So, I used to have this dream…
No, not that kind of dream. Pervs.
But, yeah, all kidding aside, I used to have this dream. Not so much medical school – of course that was my dream, since I was ten, but that’s large, nebulous. This was a dream in the specific, the mundane.
I used to dream about calling my mom and telling her I’d got accepted to medical school.
See, the every time I got rejected, I’d have to call my mom and I’d tell her, “I don’t have any good news for you.” Now, this call was always easier to my dad – he loves me, but he’s not really a big emotions kind of guy, so calling him with bad news was always easier. My mom, on the other hand, is all about big emotions. She’s so empathetic, and I’m her first child – “her brightest star” – so every disappointment of mine was a disappointment of her own. And after 2 cycles of getting rejected, we were both pretty familiar with that particular disappointment. But in those nebulous months, between interviewing and waiting to hear your fate – those magical, terrible months when anything is possible – I used to imagine what it would be like to finally be able to call my mom and tell her “I’ve got some good news for you.” I imagined it a whole bunch of ways – pretending that I hadn’t got in so I could really hit her with the news (rejected on being kind of mean), to just blurting it out in what I imagined would be my emotional storm, and the satisfaction of being able to say that to her.
Naturally, real life isn’t a dream. But sometimes, it’s a darn good story on it’s own. So, in the spirit of something a little more uplifting than usual, here’s the surprisingly long story – apologies again – of how I finally got to make that phone call to my mother.
When I went into the 2014 application cycle, it was my third cycle of applying. I’d graduated in 2012, and spent 15 months in Toronto with my dad working. September 2013 saw me back at Dal as a post-bacc, doing a special undergraduate year to pick up some pre-recs I had elected not to take in undergrad so I could focus on my thesis. I’d already decided this was to be my hail mary year – I was going to apply to as many schools as I could, no matter the low chances due to residency. So, with that in mind, I took 2 biochem courses (and a genetics course as a pre-rec to one of them), 2nd semester ochem, and, just for laughs, 2 english courses. The english was only a pre-rec for MUN (Memorial University of Newfoundland), and MUN only takes 5 out of province students every year. If I couldn’t get accepted to Dal, with the advantage of being in province, how was I ever going to get accepted to MUN, I thought. But, hey, at that point I was doing 10 apps, so what was one more, right? Nothing to lose but the application fee I figured.
So I sent all my apps out, and I got two interviews – one to Dal (all in province students get one, and as I went to high school in NS, the school considered me in province, even though I’d lived in Ontario for 15 months) and one to MUN. Now, Dal and MUN both interview in November and send out letters in the spring, whereas most schools don’t even invite interviews until spring (so I was yet unaware of any of the other apps – all pre-interview rejects, in the spirit of full confession). But I felt pretty honored to get an interview at MUN, though I kept it pretty low key in my mind. 5 seats and 200 people interviewed for those 5 seats? That’s a 1/40 shot, and pretty ridiculous odds. But an interview was an interview, and I was going to give it my all. MUN and Dal were only one week apart – with MUN being the first weekend, and Dal the second. I’d interviewed at Dal twice already, and was pretty familiar with their MMI, but MUN was doing a hybrid MMI traditional, and I’d only done something like that once before at Queens. So I took an MMI/Interview Prep Course (I’m going to elaborate on this later in a separate interview post), bought a new suit, got a haircut and a manicure, and I headed off to my interviews. Both of them felt really good – the new strategy provided by the course made me feel a lot more secure – so I was cautiously optimistic about how they’d went.
Then, of course, I waited (see previous post on my feelings on that) and I finally got the email from Dal first, which I opened with trembling hands.
Well. Better than rejected, certainly, but not exactly what I’d wanted to hear. By then I’d pretty much gotten all the other rejections, and although I’d not heard from MUN, I’d never had my hopes up there. I made a call to my mom – not the call I’d dreamed of, but not rejected at least. Step in the right direction I supposed. And then, as the month creeped by when MUN was releasing their wait-listed and accepted out of province letters (rejected OOP would be notified a month or two later) I figured that was probably it for that.
And then I got a letter from MUN. Wait-listed.
Well, this was definitely not what I’d been expecting, but it too was better than rejected. Still, I’d been wait-listed at Queens before and nothing had come of it, so I made myself think of it as a rejection. Getting your hopes up for nothing is a terrible thing, and I couldn’t do that again. So, I headed back to Ontario for the summer, started my summer job and applied to my temporary plan B (second bachelors – not for the grades, but for something to do) and figured that would be it. I’d have to apply for a forth cycle, and then I’d also just take the LSAT and apply to law school, and see where the chips lay. It wasn’t a happy thought, by any means, but it was realistic at least, I thought. Four cycles was going to be it for me. I wanted to get on with my life.
And then, I went to my first volunteering shift on June the 13th at a hospital where I’d volunteered the past year. I knew one or two of the people, but most of them were new to me (I was volunteering in the same position – wheelchair transport for seniors, but on a different day) so I was talking to them and getting to know them. The shift started at 12:30, but nothing ever happened until 1:30, so we had sometime to talk.
And then, perhaps at 12:35 – after only 5 minutes of being there – my phone rang.
Now, I didn’t want to take a call in the wheelchair room, so I, and another person who’d gotten a call at the same time, both ducked out of the room to take our calls. I ducked into the tiny break room we had, with the coffee maker, and finally looked at the number.
It was a Newfoundland area code.
Now, I’ve already mentioned my thoughts on false hope, so I clamped down any feeling like that – it wasn’t what I thought it was, it was just something about my application they needed clarification on or the like – and I picked up the phone.
It was a woman’s voice, who asked to speak to me (I don’t answer with my name). I told her this was me speaking, and then she asked me if I remembered that I’d been placed on a wait-list for MUN med.
I said I certainly did. That I held back the fact that I would have been unable to forget even if I’d suffered a traumatic brain injury to myself showed great restraint I think.
And then she said the words I’d been waiting three years to hear – “A place has opened up, and we are offering it to you. Are you still interested?”
My exact words were, “You are my favorite person in the world right now. Yes, I am certainly interested and I absolutely accept the spot.”
I can’t remember the name of the woman that was on the other end. We talked for probably five minutes more after that, and it was only the most important phone call of my life as to date, but I can’t remember her name. It’s not really of consequence that I can’t, but it certainly speaks to my mental state at the time. There aren’t words to describe how I felt in that moment – I was happy, I was thrilled, I was shaking, and I felt like I was possibly going to have a heart attack.
This was the sight that greeted the volunteer room, and as I must of looked like the worlds happiest heart attack victim, they asked me what had happened.
And so the first people I told that I had gotten into medical school were a room of people I had only met for 5 minutes. They were all pretty thrilled for me, but they weren’t the people I wanted to tell. So, a bit dazed and sheepish, I asked, “Can I call my parents?”
I’m pretty sure my supervisor laughed at me, and told me to go and do just that. So, shaking and still basically out of my head, I walked back into the break room to finally make that call to my mom that I had been dreaming about. I called her work number, and she didn’t pick up, which is when I remembered it was Friday, and her day off. So, I called her home number. No answer. Now, my mother has a cell phone, but reaching her on it is like throwing darts at a target in the dark. If you get a bullseye, it’s only out of sheer luck. But I couldn’t imagine having to wait for hours to get a hold of her, so I gave it a try.
And on the third ring she picked up.
Now, I’ll admit that I was so surprised I’d gotten her on her cell that my actual first words were “Wow, I got you on your cell,” which she laughed at as well, mentioning she was shopping in Winners and had actually almost lost her phone 5 minutes ago and that was the only reason it was in her hand when I called. My mother, in a nutshell. But by that point I couldn’t keep it in anymore, and I finally got to say the words that I’d dreamed of for years.
“Mom, I’ve got some good news for you.”
Now, by then she was a bit wary of getting her hopes up to, and so she asked me what about, and I, almost tripping over my words, told her I’d been offered a place at MUN medical school off of the wait-list and I’d accepted.
She cried. Right in the drapery section of Winners she started crying, and she ended up having to sit down on one of the display couches. It was somehow both everything and nothing that’d I’d imagined all at the same time, and although it’s been almost a month since that call, sometimes, in the strangest moments, I still find myself riding the high of that feeling.
So, yeah, I’ve focused on the disappointments a bit more on this blog so far, because for the most part, the road until you’re no longer a “pre-med” is full of disappointments. But if you take one thing away from my ramble, or from this entire little blog experiment, let it be this. All that stress, all that worry, all that work and studying and activities and interview prep? The MCAT, and the stress of interviews, and the rejections?
This feeling makes them all worth it. I promise it does, and one day, when you feel it yourself, I know you’ll agree.