When I started medical school, I decided that I was going to reinvent myself, become a new me. I set some goals for myself, and I implemented a very ambitious plan to meet those goals. When setting goals, I always believed that it was best to set them high, so that even failure is really just a partial success. Easily achieved goals are worthless.
My goals were (1) to become popular, (2) to be engaged before graduation, (3) to have no fewer than 10 people with whom I would interact on a regular basis, (4) to have weekly social activities and no free weekends.
These were goals that I thought were quite reasonable and enjoyable. I was decidedly NOT popular in high school or college. I hadn't been on a date in a long time. My circle of friends had contracted from dozens to a handful. I spent most of my weekends doing laundry or cooking. I was disconnected from the rest of the world.
So, I seet my plan in motion. Over the course of medical school, I went to nearly every party. In the first month of medical school, I went to more parties than I'd attended in all of college. In the first two years of med school, I'd been drunk more times than my entire life before med school. I lost weight, a lot of weight, like 50 lbs. I worked out all the time. I was in the best shape of my life. I had scores of friends. I was invited to everything. I would meet with friends on nearly every day of the week.
I asked out so many women that for a while, I was utterly fearless. I had a big circle of friends. Other than the engaged thing, I achieved every goal I'd set out. My mission was a tremendous success, and I was utterly miserable.
And what I realized since then is that I went about trying to solve the problems in my life in the completely wrong way. I thought that by changing my trappings, I could change the person. I tried to be someone else, to change without growing. This is what the ancient Greeks would refer to as hubris.
Once I'd finished med school, I was able to look back and see some of the realities of my life. At first, I thought that it was just stuff about my love life, but after a while, I realized that the lessons I learned were more than just about love. I came upon some truths to life. And I thought I'd share what I've learned about life.
- Happiness comes from within, not from anything external. Something or someone can't make me happy.
- I must always be true to myself and accept who I am. I can't be happy unless I'm willing to be me.
- I cannot love others if I don't love myself.
- No one will love me if I'm not willing to love.
- I can't dictate the actions, perceptions, or emotions of others. I can't choose who will love me or hate me.
- There is no point in agonizing over that which I can't control.
- I cannot change who I am without growth.
- I cannot change other people unless they want to be changed.
- Doing something is NOT necessarily better than doing nothing.
- Life is measured in emotional content: not money or popularity or trips or parties or being social.
- I deserve love and happiness and everything good, as long as I'm willing to work for it.
This list required a lot of personal growth, but see? Growth is the only real way to change. And I needed to change, because that guy in med school, he may have been quite a guy, but he wasn't me, and I've left him behind.