Sunday, 26 February 2012

Endgame: What do I want?

I haven't been feeling too good lately. This is surprisingly not due to my medicine application (though of course that has its role to play); the medicine application is a symptom of the broader underlying problem which I've been dealing with for quite a while now. Put simply, my masters degree is the problem. My bachelors degree was the problem. Being a Grumpy Biomed is the ongoing problem I'm dealing with.

These thoughts have been going through my head for a while now, but yesterday they finally crystallised. As part of my course, we have to complete a project. The projects are 12 weeks long and start in May after Term 2 exams. Once you finish the project you get the MSc. Yesterday the list of MSc projects was released. Five minutes after looking through the list I had a moment when I saw things in total clarity.

Five minutes before, I was looking through that list of available titles, supervised by some of the most brilliant minds in medical science at a world renowned medical school, and I was actively seeking the least boring one to put as my first choice.

I'll repeat that: I was looking for the least boring project to put as my first choice. Not the most interesting. The least boring. This is what my life feels like at the big quest to try and be as unbored as possible. The use of Newspeak is entirely appropriate here as I've never really been interested in what I've been doing during the past 4 years. Sure, there's the odd module which is really interesting, the occasional coursework which I can manipulate to become palatable, and of course, through my own hard work eventually everything becomes slightly interesting...but its no longer enough. I'm reaching my saturation point of completing tasks I have very little interest in. Getting good marks isn't even enough anymore...the satisfaction it brings is just not long term or deep enough. It is no longer enough for me to simply be unbored: I want to be interested.

But I can't be. From now until the end of term (three weeks or so), I have nine assignments to do. Each more boring, long-winded and pointless as the last. I had 11 to begin with, but I completed two last week. I felt utterly spent and exhausted. And then I remember I still have 9 more to go, and it's all I can do to stop myself screaming with frustration at how much I hate working towards something I couldn't care less about. Always during these past 4 years I am left with the feeling that this not what uni is supposed to be like. In an odd way, the only thing I can compare it to is the feeling you get when you're exhausted and yet you're still running and functioning on caffeine. You're getting things done and going through the motions, but you constantly feel that this is just not genuine. Lately, I find myself fantasising about dropping out on a near daily basis, sometimes even several times a day. To just cut ties abruptly, leave it forever, forget about it all, never go into a lab again, or hear about PCR or Western blotting or mass spectrometry...frankly it sounds amazing. But simply leaving something doesn't solve anything, there needs to be a more fundamental change to how things are done.

So I find myself fantasising about a time in the future when I don't skip most of my lectures because I just end up falling asleep in them out of boredom. When I'm not up at 4AM writing on a blog, but I'm sound asleep, having been totally satisfied during the day. When I can turn up for all my classes, be enthusiastic, maybe even ask the odd question or two. Get to know my lecturers and what they teach rather than seeing them as taskmasters inflicting boredom on me.

Of course, no one held a gun to my head and forced me to do an MSc. I chose to do it of my own volition BUT, only because the alternative i.e. being unemployed in my parents' town, checking Track fifty times a day seemed even worse. In short, I'm screwed whatever I do, it seems. I do the MSc and I'm constantly under pressure with work I don't care for, and if I didn't do it I'd be posting here daily about how bored I am with nothing to keep me busy and how I wish Track would just update already.

The solution is obvious: I need to get into medical school and start studying what I like and am interested in. Though this is not something which is within my control, at least not anymore. I've done everything I can: prepared for the UKCAT, tried to write a good personal statement, tried my best in all my interviews but my "fate" is now in someone else's hands and I'll be finding out if I've got in within the next week or so. It's not just about being good, it's about being a lot better than the competition...which is what makes it so hard and I just don't know if I am that good. But all I do know is that I can't keep up the Grumpy Biomed gig for much longer without a glimmer of hope, a sign that possibly things might be improve soon.

If you couldn't be bothered with reading all of the above, this is all I wanted to say: I want to stop being The Grumpy Biomed and start being The Contented Medic.


  1. Sorry to hear that you're under so much pressure :(

    Here's hoping you get to become The Contented Mdic by Sept '12.

    Whether you get an offer or not, you're gonna have to be motivated (and that's the sad truth).

    Read this article if you've got a few mins to spare.

  2. Ah Grumpy... it does sound rubbish. People seem to think doing a masters is the right thing to do after a degree, but if you're not academic enough / interested enough it can be an expensive waste of a year. I'm not sure your only choices were a masters or to be unemployed though. You could have easily got a caring job, which although people don't want to do is fantastic experience for a career in medicine.
    I hope you get an offer and I hope medicine is everything you think it will be. Sometimes you think you want something and become so focused on getting it, you lose sight of what it really entails. Medicine is full of boring lectures, competitive people, horrible exams and hard work, it's not always as rosy as people make out.

  3. Aw Grumpy, you took the words right out of my mouth (I don't dare say any of this out loud for the sniffs of disapproval at my uni).

    I swear, I was reading through this and just kept going 'no way - me too!'

    Ever since starting third year I have barely managed to drag myself out of bed. The only thing forcing me through those godawful applied immunology lectures is the absolute fear and terror I face knowing I'd missed something important and that I might not get a good grade for the med application.

    And I did the same damn thing with projects. I mean I sat there trying to pick something non-boring but as easy as possible and then I ended up choosing some obscure title which, so far, I'm desperately trying to make into something more than it is. This in the vain hope I'll actually get up and make it to the lab before 12 to grow some godawful hela cells, transfect them and pretend to see some greater purpose to it all.

    I get it, I know it sucks and I understand the lack of achievement feeling. Hell - why do you think I'm seeing a therapist? I get no joy either even after getting the highest average and winning award after award and having some sort of significance to lecturers. It feels hollow.

    And that's fine. Trust me.

    You'll get med, just have patience and slog through this - irrelevant as we might feel it is we live with the consequences of our choices and, hell, you got an interview at Barts you can bloody well do this!

    I'm right there with you, undergrad but all the same.

    When you get in make sure you change your blog name before you do anything else, I want to log on and be greeted by a surprise that bleeding fantastic.

  4. Grumpy!

    I haven't been on here in a while, and I made sure to be all stalkerish and read the posts.

    I hope the next few weeks bring you the news you've been waiting for! Isn't it exciting to think that we'll finally reap the rewards of our hardwork? Just keep at it for a few more months =)

    Remember we're all in the same boat! (though I think its more of a moderate size ferry judging by how many people feel the same way)

  5. Hi,

    I know how you feel (more or less), I was in your position 3 years ago although I did manage to get an offer in the last year of biomed.

    I don't want to be discouraging, and I really think you will get an offer. But there will be times when you feel the same way about medicine. Especially the bits that you don't want to do (e.g. for me - psychiatry, oncology, O&G)

    So I find myself fantasising about a time in the future when I don't skip most of my lectures because I just end up falling asleep in them out of boredom.

    I found my preclinical year extremely boring and fell asleep in most lectures. Clinical lectures are much better, but when there are 3 hours in a row I still fall asleep.

    When I'm not up at 4AM writing on a blog, but I'm sound asleep, having been totally satisfied during the day. When I can turn up for all my classes, be enthusiastic, maybe even ask the odd question or two. Get to know my lecturers and what they teach rather than seeing them as taskmasters inflicting boredom on me.

    That happens some of the time, but not always. Also, I am still up at 4am writing useless reflective essays and stuff, or preparing presentations that I just want to get over with. And sometimes I really don't look forward to going in and chasing people to sign my log book, when I could be learning lots more by following someone else (but not fulfilling the sign-off requirements).

    But deep down, although I really dislike some bits of medicine, it feels different because I know I do want to be a doctor at the end. During biomed there was always a sense of dread that I would never make it and that I would be forced into a career that I hated.

  6. Thanks for the comments guys. It feels good to offload some of my stress onto this blog, and even better to come back a few hours later and read some words of encouragement. So cheers, once again.

    @Anon 1: Yes, you're right, that's some very logical advice, I need to become re-motivated and fast. To be honest with you, since posting here last night, I do feel slightly better. Perhaps because I destressed a bit, I don't know, but whatever the reason I feel marginally less hateful towards this particular coursework assignment. I know I'll be able to get it all done, and maybe even do well in it, it's just actually *doing* it which frustrates me.

    @Anon 2: Thanks for the comment but I think it's best I clarify something right now. I am not under any delusions about medicine: I know that the pre-clinical phase of the medicine degree will be very similar to biomed and that there will be elements of it which I will heartily dislike. For example, neuroscience. Dress it up however you like, I think it's a dull, dry subject, whether in biomed or elsewhere. However, the point is that the positive points of medicine, outweigh the negatives. And even when you're doing the boring stuff, you know at the end of it, you will definitely become a dr, a job you're interested in and passionate about. I cannot say the same for biomed, it's a totally different ball game.

    @Rose: Yes, I thought you might get what I'm on about. Maybe I just need some damn perspective. You turn on the news and you see some truly awful stuff (at the moment Syria stands out), and here I am whinging about how this course isn't my dream course. Wah wah wah. But if I set that aside for a moment and become incredibly self centred (that's the whole point of having a blog surely), I do agree with you about the hollow feeling, that's actually exactly the correct word to use. Also feel slightly better that someone else understands the feeling of utter bemusement when faced with biomed projects.

    @Rawr: Good to finally see you on here again! It's only exciting if we get in tbh. Sorry to be so blunt, but I'm not even going to pretend to be an optimist at this stage because if things go badly, it'll be so gutting. But I think you raise an interesting point, *if* (and it's a big if), I get an offer, I think I'd feel a lot more positive about my MSc...simply knowing that I definitely have a ticket out of Biomed Purgatory would definitely help. Good luck for Tuesday, just be your usual witty self and you'll do great :)

    @Anon 3: Cheers for the comment. Please see my comment to Anon 2 re my feelings about the boring bits of medicine, though from reading your comment it seems that we're roughly on the same page. I don't actually have a problem with hard work, or even boring stuff, like I say, I know medicine will not be perfect...what I do have a problem with is that feeling of dread you mention, and being stuck doing this crap for good...

  7. I feel like you just summed up how I feel as well. It must be a biomed feeling.

  8. Hey I am fairly new to your blog, but I just wanted to leave a comment of encouragement :)
    I am genuinely rooting for you to get an offer!
    You seem so unhappy
    I'm in the first year of a Biomed course and re-applied anyway, best decision I've made (although I should probably have taken a gap year and risked murdering my family). As soon I as I got the first interview I thought "right screw this, I want to do Medicine".
    4 years of perseverance through a course you didn't really want to shows an unbelievable amount of commitment- hopefully universities should see this
    If it's okay to ask, why didn't you apply for Grad Med in your 3rd year?

  9. @Future Doc: Well with any luck we'll receive a positive reply from the A100 course at BL any day now!

    @Tanith: Thanks for the comment, just taken a look at your blog, really glad you've got an offer :)

    I didn't apply in third year because I messed up my 2nd year exams and my tutor wouldn't predict me a 2:1.

  10. Sounds like the title of a new medical blog hopefully on the horizon!