On Falling Out of Love
I knew I wanted to go into medicine when I was four years old.
My childhood was spent between the many houses of my mother, father, grandparents, and aunt. My grandmother, now retired, was a first grade teacher for over 30 years. She used to bring me with her to school as a form of babysitting when my mom was working overtime as a nurse. Aside from early exposure to education, my grandparents had some of the early computers in their home. One of the programs I was allowed to play was called “A.D.A.M.: The Inside Story”. The reason I remember this so vividly is because it was what initially sparked my interest into the medical sciences.
A.D.A.M., I would later learn, stood for “Animated Dissection of Anatomy for Medicine.” Basically, the program provided interactive illustrations of the human body, which I could explore structure by structure and system by system. Ever since that point I knew I wanted to learn more about the human body. My path was set.
Then life got involved.
In the time since those early days of four-year-old me deciding to pursue medicine, I’ve learned that when confronted with the reality of a situation or experience you’d been anticipating all your life (like medical school or marriage), the reality is seldom what you expected.
I know that life is inherently hard, but when confronted by challenges, I often found myself questioning my choice to pursue certain paths to begin with. Ultimately, I’d lost sight of what drew me to make the decisions I did.
I don’t feel deep feelings very easily. I cannot tell, even today, whether it is physiological or psychological. Sometimes it feels as if I’m floating, disconnected, in a sea of boats. I may drift close to other people, but never close enough to make a connection. Distant and alone. Most people – myself included -- don’t understand it.
I’ve been married for nearly four years. I have an almost two year old son. When my husband and I began dating as adults, we related our feelings often to the affection we shared in high school as close friends. Perhaps we always knew that we would be drawn back together. It began as a painfully adorable story. After deciding to get married and completing the ritual, we had our share of challenges.
He was being childish. I was emotionally guarded. We were both poor students, and no one quite knew what to expect of my desire to pursue medicine. We both wanted a family but were not confident in our ability to start one effectively. There was a lot of silent contention in our relationship and life.
Little by little I began to question what our relationship was. I wondered if it was healthy, and whether we were a good fit. I began to doubt the existence of feelings for a person that I had promised my life to so confidently. I questioned my decision to drag someone else into my plans when they mostly revolved around realizing my original goal of becoming a physician.
Resistance from my spouse and his family weren’t in my “how to become a doctor” plans as a four-year-old playing A.D.A.M.
The guilt of leaving my child everyday wasn’t in that plan either.
Then, suddenly, my husband and I had nothing in common.
I was working hard and he was leaving me alone. Frustrations were mounting, and I truly believed he would never be the type of person I wanted to spend my time with. The time we didn’t spend together added up in an uncomfortable column of relationship failure. When life got more complicated, our personalities clashed. Someone stepped forward and someone stepped back. Neither of us thought the other cared. What happened to stepping together? This wasn’t in the plans.
Worst of all, we had an incredible, tiny person to take care of. I swore that I would never put a child through what I went through, yet here I was, contemplating separation and wanting to give up.
Now if you’re reading this, you may assume that the problem is medical school, and the incredible demands that it presents. Surprisingly, however, that hasn’t been my problem. Every time I learn something new, perform well on an exam, recognize a differential during an encounter, or make it through another week without spontaneously combustion — I love it. I’m constantly challenged intellectually, asked to step outside my social comfort zone, and get to live out my childhood dreams. So why don’t those feelings translate to happiness at home? Why can’t I feel that way about my husband?
Often we question whether or not we’ve made the right choices. My husband is not a bad person. Medicine is not a bad career. You cannot judge a particular thing or experience while you are in the middle of something hard. You’d quit everything you set out to do.
The bottom line is: it is often our choice to “fall out of love” with our hobbies, our passions, our people. Letting go of something important can seem easier than confronting the difficulties you’re facing.
My advice? Persevere.
You won’t always feel “in love” with what you’re doing or who you’re with. I won’t pretend to have any answers, but I can keep trying to do this hard thing – to get through this hard part. In the end, I know that I should. And, if I have any advice to offer, I think you should too.
Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd year (OMS II)
College of Osteopathic Medicine
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences