TheNotQuiteDoctor’s Origin Story
Long before I was the NotQuiteDoctor, I was the NotQuiteAnything. I was bumbling through life, leaping at opportunities as they passed. I had no clue what, or who, I wanted to be. My interests changed daily as did my life goals. Finding medicine was a significant thing in my life because for the first time I felt like I had a direction.
After high school I went to a community college. My grades were good enough to get scholarships but they weren’t enough to cover the entire tuition of my state school and my parents couldn’t help out at all. While at the community college I fumbled around three different programs. First, I took a lot of programming classes. When I decided I didn’t necessarily want a computer degree I switched into an automotive technology program. I quickly realized that busting my knuckles on other people’s cars wasn’t near as fun as working on my own, so I quit that. Eventually I just finished up a general education degree so that I could transfer to a 4 year school.
Due to a series of fortunate events, I got offered a job as a computer programmer shortly before finishing at the community college. I say fortunate because I had no clue what I was going to do or where I wanted to transfer. This job was the real deal. I had a salary, insurance and, most importantly, free education. The spot I was hired for was at a small but well known private university.
Over the next few years I goofed off a lot. Much of the money I made went to partying and booze. I took a wide array of classes with no real goal in mind. I learned a lot about myself, and the world, but I was going nowhere fast. I eventually loathed my job, feeling unchallenged and worthless. Finally, one morning on my drive to work I saw a sign that catalyzed the decisions I would make over the next several months.
It simply said: If you can, why wouldn’t you.
It was in reference to donating money to a charity. But in my mind it meant something else entirely. It made me realize I was wasting my talents in life. Programming wasn’t a challenge, and furthermore it wasn’t enjoyable. I knew I was a good student and deep down, beneath the party guy, I was a good person. So I began exploring how I could use my brain to improve the world around me.
After enrolling in some science classes I realized I absolutely loved human physiology. It had an elegance that I never could have imagined. Prior to those classes I had little exposure to science and imagined it as this complex and unattainable realm. But in reality it all made sense in the most beautiful way imaginable. This lead me to call my uncle, who is a physician, and ask if I could come see what being a doctor was all about.
One night. That is all it took for me to decide. In a life that had been filled with indecisive wishy-washy behavior I had never been sure of anything. But that night I knew. I walked out of the ER I had spent the last 8 hours shadowing in and immediately called my grandmother to tell her that I had found my passion. I loved the academic atmosphere I had been in (it was a residency) where everyone talked about complex phenomena with an ease I had never seen. I loved that you could walk into a patient’s room, someone you had never met, and within minutes become intimately intwined in the most vulnerable aspects of their lives. More than anything, I loved that in a single night I watched countless lives being improved and, in some circumstances, saved.
With a lot of hope, and no backup plan, I quit my job as a programmer and returned to school. I financed my undergraduate degree with the 401k I had been putting money into. Three years later I graduated with a degree in cell and molecular biology and headed to medical school. That part of the story is still being written.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading. If there is enough interest I can do a part two and describe more about my time in undergrad before medical school.
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