When do you know it's time to stop chasing pipedreams?

I’ve been having some inner struggles lately. Realizing that for myself that my pursuing medical school might not be realistic for me. Do I feel I have the capabilities and the intelligence for medical school? I think I do, but at 44 and still at least 2 years out before I would actually be able to start, and that is no guarantee. Sometimes I feel that I’m chasing rainbows, never actually reaching it.

Maybe if I was 10 yrs younger, I would push through…but now, I’m finding myself ready to start back to school…and I realize I don’t want to go towards my BA which is 2 years out, only to find myself having these doubts when I am 46. I guess that is also a reason why I wasn’t going for a biology degree. I’m still planning on getting my bachelors degree, but I think I can still make a difference if I go for my BSW. I’ve already been told by my advisor that I’ve all the prereqs already completed (that’s what happens when you’ve got over 130 credits in the community college system). As a social worker, I’ll have many different areas I can pursue…whether it be a medical social worker, a mental health social worker, etc.

I really want to thank everyone here for the support…it has been through OPM that I’ve been able to process these feelings. This is my individual decision, so for those of you who are new to the boards, don’t take my experiences as your own…if this is what you really want…go for it.

I’ve been skirting around this issue long enough…and the only thing changing is getting older.

I’ll probably visit from time to time if that is okay, as I do look to hear about the successes that I’m sure many of you will have.

If it is meant to be, it will be!

of course it is OK to come and visit. You do what you feel is best for you.

Good Luck

Just wanted to say thanks for sharing and thanks for your past encouragement to everyone on the boards. You have been a real cheerleader for many.

I always wonder what happens to people when they disappear, so I’m glad you didn’t do that! Lots of them drop in for a week and ask a bunch of questions then disappear. Maybe they changed their minds, or just aren’t the forum types. It’s more disturbing when a long-time person drops off the radar. I am always curious about what they decided to do.

As you may remember from my previous posts (and a little snippet of one I made today), I am in a similar position. I’m all but certain I will not apply to med school in the spring. I am strongly considering returning for a graduate engineering degree instead.

I am glad to not be the only one changing course. Social work sounds like a good choice for you, if helping people is truly where your heart is, and you can live without the medical science.

I think others can learn from us. It’s a smart thing to go ahead and take the prereqs (at least a couple) before you write off going to med school. If you just dream about med school and table the dream before taking action (due to $$ or whatever), I believe the desire will keep coming back periodically. Actually doing it – taking classes, volunteering, meeting w/ advisors, visiting med schools – really ensures that you know you made the right choice whether you proceed with med school or go a different path. I even found the subject information learned in the classes I took clarified what the right choice was for me. It was a little weird for me to start down the medical path to get away from engineering only to find my desire was to turn back to engineering in a different capacity. Oh well.

Maybe OPM should have a subforum called “Tangential Medical Careers” and those of us who are exploring other things – medical social work, bioengineering, public health, bioinformatics, neuroscience, pharm, whatever – could hang out there : )

Anyway, good luck to you in whatever you do!


You have been such an encouragement to me. I can certainly understand your position. I have been wrestling with the notion of whether I am chasing a pipedream also. When I read your post, I was actually discouraged. Don’t get me wrong, not because of you, only because of my own doubts because of my age. Thank you for your honesty and being such an encouragement to so many others. I have enjoyed reading your posts.

Hello Kriss,

Thank you for this posting. I have found the posts on this site to be extremely thoughtful. I didn’t read them to get advice about what choice to make, but they have helped me think through what I want to do. Everyone’s decision is highly personal but I think it helps all of us to see how people process their options. Even if, in the end, one decides to do something else.

I’m in a similar boat. I am 46 and have just completed all my pre-med (and nursing and PA) requirements. I did well and, although not positive I would get into medical school, feel like I would have had a strong chance to earn a spot. But after thinking through all the issues I need to consider I have decided to apply to nurse practitioner school. I have a doctorate in anthropology and feel that the NP degree, combined with my cultural skills, will allow me to pursue (almost) all the things I want to do for the rest of my life. I know this is a big caveat but have discovered that life is complicated and “almost all” is not a bad place to be in.

It was not an easy decision. But after sitting with it for a very long time I feel at peace. In the best of circumstances medical professionals are a team and I look forward to combining all the skills I have gained in this life so far (as a student, teacher, mother, daughter, patient, advocate–to name just a few) with those of the physicians, nurses and other healthcare practitioners I will work with once I have my degree.

Thanks for your sharing your thoughts–along with everyone else who has posted.

Wow, Ali, Jerilyn and anthrodoc, you’ve made me teary-eyed. Thanks for the kind words.

  • In reply to:
per Ali, I am glad to not be the only one changing course. Social work sounds like a good choice for you, if helping people is truly where your heart is, and you can live without the medical science.

Well, even though I won't be in the nitty-gritty of medical science, I do still plan on going on beyond my bachelors to my masters, and one of the great offerings at my uni is a dual degree with Public health for a maternal child health mph. So I won't be turning my back on medicine...just a different view. I know that from working in a NICU we've children placed in medical foster homes, something that requires some medical knowledge.

  • In reply to:
per Jerilyn. When I read your post, I was actually discouraged. Don't get me wrong, not because of you, only because of my own doubts because of my age.

Jerilyn, please don't get discouraged. Think of Mary Renard and Linda Wilson...both have succeeded in this dream and became doctors in their late 40s/50s. You can do it too!

  • In reply to:
per anthrodoc. It was not an easy decision. But after sitting with it for a very long time I feel at peace.

Anthrodoc, I couldn't say it better myself. This was the first morning in a while that I woke up feeling this way. And I did feel at peace with my decision.

And don't worry, I will definitely be popping in and out...this is a great group, and whenever I meet someone, I alway refer them to OPM!

I am also one who is all but certain that I will not be applying to medical school. When I started on this journey, many people I meet on OPM were constantly revisiting the question of should or shouldn’t they go to into medicine, with energy and worry wasted on a question that did not need to be answered yet. Until you have a letter of acceptance in your hand, trying to get into medical school is in essence a hypothetical exercise. I also realized that considering the time, effort, and expense that we contemplate in training to be a physician, a few years part time and few thousand dollars for an informal post-bacc is a drop in the bucket. It was worth to effort for me not only to show the medical schools that I could get in, but also show myself if I truly wanted to go.

My philosophy has been to try without worry of should I or shouldn’t I and to instill the same sense into others. To help them organize and study on this difficult path. And to finally, when they get that letter of acceptance, make a thoughtful, informative decision, understanding the impacts this journey will have on themselves and their families.

Personally, i will stay involved with OPM as I think I go some good here helping those who seek to find a path to medicine. What we all should seek rather is a path for our inner selves. That journey will help you make the right decision for your life

Kriss - thank for your replies of advice and encouragement and best of luck in your pursuits.

I’ve enjoyed reading your posts! Best wishes to you in your new pursuit! :slight_smile:

The original question was “when do you know when it’s time to stop chasing your dream”??

I absolutely believe that one of the purposes of us being here is to pursue happiness, and that if you’re no longer fulfilled pursuing a dream, then it’s time to change it whatever that dream is.

I also think it’s key to live the best life possible while in pursuit of that dream, at least that’s what I’m trying to do. And I think the reason I’m content while in pursuit of my dream is because professionally, I found something very fufilling to do while I pursue med school and this to me, makes ALL the difference in the world.

Best of luck with whatever you choose!

  • gonnif Said:
Personally, i will stay involved with OPM as I think I go some good here helping those who seek to find a path to medicine. What we all should seek rather is a path for our inner selves. That journey will help you make the right decision for your life

And you DO!!!

You are also my connection to LI which I miss very much!

So why not try and pursue a PA position? Just throwing options out to keep you in the healthcare realm…

Best of luck to you, in whatever it is you decide to pursue! I am sure more of us will be in your position at some point and be forced into a corner of decision…

This thread has been nigh devastating to take in. No one can start on this particular journey without being prepared to assume some degree of risk, which unfortunately is pretty high no matter who you are. Doubts are a natural, unavoidable component of an undertaking like this one. I would prefer to say that maybe you are not abandoning a “pipe dream” but are simply opting for a different path.

Though I am a new member of the boards, and though I might not ultimately cross the finish line, it’s still very sad to see attrition taking its toll on individuals whose guidance and opinions I have come to respect. Especially for Gonnif and Krisss – it is tough to see the lights down the road winking out.

I hope that whatever the future holds, you are fulfilled, and I truly hope you continue to visit the boards, as I am sure you have helped more people than just myself.

And if you ever decide to reconsider I am fully behind you 100%

  • hawkunit Said:
....it is tough to see the lights down the road winking out.

Well, I don't really see it that way... instead it seems that gonnif and Kriss are seeing lights down a different road. Lights that weren't as clear when they started out.

I will not kid anyone, this is HARD. Those of you who were at the conference heard me (and others) say that while we'd do it again (the title of the session was "Would You Do It Again?"), it was much, much harder to be out in practice than we envisioned. Getting past residency is not the Holy Grail of freedom and opportunity that we envisioned. At the end of the day it's a very hard job, even more demanding of our time than we could have imagined, with more worries and pitfalls than we envisioned.

So I don't grieve for anyone who has found that they can be happy and achieve valuable goals without practicing medicine. I think that a key attribute of the whole pre-med process should be self-discernment: what do you really want from your life? What are your key priorities? What is it you want to accomplish? In the process of defining these things, you may find that you have options you didn't realize. Choosing to pursue another option rather than medicine is not a negative or a failure, it's a good thing, and I celebrate the clarity with which Kriss and gonnif have explained their process of reaching their conclusions.


Best of luck to you. It is hard to walk this path… I know all too well.

At 44, a month away from 45, it crosses my mind how much stamina I have to continue after last semester and yet, for me, the only thing that makes me smile and buzz inside is textbooks and the folder that says, “xxxx Medical School Admissions”…

If that same buzz does not exist for you, then I applaud the courage you have to step off this path and onto another.

You have the ability to reach people through words and deeds that will not fail you in whatever you choose to do. You have shown compassion to those who needed it here without ever seeing the people behind the monikers.

It takes someone special to do that. That character will suit you well wherever your life takes you.

/hugs Kris!

I for one will miss your posts if you don’t promise to come back to say hello. I’ve gleaned a lot from your input. I won’t lie. Seeing others choose a different path scares me that I may not make it, but on the same token, your own personal happiness is what counts. Best of luck in all you pursue. It will all be worth it in the end.

Kriss, I have always enjoyed your posts and your support for all of those who are on this path. I am sad to see you go, but I applaud you for having another dream and goal for which to strive.

Keep in touch with us. OPM is still your family!

Thank you all for your kind words! It means a lot to me because I do feel that OPM is like family to me.

I’m sorry that this may have caused some of you to have doubts of your own. All I can say is that if this is what you really want to do, keep your eyes on those that have been steadfast and reached their goal of getting into and finishing med school (Mary, Linda, Old Man Dave, etc.). I truly believe that if it is meant to be, it will. Some doubts and concerns are normal because this is not an easy path to take…becoming a doctor. But if you can close your eyes and see yourself graduating medical school, caring for patients, etc., then this is the right path. The thing is you can’t force the vision…it will either be there or it won’t, and I think I was forcing it, because before I felt that if I gave up on this…I’d be a failure. But I know I am not, I just realize that it is not my path, not my vision.

I love this board, and I enjoying helping people succeed in whatever they want to succeed in. I also love to learn…I kid, but not totally, that I’ll still be going to school when I’m ready to collect social security. So if some of that knowledge can help others, it is totally worth it.

Again thank you for your kind words!

I guess I have been one of those that started posting allot when I found this site. After awhile I didn’t think that I had anything important to add to the dicussions. I have also been reviewing whether or not a career in Emergency Medicine is in my future. One thing that has me worried is the proposed Health Care bill. But, after taking in all of the things that could go wrong, I compared them to why I really want to be an ER Doc. I came to the conclusion that I really want to help people and that even though I have reservations, I have to take the risk. Whenever I begin to doubt my decision I often read this quote from the President of my Church:

“Study and prepare for your life’s work in a field that you enjoy, because you are going to spend a good share of your life in that field. . . .

“Have discipline in your preparations. Have checkpoints where you can determine if you’re on course.

“I hope that you are not afraid of tough classes. I never did have a ‘cinch’ class. I hope that you are not afraid of lengthy periods of preparation. Burn the midnight oil. Don’t procrastinate like my older sister, who after a late date rationalized, ‘I have a test tomorrow, but I am weary. What is more important, my health or my test? Aha, my health! I need my sleep.’ So she slept. I won’t say what happened to the test.

“You simply have to apply yourself. I hope that you want to be so well equipped that you can compete in this competitive world. I hope that you will learn to take responsibility for your decisions, whether they be in your courses of study which you elect to take, or whether they be in the direction of the academic attainments which you strive to achieve.

“Should you become discouraged or feel burdened down, remember that others have passed this same way; they have endured and then have achieved. When we have done all that we are able to do, we can then rely on God’s promised help.”

Hey guys … just wanted to tender an apology for my earlier post; I confess it was a bit of a knee jerk reaction. I really am behind you 100% no matter what you decide to do as long as you are satisfied with it. Life is anything but easy and tough decisions are always a messy affair. If you have arrived at a place where you no longer have any doubts (or at least few enough to make a decision) then I stand behind you all the way. Good luck in everything you do – please stay part of the community!