Everything was external to me, a force dictating my future that I had no control over. I wanted desperately to be a medical student, but didn't seem to know how to make admissions committees pay attention to me, see past my white skin and nontraditional science major and frustratingly low MCAT score to my strengths of empathy and love of medicine. My workouts during those months were hours of kickboxing, my muscles toned and body thin with the effort of trying to punch and kick myself out of this box of uncertainty and desperation.
Fast forward four years. I'm graduating from medical school in a few months, and on the interview trail for a residency position. In many respects, it's similar to applying to medical school. You prepare written statements, an online application, and visit for an interview. But for me, it was all different. I didn't fit into my old suit, my body no longer skinny from unhappy workouts stemming from a lack of contentment and control. I bought a skirt suit that skimmed my new curves, strong legs and hips from hours of happy, thoughtful running and hiking with my new dog and husband. The new suit, a dark gray with a collar that cascaded down in a gentle ruffle, felt to me to represent a little of my personality- polished, yet fun with some unexpected detail. My formerly nude nail polish was replaced by a cheerful pink plaid on my toes, peeking out from those same pumps, and my nondescript white blouse replaced by a bright blue top that turned my hair auburn and showed my personality a little bit more. The generic black briefcase wasn't there; I opted for my pink, blue, and tan patchwork Coach tote. I don't like wearing my hair down or eyeshadow, and this interview sported a dressy ponytail and clean eyes. I wasn't going into the interview as a blank slate, available to be designed into anything they wanted. I was going in dressed in things that I liked, knowing things I liked about the program and things I like about myself. The balance shifted between me needing to be a good fit for them to needing to be a good fit for each other.
So, it was a much happier interview than a few years ago. I've gained a little more style, power, knowledge, and a lot more confidence. The transformation from wanna-be student to almost-doctor was evident in these similar, but very different encounters. There's a change from a frozen, headache-inducing smile to an easy, genuine one. This is a happy metamorphosis, and one that I am proud of, for the health of both my patients and myself.