made a new account for this because I want to keep my personal history pretty personal.
I'm gonna start my non-trad story with I never wanted to go to med school. People ask (based on the undergrad program I was enrolled in and pressured (Asian parents) me to go to med school and I told them to f* off.
Even though I was never intended to go to med school, I couldn't deny that I was interested in physiology of the human body.
I had a rough childhood. My father molested me for almost 10 years and was a gambler who pushed our family to financial ruin. He eventually ended up homeless after my parents divorced. My mother was generally neglectful and tended to focus on herself (in one instance, she won't let me use the only computer we had to finish a school project because she also had a project to work on, then proceeded to wake me up at 2am to tell me that I can do my school work now). All to say, school was the only place I was happy. I lived off the praise of my teachers and the warmth of my friends. My life was school and I didn't see how I could live without it. I also saw it as a way out of my family.
When I entered UG, I did so with a small scholarship due to having good grades in high school. It occurred to me that good grades = money. And obviously money = not homeless. (My parents were not supporting me and for a while, I had to financially support my father.) So I kept my GPA up. I got involved with research mostly because it paid. In hindsight, I could've worked at bars or something and get paid there, but I was still terrified of life outside of school so I kept my employment opportunities within academia. I discovered that I really liked research in second year UG and figured that I'll be doing a PhD after UG and stay in academia for the rest of my life. I buried myself in school, shunning all manner of social life and extracurriculars (save for my research lab).
My UG program was a small honors program within biomedical sciences, where 9 out of 10 people were aiming for med school (you can guess it, I'm the 1 out 10 who wasn't interested in medicine). I used to look at the premeds I was in school with with disdain - thinking they were all running around volunteering, VP something to get an extra line on their CV. In hindsight, I think part of the disdain may have been envy because I didn't have the luxury of volunteering even if I wanted to. I could never take the summer off because I'd have no money for rent. Staying at home with parents was out of the question (one Christmas, my mom and I ate nothing but potato and mayonnaise for the entire two weeks because that's how empty the fridge had become).
I got accepted to a prestigious lab in Europe with a handsome stipend of 27 000 EUR. It was supposed to be a dream come true. Only it wasn't. I moved to Europe only to face culture shock, language shock, and a complete lack of guidance at the lab. I realized I didn't like research as much as I thought. All my previous lab experience involved working with a partner or mentor. In Europe, I was given a bench, a set of pipette and told to just do something. I missed the human contact. I also realized that which I do still like research, I only liked research if I can see how it could be applied to a human problem. I was wholly uninterested in basic research of mechanism and genes. I lasted less than a year, but it was there that I remember thinking for the first time that I might want to go to med school.
I came back to Canada and started a Master's in a different field. A part of me was not ready to accept that the entire life path I had laid out for myself was not meant to be. My master's only proved my initial instinct right. As I came to accept that I will not be happy in research, I started searching frantically for alternatives. There was a lot of soul searching during my two years of my master's. Beyond trying to figure out what I wanted, I started caring more about passing on what I have learned to others when it is of help. I was no longer in "survival" mode. Finances started to get better at the end of my UG with my father being out of the picture after both my mom and I put our feet down and stopped supporting him. I had started dealing with the near decade of molestation that left me unable to form relationships with people. My stipend from Europe left me with a few thousand in savings. I was also getting a livable stipend for my Master's. For once, I could do what I wanted to do rather than what I had to do to keep a roof over my head. I realized that you can't help others until you can help yourself. Until then, I couldn't help others because I myself needed all the help I could provide. I started volunteering with groups that work with disadvantaged populations.
Around this time, I was considering med school more seriously. I started asking friends about the process, but I was still hesitating. I don't think I believed that I could get in. I knew that the odds of acceptance were crazy low and you basically needed a 4.0, a ton of ECs and a stellar MCAT. I had high enough GPA (thank you, fear), but not much for ECs and definitely no MCAT. I was scared of the MCAT because, again, I know that people take months to study and the exam itself was hundreds of dollars. I would not be able to afford writing it multiple times in a year and by the time I decided I was going to apply to med, it was already Aug and I didn't think I had the time to study. The cost of the application still scared me. Oct 1 rolled by and I'd basically convinced myself that next year is when I'd apply. Meanwhile, I was pretty unhappy with my master's. I hated how it was me, at my computer, by myself all the live long day. October 18 was day I broke. I remember that someone told me McGill does not require the MCAT. I went on McGill's admission website and lo and behold, I had 13 days more days before the deadline. 13 days to prepare an app. By then, I was willing to try anything. I pulled my app together. Submitted everything by Oct 28. 6 months later, I got my acceptance and the rest is history.
I didn't want to be a doctor since I was a little girl (in truth, I wanted to be a marine biologist and chase after whales). I didn't fit in premed cookie cutter. I'm still having a hard time finding a social group that I belong. But at least I know I'm in the right place now. After seeing my preceptor helping a family get free infant formula (the mother couldn't produce breast milk), advocating for her patients through divorces and custody battles with abusive ex's I feel like this is a profession where I could do everything I feel is important to do.