Article written by Cerdan Lopez
Illustration by Anika Borja
“Save your youth!”
Those were the words my sister told me when I mentioned considering going to medical school.
Odd, isn’t it … or, at least, I think it’s odd.
My sister is a doctor, so I expected her to be similar to a mentor figure — proud that their student desires to follow in their footsteps.
Instead, I received those words.
The response was similar to my brother-in-law, who’s also a doctor. In fact, my own mother, who’s — yet again — a doctor, told me to reconsider going to medical school. My father’s dead, so I don’t know what his response would be. Incidentally, he was also a doctor, and I have little doubt that his advice would be along the same lines.
It really is odd. Most families, I assume, would be happy their child expresses interest in becoming a medical professional — a medical doctor, at that. However, looking at it from a different perspective … it actually makes sense.
Let’s begin by asking, “What did they want to become?”
“They wanted to become medical doctors.” The answer’s obvious, almost painfully so.
But before that, what did they want to become?
My sister wanted to be a teacher before deciding to become a medical doctor. My brother-in-law? A businessman. My mom? A reporter.
So, what changed? What happened? Why did they end up becoming medical doctors instead?
Honestly, I can’t be sure myself. Maybe they can’t be sure themselves, as well. It’d been a long time ago, after all. But the reason why is less important; what’s more important is that there was a why in the first place.
Here is the central theme that connects all of them together: regret.
It’s why I was told that fateful day to “Save your youth!”
Becoming a medical doctor is hard work; I don’t even need a citation for that. You get countless sleepless nights dedicated to studying and working. Just trying in itself is brutal. As a doctor, you’re holding human lives in your hands, and a mistake on your part can lead to someone else’s death. Of course, it’s difficult.
That’s beside the point.
In a way, I think, they regret all the hard work they had to put in. Some might say that dreams betray many, and hard work betrays no one. Nevertheless, my family, I think, was betrayed by hard work. Hard work did not stop when they had graduated from medical school nor did it end when they got licensed. For them, it’s hard work, day in and day out, and it feels like it never ends.
To them, it must have felt like a compromise. By not becoming what they had always wanted to become, but by, instead, becoming a medical doctor, they would neither be happy nor sad. Fortunately for them, they learnt to love it over time.
But that was the thing about learning to love something, I think. Even after you learn to love it, you’ll still have regrets. It’s inevitable. You start thinking of the road you didn’t take, the road left untraveled, and you wonder what could have been.
Of course, the unsaid part of this is that they would not have been the same people. I would never have been born, and my sister would never have married my brother-in-law. But I don’t think any of that mattered in the face of overwhelming regret for the road not taken.
That’s why they told me to save my youth, to opt out of going to medical school. They knew that, deep down, it was a compromise for me, too, as if it were what I was expected to do and that it was the safe option. After all, I already knew the road to becoming a doctor; they already laid the foundation for me.
They were right, I think. I don’t have a lot of desires. It’s almost as if I’m just living through life — no, it’s less like I’m living through life and more like I’m a passenger in my own life.
I’m a passenger in my own life, a side character in my own story.
In a real sense, this is me choosing the easy way out. I didn’t want to become a medical doctor because I was passionate about being one; I wanted to become a medical doctor because I felt like it was what I should do and that it was the road I should take. After all, it’s a respectable profession, and there’s never a time when the occupation is not in demand. Not to mention, as well, doctors are stereotyped to make a lot of money.
I realize, though, that if I choose to become a medical doctor for those reasons, it’ll become the hard way in the end.
It isn’t that med school is hard, although it is.
It isn’t that being a doctor is hard, although it is.
It isn’t even a question of morality. You want to become a doctor because you want to earn a lot of money, because it’s a safe option? That’s perfectly fine and valid.
It isn’t about any of those things.
It’s about regret.
“Save your youth!”
Those words continue to echo in my mind, and I didn’t understand what they had meant by that then. I think I do now.
It’s another way of saying, “Live your life without regrets!”
So, if you’re thinking of medical school, graduate school, or whatever it is that you want to pursue in life, remember to take the road you won’t regret. It could be the road less traveled, or otherwise, the road you didn’t even know existed. What’s important is that when you look back, you don’t regret the choices you made.
As for me, I don’t think I’ll go to medical school. Instead, I plan to attend grad school. I have no idea what to do; I do not have a road set ahead of me — or, at least, there’s no road that I can see or that I know of, as of now. Nevertheless, I hope that ages and ages hence, I won’t say this with a sigh, “Two roads diverged in front of me and I? I didn’t regret the road I took.”