Did You Ever Think You’d End Up Here?

DSCN0650Two 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?

About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford aka "Cat" is a personal finance freelance writer who currently lives in the Caribbean with her husband and spoiled pup, Julep. To learn more about her writing services, please visit her Hire Me page or e-mail her at Cat[at]BudgetBlonde[dot]com. Follow her on Google + to get all the latest updates.

Lovely comments:

  1. I have often had those moments. “How did I get here?” I think those thoughts just hit you all of a sudden. I don’t feel that way about my career, with the exception that I’m sometimes sad that I used to make a good salary at what I did and now I don’t, but I just think about the people I know and where I live. I think if one thing didn’t happen, I might not be in LA, or this apartment, or whatever. I’m not sure why that hits us all of a sudden.

  2. 5 years ago? Who knows what I was thinking? But hopefully we’ve got some more direction and focus for our next 5 years, so we’ll see if that plan works out. =)

    As for living with a med student, I never technically have – but when I was in high school, I babysat for a family where the dad was a surgical intern. They had 3 kids, and mom worked full time, and dad in med school and interning at the hospital were a real drag on the whole family. The kids never saw enough of dad (when he was home he just wanted to decompress with video games or sleep), and mom didn’t trust him to watch the kids properly, so I would be hired to come over sometimes even when he was off work to take the kids to the neighborhood pool. I found out that they divorced not too long after I went to college, and I wasn’t all that surprised. I don’t think becoming a dr was the reason for the divorce, but it definitely added another stress to their lives that they didn’t deal with all that well.

  3. LOVE this post! :) We are constantly thinking about this and what different things we could have done would have led us. We are always dreaming of where life will take us now also.

  4. Oh man…there is no way I could have imagined where I am now, five years ago. Granted I am not living in Grenada, but I am doing things that I would not have imagined…such as blogging 5x/week, working in corporate finance at one of the biggest companies in the US, married to an amazing woman, and (very) recently bought a house and became a landlord. There’s a long ways to go before I reach certain goals, like having an adequate emergency fund, have a certain amount of side income each month, etc., but I am enjoying the ride (as scary as it may be sometimes).

    My wife and I both work 40-50 hours a week, plus do a lot of stuff on the side that takes up time. I won’t pretend to say “I know how you feel” but I have sometimes hit a wall as far as being overtired, stressed out, and not having nearly as much time just to relax with my wife. Personally I just keep pushing forward with things and keep telling myself tomorrow is another day and that long-term we are making smart investments now for our future (just like med school and staff writing is for you guys).

  5. Great post! I never could’ve imagined that we would be doing what we’re doing five years ago. I look back at all the craziness and all the twists and turns and I believe I can say that I am truly happy where we are. That’s not to say that I would not change anything over the last five years, but the place we’re at now is a good one.

  6. I honestly had no clue where I would be 5 years ago and doubt I would think I would end up in Florida. I am glad I have made it to

  7. Five years ago I planned that I`d finished my education, and would be a teacher by now. Instead I got delayed several years by chronic illness and a struggling financial situation. But I there´s nothing I can do to change what has happened, so I try not to think about it too much, and instead I try to look forward!

  8. Yes… Sounds like a social experiment, for sure… But, it’s got a killer view!

  9. Awesome post! I do sometimes look back on life as it was 5 years ago and where I am now is definitely not where I thought I would be. I had left the person who I thought was initially the love of my life and unfortunately did not end up being so. But now, I am with the right person, living in a house I love, working with an organization where I can carve out a career path. Since nobody can really predict the future, we never to know where to expect to end up. Life is full of surprises and can throw you some curve balls!

  10. Wow, I love that. You guys are in such a beautiful and unique place to be asking that question. Did I think I’d be where I am five years ago? Heck, no. But I’m so, so glad I am. I am so much happier with my choice of partner, my kids, and life in general. It was a hard decision to take the hidden fork in the road, but it was absolutely the right one.

  11. Cat, great post, makes me reflect on how blessed I am, although maybe being in the Caribbean for a few days in February would help a bit! ;-)

  12. Love this post. It’s something that I think about a lot these days. I never thought I’d be living in NYC (had little desire to even go to NYC 5 years ago). So much has been unplanned (in a good way) in my life. I’m sort of just letting things happen the way that they happen and going along for the ride. So far the “ride” has been really great.

  13. The simple answer, NO. I had no idea I would end up leaving my homeland in the UK, end up in Canada, married and going back to school to start a new life. I now have a great job, an amazing wife, a home and a good life. I miss my family all the time but this is the path I chose and I know I will be back soon one day to see them. Sometimes we learn who we are after figuring it all out and it works out in the end with patience. You will see. Cheers and thanks for sharing this mate.

  14. I actually did envision myself working and doing what I doing now 5 years ago. The path to get there was, however very different. I work in a different career than what I originally studied and I always had a dream of starting my business just I didn’t ever think it was going to be an online business. If we have a clear vision of what we want in life and make definite plans then I think we are on our way to getting the most of our lives.

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