Returning. Or Not. Again.

I believe it was ~ the end of July when I last posted here, saying I was finished with the chase.

I am not back b/c I have decided to hop back on the premed band wagon(not sure what I’m doing), but this has been the best forum I have ever found for mid-life career change support. I figured I’d post here and see if anyone has any advice.

I definitely burned myself out by taking on too much last summer. Class 4x per week, plus an FT job, plus weekend volunteering in an ER, leaving my husband to do all the kids’ baseball and karate on his own was too much. I could have pulled back, but instead I quit completely. I did not regret the decision one bit until now.

I knew when I quit the med school track that I wouldn’t be happy just continuing on my career path (engineer-cum-research analyst for an engineering/construction company). I decided to take an entrepreneurship class rather than do nothing. Before that 10-week class ended, I knew I didn’t want to do that either. The problem I keep encountering is that the tradeoffs of my new ventures vs. my current job never work on paper. The business idea I had was just dumb. I was going to be working harder, learning less, and making the same (probably less after benefits).

But, apparently my husband thought when I signed up for the class, I was launching a business. He was pissed that I wasn’t going to do it, esp after quitting the med school track. He is not a talker, but he hurled some insults that “you can’t do anything with out taking a class,” and basically just wouldn’t talk to me.

Both with starting a business, med school, or anything else, I keep stopping myself because NOTHING is worth it when compared to the status quo. My kids are 12 and 5. I’m 31. I make a good living. I have 2 degrees already. My family’s health insurance is $7/week at my company, and my husband is self-employed. I get a 6% 401K match and 4% profit sharing each year. My mortgage will be paid off in 14 years, which is 2 years before my youngest will finish college. I have money to have a nice car and take trips, and pay ALL my bills without breaking out in a cold sweat.

These are the same excuses that have held me back from everything for the last 10 years, but I am too stupid to see it, I guess. Does it really matter if I am happy professionally? I don’t know. I tell myself that LIFE IS GOOD and I should just go to work, and spend the other 14 hrs per day focusing on enjoying life. Career doesn’t have to be everything.

Right now I am just upset about my husband and I think he might knock me out if I even make a peep about doing anything new career-wise (I’m kidding, he’s not abusive.)

Thing is, he was actually proud of me when I was going to go to med school. Probably the first time in 10 years he’s been that way. He thinks my job now is stupid and a dead end and constantly tells me that “you need to get out of there.” Even though I told him not to, he told everyone and their brother that I was going to go to med school, which was embarrassing for me when I decided not to. He thinks I am smart and that I need to be doing something challenging and worth my time. However, he’s opposite of some other unsupportive spouses. While he’s emotionally AWESOME (or he was before I was a total flake) he’s less-so financially. He is prepared to fully utilize loans so we don’t have to change our lives too much. I was not cool about that and wanted to just live off his income, which would have required some toy-selling (his, I don’t have any!). And, I was the one who was going to miss out on kids stuff, not him. . .AUGHHH. Anyway, I was (and am) very torn. Professionally, I do feel like a washed up, futureless loser and after a whole semester off, I miss learning about fun stuff like ATP synthesis.

On the flip side, I had lots of people in my life who were not supportive of med school. My dad said something like people who have good careers and switch careers look like idiots. (My dad really really likes to run everyone in the family’s life for them). My chem instructor from the summer couldn’t fathom why I’d leave a good paying job in engineering.

I’m kind of left hopeless and uncertain about what to do. . . I desparately want to talk things through with my husband but he’s such an ass sometimes. He is a simple guy. He doesn’t have my inner turmoil. He doesn’t have the motivation for intellectual work. He just wants me to pick something and do it, I think, but he probably won’t listen much. I really need someone to walk through every little detail of this with and weigh pros and cons and consider alternatives (i.e. other school program options that may be less intense). That’s exactly what he hates to do. Lots of times I do all that weighing in my head and then blurt out a result to him, and he’s like WTF-Where did that come from! He doesn’t like being surprised, but he doesn’t like talking. I’m sure it’s more of a guy thing, but I NEED it from him.

That said, I MIGHT still be able to apply for 2011. I would have O-chem 1 in spring. I’m missing a bio 2 and an O-chem 2, so I might be slightly disadvantaged for the MCAT, and I’d be burning myself out with a hell semester again. . .the price for stupidity, I suppose.

I’m behind on my volunteer stuff too, but I can’t worry about that now. I think I could make it through one semester and at least do the application. If I don’t get it, well, then, I REALLY KNOW FOR SURE.

So, how about some votes on which way to go? That would be great, since clearly I have no rational way to decide. Thanks guys… .you really are the best forum ever!

Hi AliJ

I don’t think I can offer advice on a lot of the stuff you posted (I’m not married), but one thing did smack me in the face. So here is something to think about.

You are 31 (I’m 43). I think you have some time. Keep your job with all its benefits and cut back a bit on the course load. That way your financial concerns will be less. Also, you can get ALL your course work done before writing the MCAT and get more volunteer work in so your application is strong when it goes in.

It sounds like you are following my usaual path of ALL OR NOTHING. I think you, like I had to do, need to realize that you have to slow down - here is the marathon not a sprint analogy.

It sounds like medicine is really what you want. That’s what I felt but it took me 15 years to take the plunge. On the plus side, I am much more secure financially now so have a lot less worries on that front.

Anyway, something to think about.


Just skimming through your post, and not knowing all the background on your pre-med path, it seems like you may have a problem with seeing things to an end. NOTE this is my naive opinion so don’t get offended.

I can’t give you any solutions since I am not a career advisor/therapist/psychol ogist but I think you need to find resources that will help you tackle the persistence issue.

I’ve known a few people who like to start new things because of the novelty of it, but don’t finish them. Well if anything is true, medicine requires incredible amounts of stamina and persistence. The will to stick with it and see things through to the end.

If you lack the latter you may end up leaving later in the game, say during residence or internship or fellowship. You’ll end up wasting a ton of money and time not to mention significant damage to your medical career!

Lynda & Dazed, Thanks for the responses. You guys are giving me exactly what I need to hear. I wish I could go back and whine LESS in my first post!

Lynda - you are def. right about being all or nothing. I’m not very patient and want what I want NOW. Luckily, it is not possible for me to get into any spring classes, so I’d definitely have to wait for 2012 anyway.

Dazed - you nailed it. I have a follow-thru problem. I’m completely confused about this. I was seeing a therapist last spring, but I quit going so I guess I’ll never figure it out. (Sad, but true.) Basically, I was fine for the first 26 years of life. I was the type of person who made commitments and followed through. I was in band from 4th through 12th grade. I took 5 years of Spanish. I graduated with the same major I started with. I stayed at my first job 5 years. I’ve lived in my home for 9 years. I even signed up for and completed 2 half-marathons.

Stuff got weird within the last 4-5 years. I’ve spent about a year in each position, although I’ve been at one company. I think there are a couple things going on: fear and panic and the reality of having two kids & busy life. My youngest kid is 5 so all this coincides with his arrival. I juggled lots of things when my oldest was little, but it was reality that I had to do it to survive. Now, things like more school are optional for my personal fulfillment and therefore much harder. I am scared to make the wrong choices and ruin my life. When I changed jobs the first time 4.5 years ago, it was the wrong choice. When I didn’t go back to school 8 years ago, it was the wrong choice. I’ve lost confidence in myself. I think I make these “wrong choices” not because I have no concept of what I want but because what I REALLY want is TOO BIG so I make a small change that I rationalize will be better because of XYZ. I go for the middle of the road choice, and it inevitably ends up sucking. Now I have a history littered with bad decisions and my brain tells me that I am just going to choose wrongly again. I don’t think I’m incapable of sticking with something, but recent history shows otherwise. I think if I actually started med school, I’d go all the way. It’s when I have an easy out that I can’t keep going.

Anyway, it’s clear that my issues are really mental. I really feel like I should be able to be a big girl and make logical decisions all by myself, but maybe I need the therapist again. How ridiculous. . .

Thanks again. Ali

  • AliJ Said:
...maybe I need the therapist again. How ridiculous. . .

..or perhaps you need to stop hurtling through life at warp speed and slow down!!!

Ali, it is always so easy to bludgeon ourselves for missteps. For me, when I decided to go to med school, my heart began to sing. I am content, even if it takes years to actually get in. I will keep taking courses, keep taking the MCAT, whatever, to stick with it. I was a little discouraged earlier, fighting with O Chem, and questioned my desire to go to med school at all. I could easily become an NP. But the thought of settling made me so depressed I will not give up that easily.

Hang in there, and remember that life is a journey, not a destination.


A friend wrote this to me (I don’t if it’s from him or if he found it somwhere):

  • In reply to:
Follow your passion and treat it as a journey rather than a destination. Along the

way, your minor problems will almost seem to solve themselves.

I feel your pain. I am married so I know, but unlike, I have a very supportive other. I have learned that money and happiness are two different things, even if the having the former helps get the latter.

Go for your gut feeling and give it all. Be happy.


(Disclaimer that I may be more confused than you are, but here goes nothing.)

First things first, I really don’t think you’re particularly indecisive here. Your situation is far more confusing than most normal career choices, for starters. You have a decent career, children to think about, a husband to think of, AND it sounds like you’re very financially secure at the moment. As far as I can tell, you going to med school will jeopardize your financial security, may uproot you and your family or involve a lengthy long-distance marriage, and it doesn’t sound like your husband is 100% on-board if you wanted to try again.

Given those factors, I think that being “indecisive” is pretty standard. There’s a lot to consider in that package. That being said…

I’m a bit younger than you, and I’ve managed to do a much more thorough job of flailing around than you have so far. After I took some early pre-med courses and got burned (I was right out of high school… the different amount of work required was a system shock) I switched to a humanities major, applied to grad schools, law schools, turned down a fully-funded PhD program and have spent the last few years working and enjoying the time with my spouse + cats. I’m trying to make the decision whether to go back myself, and I’ve noticed a few things:

  1. Financial security is amazing, until you have it. I was ecstatic when I got this job and we stopped being broke. However, then I began to notice the job sucked, the pay wasn’t so hot, etc. It’s mostly relative unless the level of poverty you’re talking about is extreme, which is unfortunately the case in much of the rest of the world, but not so much for two employed professionals in the US. If hardship is defined as “not enough for college” and not “not enough to eat/pay rent”, I think that might be setting the bar too high. I don’t know your financial picture though.

  2. On the other hand, medicine is a more secure field than engineering. Engineers can more easily be outsourced. It isn’t like you’re considering using your savings to start a circus or something; being a physician is a very high-paying career (relative to others) and the job security is about as good as you can get. My wife has told me that she won’t support me if I pursue the circus idea, but medical school is acceptably likely to work out. If you can get through the short-term period of risk, you will probably be financially sound for the rest of your working life.

  3. Most people don’t like their jobs and never will. It is certainly true, ON AVERAGE, that one should probably not ditch a good engineering career for medical school. However, you need to decide for yourself if you are the sort of person who needs to like their job to be happy. I hope you aren’t, because that is a tough hurdle to jump, but if you decide you are that person and if you decide you really want to do medicine then you need to go do medicine. If you can settle for a “decent” career, do that and enjoy your life. Not everyone can do that though.

    Anyway, that’s about all I can think of. It sounds like you bit off more than you could chew trying to take a heavy courseload and work FT, and got burnt out. Something I will say is that I think the middle-of-the-road compromise approach doesn’t work well here. There are a gazillion highly-qualified applicants. So if you do decide to try again, you will either have to A) take the courses SLOWLY while working full-time B) quit your job to make a full-throated effort (very risky) or C) stay in your current career or find a less-risky approach than medicine. I wish you the best of luck–it’s a tough choice.

    Just remember that you are NOT crazy, and make sure your husband is really on-board again if you decide to make the leap. I have found spousal support to be invaluable so far and I haven’t even decided what I’m doing yet.

I read with interest ‘triplecats’ reply.

That reply was nice and balanced and supportive!

Wish you luck…I dont have the time to reply longer…but all I can say is…I know how that might feel…

Take time for yourself and treat yourself good.

I have gone your way recently and realized that ‘sleep deprivation’ caused my indecison!

Take it slow…you re young!

…one more thing…from personal experience…

if you cannot discuss your career/work issues with your husband these types of feelings will arise! They did for me.

I seek support from my girlfriends on it. Its not a 100 percent fix, but works quite a bit.

Alij, as many others have mentioned, going to medical school and becoming a physician is not a sprint but a marathon. One that will take time and careful planning.

I think it is normal for you to panic, thinking if you are making the right decision or not. No one likes to think about the unknown but I always feel that if it’s truly your passion, no matter how long it takes, you’ll achieve it!

I think you should take it slow and one day at a time because from the sound of it, you are doing really well careerwise and financially. I’m sure when your husband sees that you are truly serious about your path to medical school, he will return to the supportive man he was when you first mentioned it to him.

My husband was a little skeptical at first when I mentioned it to him but now, he sees that I am serious and nothing is going to stop me, he is really supportive. I know it will take me a few more years before I will get accepted in medical school because I still have at least 2 years to do pre-reqs and then prepare for MCAT but I am willing to take it one day at a time.

Just follow your heart, do what you need to do to achieve that goal and in the mean time enjoy where you’re while you’re trying to get where you’re going.

God bless…