You will need a full pack of mince pies (or whatever festive treat you fancy) for this one. It’s been a while. It’s been busy. 2020 is just around the corner and what perfect way to update my slightly neglected blog than to ~reflect~ on what has been a life-changing decade (buckle up, it’s about to get personal).
2010: 13 years old – a disgusting age I think we can all agree. I spent most of my high school career awkwardly struggling to fit in (classic), jumping between friendship groups and going out of my way to make myself small and invisible. (genuinely, I had teachers teaching me for 3 years who didn’t know my name by the end of it all). #tragedy
I hated the idea of being noticed. I remember vividly having to speak in front of a small class for some kind of assessment. I shook like a leaf as I spoke about something embarrassing (like how Cheryl Cole was my idol .. Christ). I weirdly refused to go and get food on my own in case anyone… shock horror…noticed me buy and eat a potato. Thank God I got over that, carbs for life. And my face always seemed to be red … made worse by people pointing out that I had turned red (to be honest that curse still follows me).
In summary, I was just a ball of anxiety and I didn’t realise that wasn’t normal until a couple of years ago. In the end, I made myself at home as the girl who you didn’t notice. And breaking out of that frame of mind is still quite hard to do.
What I wanted to do in the future wasn’t really a serious discussion and uni had never been mentioned. I had no idea what ‘undergraduate’ meant (& I didn’t until I reached sixth form in 2013). My school didn’t expect much from me and many teachers (and myself) were surprised when I did better than average in my GCSEs.
Little did I know that doing just that little bit better than was expected would change absolutely everything. It got me into the top 10% at my sixth form, and suddenly, I had been noticed. On the very first day I had to stand up, introduce myself and say what I wanted to study at university. I didn’t have a bloody clue. But one thing was clear, I wasn’t allowed to be invisible. And this probably changed my life.
My confidence grew every single day and 6 months in I had gone from having no future plans to sitting with my tutor and asking whether she thought I was good enough to apply to medicine. And of course, I was supported completely by her and my parents, who had my back from the beginning, even when I was too shy to say boo to a goose.
This new found confidence meant I started to come out of my shell too. I didn’t hide all of my personality traits in order to blend into the background. And through that process I met new people. I met three people in particular and initially thought the likelihood of being good friends with them was at best, slim. 7 years later I’m still so incredibly grateful to call them my nearest and dearest. (and they’re absolute legends, nailed it)
From there, things just seemed to improve, my confidence, my social circles, my expectations of myself. Of course there have been knock backs and failures too. I got rejected from my first application to medicine and everyone seemed to be very concerned, but maybe for the first time ever, I wasn’t. I worked in a supermarket and a hospice and volunteered in hospitals and worked my arse off to 4 unconditional medicine offers. I constantly put myself in positions that scared me and kept me on my toes (throwback to Blackpool A+E shifts). I constantly put myself in positions that meant I was noticed until it started to feel a bit normal.
Then I got to medical school, after all the work and the uncertainty, I was finally ‘living the dream’. And then I absolutely flunked it. I could probably write an essay purely about the emotional and social changes that turned my world upside down but to put it in a nutshell, I never truly appreciated the identity change that being a medical student would bring. I suddenly got treated differently. I mentioned I was a medical student and I’d get different looks, different tones. I knew I was meant to love it, it’s part of the package. But I hated it – and probably still do, I’m just used to it now. I wanted to hold onto the identity of being a normal, northern lass who can handle her drink (failed to prove that) and is up for a laugh …. and she just happens to be a medic. So I started downplaying what I did, avoiding saying anything about medicine if I could and tried to be ‘normal’ (which although fun at the time, ultimately led to me being a mess and having THE most stressful summer, taking -if you fail these you’re out of med school- type resits.) Thankfully I learnt from my mistakes, learnt how to feel ‘normal (ish)’ as a medic and I *touch wood* haven’t had to go through that stress again.
Despite lots of different little set backs, 13 year old me would never ever recognize the person I’ve become today or the things I’ve achieved. From the friends and relationships, to travelling to Sri Lanka, to winning a national medical student prize, to living independently and not being phased by the phrase “I held a uterus today”. It’s all completely alien to what I ever envisaged my life to be like and to be honest, I still have to pinch myself to believe it’s actually me doing all of this.
Saying this, I’m stressed and I’m tired (4ever). I’m frequently asking myself what the hell I have got myself into. Before medicine, an offer is the holy grail. The myth that once you’re in, you’re in and it’s plain sailing from there. But it’s just the beginning. That was 4 years ago. Now, 2020 will hopefully be the year I pass my FINALS (please please o lawd please), I complete a 5 week placement at a world-renowned children’s hospital, and I hopefully start another intercalated degree in another city (or failing that … I start my final year and apply for my foundation doctor jobs – equally if not more terrifying). Despite all these frankly amazing opportunities, it doesn’t stop it all from being quite overwhelming. I’m frantically searching for a pause button so I can pop on a face mask, read a non medical book and relax (i.e sleep for a week or a year).
All I know for sure is that the 2010s through many a curveball and I’ve come out of it somehow as a fourth year medical student, relatively unscathed with the world at her feet. The 2020 line up is … insane. If this is how the decade is starting …. it’s going to be one hell of a ride. Also taking a hot minute to appreciate this is the decade I turn 30. Adult?? Crikey.
…. Bloody bring it (but at a leisurely pace with lovely people and several rounds of tea and cake please)