Writing Your Story

*This was written 2/3/2020, the day I received word I was not accepted into medical school.

I tried to prepare myself. I knew it was a coin flip at the end of the day. But there is always some small part of you that doesn’t acknowledge the possible reality of failure. You can be the most rational, objective, even robotic person out there, but this part of you still exists. You may know the odds to perfection, but that part of you will still feel blindsided. This is the part that is crushed when the letter is read and the verdict is passed. The alternate futures you were holding in your mind instantly reduce to the one reality that is. That’s when emotions and feelings start to secure more of your consciousness. That’s when all the questions you never wanted to think about slowly trickle into your awareness.

I was officially rejected from medical school today. It was a long, tired process that was not improved by the preceding months of waiting and radio silence. I told myself the waiting was the worst part. The feeling of dangling in the air and not knowing where you would be in the future. I told myself it would simply be a relief to know. To know whether the upcoming fall I would be beginning to act out my goal of becoming a doctor, or if I would need to buckle down for another year of applications and waiting. Either way, it would be better than the waiting. 

I was wrong. The rejection and objective failure were worse. The wave of emotion that immediately hit after scanning the email (because obviously with such important news you don’t actually read the email, you just quickly search for the words that give you your answer) was worse. It revealed that I did not match into a school and that I would be placed on a waiting list. And yes, it is beautifully ironic that after months of waiting I can now officially start waiting on a formal list of some sort. 
I’ve have been very interested in the idea of narrative. The idea that we live through stories, and that we indeed act out our own story. This, mixed with some sense of spirituality, stoicism, and a curious desire to understand what we do and why we do things, led me to what may be the most profound realization of my life: We cannot control what happens to us, the objective realities of our lives, but we get to write our story. We get to connect the dots of our past in any way we see fit. This becomes our guide to the future, and the thing we always take with us.

It’s the same realization as the other banalities everyone has heard before. “Everything happens for a reason.” “It’s all part of a bigger plan.” While it is clear to me these statements symbolize the same idea as my self narrative representation, I cannot ignore the dismissive and slightly repulsive feeling in my gut when someone tells me “everything happens for a reason.” Such is life, and now I understand what everyone actually means. There is wisdom hardwired into everything around us, but we simply can’t access it until is is metaphorically spoon fed to us. And even that may require multiple attempts. 

So now I am at the point were I get to start connecting the dots. I get to create the ‘why I did not get into medical school’ and decide what that means for me going forward. The key insight is that you can do this in any number of ways. And as long as you are honest, there is no one story that is more credible than another. However, all stories are not created equal and all stories are not equally useful. Some stories don’t help us get to where we want to go. Some stories lead us down paths that take us deeper and deeper into our very own personal hells. Cherish your story.

Maybe this can shed some perspective on anyone struggling with rejection or failure in their life. If you enjoyed the above post, maybe this would also peak your interest. I will continue to put together my story and invite you to share yours.

Best explorations

-Ryan

5; 4/4/2020

*As of 4/8/2020 I was accepted into medical school off of the waitlist. I was lucky to be forced to deal with the failure first.

Following Failure

Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human – however imperfectly – and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The thing that jumps off the pages of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is the unmistakable feeling that he is writing to himself. This reads as a journal. When that is taken into account, along with the fact that he was arguably the most powerful person in the world, the aphorisms somehow gain credence in my subjective interpretation. It is easy to dwell on the multitude of problems we have in our lives. And it is just as easy to look around and fantasize about how life would be so much easier in another person’s shoes. Maybe it’s their house, their family, their money, or their status, but they all have something that makes their life easier than the beatdown existence you are forced to contend with every day. When you read Meditations, it is a chance to view the world through the thoughts of that person who lives in the biggest house, who wields the power, who has the money, access, and privilege. What you find is that we all contend with the same demons. There are much deeper forces at work, and the problems we label as money, status, or love are no more than the surface layer of a tidal wave. Aurelius is not speaking to you as the Roman Emperor. These conversations remain true, even when we are stripped all the way down to only that substance we all share. 

There are a number of skills and qualities we praise and strive to build in ourselves. We have all heard about the power of positive thinking, or practicing gratitude, developing empathy, or turning the other cheek. I am not discrediting any of these ideas (how fantastic they are!), but what if there was a single idea you could believe in that would eventually show you the above mentioned behaviors? I emphasize show because I think we can all agree there is a difference between experiencing something and knowing it versus simply holding the ideas in your mind as beliefs. I think failure is the great showman of being human. It shows us where we messed up, where our assumptions were false, and where we have to improve. Well, it can do that. It is not necessarily automatic, nor easy to grow through failure. It takes courage, humility, and quite possibility the ability to step outside your self in order to do it properly. So I contend that learning how to respond to failure, how to get up off the mat, is the behavior that can show us what we need to grow as humans.

Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human – however imperfectly – and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Sorry for the re-print, but I wanted to close with the words once again fresh. We will all fail, even the Marcus Aurelius’s of our 21st century (I feel like Aurelius’s is not correct grammar, but you get the point). Failing is one of those ties that is shared among all humans. So let’s not judge ourselves, punish ourselves, or pity ourselves, and instead “celebrate behaving like a human.” We will each stumble into a variety of types and styles of failure in our life, but if we can cultivate the mindset to embrace these failures, we will grow. We will be something entirely different on the other side. 

To be discussed: There will definitely be more from Meditations, it’s one of my favorite books and there are so many more lessons to expand on. I will also be writing about a personal failure I have been dealing with. Thanks for reading!

Best explorations

-Ryan

4; 4/5/2020