I’m sure I am not alone when I say that where I imagined I’d be as a senior in college back when I was graduating high school is different from where I actually am now. If you asked me three years ago, I would have rattled off all the goals I hoped to accomplish in college and the strides I hoped to have made. I would have told you that I would be published as co-author on some important neurological paper, I would have enough money saved to pay for my first year of medical school, and I most definitely would be getting straight A’s – after all, how hard could college really be? I had a meticulously laid out plan with all my activities mapped out. Of course, life did not happen that way for me. I have barely managed to stay in a lab long enough to lead experiments, savings are non-existent as I struggle to pay rent each month, and my GPA has taken more hits than McGregor in a boxing match.
But despite all of this, I cannot say that I am disappointed in what my pre-med undergrad experience has become. I have taken advantage of opportunities and experienced things that high school me would not have even known to put in her four-year plan. Because I was able to be flexible, I have been given so many opportunities, such as being a resident assistant for almost three years to amazing groups of students and being able to act as a mentor, friend, and resource. I have had the opportunity to experience the vibrant art scene in Pittsburgh for free through an organization I joined as a junior, and I have had the chance to meet people who have challenged my thinking and helped me to grow as a person.
I admit that I’ve had to compromise in order to have some of these experiences. For example, I gave up study time, sleep, and even writing for a short while, to be a resident assistant at my university. During those years, my life was consumed with being there for my 30+ residents. I had residents who were going through a lot of different struggles, and it was hard balancing being a student and a constant source of support them. Last year was especially stressful, because, being a contentious election year, it split my floor into tense political factions. Friendships were strained when political alliances were revealed and of course, as the RA, I was called on to mediate disagreements and validate feelings, despite struggling myself with the outcome of the 2016 election. Although at the time these experiences caused me a lot of frustration, I now realize how many invaluable skills I’ve learned from my job. What other position would allow me to say that I’ve been woken up at 3am to deal with intoxicated residents and break up a fight all in the same night? What other job would force me to develop the creativity, time-management, and organization skills that this one has taught me? During my time as an RA, I learned so much about problem solving, relating to people at their level, and effective communication It also exposed me to many different ways of thinking and ideologies, and shaped me into a more tolerant and knowledgeable person. All of these traits will be invaluable later, when working with diverse groups of patients as a doctor.
Change is inevitable. It is not bad, just… different. The cornerstone of survival is adaptation. Selection doesn’t favor the strongest or the smartest, it favors those who can adapt the quickest. Life is like a cell’s lipid bilayer (membranes that form an unbroken barrier around all cells) – fluid and constantly shifting and moving. Fighting against the changes and shifts is a waste of time and energy. It is best to go with the flow and be open to new experiences. If I was so firmly set on my four year plan, I would have missed out on some great opportunities and would be a lesser person for it. I would probably be a lot less happy. Being flexible is a necessity for most jobs but especially for careers in medicine. The path to being a doctor is a marathon not a sprint, and there is no way that any long-term plan can account for all of life’s intricacies and unpredictability. Learning to accept that is the first step to being able to enjoy life as a pre-med more fully. Prepare for what you can, but expect to be surprised.
About Oge Opaigbeogu
Oge Opaigbeogu is currently senior majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. On the pre-medicine track, she plans to graduate in April 2018. Oge is originally from Prince George’s County, Maryland enjoys volunteering at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and being a mentor to disadvantaged youth. One of her passions is natural hair care, and she hopes to specialize in Dermatology and participate in research focused on epidemiology. She is also a huge fan of Game of Thrones and is currently working on reading through the series.