From Med School to Ph.D.

Ego: a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance

"But I thought you wanted to be a medical doctor? You know, a real doctor?"

I thought I did too. However, after much rumination over what my ego wanted versus what I actually needed spiritually, quite a bit changed in regards to my direction. Actually quite a LOT changed.

Ever since I was young, I always wanted to do something grand for work. I dreamed big dreams as a child. I constantly bounced from astronaut, to president, to lawyer, and finally at age ten I decided my final choice would to be a medical doctor. I was adamant that this decision needed to be made as soon as possible. My mom was a nurse, and after spending many 6am mornings before school grabbing breakfast at the hospital, I felt an odd familiarity with the white coats, blue gloves, freezing cold hallways, and friendly cafeteria workers.

Oh and of course, I also loved the high pay and esteem that I assumed almost all doctors received. Both were goals growing up. I wanted to make sure that my occupation made me not only financially comfortable, yet also seen in high regards. I never grew up rich, and the insecurity of my family struggling financially pushed me to use money as the key motivator for my future. This was the problem with my ego.

Over the next 10 years I did everything I possibly could to align my actions and experiences in the direction of medical school. I went to healthcare camp at age 12. This allowed kids, that were interested in pursuing a job in healthcare, to explore the various departments. I was able to see an operating room, go to the NICU, and visit an anatomy lab where I saw dead people. Yes. Seriously. They had all the bodies covered in white sheets laid out throughout this giant, cold room that reeked of formaldehyde, yet that truly is a story for another day. Overall, I was pretty immune to anything traumatic throughout this journey as I believed it was all a part of the process. .

Following high school I enrolled into undergraduate studies, which came with its handful of pros and cons for my career plan. It was genuinely the first time I began to question my path, my motivation, and my mission as a human being. Depending on where you may be in your career journey, please remember the times you question yourself will ultimately lead to growth if you listen to your intuition, and act against the toxic parts of your ego.

Thus, this is what happened to me. At first it was quite troubling at how much personal resistance I had in my heart. Developing socially and mentally as a human between ages 18 to 22 is already hard, therefore, navigating your professional life on top of it can feel impossible. Looking back, I remember thinking if I picked a different career path, I would absolutely have to start from scratch. All of my youth spent dreaming and obsessing about my adult life as Madeleine Dawson, Medical Doctor, would go to waste. Of course that was a completely false assumption.

During this experience, it is so necessary to resist the urge to want to have everything together when growing professionally. Indeed, there will be absolutely no point in your human existence when everything will be aligned. Accept this and feel comfort in the fluidity of life. Just as the seasons change, we all change too. You will fall down. You will have your dark winter days, and then eventually blossom from the time spent in struggle.

Accepting this led me to have motivation to explore other routes for success, even if I did have to take two steps back to make that one big jump forward. This was a key part of my growth as I was able to overcome the mindset that life was one linear path. This development came as a critical driver to explore Engineering as a possible career.

Between 2015 and 2020 a lot happened. I decided Biological Engineering was the right path for me after attending Engineering 101 Seminar that gave me an overview of all the different routes of the field. I had the revelation that even if I was walking an entirely different path, I was bringing along with me all of the knowledge, and the perspectives I had gained from life thus far.

The last integral step in developing myself was joining a research lab. It is interesting to note the thought of pursuing graduate studies never crossed my mind when I began work in a Neuroscience lab. I simply saw it as a chance to gain hands on experience to utilize post-graduation as a Biological Engineer. However, to my surprise I truly enjoyed research, and it was the push to pursue my Doctorate degree. Of course, it was not an overnight decision, but I took the next few years to properly align my interests before applying to graduate schools.

Quite a few things happened the last year of my undergraduate studies. After much self-exploration, I discovered my passion within Engineering and appropriately focused it into my Senior Capstone project that utilized the use of drones, LIDAR remote sensing, coding, and sustainable practices for the preservation of a historic agricultural field on my campus. In addition, the pandemic hit while finishing my final semester during Spring 2020, but this did not stop me from graduating!

Looking back I do not blame myself at all for growing up and seeing life as black and white. I was simply acting in accordance with the perspective I had during my youth. Either you do something grand, or you fail. Either you make mountains of money and feel happy, or you are forever poor and sad. Altogether, I had a very linear outlook, which lacked the holistic mindset I have developed today.

Now at 25 years-old, I know there were simply a multitude of factors my developing brain had not yet grasped in terms of life when I set out to become a medical doctor. Through this whole journey, the universe was undoubtedly testing me, and trusting in me to learn. It was giving me a chance to stand up against my ego yearning for money, status and all else that proceeds. It was giving me the opportunity to learn that esteem and honor are not based upon the profession one pursues. Esteem and honor come from one's character, respect for all people, and a passion to better our world.

My toxic ego may have attempted to fight against its dynamic, fluid growth, but I came out the winner. I took accountability for my well being, my future, and my faith in the process. Now, I am reaping the benefits of my personal development and investment in my career by happily pursuing my Ph.D. Ironically, at the end of it all, I still am coming out as soon to be Dr. Dawson. Certainly, it is beautiful how life can play out.

I hope you enjoyed this quick perspective of how I got here. Hopefully, it was either a perspective opener or simply helped you to relate to this wildly wonderful journey we all have as humans growing and learning on our tiny planet Earth.




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