Two nights ago, I was sitting around a campfire with friends on the beach here in Grenada. We were having a great time celebrating a friend’s 30th birthday. In a moment of quiet reflection that tends to happen around campfires, we asked each other, “Did you ever think you’d end up here?”
I mean, there we were, 8 adults who used to have careers and normal lives sitting there on this tiny little island in the middle of the Caribbean thousands of miles away from home.
Among the medical school students that were around our campfire, we had a former chemist, two people who worked in organ transplant, a former firefighter, and two friends who have been sober for 5+ years. Then, we had three of us “significant others,” supporters of the students. One was a nurse, one did marketing for a company, and then there was yours truly – a former park ranger.
Sitting there with my friends, I was struck pretty heavily at all the different paths we took to get here. We’re all different ages and at different points in our lives. We have different backgrounds. We’re from different places all over the United States. We have different accents, different experiences, and different ways of dealing with the immense stress that is medical school.
Then, if you widen the scope to look at the 5,000 students that are here, you’ll see even more unique paths. You’ll get to know people from all over the world with completely different backgrounds. Some people here are paying for their education with loans. Some are paying in cash. Some people’s parents fly them first class to and from the island every single time and take care of all of their tuition and fees. Some people live on a boat. Some people live in a resort. Some people live in 270 square feet. Some people grew up wealthy, some grew up middle class, and some literally grew up in a poor village in Africa.
So, because of all of these different experiences and all these different people, it can be hard for others to grasp what it’s like here. It’s hard to explain it.
My experience here over the last 2.5 years has been one of ups and downs. I’ve said it once on this little blog, and I’ll say it again: This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and I’m not even the one in school!)
Being married to someone in medical school can at times be pretty awful. The worst part is that no one wants to talk about it. Lots of people here pretend that it’s okay, that their lives and their marriages and their children are perfect. But, no one’s perfect.
Being the wife of a medical school student means that you give up those early years of marriage where you’re supposed to spend time together before having kids. Or, if you have kids, it means that your husband or wife who used to help you wrangle your kids and go on fun activities can’t do it anymore because they’re studying.
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me, “It’s going to be so worth it when he makes a doctor’s salary!” I wouldn’t be in so much debt. It’s also really frustrating when others tell us that they understand because they/their friend/their spouse did it years ago. The truth is, healthcare, the economy, and this loan situation (bye bye subsidized!) have changed so much just in the last year that our situation is now completely unique to us.
So, did I ever imagine myself here being an expat, working on an island, and supporting a med student spouse? No, definitely not!
If I wouldn’t have taken this path, I would be working in a museum in Virginia. I would likely be happy doing that. However, my path has completely changed directions. Without coming here, I wouldn’t have become so interested in finance. I wouldn’t have started staff writing for so many blogs. I wouldn’t know that I love what I do. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have time to do what I do outside of my 9-5. I’d have a husband who was off of work and kids and probably another dog. Right now, I have a husband who studies late every night, so I can do my blog thang without guilt. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I’m proud of how hard we both work. However, I am craving a little more balance lately, and I’m really nervous about how stressful school is going to get over the next few weeks.
So, enough about me. Now, tell me about you. Did you expect to be doing what you’re doing now? Could you have ever imagined being where you are 5 years ago?