Being Over 40 in Medical School (2)
Will pursuing medicine destroy your marriage or your significant relationships? Maybe. But when you are 75, will you look back and wish that you had tried? This may sound cold, but my experience with men/relationships is that there are no guarantees, and divorce or death could be just around the corner. You don’t have any control over what life will bring you. If that relationship that I sacrifice my dreams for breaks up, what am I going to be left with? Regrets of “if I had only . . .”? It is not right to put someone else in charge of your happiness; my staying out of medical school in order to preserve a relationship puts a responsibility on that relationship that it has no business bearing. I don’t believe a loving relationship should force a woman to choose between her dreams and her relationship. What kind of love is that?
I have been through a lot in my life. At one point, I lived in a homeless shelter with my children. I have been on welfare. These are all lessons I’ve learned the hard way. I guess I am writing this because for those of you who know what you MUST be, who have the calling to the medical profession . . . I don’t want you to give up on yourselves. You are valuable and you are needed. And you are worthy.
‘Tis true, though, that there is a time and a season for everything . . . I had tried to go back to school 15 years ago and it just wasn’t the right time; I was newly divorced and had 3 children under 5 years of age. Then I tried to start taking classes again six years ago, and it just would not work out. My attempts at those times felt like I was hitting a brick wall. It just wasn’t the right time. Four years ago, though, everything fell into place, and here I am.
I so easily remember the feelings I had as a stay-at-home-mom of not being enough, of not doing enough, of feeling guilty about my desires to go to medical school, and the consequences that it may have on my family. I look back and want to shout at my younger self, “You were good enough all by yourself! Who made women the slaves of the family? Who made them the guilt-bearers, the ones responsible for the world’s well-being?” Raising a family is a wonderful thing; but for those of you who have additional gifts to offer the world, please! Come out, fulfill your potential! The world needs you, your children need to see you living up to your human potential, and other women and girls need you as a role model.
Women as a whole, I find, have a tendency towards self-deprecation. We apologize for ourselves. Even as I write, I want to apologize for my very lengthy posting, or take some of the strength out of my speech by making excuses for my perhaps over enthusiasm. But I have been apologizing for forty years. And I am trying to break the habit. Best wishes to all of you.”
Wendy “Will” Chamberlain MS1
UPDATE FROM WENDY – Nov 22nd 2003
I don’t feel like much of an inspiration right now. Mostly I feel tired! People ask me about going to medical and being a single mom, and say, “How do you do it?!” I jokingly answer, “Badly!” But there is an element of truth to it – I’m not a straight-A student, and I’m not a perfect mom. I’m not super woman, and I can’t do everything. As a type-A that has been a big adjustment to make. I’ve learned to keep my priorities straight – my family’s welfare comes first, church has become very important to me. After the stress of second year, I took a year off to be a Post-Sophomore Pathology Fellow. What that means is getting thrown in with the first-year Pathology residents and doing autopsies, surgical pathology, blood banking, etc. It was very interesting, and it was also a good break. Now I’m back in school and have finished rotations in internal medicine and ob-gyn, and am in my psych rotation right now. Still don’t know what I’m going to specialize in.
It’s all worth it, but it’s tough. Really tough. At the same time, there is nothing else I would rather be doing. A good support system would make it easier. That’s not something I’ve had, but is something I’m working on developing.
So that’s my update — I’m sorry I don’t have time to answer the nice people who’ve written me – their kind words are encouraging, and I do thank them.
Wendy “Will” Chamberlain
Did Will’s story inspire you? If you’d like to meet more women like her sign up for the MomMD physician forum.