What’s the best way to procrastinate writing the amazing personal statement that will awe the medical school admissions boards into silence and/or tears with its eloquence? How about updating my blog? Yeah, that works.

Personal statements walk that precarious line between the personal and the professional. The idea is to write something heartfelt and honest about why medicine is the career for you without sounding fake or overly familiar or exceeding five hundred words. Challenge extended.

The trouble is, there is no simple reason why medicine is right for me. There are a dozen different reasons why I am where I am right now. Some of them are completely random, like the guy who replied to my comment about wishing I could do college over again as a premed by telling me to take the classes I need and do it anyway. Some of them, like the AP Biology class I took in high school, were completely ignored for years as I pursued my writing dreams. And some are just hard to describe, like the slow build of confidence that took me from meek freshman to opinionated postbac.

When you’re a kid looking toward your future, anything goes. Doctor, astronaut, bus driver; they all involve doing things you can barely contemplate. There’s no thought to schooling, or income, or social status; even feasibility doesn’t play a big role (I’m pretty sure I wanted to be a mermaid for a considerable amount of my childhood.) By the time we’re able to think critically about any of these possibilities, we’re old enough to have started to form a sense of self; certain jobs are easy to identify than others.

I come from a literary family. Both of my parents are writers and editors, and after reading James and Giant Peach in second grade, I was wandering out of the library with stacks of books taller than myself. It made all the sense in the world that I should do something that involved words. I also decided that if I was going to be really amazingly good at something, and what was the point otherwise, I had to determine what that was as quickly as possible so I could get started. Thus at age thirteen I began to write a novel. I never finished it (as I recall it involved Easter confetti and a trip to an alternate dimension), but I had decided that I was going to be a writer and that was that.

If my thirteen year old self could see me now, she would be very disappointed. (Well, maybe not right now, seeing as I’m actively sitting in front of a computer typing at the moment.) Deciding to go into medicine, in her eyes, would be giving up. Despite all of the rebuttals I have prepared when confronted with that accusation in an interview or application, that sense of failure is still a part of me. How do I convince a medical admissions board that I’m completely committed to my new path in life, when part of me is ashamed to have given up on the old path.

Ironically, writing is also what has me convinced that I’m on the right track. When writing was my major goal in life, everything else I did revolved around creating time to write. Yet the more time I managed to carve out for myself, the more inane activities I managed to find to fill it. (It’s truly amazing how much of a day one can lose to the Internet if one really works at it.) I find I’m the most engaged with my surroundings when I’m in an environment where I’m learning, and the more engaged I am with the world, the easier writing becomes.

In my statement I want to convey that my passion for medicine hasn’t replaced or overtaken my passion for writing; I have simply shifted my perspective to allow them to coexist. I’m not flighty, and I’m not the sort of person to give up on a dream. I also want to make it clear that medicine is my priority. I may not have always known this was what I wanted for myself, but that had more to do with what I thought myself capable of than my interest. And finally I want to make it absolutely clear that now–thanks to high school, undergrad, massage school, several jobs and my halting attempts to be a great writer–I am absolutely sure that I will make a good doctor. Perhaps even a great one.

Hm…excellent brainstorm session. Now to stretch that paragraph out to a full page complete with anecdotes and catchy turns of phrase. I suppose now it’s time for round two.

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