I Missed out on being a Pharmacy Technician because I Didn’t Take the Certification Exam. Then I Enrolled in the Wrong College within my University: Why I’m Not a Doctor Part 2

In the last part of this dreary saga, I recounted my high school days in clinical rotations including my best and worst experiences shadowing doctors with my socially anxious personality. One of the best things of that experience that I didn’t mention was how close I got to eight of the girls who were in clinicals with me. Though each one shadowed a different doctor/area we rode in the same car and had lunch together. It was my first friend group in a long time and it was beautiful. So, when 12th grade came by, though I had already decided to pursue a career as a neurologist and knew I’d benefit most from the EKG and EEG class, I followed my friends to a pharmacy technician class.

Let me clarify that I had absolutely no interest in memorizing medicines or anything that went along with that class. But I had my friends. And that was better for me. Thing is, I have no idea who wanted to take this class. None of us five (the rest either graduated or didn’t take anymore clinical classes) seemed to have great interest in the class. We spent most of it taking dismal notes and goofing off. The class was one of those easy to pass classes that required minimal studying. So, I got through the class and told myself it was okay. I’d just study once I graduated and then take the certification exam during the summer to become a pharmacy technician and get a well paying job while in university.

Well… that’s clearly not what happened, or I wouldn’t be telling this story. Before 12th grade I was an excellent student. Though I procrastinated all throughout high school, I don’t think I turned in a single thing incomplete or late before 12th grade. I always gave myself just enough time to finish assignments well enough to get an A. But, I was going through some stuff.

Stuff too lengthy to get into right now. 9th grade to 11th I coped by making my life about my school work and grades. I didn’t have friends. Not a single friend in 9th grade. I sat alone every day at lunch. It was miserable. Then in 10th grade, I joined AVID (the class that helps students apply to university) and I gained a social circle of sorts (I personally didn’t have a friend, but I had a group of people I felt safe with). 11th grade I clicked with (as I call them) my clinical sisters. 12th grade I was still struggling, but I had friends: my clinical sisters and a friend from AVID. I tried something I’d never considered before. I stopped making my grades a priority. I wanted to do poorly.

So, naturally I learned nothing in my pharmacy course and became a mediocre student. I failed my first exam that year. Got my first C, I think in all my years of school. This whole change began in 11th grade (same time I began writing poetry) but it really exploded in 12th grade. It dropped my GPA noticeably. I still graduated with something around a 3.5, but haa. I hate emotions. Okay, so now you guys know, I screwed up my GPA if I had any hopes of being accepted into a medical school like Johns Hopkins or an Ivy League like Harvard. (I’ve got a story on that for later…) And on top of that, by not taking the Pharmacy Tech exam, I also screwed myself out of an entry level job that would have paid me between $12 to $15 an hour. That’s really good coming out of high school where the minimum wage is $7.25!

***

Without the money to afford an out of state school, I was left with public schools in my home state (Texas). (Or an all girl’s school in Pennsylvannia… but that is also another story…) I ended up going to the university my AVID teacher, Ms. Dar, went to. She’d taught me so much and I trusted her, so it seemed like a safe place by proxy.

But, I made a mistake when applying. I was the first person to go to university in my immediate family and while I could have asked Ms. Dar who would have, very willingly, helped me, I didn’t ask for help. Understatement of the year: not asking for help when I clearly need it is a theme in my life. By not asking for help, I cluelessly chose the wrong college at my university. Majors are divided among different colleges at universities. I didn’t know that at the time. I applied considering studying to be a neurologist. But… that wasn’t the question I was asked when I enrolled.

I was asked what college I was enrolling to. I skimmed the little drop down list momentarily debating if medicine would be under the arts and sciences college or the human sciences college. Well, medicine is the study of human anatomy and physiology, so I deduced I must be applying to the college of human sciences. I am a procrastinator. I must have been rushed. Or maybe I was too lazy to look it up. Or maybe I did look it up to no avail. I didn’t know how to navigate my university’s website at the time (I think I still don’t 100%).

Thing is, I made an educated guess and it was wrong. I ended up with the soft sciences that have something to do with humans like addiction and recovery, nutrition and dietetics, human development and family studies, and assorted human related careers like personal financial planning, restaurant, hotel, and institutional management, and family and consumer sciences education.

OOPS. That wrong click changed my life. And it’s why I’m here in Puerto Rico as part of a dietetic internship instead of in med school.

 

~*~*~

 

Well, that was a long part 2, but I’d forgotten how life changing that last year of high school was for me. I hope you enjoyed reading about my teenage blunders and I hope you come back for part three. I may write it for next weekend, or the one after that. Depends if I get inspired by something else. Let me know if there’s a particular topic you’d like me to write about or if you’ve ever been through a similar experience in the comments below. I can’t be the only one who has gone through all of the educational portion of a career or certificate and just thrown it away by not taking the exam. …right?

Either way, I’d love to hear your stories and ideas for future blog posts from me. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet!

 

Best and Worst Experiences during Clinical Rotations in High School: Why I’m Not a Doctor Part 1

I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger, but I gave it up because I didn’t want to lose my humanity. In high school I, essentially, took a year long, intensive, crash course in anatomy and (more so) physiology. I was a sponge. I absorbed everything. (Except vitamins and minerals. Those were not interesting to me at all.) It’s amazing how knowledgeable I became from that one year. I remember sketching anatomically correct hearts and coloring them for fun.

I also remember going into clinical rotations the following year (11th grade) and feeling incredibly awkward about it. I was wicked book smart, but catastrophically inept when it came to people skills. (Still not great at it…) Which means 90% of my clinical rotations went like this:

 

Dr.:

“…and that’s what we do in [insert area of hospital here].”

Catastrophically Inept at Social Skills 17 Year Old Me:

*nods*

Both of us:

*AWKWARD SILENCE*

 

It was almost worst if the medical professional I was shadowing tried to converse with me. Most of my answers were short and direct. Example:

Dr.: 

“…and that’s what we do in [insert area of hospital here]. What area do you want to go into or what are you interested in besides medicine?”

Me:

I’m not sure yet. Um, I like to read.

Dr.:

Oh, that’s okay. It takes time to figure that out. What kind of books do you like to read?

Me:

Uh, really anything as long as it’s fiction.

Dr.*Sees I am most definitely not the conversational type*:

…that’s nice. Yeah, when I was younger [insert personal story here to fill up my silence]

 

The worst example is when I made a conscious attempt to be more conversational because I had read somewhere that it’s good to take interest and ask questions. That gets people talking according to some self help text I read. So, I mustered up some anxiety ridden courage and asked the cardiologist I was with that day a question (who, to make things worse, happened to be the father of one of the girls in my clinicals class). It went like this:

 

Dr.:

So, we evaluate patients using a stress test.

Me.: *Thinking: Don’t let the silence hang. Say something! Ask a question! Show him you are interested in the topic and want to know more!*

So… what does a stress test consist of? (…yes… I actually spoke this very formal way back then. Even around friends. It was sometime this year that I began simplifying [read: dumbing down] my speech.)

Dr.: *Stares at me for a second* *Responds in a this is completely obvious, I don’t know why you asked that question tone*

It’s a stress test. We put the patient on a treadmill and stress the patient.

Me:

*feels stupid* *silent for the rest of the day*

 

…But I digress.

Before the flood of vile flashbacks, I planned to recount my best rotation. For that, let’s backtrack a bit. In high school, I didn’t study. I just learned in class. And retained all of the information. When it came time for a test I simply reviewed (read: quickly read through) my notes from class and presto! high A’s. Here’s the best rotation I had:

 

Nuclear Medicine Dr.:

See here?

*points to a patient scan with some mass or other abnormality*

This patient had [insert some diagnosis that I’ve long since forgotten]. Do you know what [insert some medical term related to the patient’s case] is?

Me: *Enthused this isn’t a personal question and is something I can answer with much more ease*

Yeah, that’s [insert correct answer].

Dr.: *Intrigued I got it right*

Right!

*Continues discussing case* *Brings up new scan*

Now this patient had [insert some other diagnosis that I’ve long since forgotten]. Do you know what [insert some medical term related to the patient’s case] is?

Me: *Glad for another question I can answer*

Yeah, that’s [insert correct answer].

Dr.: *Very intrigued now*

What’s [some medical thing]?

Me: 

[insert correct answer]

Dr.: 

What’s [some medical thing]?

Me: 

[insert correct answer]

He was rapid fire quizzing me now and I was gaining confidence with every correct answer. A couple questions later:

Dr.:

Where are the thyroid glands?

Me: *Nervous because thyroid glands were only briefly mentioned in class. Once.*

*Hesitates then uses both index fingers to point to my throat on a fuzzy educated guess*

Dr.: *Satisfied at last, asks with genuine interest*

What area do you want to go into?

Me: *Still buzzing because I got the last question right* *Confidently answers*

I want to be a nurse.

Dr.:

A NURSE?! You have to aim higher! It’s better to struggle at something difficult than to excel at something easy. Don’t you think?

Me: *Thinking about doing very well in my regular level classes and just well in my AP and IB classes, but learning things on a much deeper level*

*Thinking about the fact that I took those higher level courses because I truly believe it’s better to challenge yourself and do okay than not to and breeze by.*

*Tentatively* Yeah, I think you’re right.

Dr.: *Gives me an encouraging look and a hint of a smile*

Don’t conform with being a nurse. Be a doctor.

 

Then he gave me his business card and urged me to contact him if I ever had any questions. I assure you no other doctor gave me their business card. Nor did I ever impress another doctor. Not surprising, since I probably said as many words to the Nuclear Medicine doctor as to all the other doctors the rest of the year combined. And no, I am not omitting his name for privacy reasons. (I’d give him a pseudo name, if that was the case.)

I actually lost his card sometime after that school year. I was not able to remember his name, let alone call him when I began doubting the whole doctor thing when I began university. Not that I would have called him anyway, because… you know… severe anxiety. I did go over to the nuclear medicine department at that hospital sometime before going off to university though. I had hoped to run into him, but I didn’t see him and I didn’t even know his name to leave a message. :/

 

If you’ve read the My Life Now section of my blog, you know that I’m here in Puerto Rico as part of a dietetic internship instead of in med school.

I’m sorry, Nuclear Medicine Doctor, high school clinicals teacher Ms. Dee, all of my clinicals classmates who expected medical greatness of me, all of my teachers that swore up and down I’d go on to excel as a doctor, my AVID teacher Ms. Dar, my parents, and myself. I’m sorry.

~*~*~

My next deterrent from medical school wasn’t the crushing fear of losing my humanity. (Though that was always present.) It was a wrong click when I enrolled to university. Come back for part two next week to read about fateful click!

Note:

Picture is of my physiology class material sophomore year in university.

 

 

 

Equality and Justice: Some oversights in the American University Grant System and How I Paid/Am Still Paying for University

Originally Written in April 2018

I’ve been working since I began university. I was so fortunate in my high school days to have two parents that cared for me as well as they did. They fed me every day. My father did not let me stay up past midnight. While my peers were slaving away at our tower of homework assignments, I rushed to finish them before the bell tolled. I underestimated everything my parents did for me.

When it came time to go to college and I was trying to figure out how loans worked, I asked my mother whose name I should put them under. She responded that they were my loans for my education. She essentially set me free by telling me that it was my life and my responsibilities. I took this idea and ran.

I had my fun, for almost two semesters. I hung out with my new group of friends and delved deep into my classes. But one day, I finally did something I had talked about for months. I got a job. I knew my student loans were far off in the future, but I decided then was the time to start saving for them.

The only reason I was able to even apply to university was because of a scholarship (or some other award money, I don’t quite remember) I got in high school. My parents said they did not have the $400 for application fees for my dorm and university. I had about $450. So, I applied. Thanks to fee waivers for universities and SATs (entrance exams) and just enough award money for extra fees, I was able to attend university.

Now, I receive grants and scholarships in addition to loans (money I have to pay back). I am fortunate, but I am also, in a sense, on my own. I reiterate, that I had everything I could think to ask for while I lived with my parents. They aren’t perfect people, but they were good parents. I could ask for their help now, but it’s my turn to provide for myself.

So, I got that job. Then a month or two later I got another job. The summer after my freshman year in college I took full time classes and full time hours at work. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you might know that this summer job is more than I can handle. It’s very people oriented and I was not. Read the older blogs for details on that.

Either way, I’ve been working myself to my brink for about three years. I am a spoiled child for thinking this is too much, since adults with families and more dangerous jobs are suffering much more than I am. I understand that. Not fully, because I only come close to understanding my situation, but I do my best to sympathize.

That is why I say I’ve been working myself to MY brink. I can only speak for myself. If you have a different situation that is your situation. I can’t speak for that. What I am saying is that I have worked to the point where it impacts, not just my school, but my vision of myself. I’ve left that grocery job in tears. I’ve had panic attacks while bagging a person’s tomatoes. I’ve confronted people in my job as a student manager with a shaky voice. It hurts. Maybe I am weak. Maybe the problem is me.

But no one is giving me free money and I am not asking for it.

So how upset can I really be when others get as much money as I earn from December to May seemingly from the sky? (Background: My roommate, Mariah, just got a school refund for $3,000 out of the blue.)  Their money and my money are different things. Who cares if I had to bleed, sweat, and cry for it? (All things that have happened due to work.) Who cares if they sat on their asses and were given it? I’ve been given money. I wasn’t complaining then. It helped me get to the point where I am working myself dry to not have to ask for it again. Maybe, hopefully, this will be the case with others. Not the bleeding themselves dry. But the providing for themselves part.

 

Equality is inequality. This thought doesn’t seem to make sense until it happens to you. It’s not jealousy. It’s not even anger. It’s a sense of injustice. Because it is what we want and don’t have that seems unjust. I am not terribly broken up about having electricity, or a roof over my head. I have that. I have had that as long as I can remember. But not everyone does. Why does that not upset me? It’s a fleeting thought.

The thing is, life has no great equalizer. (Maybe in death, but nothing in life.) Life is simply chaos. Things are not distributed in an intelligent manner. They are given or worked for. They are random. Nothing is guaranteed. I need to stop wanting and waiting. I need to stop being affected when others are given what I either do not have or have suffered for. It’s not easy.

 

~*~*~

Gosh, I was in a stressful place then. I wrote the above in the middle of my senior year in university. Looking back on it now (three months after graduating), I see it this way:

Essentially, I felt an injustice had occured because my roommate, Mariah, had received $3,000 dollars as an unexpected school refund. (The refunds for that academic year had already been doled out earlier in the year, so this was an extra, unexpected help.) I hadn’t received one. I realized it would take one semester of my on campus job plus one month of my seasonal job to earn as much money as she was just given. It seemed unfair. But that’s the thing. The organizations that give out grants and other seemingly free money do their best to help out students who need it. How? Many base their decision on the student’s parent’s income. Snag here? The assumption that all parents are helping pay for their child’s university fees. 

Mariah’s parents (according to the fact that she got more refunds than I did) had less than mine, but they were helping her more than my parents were helping me. My dad gave me a credit card I shared with him. But I didn’t use it often. Sometimes I’d use it to buy groceries once a month. Or a pizza a couple times per semester, but nothing close to what I myself was paying or taking out loans for my education. Mariah, with the help of her family and government grants/refunds graduated without loans or debt. I owe about $24,000.  

The system doesn’t take into account that sometimes those with less help more than those with more. I’m not villainizing my parents. I know they would have helped more if I’d asked them. But I didn’t. I decided to take charge of my life and that included my tuition. I listened to my mom who said it was my education and my loans. My responsibility. So I didn’t ask. 

And that’s okay. Those who give grants and scholarships help. They do their best to equalize things, even though their best can’t account for every factor. It’s a perk. And it should be seen as such. I stand by my decisions. I think it’s nice when either these organizations or parents offer their help, but I would not sit there and wait for it. If I hadn’t had that scholarship money and application fee waivers to attend university and my parents had refused to pay for SAT tests and all that, I would have gotten a job and attended community college before transferring into university. I wouldn’t have sat at home waiting for a solution. I urge you guys to have a similar attitude.

Don’t wait for help from the sky. If you receive it, great. Use it. But don’t expect it. Expect to work for what you have. Build your own airplane whether your building materials came from your parents, an organization, or your own blood, sweat, and tears. In the end, what matters is that you made it amongst the clouds. Happy flying, friends.