I spent these last few months deciding whether I should defer my medical school acceptance for a year. When people ask about my plans post-graduation, I almost feel like I’m letting myself down and disappointing those around me by making this decision to take a year off before matriculating. I feel like I’m lazy when I see young physicians on television, and know peers who are starting careers or beginning graduate school. About this time last year, I had a set plan to take my MCAT and apply to medical school right away. I assumed it was the set and accepted path, the only choice I had. Now, I’ve taken a step back to realize that the reason why I hurtled through this process was because I worried about the expectations my family and friends. I also thought I was ready to put myself through four more years of education without any time to unwind and reflect post-graduation.
When I weighed the factors in my decision process, I thought about my mental health and those I care about. To get to where I am today, I experienced many bumps along the way; I want to take this year to practice and normalize a routine of self-care. This summer, I plan to kick-start my self-care by maintaining a bullet journal filled with reminders and checklists on daily maintenance for my body and mind. I want to start meditating again to calm my mind and reduce stress. I want to learn how to deal with stress and depression on a healthier plane, and learn how to help others through the same techniques. I want to learn how to balance relationships with my career so that when I become a physician, I’ll already have a support system in place and won’t feel overwhelmed and lost. Burn out is real, and I’m choosing to prioritize my mental health before I start the next step with medical school.
I also think I have room for professional growth before starting medical school. I plan to continue scribing and learning the importance of teamwork in healthcare And I also plan to be more involved in supporting my patients at the hospital, and spend time exploring more diverse volunteer opportunities in my community. I feel as though I am not finished learning from these experiences available to me, and delving into these opportunities will mold me into a better medical student and individual for the future.
A fitting metaphor would be to compare education to the cardiovascular system. We all see the heart as the main contributor in the system—the large entity, the driving force. The veins and arteries are also there, providing pathways for the body to get the oxygen it needs. But as we look closer, there are capillaries off the arteries that are sometimes forgotten but just as important. This entire network allows your body to live up to its optimal health, and each segment provides the same amount of importance as the heart.
An important thing I have to remember is that there is no set template in my path towards my professional degree. I feel like I’ve been on a full throttled track to the finish line, but it may be a good idea to step back and introspect. Do I feel like I’m pushing myself too hard because I’m comparing myself to others? Is there is any doubt in my personal drive towards pursuing this career that might be dangerous to discover later on? . I have, and will keep asking myself these questions to validate that I have chosen the correct field. I know that my journey towards achieving these dreams may be different than my peers, and that’s okay.
The beautiful thing about this journey is that the decisions we make prevent us from being carbon copies of each other. The choices we make after graduation allow for us to gain diverse experiences that will ultimately benefit the healthcare system when we join it. Some of us go straight through without a gap year, and that is fine. Others, like me, need time to better understand themselves and gain additional experiences.
Yes, I see that medical degree as the heart of my future. But in order to have a healthy experience throughout this pursuit and in this career, setting time aside for other life and learning experiences will provide those veins, arteries, and capillaries that will make me the well-rounded physician we all strive to be.
About Kelena Klippel
Kelena Klippel, originally from Beverly Hills, Florida, is a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in English. She has served as a 24/7 on-call Disaster Action Team member for the Gainesville chapter of the American Red Cross as well as volunteered with Streetlight, a palliative care program centralized to support chronically ill adolescents. The first in her family to obtain a degree in America, she hopes to become a facilitator of educating and fixing social justice and disparity issues in healthcare once becoming a physician. After graduation, she has started a medical support blog to help pre-medical and medical students. In her down time, Kelena writes poetry that has been featured in many Gainesville publications.