What Didn’t Happen: Reflecting on My Choices in College

I am a writer. I write about experiences and anecdotes that I believe are worth sharing. I write about thoughts I wish to express. I write about my work, my struggles, and about the mundane because it is within the details of our lives and our stories that we find and make connections. It is why storytelling matters. Not everyone is a writer, but everyone has a story; I write to share these stories and to make these connections.

When I first started college, however, this wasn’t the case. I wasn’t a writer, or, at least, I did not regard myself as such.

I had never planned on becoming one, thinking it just wasn’t feasible for me. After all, pursuing a health profession is already hard enough, and at the time, I was set on pursuing medicine and only medicine, limiting myself before I even knew what was possible.

As a freshman, I was a “checklist applicant,” which means I focused solely on taking STEM classes, finding volunteer opportunities in hospitals, and doing anything else related to pursuing a health profession. I took chemistry, biology, calculus, and human physiology, all at the same time, spending hours in the Shields Library writing and rewriting my notes.

You could often find me with my papers, laptop, and colored pens spread out before me as I drew diagrams and structures over and over again. When I wasn’t studying, I was going to every pre-health-related workshops or club meetings that I could.

Writing was an afterthought, something I did only when I was required to, mainly due to lack of time. It wasn’t that I didn’t like writing; on the contrary, I loved it and still do, but I had set it aside, thinking I needed to do so. I had told myself that one day, perhaps after becoming a physician, I could also become a writer, but I didn’t think that I could do both simultaneously.

I had thought that I needed to choose one over the other. It was a choice I did not have to make, but one that has made all the difference.

Looking back, do I wish I could have done things differently? Perhaps. I wish I could say no, that I wouldn’t change anything if I had the chance. After all, the sum of our experiences, our accomplishments, and our tribulations shape who we are today.

Yet, I sometimes wonder, as I lay in bed during the few minutes before I fall asleep, as I stand along the shoreline with my toes beneath the sand, and as I choose sciences over humanities when picking my classes, what if? What if I had not majored in the life sciences? What if I had not chosen to pursue medicine?

Had I not done so, I don’t think I would have chosen the major that I did. I would have chosen something in the social sciences or humanities: psychology or sociology, or maybe even English. I would have taken less science classes and more classes that I wish I could take now. I would have written a lot more, whether through school papers or my own personal pieces, and I would have engaged with a lot more professors, talking to them about topics such as character dialogue and culture rather than protein NMRs and the aromaticity of benzene.

I would have explored other opportunities besides volunteering at hospitals and scribing, such as joining The Aggie newspaper and writing articles, as opposed to creating patient info packets and setting up exam rooms. I would have pursued a master’s in writing program rather than applying to medical school.

I could have done so many other things, but, at the same time, I wouldn’t have experienced all that I did.

I wouldn’t have made the friends that I have now, ones that randomly surprise me with cake—chocolate, of course—when I need it most, and ones that I now consider lifelong friends. I wouldn’t have had the amazing job I have now as a peer advisor and program coordinator, meeting and guiding hundreds of students towards their own dreams.

I also wouldn’t have become the woman I am today, one who has been through a lot of ups and downs trying to figure out her own path and one who is stronger because of that. For that reason, even though there may still be things I wish I can take back or change, ultimately, I do not regret what could have happened.

As I finish up my last quarter of college, taking my last courses and getting ready to apply to medical school, I now have a different picture of the future. It is no longer just medicine or just writing. Rather, I now see a picture of both, because within the medicine, beyond the sciences, there is always a human being, and every human being has a story. Through narrative medicine, I have found my path in medicine and writing.

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As a senior at UC Davis pursuing a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology, & Behavior and a Professional Writing minor, I am also a peer advisor and a program coordinator for our Health Professions Advising Center. Through my roles, I meet and work with many students and organizations through advising, putting on workshops and special events, such as the UCD Pre-Health Conference, and creating material for students to use. I love working with people, along with reading, writing, and trying new things.

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What Didn’t Happen: Reflecting on My Choices in College

I am a writer. I write about experiences and anecdotes that I believe are worth sharing. I write about thoughts I wish to express. I write about my work, my struggles, and about the mundane because it is within the details of our lives and our stories that we find and make connections. It is why storytelling matters. Not everyone is a writer, but everyone has a story; I write to share these stories and to make these connections.

When I first started college, however, this wasn’t the case. I wasn’t a writer, or, at least, I did not regard myself as such.

I had never planned on becoming one, thinking it just wasn’t feasible for me. After all, pursuing a health profession is already hard enough, and at the time, I was set on pursuing medicine and only medicine, limiting myself before I even knew what was possible.

As a freshman, I was a “checklist applicant,” which means I focused solely on taking STEM classes, finding volunteer opportunities in hospitals, and doing anything else related to pursuing a health profession. I took chemistry, biology, calculus, and human physiology, all at the same time, spending hours in the Shields Library writing and rewriting my notes.

You could often find me with my papers, laptop, and colored pens spread out before me as I drew diagrams and structures over and over again. When I wasn’t studying, I was going to every pre-health-related workshops or club meetings that I could.

Writing was an afterthought, something I did only when I was required to, mainly due to lack of time. It wasn’t that I didn’t like writing; on the contrary, I loved it and still do, but I had set it aside, thinking I needed to do so. I had told myself that one day, perhaps after becoming a physician, I could also become a writer, but I didn’t think that I could do both simultaneously.

I had thought that I needed to choose one over the other. It was a choice I did not have to make, but one that has made all the difference.

Looking back, do I wish I could have done things differently? Perhaps. I wish I could say no, that I wouldn’t change anything if I had the chance. After all, the sum of our experiences, our accomplishments, and our tribulations shape who we are today.

Yet, I sometimes wonder, as I lay in bed during the few minutes before I fall asleep, as I stand along the shoreline with my toes beneath the sand, and as I choose sciences over humanities when picking my classes, what if? What if I had not majored in the life sciences? What if I had not chosen to pursue medicine?

Had I not done so, I don’t think I would have chosen the major that I did. I would have chosen something in the social sciences or humanities: psychology or sociology, or maybe even English. I would have taken less science classes and more classes that I wish I could take now. I would have written a lot more, whether through school papers or my own personal pieces, and I would have engaged with a lot more professors, talking to them about topics such as character dialogue and culture rather than protein NMRs and the aromaticity of benzene.

I would have explored other opportunities besides volunteering at hospitals and scribing, such as joining The Aggie newspaper and writing articles, as opposed to creating patient info packets and setting up exam rooms. I would have pursued a master’s in writing program rather than applying to medical school.

I could have done so many other things, but, at the same time, I wouldn’t have experienced all that I did.

I wouldn’t have made the friends that I have now, ones that randomly surprise me with cake—chocolate, of course—when I need it most, and ones that I now consider lifelong friends. I wouldn’t have had the amazing job I have now as a peer advisor and program coordinator, meeting and guiding hundreds of students towards their own dreams.

I also wouldn’t have become the woman I am today, one who has been through a lot of ups and downs trying to figure out her own path and one who is stronger because of that. For that reason, even though there may still be things I wish I can take back or change, ultimately, I do not regret what could have happened.

As I finish up my last quarter of college, taking my last courses and getting ready to apply to medical school, I now have a different picture of the future. It is no longer just medicine or just writing. Rather, I now see a picture of both, because within the medicine, beyond the sciences, there is always a human being, and every human being has a story. Through narrative medicine, I have found my path in medicine and writing.

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