I graduated high school in 2011 with the dream of becoming a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. I majored in biology and did everything I could to build my resume, which would later serve as my golden ticket to medical school; I had a great GPA, I was a Resident Assistant, I was a biology and chemistry tutor, I was in the Honor’s Program at UC, I volunteered, and I started a 5K that raised money for an organization local to my hometown. I was committed to my “dream”.
I decided to apply early decision to a medical school that will remain unnamed during my sophomore year of college. The application was solely based on my current GPA, my resume, and my SAT score. My SAT score was garbage; probably because I took it as a junior in high school and don’t recall studying for it one bit (bleh). So, in lieu of SAT scores, the admissions department would accept ACT scores. I didn’t take the ACT in high school, so as a college sophomore I took the ACT to strengthen my application. I received a score that was 5 points from "perfect”. YAY! My letters of recommendation were strong, my grades were great, my ACT score was well above the requirement. I even visited the school and talked with the admissions counselors before I applied. I applied and didn’t get in. When I called to see why, the committee said it was because of my SAT scores. My first thought: WHAT?! I took the ACT so you didn’t need to see my SAT scores. *huge eyeroll*
Needless to say, I felt pretty defeated and was very upset. But, I chugged along and continued to strengthen all areas of my medical school application so I’d be better prepared when I applied regular decision the next year. I took the MCAT my junior year of college. I scored well enough to get into medical school. Hooray! Except not.
Everything I had learned about medical school and the profession scared me and made me feel like I was trapped. Being a medical doctor was not for me, I just didn’t want to own up to that. People from my small town all knew what I was going to college for and my parents would be crushed if I changed my career path as a junior in college. Not to mention the embarrassment…
One of my favorite days of college was the day I spent over an hour in the office of one of my biology professors. We talked about how I was chasing a dream that was no longer what I wanted to do. We discussed my options, my strengths and weaknesses, and what I knew I wanted out of life. We planned my next moves.
So what is my point…??
I applied for Early Decision (aka you-must-go-here-upon-graduation) and didn’t get in. Although that seemed like one of the worst results I had ever received, it turns out that it was a blessing in disguise. It really hit home for my when just prior to the National Physical Therapy Exam, my last step before I became a licensed physical therapist, the following facebook memories popped up:
Looking back, I remember writing the first post. I was in the middle of shadowing different careers; nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, physicians assistants. I was carrying out the plan I made with my professor. I was frustrated because I didn’t want to make a mistake and choose the “wrong” career (again). I felt as if I was letting down the people who loved me because I was choosing a new career path.
The second post I wrote just after my senior year. I’m not sure if 18-year-old Lex knew what 26-year-old Lex would be doing in 2019, but this was one hell of a post to come across the day before the licensing exam.
If I could talk to 2014 Lex, I’d let her know that she’s just fine. I get to help people walk again, play with their kids again, and get back to doing what they love. I have been able to facilitate a baby’s first time crawling and experience joy with a patient who hasn’t been able to walk up stairs without pain for years. My journey was not linear and I certainly am not where my 18 year old self imagined I’d be— instead, I’m doing so much more and have the ability to do so much more than I ever imagined.
And to think that I used to be ashamed that I didn’t continue on to medical school after I finished my bachelor’s degree, as if I was a failure…
Bottom line: your journey is yours and yours only. You have to make decisions that will serve you and lead you to a place where you can fulfill your purpose and live a life that will make you happy.
For months I continued down a path I knew I didn’t want to pursue solely because I was afraid to let the people I love down. I was frustrated that I was faced with a roadblock that was actually one of the biggest blessings I could have received.
So, I think 18-year-old Lex hit it on the head with a quote that was likely from Grey’s Anatomy;)
“Decide what you want. Believe you can have it, believe you deserve it, believe it’s possible for you.”