a not-abundantly-fruitful job search, I ended up moving somewhere else.

We both thought two years was a decently solid base for a relationship, plus I thought I’d probably be moving in about a year to pursue medical school or something else, so the long-distance aspect seemed like a temporary thing, and not a big problem. And at first, it wasn’t. He couldn’t get away often for entire weekends because of work, but there’s very easy public transportation to NYC from here, so for the first few months I was fine with visiting him. We probably had about a 5:1 me:him ratio for weekend visits, but it seemed okay to me. He would take as much time off as possible when I came down on weekends (though I’d occasionally have to go with him into the office to finish something quick), and during the week we’d talk on the phone almost every day.

As time went on, IBanker got bigger projects at work. They were major deals, and I knew his resume was getting more prestigious by the minute, but it also meant he started working 100-hour weeks or so. (Yes, I know, around the same number of hours that a first-year medical intern works. Great.) Anyway, our phone calls all began to occur while he was at the office. Our conversations were punctuated with things like, “Hold on one sec while I figure out this spreadsheet” and “Why isn’t this working?! — oh, I see.” IBanker began to have very little to talk about besides work. Meanwhile, I was expanding into my new life and new job, meeting new people, going out to explore the neighborhood, etc., and had less and less to talk about with him.

Occasionally I would suggest that maybe ibanking wasn’t the best career path. I’d brought it up a few times while we were still in college, and now that he was in the thick of it, I tried not to whine, though who knows if I succeeded. I remember one of our conversations about it pretty clearly. It probably started off the way most of our conversations proceeded — him complaining about having to work so much, and how much it sucked, basically.

“I hate to see you this unhappy,” I said. “I wish you would just quit and do something else, or at least tell your supervisors they’re giving you too much work.”

“I can’t do that,” he said. “If I complain, they’ll think I’m slacking off. And I have an agreement with them to work two years.”

“But haven’t other people quit before their two years were up?”

“Well, yeah,” IBanker admitted, “but it’s frowned upon.”

“Who cares? You hate your job, and you hate every minute you’re in the office. You should just find something else as soon as possible.”

“You don’t understand,” he said. “I have to do this. My parents worked and sacrificed so much to give me the opportunity to go to college and have a great career. And I want to be sure to make enough money to support them when they get older, and to support a family with you one day.”

“I don’t care about how much money you make, you know,” I reminded him. “I never have. Besides, I’m probably going to be a doctor, so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about money in the future, either. I don’t like seeing you like this.”

“But I’m doing this for you.”

That phrase. Those words. I couldn’t believe he’d just gone there.

“Never say that again,” I said. “You are most certainly not doing this for me. You may be doing this for your parents, or yourself, but I would never have asked you to do this. I would much rather you be happy and fulfilled than slaving away at something you dislike. You are not doing this for me.”

Around January or February I realized I had mentally checked out of the relationship. We had nothing to talk about anymore, very little in common, even though we’d been together for so long. I didn’t see him often and when we were able to get together, IBanker preferred to stay in and catch up on much-needed sleep, though he’d go out if I really coaxed him. It just wasn’t the same as it once was, partially due to distance, and partially due to a lack of connection. We’d grown apart because we didn’t have any time to work on staying together.

A few weeks after my realization, IBanker and I broke up. Do I think that his job was the main the reason for our breakup? Yep. It just sucked away all of his time. Maybe I should’ve been more supportive of him, and more patient, but I don’t have it in me to wait two years before I can talk to my boyfriend on a regular basis about things that aren’t his job.

Apparently, investment banking is one of the most prestigious post-college careers to pursue. People consider it a badge of honor to make it through two grueling years of grunt work and ridiculous hours. I don’t see it that way, possible comparisons to first-year medical internship notwithstanding. I don’t think ibanking is worth it, unless you love it.

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