A little over ten years ago, I was creeping my way towards an Associate's degree in photography. I loved all of my art classes, dreaded general ed, and overall had a pretty good time. Two years in, though, I packed up and moved to D.C. without any plans to transfer or finish the degree. It's lurked in the back of my mind since then, that unfinished degree. Yet another project that I started but left incomplete (kind of like how I waited three years to take my NCE).
I've been thinking about school off and on for at least a year. I wasted some time (and money!) going to nail school in the hopes that it would satisfy my "back to school" urge. Of course, it didn't. I pore over anatomy books and pathology books and journal articles under the guise of making myself a better massage therapist. But it's just not enough. I need more. And I need that lingering unfinished business to be done. So I finally bit the bullet; I drove down to the old community college and got a copy of my transcripts -- just to see where I left off.
In my memory, I was a good student. I remember going to classes, getting along with instructors, doing projects, the works. But one look at my transcripts and other memories come back: long nights of drinking at O'Sullivan's, failing tests because of hangovers, looks of disappointment from teachers who really, really liked me and wanted me to excel. With a few exceptions (Biology, Spanish, and Math, surprisingly), my grades were TERRIBLE. I was at school for two years and I'm left with about four classes that will count towards my new degree path. Oy.
So what IS that new degree path? Well, certainly not photography (although if I went back to that, I'd have a whole lot less work to do). I love photography; it's still my hobby. But it's a useless degree at this point in my life, and I don't want photography to be my job. What DO I want, what do I really want, and honestly what HAVE I wanted since I was a kid?
I want to be a doctor.
Saying that out loud, even typing it is scary. It's a scary secret that I've harbored for a very long time. How many times did I tell people I wanted to be a painter, a writer, a massage therapist, a photographer -- anything BUT a doctor. How long have I lied to myself about what I really want? My whole life, it feels like. I kept it a secret because I didn't believe I was smart enough to pull it off. I kept it a secret because deep down I was scared that I WAS smart enough, and oh God, what if I was smart enough and I wasted all those years in high school smoking pot and watching surf movies and riding around in Jeeps and doing anything BUT going to school?! It's a horrible catch-22 of self-defeating thoughts, low self-esteem, regret, and sheer terror.
Time to snap out of it, now. NOW, with the urgency and intensity Cher in "Moonstruck" slapping Nicholas Cage. I believe it of my body -- my body can do anything I want it to. So why not believe it of my brain? Of my life?
I'm aware that the road I'm choosing is long, arduous, and marked with heavy tolls. I'm aware that to get those two magical letters, MD, requires about seventeen years of school and more debt than I can even imagine. I'm aware that it's entirely possible I'll get back into college classes and absolutely hate it. I'm going into this with my eyes wide open. But, dammit, I'm going.
I have to do this. It's as essential to me as my weight loss has been. I cannot live the rest of my life without at least trying to reach this goal.
I'm really going to do this. I have butterflies in my stomach as I browse the catalogs, track degree paths, compare schools. I imagine myself acing insanely difficult classes like Organic Chemistry and feel that indescribable "SQUEEEEEE!" (Don't judge -- Whitman had his yawp, I've got my squee.)
In about five days, I'm registering for classes. I'm taking the first teetering, toddling steps towards a huge, long-term goal. I'm doing this.
Are you ready?