Former Medical Student Finds Happiness In Teaching
An Interview for Ripple News
“I was in med school for about two years but I quit. I was depressive coming into med school already and the whole experience of being there made it worse. Towards the end of it, I was really depressed. I was not really succeeding but I was still getting by. In the end, I became so depressed I couldn’t study for any tests.
Medicine is such an institution. You get in and they tell you, ‘this is what you’re going to do for the next 50 years of your life.’ That was really overwhelming for me. I couldn’t just be pigeonholed into doing one thing. I thought that I would have more freedom as a doctor but you really don’t. And I was surrounded by all these med students who were ready to do just that — they were ready to do just one thing! I didn’t really like my classmates that much. I got along with some of them. Some of them dropped out too.
I made the decision to quit three years ago. It’s a really big decision to quit because there’s a lot of investment to get into med school. What made me decide in the end was seeing so many sick patients, day in and day out. One after the other, just so, so sick. That was not making my depression better. Eventually I just couldn’t do it. I would say to myself, ‘I can’t go into work today.’
You’re only allowed one sick day per rotation, that’s one day every three months or so. If you take more than that you have to think about redoing it. So one day I took a sick day, and then I decided, well, I’m not going in the next day either. I then decided to take a leave of absence. I left med school for a bit, came back for three months, did some more of it, then couldn’t do it again.
I was very sad because I thought that medicine would be the only way that I could find meaning in my work. But I found that to be totally wrong. When I started teaching, I found something that was really fun and really meaningful. I’ve had a good time doing that for the last three years.
I’ve always enjoyed teaching. I TA’d in college, and also in med school, but I never thought about teaching high schoolers because I didn’t think that they would be the right age group for me. But it happened to be exactly the age group that suited me the best. High schoolers complain a lot — that’s what they do. They love to complain but sometimes they really get into it and that’s very rewarding.
It sounds really bad because we do need people to take care of sick patients but compared to being in medicine, with my being a high school teacher now, I have so much more optimism in life. I’m surrounded by potential, it’s so much healthier for my brain.
Teaching physics is interesting because my background is not in that subject. So I come at it from the angle of a student learning it, and I use a lot of examples to show the concepts. It’s really fun. My background is in biology but I think that would be drier to teach because it would be more like, ‘here, memorize these facts.’
Now I have a lot more time to enjoy life and also my work. In med school I was working all the time, and I was being evaluated all the time. Even when you weren’t in class or in lab, professors and attendings were evaluating you to see whether you were a viable candidate to be a doctor. That was a lot of pressure. It was so stressful.
Med students are four more times likely to be depressed than their peers. I was good at hiding my depression but it’s funny to think that I was in a class full of future doctors and no-one had any idea that I was depressed and wanted to kill myself.
Going from med school to being a high school teacher is like going from night to day. I went from wanting to harm myself all the time and now I get to teach. I get to meet amazing people. The classroom time is really fun. It doesn’t feel like work at all. Everything I do now is very life-affirming.”
[this story originally appeared on Ripple.News]