32 (Or the Long Overdue Life Update)
June 7, 2014

goggles

When did reflective birthday musings became a CR tradition? I guess it was the big 3-0. That was my second summer in D.C., and this, amazingly, is my fourth. It’s also my last. In August I’ll be moving back home, to New York, to figure out what’s next. I haven’t started packing, but I’ve started tidying, and a few days ago I found my old lab goggles, which you see pictured above. I think I’ll keep them for posterity, as a memento of the post-bacc years. They served me well.

I guess this is the post where I tell you that I didn’t get into med school. I’ve known for a while now—since late January, really—but I haven’t had the heart to write about it. To those of you who were wondering, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long.

I’ve tried not to make this post a post-mortem on the details of my application process: what my GPA was, what I scored on the MCAT, how many programs I applied to and which ones, how many interviews I got, etc. It would be reasonable for anyone to ask me for these specifics; med school rejection hinges on certain well-established likelihoods, after all, and I’d imagine that my pre-med readers are curious. But aside from the fact that it’s hard to share such details with the world, how or why I didn’t get in isn’t really the point of this post. If you’d like to know more about my application experience because you’re considering the process or are in the middle of it yourself, please feel free to email me. I’ll be happy to share.

Before I go any further, allow me to disclaim: it’s hard for me to talk about my post-bacc experience and its outcome without getting emotional, and even sometimes a little maudlin. But I don’t regard this rejection as the end of the world, I promise. A lot of people get rejected from medical school every year, and now I’m one of them. Whether you’ve been pre-med or not, there’s a good chance that at some point you tried something that didn’t work out. It happens to all of us, sooner or later, in big ways and small. I’ve had disappointments, but this is the first time I got walloped with a big one. It was disorienting in all of the predictable ways, but it was also a tremendous learning experience.

I’m nervous about writing this post, but if nothing else, I hope it provides some comfort to anyone who’s feeling stuck in the wake of one of these inevitable life curveballs. More should be written about “failure,” if that’s what we want to call it. We read so much about triumph over adversity, persistence in the face of great odds, and unlikely successes. We don’t always read about what it’s like to do something and find out that you’re not very good at it, or to work hard and not improve, or to desperately want something that you’re nevertheless incapable of pursuing any further.

And that, dear readers, is the story I’m about to tell.

During my first post-bacc semester at Columbia, my advisor informed me that I’d have more to prove than an average pre-med because of my age and background. I’d have to hold myself to standards that were even more stringent than the already unforgiving “numbers game” that defines medical school application, she said. Her words were portentous, but I kept going in spite of them. I kept going through eight more rocky semesters, even as the academics grew more challenging and my sense of confidence, so robust when I quit my job and began this crazy process, began to falter. After I completed Orgo II, the class that I’ll always remember as my post-bacc nemesis, I lay around on my mother’s sofa, waiting for my final grade and contemplating whether I should return to school at all (you guys might remember; I blogged about it). When the grade came back—tarnished but not quite unrecoverable—I picked myself up and dusted myself off and returned to Georgetown for physics that summer. A year later, I’d made it through genetics and the MCAT and was busy applying to schools.

I would have made sense for me to stop at any point along the way, because that moment I had so often been promised as a post-bacc student—the moment in which I would supposedly start to feel as though I was becoming fluent in the unfamiliar language of the hard sciences—never really came. I told myself that if I dug in my heels and doubled up my efforts, it would surely be a matter of time before my natural agility in these classes emerged. I studied endlessly. I got tutors. I attended every office hour and every recitation. And while I’m certainly glad to have given my courses the effort they deserved, I can’t say it ever got much easier.

Looking back now and knowing the outcome, it’s hard to say why I persisted. I think a lot of it was sheer stubbornness, an inability to accept that there was something I really couldn’t be good at. I’d never had that experience before, the experience of working really hard at something and not improving. It wasn’t true for all of my classes, but it was true for some of them, and I found it maddeningly hard to accept.

Part of it, too, was reluctance to recognize my mind’s own natural inclinations. When my post-bacc began, I was determined to shed the idea that there are two types of minds, humanistic ones and scientific ones, and that I possess the former. I’d been prone to that kind of thinking in the past, and as my post-bacc began I could see how dramatically it had limited my intellectual growth (I’ll now always regret that I didn’t take the sciences more seriously as a high school student). I began to glimpse the fascinating connective tissue between the humanities and the sciences; I started telling my former colleagues that some of the same deductive skills one uses as a reader are actually quite applicable in biology lab work, and that the same analytical tendencies that behoove an editor are called upon each day in a class like Orgo. All of that is true; the world is not divided into “numbers people” and “word people.” But we all have certain intellectual inclinations, certain inborn strengths, and my post-bacc was a glaring reminder of what mine are.

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But if the courses were a struggle, then it was a struggle offset by the joy I took in my volunteer work and my job as a physician’s research assistant. That’s the real reason I persisted in spite of unlikely odds: I really, really wanted to be a doctor. And all of my exposure to the daily practice of medicine seemed to affirm how much I’d ultimately enjoy it. Like many hopeful medical students, I assured myself that classes like Orgo weren’t a good indication of what lay ahead. I told myself that my future curriculum would be less abstract, more applied. And of course I comforted myself with the idea that after my first two years, I’d be given a chance to shine in the clinical setting. At that point, I reasoned, empathy and passion would finally work in my favor, and medicine would welcome me into its waiting arms.

For the record, I think it’s true that things would have gotten better after my second year of school; that, anyway, is what most doctors have told me. But I think that one of the worst errors of judgment you can make as a pre-med student is to assume that the training is irrelevant, and that the end result (clinical practice) is all that matters. The training is incredibly long, and how well you’re suited to it matters a great deal. Sure, the pre-med curriculum is pretty far removed from clinical experience, and I think it’s a shame that classes like Orgo II discourage so many applicants each year. But even if you’re tempted to dismiss the significance of Orgo or physics entirely (and I don’t, by the way), the fact is that hard science and standardized testing will be a recurrent and significant part of a very long education.

As you’ve probably gathered, I’m not reapplying. It’s much harder to admit this than it is to tell you that I didn’t get in. Because rejection, while painful, is a neat little story that places you in the victim’s seat. And while it would be easier to describe my med school process this way—as an ordeal in which “the system” shut me out unjustly—the truth is that it’s incredibly common for pre-med applicants to have to reapply one or even a few times before they get in. I’ve chosen not to. There’s no way to explain or justify the decision except to say that I just can’t. To some degree it’s practical: I’m reasonably certain that numbers held me back, and I’m equally certain that my grades, no matter how average they may have been, reflect the best effort I had. Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting so hard to succeed in an endeavor for which I seem ill suited, and return to some of the activities that come more naturally to me.

But this is secondary to the real reason I’m not reapplying, which is an unshakable inner certainty that I’ve hit the end of the road with this pursuit. It’s taken me by surprise; early this fall, I told everyone, myself included, that if I got rejected I’d keep trying, year after year, until someone said yes. Yet as soon as it became clear that rejection was on the horizon, I knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to try again. It was one of the clearest instincts I’ve ever had, and even if I can’t explain it, I can’t deny it, either. Maybe it’s just a feeling I’ve created to excuse my own exhaustion and discouragement; maybe it’s my way of making peace with the fact that I’m giving up. Maybe the whole purpose of pre-med and its rigors is to identify people like me, who don’t want it badly enough to keep going even when they’ve been knocked down. If that’s the case, so be it; I’ll accept my station as one who’s been successfully weeded out. I know that I wanted this very badly—more than I’ve ever wanted anything—and I also know that I can’t go any further with it. It’s confusing, but there it is.

I’ve been instructed by family and friends not to use the word “failure” to describe my post-bacc experience, but I don’t mind. My post-bacc years were all about failure. I failed tests. I failed quizzes. I failed practice problems. I failed, at the beginning at least, to realize what I was up against. I failed to see the early signs of a partnership dissolving before my eyes in the midst of all this. I failed in all sorts of ways. But the great silver lining of my post-bacc journey was the realization that failure is not the end of the world.

I’ve been reading Kathryn Shulz’s charming book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. It’s about the experience of error more than it is the experience of failure, but these two are often intertwined, and the book has felt incredibly relevant these days. Shulz’s thesis is that we tend to learn more from our errors, from the process of recognizing mistakes and then processing them, than we do from being right. It’s not a novel thought—common wisdom holds that we “learn from our mistakes”—but as Shulz notes, it’s amazing how much time we spend avoiding being wrong, or admitting to our mistakes, in spite of this. We shouldn’t. “Wrongness,” she writes, “is a vital part of how we learn and change. Thanks to error, we can revise our understanding of ourselves and amend our ideas about the world….however disorienting, difficult, or humbling our mistakes might be, it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are. ”

I can think of no period of my life in which I so often felt mistaken, humbled, or incorrect as I did during the post-bacc years. Things I felt reasonably certain of, ranging from the trivial (answers to a chemistry quiz) to the significant (my certainty that some med school or other would find me desirable, even if I’d had a rough go of things) to the profound (my confidence that I could be good at absolutely anything, so long as I worked hard at it) turned out to be wrong. It was good for me to confront these errors in judgment, and emerge on the other side. Most of us, especially those of us with perfectionistic tendencies, tend to avoid situations in which failure is strongly possible. I’ve spent my life gravitating toward experiences and opportunities in which I believed I could excel. I quit violin when I had my first recital and it became clear that I was just OK; I quit ballet when I realized that I wasn’t as graceful or as coordinated as the other girls; I quit fiction writing when I discovered that my skills were more editorial than creative. If I couldn’t be the best, or close to it, then why bother?

I think this sort of logic shows up in the ED thought process, too. “I have to be the thinnest woman in this room.” “I must be the most restrained, the most disciplined.” So much emphasis on superlatives. There is a desperate fear of being undistinguished, of being just like everybody else. (There is also that tendency to think in binaries that I’ve mentioned a lot lately: you’re either the best, or you’re nothing at all.) The impulse to be distinctive can be positive and productive; if channeled appropriately it can fuel ambition, creative pursuits, and authentic self-expression. But it can be monstrously destructive if it takes up residence in an eating disorder, and it can also be incredibly petty. I’ve given up on needing to be thinner than other people, and I’ve also given up on using food and diet as a means of feeling special or superior. But until quite recently, I took perhaps a bit too much satisfaction in feeling exceptional through my accomplishments or my performance (professional, academic). And oh boy, did my post-bacc test me there.

For this reason alone, I’m glad I did it. After so many of the things I usually hitch my pride to—good grades, academic achievement, certainty of purpose—had started to erode, I was left with the task of making peace with myself. And after the rejections rolled in and my fears of not getting into school all came to pass, I had to maintain a sense of self-respect. I had to face the facts: I wasn’t very good at my post-bacc, and I didn’t get into school. In spite of this, I’m an OK person, and life goes on. If my post-bacc rid me of fragility in the face of failure, of an ego that was a little too tightly bound up in fleeting accomplishments, then I have no regrets. If It showed me that being wrong is not the end of the world, that, in the words of William James, “our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things,” then I count myself lucky to have done it.

The other important gift my post-bacc gave me was the capacity to cope with uncertainty, something I’ve never been good at doing. It became clear quite early in the process that I’d have no assurances or guarantees about what my next step would be for a very long time. (I wrote about this in both my 30 and my 31 posts.) Before I began my post-bacc, I worked in an industry I’d always planned on entering, in a position I’d held for a long time, and I lived in the same forty block radius I’d always lived in, surrounded by people who were for the most part remarkably like-minded. I loved that life, but I’ve also come to love a life that’s a little more unpredictable. I can no longer remember what it feels like to know exactly what I’ll be up to in a year, or five, or ten. And believe it or not, I relish the open spaces. Hoary though the sentiment may be, life really is an adventure, and I’m glad it’s keeping me on my toes as I move into my 32nd year (or is it my 33rd? I can never remember how that works).

I won’t pretend that this process has been easy, or that I’ve always been as philosophical about it as I sound today. For the record, I had a nice long obligatory period of self-pity. I spent my first month or so post-rejection wearing sweatpants and drinking wine and feeling generally pretty rotten. I cried and whined and sulked. But as a friend of mine pointed out, the devastation I felt reminded me a little of what it’s like to go through a particularly ragged breakup. You’re sitting at home, crying or drinking or yelling or eating chocolate (or whatever it is that you’re doing), and you feel as if the world has come crashing down around you. But at the same time, there’s a part of you—a solid, undeniable part—that knows you’re going to be just fine.

And I am fine, of course. I still have ups and downs, days in which something or someone will trigger a little spiral of bitterness or regret. But my life is as rich and blessed and interesting as it always was—except that it’s even richer now, thanks to the post-bacc adventure. The last four years were not easy, and I’ll never remember them as my happiest. But I’ll remember them as bracing and intense and fortifying in the way that all formative life experiences are. When I think back on it all–the sleepless nights, the library vigils, the way we (my fellow post-baccs and I) cried on each other’s shoulders–I can only smile at how weighty it all seemed, every test score and every exam. Every lab report. If only I’d known that the ultimate value of my post-bacc experience had little to do with becoming a doctor after all. I came to a new city and made new friends. I learned more than I ever could have imagined, about subjects I’d never really explored. I got to meet a bunch of fine future physicians, and for a short period of time I was lucky enough to call them my peers. I got a second undergraduate career, and with it the delightful and bizarre experience of living like an eighteen-year-old again. And, much to my surprise and when I least expected it, I fell very much in love. (I’m not moving back to New York by myself, by the way.)

As for what’s next, who knows. I guess the short answer is that my book comes out this summer, and I’ll enjoy watching it come to life. My best friend’s little sister gets married at the end of this month, and I’m eager to spend a weekend upstate, at my happy place. There will be two weeks at the beach with the boy in July, and I’m hoping they’ll be languid and lazy and sun-drenched. At the end of July, I’ll be saying goodbye to this city—this city that I’ve come to love in spite of the fact that I didn’t plan on loving it, in spite of the fact that I came here for a relationship that didn’t work out and an endeavor that didn’t go my way. And I’ll be returning to wonderful New York, where I’ll experience cohabitation for the first time (speaking of adventure!), and to figure out what the next big endeavor will be. I don’t yet know what it is, and it’ll probably be quite a while before I do. But that’s OK. There’s a Wendell Berry quotation that my mom sent me during one of the more difficult moments of my post-bacc. Maybe some of you know it:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve come back to these words, how they became like a mantra during this chapter of my life.

Here’s what I know: I didn’t do my post-bacc because I wanted an MD. I think that most pre-med students convince themselves at some point or another that no career will ever be as fulfilling as that of a physician; it’s what you have to do in order to push through the classes and the competition. I was no exception, and of course I was prone to romanticizing doctoring, too, especially in the early days. But I was wrong. Becoming a doctor was never really the point. What I wanted to do all along is to help people and heal them and teach them about how to love themselves (and others) through what they put in their bodies. So long as I can do that, nothing’s lost. This is the goal, and it’s what will guide my deliberations this coming year.

Thank you to everyone who cheered me on through this long and winding process. Thank you to the med students and pre-meds who commented and emailed me, to the orgo professors who offered me their help, to the readers who gave me kind feedback and sound advice when I was struggling, and to all of you for assuring me that getting into medical school was not the full measure of my worth. It’s taken me some time to see it, but you were right. Know how profoundly grateful I am.

And now, I’m off to celebrate 32.

Till 33,

xo

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Food and Healing

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    153 Comments
  1. Hi Gena,

    I just stumbled upon this post. I’m a current second-year medical student and blogger and struggled with feelings of doubt and failure after scoring poorly on my first and last MCAT run. I too irrationally felt like it was a measure of my worth as a competitive applicant to medical school but that was far from the truth, as I was eventually admitted, years later. Thanks for sharing your journey and your transparency is admirable. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors.

  2. Hey Gena
    I know this post is old, but I just wanted to say that i appreciate your sincere writing and it really resonated with me.
    I tutor students for the MCAT, DAT, and all undergrad science classes and I’ve scored over the 90th percentile on the GRE and PCAT…yet my undergraduate transcript is a minefield of Cs and Ds. I finally got a second chance (I thought) by doing a master’s degree. Well, during my master’s, I found out my boyfriend of almost one year was secretly engaged to another woman…eight months earlier. He had a ceremony with his family and then I picked him up at the airport. I have never known such deep pain and betrayal in my life. I ended up bombing my courses and being that tear stricken, emaciated girl at my job and work. Today I had a job interview and guess what-they asked for my transcript. I felt so humiliated to hand over a 16 page transcript filled with bad grades and an incomplete master’s degree. I’m not 32, I’m turning 35 soon and I don’t even make enough to rent my own apartment. I feel like I’m in the pits of loserdom, but perhaps I need to make the realization that I can be an excellent guide for others in school, but it is not something I can participate in myself anymore.

  3. […] through my post-bacc and anxiously waiting to learn whether or not I’d go to medical school. My 32nd birthday was all about grappling with the end of my post-bacc chapter and reformulating my vision for the […]

  4. Gena,

    I’ve thought a lot about this post because you are voicing the conversation I was having internally with myself! Reading this post helped me move through a personal block. As a post-bacc (formerly a professional in another field) I had to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to make it all the way. This blog post allowed me to say, “You know what, I am not able to do it and that’s okay.” It’s funny how we need others to give us permission – maybe just the support – to not be perfect. I’ve always felt like I have to plan everything; but this time I may have saved myself years of heartache by not going in the wrong direction. Thank you for allowing us to be kinder to ourselves and to know that it’s okay to change course. Much appreciation!

    MW

  5. Gena,
    Thank you for sharing this. Your honesty was touching and is much needed when a lot of times, we read about the ‘happy’ and ‘successful’ times. I’m one of those people that is afraid to fail. And as my very intelligent husband says, ‘we have to fail to learn, to move forward–never coast’.

  6. Gena,

    You are a life-saver in a very stormy, scary sea of post-baccs out here. Even for the best, brightest of us out here it’s bewildering; and few have the courage to do it with such grace and authenticity. I know that I cannot. For some probably God-given reason I stumbled upon this post at the right time. Thank you infinitely for writing this. This post is life-changing for more people than you realize.

    With tremendous gratitude,
    Julia D.

  7. Gena – I just read this, and I can’t believe I missed it months ago. You have always been an inspiration to me, and one of the two bloggers that I genuinely perceive as having influenced my decision to study natural health (and go vegan!), even if we’ve never met in person. I don’t see your journey as a failure, but inspiration to show the world that you can persevere, conquer things you had trouble with, and find your way in life, even if it isn’t the way you thought it would be. I’m trying so hard to learn and apply this in my own life, as health problems have set me back, turned me away from long-held goals, and turned my life upside down. I’m learning that these health problems are really helping me in a way, because I wouldn’t have started reading your blog, and I probably never would have pursued Natural Health.
    You have changed my life, and I hope that others feel the same way. My husband knows you by name because I talk about you and your blog so much. I’m about to turn 27 and my life is completely different than I ever imagined, but that’s okay. I wanted to be a computer programmer, making ridiculous amounts of money so I could have everything I wanted. I’m still a programmer, but I don’t make a ton of money, and I certainly don’t have the things I thought I wanted. And that doesn’t bother me anymore. I don’t want to focus on the distant future anymore. I want to focus on the here and now, because at the moment, that;s all that matters.
    Thank you so much for being an inspiration, for being so honest and candid, and for all the help you have provided to all your readers.

  8. Gena, I am SO SO sorry I missed this post. I’m also sorry things didn’t work out – I know how difficult those post-bacc years are, yours especially given all the other work you do outside of classes. I think you wrote about it beautifully and I have no doubt that you will continue to be a prominent force for health, healing, and self-love. Perhaps just in your own different way, but most definitely you will (continue to) do it. xoxo

  9. This was such a great read. Thanks for being brave enough to share – it’s a hard lesson, but one that many people can relate to. I enjoyed your positive outlook.

  10. I found your link through another blog, and enjoyed reading your story. Have you looked into occupational therapy for a next step? A wonderful blend of humanities and science!

  11. Thank you for writing this post – I travelled a similar path only to get rejected and for a long time I knew I wasn’t going to apply but I kept telling people I would. It became more about me than it was about them. I sometimes struggle with jealously when I hear about others who were admitted, but I have to remind myself that medicine wasn’t my path and now I’m creating a new one in the field of nutritional sciences. Thanks again xo

    • And thank YOU for such an honest comment! It’s refreshing to hear someone honestly admit their foibles/struggles and makes me feel better about my own! It makes the world feel like a more accepting place to live in! 🙂

  12. First time reader, and commenter 🙂

    Your point about brains being wired toward either the humanities/sciences was really interesting – I’m definitely the former, but went to school with a good friend who was very visually arty though not good with more language-based stuff, but who went into the sciences despite finding them quite challenging. She’s now an osteo and I’ve always admired how hard she worked to get there.

    I went to school with a lot of highly driven people, yet 10-15 years on very few of us have actually accomplished what we always planned. None of the wannabe lawyers became lawyers (and the most ferocious one didn’t even make it into the law programme). Only one of the wannabe doctors made it into med; the others went into audiology.

    I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say, except maybe it’s funny that you never know where life will take you (and I definitely sympathise as my husband is now definitely a full grown adult with no idea what he wants to do with his life and no formal quals). I do believe that things tend to work out eventually, and I hope your path reveals itself soon.

    Happy birthday.

  13. There is no such thing as failure, just a bump in the road. As long as you are still in there pitching. Remember when one door closes, another opens and who knows, you may look back and think “What was I thinking!” (when you are ensconced in your fulfilling, happy life).

  14. Hi Gena,
    I read your blog often, but hadn’t stopped by in a month or so as I”m in medical school myself, and (surprise, surprise) have very little time to read my favorite blogs!

    I really admire your honesty, and admittedly, also how comfortable you seem, at least from my vantage point, with your decision.

    I see myself as somewhat similar to you in that I have a background of an MPH and an ND, and decided in my early 30s to pursue medical school. I was so passionate about combining the best of natural medicine and preventative medicine with my medical school and becoming an integrative physician extraordinaire. But, as most people who are passionate about holistic health, I also value my own health and wellbeing. In my experience medical school has been absolutely exhausting, and one of the worst things for my health I could do. The fatigue is constant, the studying relentless, the competition fierce, and the energy always sagging. That being said, I don’t regret it. I have about 2 years left now, and am excited about what opportunities the future will bring. However, I do sometimes question if it is all worth it, and the toll on my health, despite my best efforts to exercise, de-stress, and eat well.

    I am now even starting to question if I want to pursue family practice to have my own holistic health practice, or something like emergency medicine where I can just clock-in and clock-out and minimise stress and all the worry about work outside of work. I’m thinking more and more of doing just that, and focusing my passion on holistic health on balanced lifestyle retreats on the side. My experience in medical school has shown me how important a balanced lifestyle is, and how many tools we all need to achieve a balanced lifestyle. It has become my absolute passion, even more than integrative medicine and vitamins, functional medicine, etc. Some of my friends in the natural health side of things are saying that pursuing a specialty other than family medicine would be a waste of all my efforts and passions, but I disagree.

    I guess I’m sharing my story to say that even once you do start medical school your focus can change, and that despite how passionate you are, it is still very much exhausting. I think the best thing any of us can do for ourselves is be flexible and gentle, and realise that paths change in life all the time, and our passions can be channelled in many different directions.

    I hope whatever new, expanded, path you end up pursuing it brings you happiness, fulfills your passions, and leaves room in your life for health, balance, and vitality. I wish you all the best! And happy belated birthday!

  15. Gena- thank you so much for that post. I had the exact same experience with my pre-med courses, and being a comparative literature major, I also felt limited by my belief that I wasn’t a science person. Long story short, I wasn’t as brave as you and never applied to med school, but I found out about this wonderful window that opened when that door closed. It was called Naturopathic Medical School. Now, I’m studying to be a naturopathic physician in portland, oregon, and my real dream of healing people with food, love, herbs, and the body’s innate ability to right itself- will be my reality in 3 more years. This career path is definitely something I wish I had known about during those long hours studying for orgo 2 ( it would have given me hope). Anyways, thank you for sharing your experience- it resonated with me more than you can know. And if you feel like it – look into NCNM ( national college of naturopathic mediocre). I wish you all the best on your journey!!!

  16. This is beautiful, Gena. Thank you for sharing this experience, particularly with the addition of the distance and perspective you’ve gained since January. I want to echo what some other commenters have already noted: you already have been “help[ing] people and heal[ing] them and teach[ing] them about how to love themselves (and others) through what they put in their bodies.” You have been doing that work on your blog for as long as it’s been around. I know I, and your other readers, are so much better for it.

    I love that Wendell Berry poem. Another favorite quote I have returned to so often in my last couple years of utter uncertainty is: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” -Rainer Maria Rilke.

    I have been in what feels like a state of liminality in terms of both personal relationships and career. It has been taxing but it has been a period of undeniable and profound growth.

    It feels good to know I have good company with some amazing women out there. Thank you for this and enjoy the excitement of your journey ahead.

    <3

  17. This is a beautiful post that made me think about my current situation. People need to realize that their are many wonderful careers in the world and the most important for us is to find our individual calling and enjoy every bit of our life’s journey. Even though being a doctor sounds very noble and prestigious to everyone’s ear, how many doctors do we know who are really amazing at what they do?
    This summer I’am lucky to be interning in the lab with bunch of 1st year med school students. Seeing my fellow lab interns exhausted, nourished by TV dinners and hydrated by Mountain Dew makes me wanna choose LIFE!
    “Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart…. live in question” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

  18. Obstacles are sometimes placed in our way because we’re going the wrong way.

    Looking forward to your New York return.

  19. What a beautiful post, Gena. I so admire your courage and honesty in writing all of this. With all of your talents and pure desires to help people, I can’t wait to see what comes next for you!

  20. Gena, happy birthday! I’ve followed you for many years and it’s been a joy to have been on this journey with you. It must not have been an easy post to write, but perhaps freeing once you did. You are incredibly self-aware and seem to be approaching this so measured, as always, though I’m sure it was not always that easy to deal with. I commend you on taking such a bold step at the time you did, and for giving it your absolute all. It is often those moments of humility that build us into better and stronger humans.

    While being a doctor is an extremely admirable and difficult career, I truly believe that your future holds in store an exciting array of opportunities that give you the power to inspire and affect change on a dramatically larger scale. I’ve witnessed the vast number of people you’ve impacted with your Green Recovery series and inspired to eat and live more kindly and compassionately. Your book will take us there; that I am sure of. New beginnings are scary but exciting. Happiest of birthdays to you, and I wish you a joyful new beginning! Thanks for all you do.

  21. As you say, a lot people have gone through similar issues. And they have come out stronger on the other side.
    I’m 32 years old and am still making my game plan (I was in the financial industry for almost a decade, realised I disliked it intensely, quit to go back to school to become a nutritionist and graduated just in time to move to a new country that I can’t work in…). Sometimes life throws us these curveballs and they kick us down, but inevitably, we come back up. It sounds like you already have. You rock and I’m one of those annoyingly optimistic people that believes everything will work out for the best =)
    Happy Birthday!

  22. I am 27, have a BS and MS, quit my Biomed PhD program to apply to medical school and have currently been rejected 2 years in a row simply because of my physical sciences score on the MCAT. The fact that one tiny number out of three can so easily dash hopes and dreams despite being an otherwise perfect candidate is enough to keep me going on this path for at least a few more rounds. I am retaking the MCAT for the 4th time in September and I’m about halfway through my primary app for this application cycle. The med school entrance game is ridiculous and I absolutely understand your decision to not pursue it further. Good luck!

  23. Gena HUGS!! You are one of the most bravest, smartest and most beautiful woman we know. We admire you so much and know you are going to great things in life!!

    Happy Birthday!!

  24. Thanks for this brave, honest post. I’m glad you’re feeling okay about your decision not to reapply. You are going to do awesome things and I can’t wait to see what they are. xo!

  25. I think you are more than “an OK person.” I think you sound pretty amazing and brave. How one reacts to and handles a set-back says a lot about a person and let’s just say you’ve inspired me greatly just now. I hope you keep your heart open to all of life’s adventures and I wish you all the best in your next chapter!

  26. Your writing is amazing!! Maybe you should keep that in mind as you ponder possible careers! It’s so funny, I think I was the only one who commented advising you to give up when you blogged about your doubts long ago. I struggle also with very similar feelings after giving up on a post-bacc computer science degree – I had/have great dreams of becoming a fine example of a female software engineer – something the tech industry greatly needs. Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing yourself with us; this is what keeps me coming back to your blog the most actually. I had noticed that it didn’t seem like you were sharing as much of yourself anymore. (Which is perfectly acceptable of course, but I do love reading posts like these and knowing I’m not alone with these feelings – and I love a glimpse into another person’s life! Lol.) I am excited to keep reading your blog faithfully again. Your cookbook is on my Amazon wishlist btw. 🙂

  27. Dear Gena, Happy Birthday. It’s been a while since we’ve been in touch. I wanted to thank you for this post. The honest and clarity with which you speak is incredibly refreshing and inspiring. In the few months or so since I discovered your website and got in touch with you I want you to know the positive impact you have had and continue to have on my life. Whatever it is that is ahead for you, I know you will continue to touch lives in meaningful ways. I’m so looking forward to your book. Cheers to you!

  28. I’ve lurked around your site for a long time and I actually came here to see if you posted an update, as I’m in a post-bacc and just generally interested in your journey. Thanks very much for such an honest, frank post.

    Like you noted, so many people (59%, actually) get rejected from med school each year. The odds are long and the work to get and stay there is grueling. So many people push ahead regardless because they’re ashamed to step back, examine their life and think about whether this is really what they should do, as you have. If you’ve concluded that med school isn’t right for you, I hope you are getting a lot of support from your family and friends. It’s a much harder, more emotional decision to make than reapplying.

    Thank you again, I was really touched by your post.

  29. Wishing you all the best in your new endeavors. You are already helping people, and I have no doubt that you will find a way to continue that goal.

  30. Hi Gena!
    Firstly, happy (belated) birthday to you! I very much enjoyed reading this entire entry. I thank you for being so open and insightful about the whole ordeal; I’m currently going through something a bit similar (albeit not quite as extensive a journey), and your words have resonated with me and helped me in ways I couldn’t quite word as eloquently 😉 Anyway, you said, “What I wanted to do all along is to help people and heal them and teach them about how to love themselves (and others) through what they put in their bodies.” I can say that I, for one, have been truly helped through your words. 🙂

    Thank you,
    Lian

  31. Gena, you are a very brave person for putting your life online for everyone to see. It’s so easy to talk about life when things are going well, but its another when things aren’t as great. I could feel the heaviness being lifted off your shoulders as the post went on. By the end, you were talking about love and all the great adventures that lay before you. Good for you 🙂 You are moving on from an experience that knocked you down and you are doing it with grace, love and acceptance. Even though you didn’t get into med school, you are still a brilliant person. Here’s to the next part of your life! Congrats on the new man 🙂

  32. Gena, you are INCREDIBLE! (and don’t you dare shirk it off as an empty compliment). I don’t doubt you would have made a great doctor, especially from the patient standpoint, but I’m so excited to see where your journey takes you next. You’ve been helping and healing people with far more than Orgo II and physics knowledge for a long time now, and now having all that education (regardless of whether it culminated in an MD) to back up your next move will only make you stronger, and more of a force to be reckoned with. I sure don’t think many people who do what you do (write, nutritional counseling, ED counseling, et. al) have a medical post bac, to boot! You just ran the marathon of a lifetime, girl, and don’t let anyone, including yourself, take that away from you. <3

  33. Gena,
    Happy Birthday. And good for you. Seriously. I couldn’t like/ thumbs up/ adore/ dig this post any more than if you ‘ d said “guess what?! Got into all the med schools I applied to!!! Yippy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    It takes so so so much courage to do what you’ve done in so many ways. 1) you shared your honest story (presumably) with everyone. Bravo. You just made yourself more ‘real’ to me. 2) You tried. So many wouldn’t have given med school a shot at all because of the fear of failure. and 3) you realized that maybe you aren’t meant to continue down this path. and you listened to yourself. My goodness, that last one is hard. (the other 2 aren’t exactly picnics though.)
    I am technically a “science brain” and I failed organic chem the first time I took it. I think because of that one dumb class, it has affected my self confidence at work . It’s as if it hangs out on my shoulders saying “YOU SHOULDN”T BE HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I’m a food scientist (I realize the irony of my career and the fact that I am a loyal follower of your blog.)
    Anyway, I never ever comment. But i just wanted to wish you the very best of luck when you return to NYC on whatever new road your life takes.

  34. I have been following your blog for some time now and I must commend you on being so open and truthful about the struggles you have had.
    You’ve come a long way baby, as they say.
    You are starting a new adventure and growing as a person in this crazy world.
    You have helped countless people you are unaware of.
    Keep being open to new experiences.
    I wish you all the luck and happiness you can stand from here on in.

  35. Please don’t give up! I’m 32 and just got accepted. I tried for many years. Feeling like a failure is one thing, but believing it is another.

    • Ummm… not to be rude, but I think you missed half of Gena’s amazing post, and particularly the bit where, talking about her decision not to reapply, she says it was “one of the clearest instincts I’ve ever had, and even if I can’t explain it, I can’t deny it, either.” I can tell you’re really happy that you made it into med school, and I don’t want to rain on that parade, but if you do become a doctor, I hope you will learn to listen to your patients with more sensitivity and openness than you’ve shown here in your response to Gena’s post. Just sayin’.
      Gena — Your honesty and integrity in this post and in the path you’ve journeyed since January are beautiful. Thank you for the Wendell Berry and William James quotes — ones to take with me on my own path.

    • I love that you posted this. I am 27 and I’m about to apply for the 3rd time and I’m starting to lose steam. Thanks for the motivation!

  36. Gena,

    I’ve commented once before on your blog and this post exemplifies why I have been a long time reader. I am not the type of person that ever really comments on blogs (although sometimes, I do have a comment or two to say in mind). This time, it felt absolutely necessary. You have been a source of inspiration for a healthier lifestyle for me when I needed to maximize my own potential. Changing my diet has improved my mental wellbeing, ability to concentrate and overall health. I don’t think I need to toot the horn of the virtues of healthy eating to you 🙂 I want to take an opportunity to (hopefully!) try and be a source of inspiration or encouragement to you.

    I was pleased to see that some other commenters were thinking the same thing I was. You are a perfect fit for an MPH program and I’m willing to bet you’d get into a very competitive one. Mailman at Columbia would be a good choice for you in New York. I actually almost went there, it’s a phenomenal program. I know you’re down and the prospect of going back to school is probably not the most alluring but your goals of helping others, gifts in the humanities and multidisciplinary background is precisely in line with what this field is about. More importantly, I know you said you have decided to put the idea of a career in medicine to rest but if ever the flame or desire return to you, public health is a great bridge for this. Many people don’t know this, but there are certain public health courses that are considered basic science courses and can be used to enhance your science GPA if the flame ever returns to you. Your wounds are still fresh, but I hope that you will gain the strength to not look at this situation as black or white… but to rather, “go with the flow” on this one. In fact, that mantra has served me well in my own career.

    Many of your qualities have resonated with me. I struggled in my pre-med courses. I never felt like-minded with the students who excelled in them. I was a social science major and thrived in those courses and in the humanities but was still drawn to the biological science. My efforts academically were often unparalleled. I exhausted all my resources with tutoring, practice problems and so forth— but this itself is a skill and I refuse to accept it as any sort of inadequacy.

    I mentioned to you once before, I was very strategic because I identified my weaknesses early on. I carefully selected courses, went to an “easier university” and would focus on one challenging course at a time. Despite that, it was still difficult for me and my scores were pretty good but not stellar. Also, there is no fooling the MCAT and my score reflected that. I do believe that had I really taken my pre-med courses to the limit (specifically, selecting more challenging courses or taking them at a better university) perhaps, it would have been reflected in my MCAT score. Sadly however, medical school admissions IS a numbers game.

    Nonetheless, I discovered public health myself at the end of my undergrad career. I was jaded by my struggle and unsure I would get into medical school or if I even really wanted to. A public health program was the best thing that ever happened to me. I loved my program, excelled in it and it became the foundation of my understanding of medicine. I developed skills, gained knowledge, and made wonderful life-long likeminded friends (Lot’s of ex-premeds!). I did apply to medical school after completing the program, half-heartedly. Today, I’ve just completed medical school. Re: The go with the flow mantra–it works sometimes. Medical school was hell and I struggled literally every single day, hit various road blocks, failed exams, have been disrespected and questioned perhaps for the past 4 years. I have also acquired a knowledge of the human body and disease that I now render invaluable.

    Medical school may not be for you, I myself question if it was worth all of the agony many days. I won’t know the answer to that till it’s all said and done. Maybe I’ll have an answer for you in the next 5 years. Maybe I won’t. At the end of it all, I hope you genuinely believe that your efforts were not in vain. Those tireless nights doing orgo problems or wrapping your brain around physics may not be called upon specifically– but what you have gained from this process may prove to be quite useful to you in the long run.

    -Amanda

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    P.S. A very, very happy birthday to you! 🙂

    • Amanda, after having a rough time in med school I’m just wondering what specialty you’re going into? I hope you found your niche! 🙂

  37. Gena, thank you yet again for your honesty, bravery and wisdom in this post (and every post). You are an inspiration. Reading every single comment above mine only reiterates that.

  38. Gena, thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been following your blog on and off for years, and it always seems to be just the right post at just the right time for me, so thank you for that as well. I am actually really excited to read your “33” post next year. Your world seems open to possibility now- your future is reborn!

  39. Dear Gena – thank you so much for writing this post. Last spring, I made the decision to stop pursuing post-bac pre-med courses, and gave up my dreams of becoming a physician. I was a couple courses short of fulfilling the credits, but knew I wasn’t doing well enough to be competitive.

    From shadowing and research experiences, I was highly emotionally invested in becoming a doctor. I had romanticized the profession just as you describe, and it felt very traumatic to give this dream up. I couldn’t put words to my sad feelings afterwards until I read your post. I am so sorry that you did not get into medical school, but I do know that you will find the fulfillment you desire in another career (unless you go to DO school/foreign med school and still end up as a physician :)). Best of luck to you, and I hope you had a fantastic birthday!

  40. Hi Gena, I’ve been reading your site for a couple of months now and I haven’t commented before, but it just wanted to say how impressed I am with your post; how beautiful and vulnerable it was; how it resonates and how very brave you are. Love the quote from Wendell Berry. Good luck with figuring out your next steps, you should really consider writing again, maybe the long haul with the post-bacc program is to lead you back to the beginning with a new perspective and struggle. Happy birthday.

  41. Wow. That was incredible. Thank you so much for being so vulnerable and sharing your experience. Much of what you said resonates with what I have been and am going through in my life. Your words give me courage. I don’t know you personally but it seems as though the universe has another plan in mind for you. Something even better than you could ever imagine. 🙂

  42. do not give up! I was a nontraditional student who moved to Chicago with a dream of becoming a veterinarian. I sold my car and moved to city without a job, no nearby friends/connections, and very little money in the bank. I eventually landed a job and worked full-time while doing a post-bac at a nearby school. I paid out of pocket, class by class, year by year and did all the things I had to do and guess what? I was rejected. I know your devastation. Instead of quitting, I spent the next year reassessing what I wanted out of life, and I took an MCAT course, applied to both MD and DO schools and was accepted to a few of them. I did very well in med school (though it wasn’t easy), and I ended up in a Harvard residency. Do NOT give up. I worked alongside DOs at Harvard and there is no discrimination. I don’t think you should quit when you have so many alternative careers within reach: physician assistant, physical therapist, optometrist, pathology assistant, etc. If you want to practice medicine, I really recommend you try DO. PM me if you want details or encouragement.

    Best,
    Mel, MD

  43. Have you considered a program in public health such as an MPH? In public health, we focus on the health of populations rather than the patient at the individual level. There is a huge focus right now on development and implementation of nutritional programs as well as environmental factors in health (exercise, activity in neighborhoods, access to foods, farm markets, etc). You should look into it, I think an MPH in community health would be a great fit for you with your current background and interests 🙂 You are still young, I didn’t even apply to grad school until I was 34!

  44. I admire your strength and courage! You’ve been an inspiration and I’m so excited to see what you’ll come up with next. Good luck Gena 🙂

  45. Gena, I’m sorry you went through this painful experience, though it seems you’ve come through with even more insight about your life (even if you don’t necessarily know where that life will take you). I empathize so much with all of this: trying to change your brain’s natural inclination to surround itself in humanities by taking a sharp left to hard science. I, too, felt I had somehow just been lazy in high school, and that if I applied myself enough could just become a person to whom chemistry made sense. And I, too, felt like a failure when it didn’t work out that way- and when, deep down, I didn’t know if I wanted it to. You’re right to compare it to a particularly nasty breakup. These are hard truths to accept. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the things we ARE good at- and those don’t have to be the jobs we’ve held in the past. I have no doubt you will one day find something that makes you happy. And at the end of the day, a job is just a job. It’s what happens in off-work hours that matters most… at least I think so.

    Best of luck, friend. And a wonderful 32nd- or 33rd!- year to you. Happy to have you back home 🙂

  46. Happy slightly belated birthday, dearest Gena! I acknowledge your immense courage and generosity in writing this post. Having been through something similar with law school and not passing the bar many years ago, I realized that explaining to people that no, I am not going to re-take it, was more challenging than accepting that it wasn’t my path. So many people have asked me over the years and my answer is always the same, but it’s interesting how much other people have attachment to “You went to law school, of course you must take the bar until you pass” rather than another option being available. My point is that what’s important is what you’ve already discovered; this is your life, your journey, and you get to choose what’s right for you.

    It’s interesting that you talked about failure because the last few weeks for me have been replete with a feeling of I’m failing at life. I also realize that this feeling will not stick around forever and that, despite having this feeling, my life is a very good and blessed one. It seems your perspective is a similar one.

    I’m thrilled to know that you’re in love and about to embark on the adventure of cohabitation. I hope you love it (and I believe you will)!

    I will possibly be in NYC in early Sept., so perhaps we’ll get to meet up again soon. Til then, sending you so much love and happiness for your happiness.

    xoxo

  47. This post speaks volumes to me, Gena. Thank you so much for sharing. You have inspired me in so many ways, and only continue to do so. Happy birthday, and I can’t wait to see what is next for you. xo

  48. I’m so sorry this didn’t work out for you. I know you worked so, so hard for years. Moving on from something you pursued for so long almost requires a period of mourning.

  49. I have been following you blog for several years now and this is the first time that I’ve posted. I have struggled with anorexia for several years now and I will be starting a post-bacc program in the fall. I would love to talk to you/ email you about your experiences as well as what I should expect (realistically) when applying to medical school/ taking the MCAT. You are a truly role model and inspiration to me and your writing is breathtaking mostly because it is unabashedly candid and authentic. Thank you!

  50. Thank you for this post. It is as others have noted, honest, eloquent and beautifully written. It’s my belief that failure is an absolute prerequisite for success. There is no way to know that we’ll make it, that we’ll be okay in life – unless we fail at something major, unless something doesn’t go the way we’d planned, in a big way. Once this happens, there’s such freedom in that, there’s more willingness to take big risks – and therefore reap greater rewards from those risks.

  51. Well, you know what I think of you (you’re spectacular) & what you have to offer the world (so, SO much!). Med school–phishaw! You will rock the world with or without those letters behind your name.

    Love ya girl.

  52. I’ve been trying to find the time to comment on this post gena, because i want to say (a) happy birthday! and (b) how utterly impressed i am with your self awareness and ability to find positivity in your situation. I’m sure you’ve heard enough med school rejection anecdotes to last a lifetime but it takes one strong person to expose such a personal struggle to the entire internet reading world. you are so strong and brave and i admire you so very much. with all the frustrations in life, it’s hard enough to open up about our “failures” (your word, not mine) to ourselves…let alone our close friends and family members. but to tell your story to the world – with such eloquence…i found every word to be so honest.
    can’t wait to hear all about the special person in your life 🙂
    hugs on your special day!

  53. You are so amazing, Gena. I’m very sorry that the med-school process didn’t turn out like you had hoped. I know you shared what a difficult journey it was and I can imagine it was also really difficult to not have the outcome you wanted. However, I think you are so incredibly brave to a) give it all you had and b) share it with us. This post was so beautiful, not just because of your exquisite writing, but because you shared something difficult and personal, and that takes bravery that a lot of people don’t have. I was especially touched when you wrote, “Most of us, especially those of us with perfectionistic tendencies, tend to avoid situations in which failure is strongly possible.” You’re preaching to the choir with that one. My own experience as a post-bacc is certainly pushing me in ways I never thought possible, and with things I didn’t really want to confront. It is a challenge, to say the least. I am however so elated that you found someone you love and are going back to NYC, with a brand new chapter ahead of you. I hope (and believe) it will be a wonderful one that makes the last few years worth it because of where you’ve ended up. Wishing you the happiest of birthdays and an amazing summer! <3

  54. You’ve made a difference in more lives than you can count and I hope you take comfort in that very fact. I know that you will use your knowledge and education to continue to fulfill your dreams. I admire your honesty and heartfelt post –

  55. Thank you for your brilliant and very human post. I’m a long time reader of your blog and you always shine. All the best in this transition. The best is yet to come!!

  56. Gena, thank you so very much for sharing this experience with us. It is so difficult to accept falling short of our goal and to understand how and why it didn’t turn out as we planned. I admire your journey to find the gray in a world we make black and white. I know you will find your path in helping people become more healthy in their physical and emotional wellbeing. Best wishes always, Sasha

  57. Love to you and all you do. You did give it your best shot. I look forward to receiving your posts – you provide so much in nourishment for the body and soul. As someone who is still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up it was inspiring that you went on the journey to medical school. As the old jazz standard says “The Best is Yet to Come”…I feel you are on an even more amazing path. Looking forward to your book. I feel you are destined to make an even greater impact on people and I’m sure you would have made a great doctor – they don’t know what they’re missing..we need enlightened doctors especially vegan ones!!!

  58. Wow, you never cease to amaze me with your wisdom and ability to grasp life lessons. I’m sorry that you’re going through some really rough times lately, but I’m happy to hear that you see the value in your experience.

    I started reading CR in 2010, just as you were about to switch career paths and just as I was beginning my recovery from toxic mold exposure. I was especially drawn to your new choices because I was considering going back to school for a science degree, too, after comfortably being a student of the humanities for so long. I haven’t gotten there quite yet (healing is major work!), but even so found myself relating to your ambition to conquer something that didn’t come easily to you. Even though beating sickness and becoming a doctor are not the same thing at all, I’ve related to the feelings of unfamiliar territory, general uncertainty, and living through changes that force you to gather strength lest you shrivel up.

    I’m really excited for your book and whatever else comes next. Even though I don’t know you personally, I know that no matter what you set out to do, you’ll make a deep impact. <3

  59. This is so much of the reason why I think med schools make SUCH a huge mistake in focusing on numbers. As I’ve said to you before, and as I still firmly believe, you would make a stellar doctor. So much of healing is based on the humanity of the doctor and the interaction between the physician and patient. You have what it takes, even if the MCAT or quizzes or whatever didn’t “make the grade.” And I know you will continue on to do amazing things in your life, just as you have up to this point! I also firmly believe that everything we do–everything–contributes to who we are at any given moment and where we end up in terms of our careers. I could never be doing what I’m doing today without every single “failure” along the way. Thank you, as always, for sharing so much of yourself with your readers. (And just maybe. . . I’m doing a little happy dance that you’ll be back in New York–easier to visit!!) 😀 Big hugs and lots of love! xoxo

  60. Gena, I love you. You are an amazing human. You are wise and strong and endlessly talented at so many things. This post is beautiful and echoes so much of the thoughtful person you are. I hate seeing friends go through painful experiences but like you said, somewhere in the back was that feeling, that knowing that you would be fine. That is what I always felt for you Gena because of your brilliance and because you are you. And the truth is you do not need “an end” for things to work out in. You are right now succeeding. Some people do crumble from the pain and pressure and sadness of not achieving a goal. But just the fact that you are writing this and processing it the way you are is why you are you. Why you are empowering us all. And why you are teaching us all so much about our own, fine I’ll say it, failures. Because everyone fails in life at something. Usually many things! I know I have! I left two college programs, business management at BU and art school at Otis because I had that instinctual feeling this wasn’t happening. But you know what, I would always be wondering what if, if I had never at least tried. I feel so blessed for the opportunities to have tried those dreams on for size!

    And thank you, I love how you shared with us that we learn more and analyze more when we are wrong rather than when we are right. So true!!

    Thank you for sharing your insight with us Gena. And happiest birthday to you! I can’t wait to next give you a big hug either in DC or NYC.

    And FYI this post is a freaking stunner. Simply eloquent and like poetry. The most beautiful blog writer I know!

  61. I have learned more about nutrition, eating disorders and positive body image from your blog that I did in all four years of medical school. It may be a disappointment to have not gotten in after four years of hard work and struggle, but I don’t think you would have learned much to help others in their struggle other than medication and the standard American diet. Don’t give up the dream. There are much better avenues for you to pursue and keep closer to your goals. My best!

  62. Gena, I cried reading this powerful and beautiful post. I feel so touched by your honesty and vulnerability, and courage to admit so-called failure and how to contextualize it in our lives. It is SO generous of you to share this chapter of your story with us readers, because, as you mentioned, everyone has experienced disappointment and failure, and it’s not as talked about as it should be. I feel personally connected to this because my own post-bacc didn’t work out, but of course I’ve had multitudes of other failures (as have we all). The connection you make to ED and achievement and what failure means to us personally feels deeply moving. You are such a light in this world, please never stop sharing your truths and incredible talents. Grateful for you, Sarah

  63. Way to follow your intuition Gena. A Steve Jobs quote says its more important than intellect. sometimes rejection is protection. keep following your intuition and I am certain you’ll end up in the perfect place! you are super talented and smart!

  64. “What I wanted to do all along is to help people and heal them and teach them about how to love themselves (and others) through what they put in their bodies.” This is exactly what you have been doing, and doing so very well. You have already helped so many people (myself included) and I wish you all the best for your birthday, your future path and your book!

  65. What a lovely and intimate post. Thank you for sharing and letting us into some of your world. I only want to affirm what many others have said, that your impact has been–and will be be–profound upon the vegan and ED communities. I appreciate all the work you are doing to help create a more compassionate and healthful (in the broadest sense of the word) world.

  66. Ohhh Gena,

    What a beautiful post. I am certain that wherever you go from here you will be a healer. You are a healer on your blog and my guess is its part of who you are. Cheers to a bright and shiny future

  67. Look at you – wise beyond your years. You have so much to offer this world. Your intelligence, grace and talent will help you find your path. In the meantime, enjoy your birthday and your new boy, and good luck with your move back to New York!

  68. This is so good; I need to keep it to read again this time next year. Perhaps not surprisingly, given some of the parallels in our personalities, I can relate to a lot of this. But also from a pure situational perspective. Though I am already in a postgrad program and nearing the end, I’ve had to face a lot of things that I am not good at along the way. Most of them are things I already knew I wasn’t good at: the selling yourself, the ‘networking’ that feels like prostitution, the overly dramatic positioning of your work. But a few of them are things that I thought would come more naturally, yet have proven to be very difficult indeed. I am already railing against the fact that there is no certainty at the end of this road. Only one in 10 PhDs in Australia get the job they want, and my success in getting one of my own actually depends as much on luck as it does on merit.

    I know you were nervous to write that you wouldn’t be reapplying, but I admire you for knowing when to move on. This is a big problem in academia, with people wrapping so much of their identity into academic pursuits that they fail to see a version of themselves outside of that domain. Being able to do so shows wisdom and grace, even if there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth!

    Happy 32nd, and I hope to see many more of these annual musing posts. I love them.

  69. Gena, thank you for such a beautiful and honest post. You’ve handled this challenge so gracefully. And thank you for the Barry quote- that resonates so much with me right now and I needed that. As you know, I’ve worked as a dietitian at a big medical center for about 10 years. Med school or not, you’ve already done at least as much for health and healing as any doctor I’ve encountered. Your writing, recipes and perspectives on eating disorders and health are inspiring to so many people. I look forward to enjoying more of your work in the future. Whichever direction you choose to go with your career, I’m confident you will continue to inspire, motivate and heal.

  70. thank you. you’ve beautifully summed up exactly how i feel at this point in my life. now that we have put our failures out into the universe, we are ready to recieve all that we desire. xx

  71. Oh, Gena, It’s taken me awhile to formulate this comment and I hope you find my words a little bit useful.

    First, my deepest condolences to you for not being accepted into med school. Even if our hearts aren’t all the way in it, it’s still heartbreaking to perceive others telling you that you’re not good enough. This is especially difficult when, like you and I both, we feel we can excel at something if we just try hard enough. Longer hours in the libraries, more and more coffee, more dreams of not studying before writing an important exam.

    Second, I have recently been through a similar scenario, although it was entirely of my own volition. In the first couple months into my last year of my undergrad, I was working endlessly on an assignment for an advanced stats course in psychology that I was only taking to get me in a better position to be accepted to a graduate program in psychology since my “main” major (yes, that happened) was geography. Soon, I got so fed up with the assignment and had a breakdown/realization of sorts: if this is academia, I don’t want any part of it. Why do I cry at least once a term and swear I’m never coming back? Why do I sacrifice my Saturday nights with friends because I have to get a paper done? Why would I mindlessly compete and tear down others just to make myself feel better, as is characteristic of many graduate programs in psych? Why would I shun my future colleagues just because they study a different area than myself? If my life was going to be consumed by this “publish or parish” mindset that permeates through academia and honestly thinking about taking drugs like Adderall just to make me work harder, better, later, then I didn’t want it.

    It felt just like you said: a bad breakup. I cried, I listened to breakup music, I wondered how I was ever going to live a full life without academia, a thing I had worked literally years, cried over and sacrificed fun for and move on.

    For a long time, I was scared to talk about it except to close friends. I was terrified that my professors, who had told me that I was “meant” to be an academic, would find out and be angry. All of a sudden, my life plan was gone.

    I went on to finish my degree, hold a couple of odd jobs and travel to the other side of the world and I think I’m starting to piece together what’s going to come next. Sure, it’s still in the beginning stages since this realization came when sipping an ice coffee at a dodge cafe in Phnom Penh, but a game plan is emerging.

    I’m confident that you’ll figure out what’s next. I feel like a lot of students only think about the knowledge they gained in university, they don’t realize what skills they picked up in university that helped them thrive or, at least, stay above water.

    You’re a lady of many talents, my dear and I don’t have any doubts that you’ll find something that you will love to do. When all else fails, cook.

    On a side note, congrats on the cohabitation plans! I believe I will be cohabiting with a partner for the first time in a few months, as well–let us know how it goes!

  72. I’m a Washington, DC-based reader of your blog and am sorry to read that we will be losing you for the big(ger) city! But more importantly, I’m sorry that your medical school plans have not worked out, but I don’t FEEL sorry for you… I do, however, feel sorry for all the future patients who won’t have the opportunity to visit with you, learn from you, and heal because of you. Of course you know how many doctors are certified to give medical advice while living the most unhealthy lives and indulging in the most unhealthy of vices; doctors who know nothing about nutrition and are only trained to fix the symptom instead of the disease with quick fixes like pills, surgery, and other prohibitively expensive approaches. Who knows? The medical admissions representatives probably knew you’d be a disruptor to the medical $ystem as it is practiced in this country.

    Luckily for you, you’re obviously an amazing person, a talented writer and chef, and a smart, kind, and empathetic person – the exact kind of person this world – and not just the medical community – needs. You have this wonderful blog where you can reach hundreds and thousands of people with each post, and we are all rooting for you and learning from (and eating better BECAUSE of you) every single day.

    Good luck, Gena, and happiest of all happy birthdays! Please keep us updated on your continued adventure and keep your head held high because everything will work out in the end.

  73. Oh Gena, I really admire you for writing this post. It’s such a testament to the tremendous growth you’ve no doubt experienced in many areas of your life over the past few years. You are such an inspiration. I wish you all the best. xo

  74. I have so much respect for you, Gena, and I am so proud of everything you have accomplished and learned over the last handful of years I’ve been reading and following along with you. You are such a beautiful writer and person – I have no doubt you will have a hugely positive impact on those who are fortunate enough to work with you, because you have already had a hugely positive impact on me (and so many of your readers). Thank you for yet another brave, honest, and wise post. This is one I will remember. I wish you the happiest of birthdays, friend. xoxo

  75. This is such a beautifully honest post. I’ve always believed that everything that happens to us, happens for a reason, and I’m sure this is just something that will be leading you to where you are meant to be 🙂

  76. Oh Gena, I feel the need to apologize on behalf of all the medical schools you applied to, because I know you would have been a wonderful member of the medical community. Although, the health care profession is wide and I am sure you have help heal people with your words, comfort, empathy and knowledge through nutrition without being a physician, too. Thank you for sharing your struggles and journey to a happier place. I hope we get lots of insight into your co-habitation!! 🙂

  77. Happy Birthday beautiful lady! We do not know what our future holds, only that our experiences shape us and prepare us for what is to come. You are amazing!

  78. ooof, congrats on this post. I’ve been holding my breath a bit to see how you’d share the news. And in true fashion, you gave something honest, and thoughtful, and so so brave. I so admire that. You already know my thoughts on this topic. Mainly, what this says about insane game that med schools admissions has become, and the weeding out of many with the most wisdom and inspiration. There is the DO option, the RD option, PsyD, etc etc. You’ve already had a lot of success in your life (and especially in the form of impact on others), and I just can’t wait to see what else you do. For now, thanks for being you and being here for us.

  79. Dear Gena, anyone who is able to write such an eloquent, touching and profoundly reflective piece clearly has a Calling and a massive pool of talent, even if it’s not medicine per se. Your blog is a testament to your many gifts. I wish you the best in your new life in NYC, and look forward to continuing to enjoy reading you here.

  80. I find you an amazingly inspirational person already Gena, and posts like this really highlight why so many of us readers love you. You are so relatable! As an English Student who wishes she did Medicine at times I find this very interesting. Like you, I imagine myself really enjoying the clinical settings of being a Dr, however I feel I might be ignoring the fact that I am a ‘humanist’. Why is it that for us perfectionist/type A people, it is not enough to excell in one area? Why do we feel the need to excell at everything?

    I hope you had a wonderful Birthday Gena, you more than deserve it! X

  81. Gena, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know you both from your writings and a little bit in person and I think you are amazing. I remember your post when you wondered if you were on the right path and I also remember commenting something along the lines of feeling that no matter what you end up doing, you will do it well and with your fantastic Gena-gifts and style. You have inspired me over the years and I just want to thank you for your honesty and willingness to share these life lessons.

  82. Gena,

    I really, really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for talking frankly about failure, and also uncertainty. We don’t hear enough about how failure can result in learning, growth and transformation (if we let it). We don’t hear enough about uncertainty either (perhaps even less than failure?) and I especially appreciate your reflections on that. I look forward having your book, and seeing what you do next because it will doubtless be meaningful to you and inspirational to so many of your readers.

  83. gena, first i should say i’m sorry med school didn’t work out as you initially hoped. life has crazy twists and turns … when i was let go from my phd program last year i found myself freelance writing (totally out of my comfort zone!!) i hope you have an awesome time at the beach and i can’t wait to follow your blog as you tackle the next chapter of your life. oh, & happy birthday!! much love.

  84. Gena, the honesty and thoughtfulness in this post were really touching to me. I don’t have much to say that others haven’t already, but I just wanted to send you some love, respect and good wishes. With your intelligence and insight I have no doubt that you’re heading for more great things in the future. xo

  85. Gena I admire you for taking on a challenge that didn’t feel like it was your natural strength. It’s always hard to know whether to push ourselves in our areas where we struggle or to lean into where we naturally excel. I hope you know you have so many options not just being a doctor. The more you write about the process, I do fear that part of the medical system’s issue is that it weeds out people like you who might think more creatively and compassionately. It’s hard to find a doctor like that since they think so scientifically.
    I wish you lots of luck in your next endeavors. Be nice to yourself.

  86. Gena, you are a bright light in this world. I greatly admire and respect you and your work. As undoubtedly painful and soul-testing as this process has been, there is a purpose for it all. The impact you’ve ALREADY had at 32 has been meaningful, profound, life-changing for so many. Being aware of this shift for yourself, and honoring that change, will bring you to even more fulfilling work that will bless the lives of many more. You are wise beyond your years; loved and appreciated beyond your imagination! We will enjoy watching you continue to shine and support you in your next journey. Enjoy some summer downtime. x -Dreena
    (p.s. thanks to you and your mom for sharing that quote)

  87. Gena,
    I wish I could concisely sum up a response to your beautiful perspective on your schooling experience, and tell you how honored and lucky CR readers are to be space holders for your vulnerability and honesty, but I couldn’t even begin to express that appreciation in a short manner. Rather, let me just give you a big “Thank You” and relay good vibes and cheers of success your way. I truly see your journey, schooling included, as a success because YOU ARE achieving your goals of helping others. You have probably helped far more individuals through your writing than what you ever would have helped in a physician clinical type setting.
    Before I wrap this message up (and I book mark this post so I can refer to it when I am in a tough spot mentally) I am wondering if you received my email? I know you have a lot going on, but I sent the email when your page was getting the makeover and I just wanted to be sure it ended up in your inbox.
    Thank you again for everything, Gena. You have such a wonderful spirit.

  88. Your tenacity, wisdom and compassion never cease to amaze me. Onto the next thing, Girlfriend! You’re an inspiration, always.

    P.S. Come back to Chicago! I have exciting news… and a plant-based food hookup!

  89. A very beautiful and honest post, thank you for having the courage to write it. Whatever your future holds, I hope you love every second of it.

  90. Happy birthday Gena,
    I don’t know that I’ve ever been prouder to know you than I am in this moment. You’ve written a brilliant post that shares such incredible insight into the meandering path of life. Thank you for sharing your experience, it provides the space for each reader to look back on their own challenges with new light.
    Love you.

  91. Wow. Just wow. Thank you for these extraordinarily thoughtful, personal words. Knowing when to let go is such a difficult thing in life and it’s incredibly heart-rendering to read about your struggle and arrival. I am facing a similar decision with regard to fertility/having a baby, and knowing when you’re at the end of a road (that you never thought you would be) is a distinctly difficult, powerful thing. As a longtime reader I’ll look forward to keep reading – because I think your next chapter may well be the most exciting in and fulfilling yet. I’m also wishing the best for your exciting summer transition and your new relationship! Sending all good thoughts your way…

  92. Been a long time reader. Thank you for sharing this. In my 20s, I wanted to be a lawyer. I got rejected from law schools three times. I went to work instead as a legal assistant, which I have been doing for nearly 20 years. After all these years, I am glad I never became a lawyer because I love what I do now. Your post reminded me of being rejected from law school; I was so down about it for a long time but I have since learned that Thomas Edison was right: “I did not fail. I just found 100 ways that didn’t work.” You are an amazing person & med school or not, you will succeed. Thank you again for everything you do.

  93. Thank you for sharing this with us Gena. I can’t pretend I know how hard it must be, because I don’t think I’ve gone through anything quite the same, but I do recognize many of the reasons why it must be particularly difficult to deal with- the need to excel & be exceptional at everything, the discomfort in uncertainty, etc.
    BUT, in spite of the apparent “failure”, as you say, this experience has taught you a huge amount and sounds like it was worthwhile for that alone. I believe strongly that things happen for a reason, and I’m sure that this “failure” will lead to another success.
    I admire you so much for your compassion, honesty, bravery & much more but I know little about and honestly couldn’t care less about your academic achievements. Goes to show how little these things matter in the grand scheme of things!
    A very happy birthday! I hope this is a wonderful year for you. Much love xox

  94. Well, oddly enough my instinct is to say CONGRATULATIONS!! Cheers to you, and to your next phase. Happy birthday Gena, from a reader since 2009.

  95. Well, my instinct is to say CONGRATULATIONS!! Cheers to you, and to your next phase. Happy birthday Gena, from a reader since 2009.

  96. Gena, thank you, as always for your honesty, wisdom, and willingness to share with your readers. I don’t know you personally, but your words have resonated with me. You’re truly remarkable, and though you won’t be a doctor, you will continue to inspire and help people through your work, whatever it may be. You’re a woman of many, many talents, and I wish you all the best on whatever’s next for you. It’s only human to feel bitterness, disappointment, and failure, but I’m do glad you’ve gone through those feelings and realized how much richer your life now is because of your struggles, education, and adventure. I wish I also had to courage to go out on a limb and put 100% into something so uncertain. I feel your disappointment, but I also feel your sense of accomplishment for persevering. You should be proud and excited for what will surely be a big future. All the best…

  97. Very very very Happy Birthday my dear! I hope you have very special day surrounded by love 🙂
    Thank you for writing such a beautiful and candid post. I think along these lines a lot – at school we were taught that if we worked hard and did well we would get great jobs and happy lives, yet me and so many of my school friends got our A-grade A-Levels and uni degrees and then can’t get jobs and have to work for free and struggle and do things we don’t really want to do. And I for one keep thinking it’s my fault, because if I was working hard enough I would get the job I want, I would do well, so I must be doing something wrong if I don’t. But in real life, grades don’t equate with success. It seems you have totally epitomised this – yes the grades and the job didn’t work out, but you have grown and changed and learned and experienced and that’s worth so much more,
    Sending love and hugs h x

  98. Yes.

    We need more writing about failure and incapacity. Well, I need it, at least. And I especially appreciate yours.

    A similar thing happens to young actors, by the way. A lie is fed to them that goes like this, “if you can imagine yourself being happy doing *anything* else….this isn’t for you. This life is so hard, so impossibly hard, and simultaneously so extraordinary, that it’s only for the select few who cannot survive any other way.” It’s easy to get wrapped up in that kind of thing. (I think there should be a law against telling large groups of undergraduates that they are, and should strive to remain, “extraordinary.”) Perhaps that inflated sense of self-importance is the only way that uninitiated young humans can muster up the will to charge into the gauntlet ahead.

    All I know for sure is that all those words about how “extraordinary” I supposedly was when I was studying acting ring pretty hollow now. There are so many “average” people in my life whose minds, hearts, and work have done so much more than I can imagine I’d ever have been able to do as an actress. More and more, I feel that humility matters more to me than glittery achievement. It certainly does where friendship, love, and even professional trust are concerned.

    Lastly, another remnant of my days as an actress has to do with my admiration of strong choices and taking important risks. I never admire a risk-taker more than when the medium-term result of a great big risk is a failure. It’s easy to be a winner. What really impresses me is a bewildering, heartbreaking failure that’s handled with honesty, openness, and grace.

    You continue to show the way for so many more people than you know. And I have a pretty good feeling that your story is going to get really, really good—-sooner than you think. Unlike so many people I watched blossom into physicians, you don’t have to keep gritting your teeth through the impossibly terrible present moment in anticipation of the next milestone upon which you’ve pinned your hopes for relief. (So many people thought third year would be better. When it wasn’t, they thought residency would be better. When it wasn’t, they thought having their own practice would be better…….and on and on until retirement. Not everyone, but enough people that even as I have felt your incredible disappointment, I have (rightly or wrongly) felt an undeniable sense of relief on your behalf.

    And I cannot WAIT for what lies ahead for you, whatever it may be. It’s going to be so good.

  99. Thank you so much for opening up about this Gena. I can personally relate to the med (vet) school thing, but I know every single person, regardless of circumstance, can relate and gain something from reading this.
    xx

  100. Way to be brave and share. I loved how you spoke about this lesson in your life. I have had similar in unrelated areas and your words spoke true.

  101. Wow… just wow. I don’t really have words to convey the amount of respect I have for you. I’ve always known you were an awesome person, but reading this just makes me so blown away. I’m really sorry that things didn’t work out like you planned, but the lessons you’ve learned… and shared here are huge.

  102. You continue to be an inspiration to me. I appreciate your honesty as you share this personal segment of your life. I am most proud of you for staying healthy, and continuing to be a role model to so many. I can’t wait to see what your future holds!

  103. I love this post and in a way, envy your experience. Once you are all “settled in” somewhere, it’s very hard to break free of that and try something new or go down a different path. It took real bravery and guts – and now you’ve had this really unique experience that seems to have taught you a lot. And more than that – now you know. If you hadnt tried I think you’d be feeling much worse right now. Thank you for sharing – but sounds like you’ve got lots of good things ahead! xo

  104. “What I wanted to do all along is to help people and heal them and teach them about how to love themselves (and others) through what they put in their bodies. So long as I can do that, nothing’s lost.”

    I have every confidence that you will do great things, because this is already what I’ve seen you doing through Choosing Raw in the last couple years that I’ve been reading. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  105. It is so painful for me to read the gory details of your struggles, Gena, yet as you’ve come to realize, I know for sure that this the experience will likely be among the most valuable of your life, in resetting and righting your professional and personal trajectories So, onward!

    I am so happy for all the positive happenings and the world of opportunity that lies ahead for you, and your exciting new love! And, I couldn’t be prouder of you for your generosity in publically reflecting on such a deeply sensitive and wounding experience, baring your most intimate feelings, in the hope of offering yet another teachable moment in your quest to comfort those among us who are feeling similarly rudderless following a significant life-altering setback. (And, those of us of a certain age, know firsthand what it feels like to be socked in the face big-time.)

    I hope you know that I’m always here for you, friend – to lend a shoulder, provide fresh eyes, whatever. Just holler. Hugs! Love you!

  106. Gen, I simply have to shout this from the rooftop. You’re not just OK, you’re fabulous and wonderful and brilliant and gorgeous and inspiring and I love you more than anyone. I never thought for a moment that you would fail and you haven’t. You’ve grown. Matured. Strengthened. I can’t wait to witness the next steps of your journey.
    A million hugs and kisses.

  107. Your words continue to inspire me everyday because their raw and yours alone. Your strength for always moving forward and your passion for what you do have always made me love talking with you, and with your move back, I hope we can do it more! All my love to you!

  108. Thank you. I’m about to start nursing school (with the goal of becoming a midwife), and I’m terrified I’m actually going to be terrible at it. Like you, I didn’t focus much on science before. I studied languages and literature, and until a few years ago was solidly sure I’d be an interpreter. But here I am going in a totally different direction; I’ve passed my prerequisites, but it’s only going to get harder. And I’m not even going to nursing school to be a nurse – I’m going because it’s the best way for me to become a midwife (there are other options, but I think this is the best one for me). I might fail. And that scares me, but your words have helped. Failing isn’t the end, and if it happens, I will survive it. So thank you for this post. I’ve been reading Choosing Raw for years, and every time I read something here I’m glad I did. Your words always feel good, even when they’re addressing difficult topics. It’s a gift, and I’m glad you stuck with it through all the tough work you’ve been doing.

  109. what a beautiful post! you have so much to share no matter what initials you have beside your name! I read Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection” this year and it was life changing, i think you would like it. I love how in talking about shame, she addresses vulnerability and I have come to realize that those who expose themselves, risk failure and make themselves vulnerable are the ones who create, innovate and change the world. You really opened yourself up to so many challenges and I think it will all pay off. So pleased to hear you are in a happy relationship too.

  110. Gena,
    I’ve read your blog for (at least three or four years now), and though I’ve never commented before, I just wanted to let you know how profoundly inspired I am by your insight and beautiful writing. Your wisdom and self-awareness is awe-inspiring, and I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for having the bravery to share it with us every day. As the blogger who aided me in my eating disorder recovery, my path to veganism, and my turbulent early/mid teenage years (I’m 19 now), I want to let you know that your humbleness and honesty has helped me–and I’m sure many others–grapple with issues from the profound (restrictions and self-loathing) to the trite (that incredible grawnola recipe that I’m making at this moment). I’d love to meet you at some point and thank you in person, but I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of support as you bare your soul to us. Med school may not be for you, but don’t think for a second that you haven’t helped many, many readers through the years. I am so grateful for your presence on this planet and on the interwebs <3
    -Olivia

  111. I love your honesty and humbleness; they come through beautifully in your writing. I have just one piece of advice that my dad always tells me – Itta be fine. Some people may think that it’s insensitive or harsh, but I’ve always admired the saying for it’s truth and brevity. I know you will be fine because you are incredibly talented and have developed such an amazing perspective from all of your experiences. Plus, you have a huge community of people who will support and encourage you in your endeavors, whatever they may be.

  112. An amazing and courageous post. Thanks for sharing such an important life moment so elegantly and with such grace.

  113. Man. I know I’ll need to come back to absorb this all–there’s so much. I know there’s always the struggle to find what works, but I’m working really hard right now to figure out my relationship with or definition of ambition, so this hit me especially deeply. Regardless, happy birthday, and all the luck. Though I know you don’t need it.

  114. I don’t know if you would feel comfortable or not disclosing, but did you also apply to DO or PA schools or strictly MD programs? I was a bit curious because I know you alluded to figuring out what the next step would be and wasn’t sure if that meant moving forward with non clinical programs, or applying to PA or DO programs. If you aren’t comfortable disclosing, no worries, I wish you luck on your journey and know something else will work out.

  115. What a wonderful heart felt read! After all your studying you are better equipped than ever to start your new path on this journey called life. I’m so looking forward to reading the chapter 🙂

  116. Thank you so much for your vulnerability here, for letting your readers in to a part of your life that is emotional. I know that as a blogger it can be incredibly scary to just unleash the beasts inside, but I also know as a blog READER that that is the kind of content I love most. Thank you again!

  117. This is such a hard post to read for those of us who know what an amazing physician you would be. As a doc myself I’d like to say that I hope you know what a terrible loss the medical community has suffered by this ridiculous ‘weeding out’ process. I fully respect your decision not to re apply, but I do hope you know that there are medical schools out there who seek out and value ‘non traditional’ future physicians. Most of these schools are osteopathic- my own mother, at the age of 45, after raising 5 kids (and an MCAT of 26) got accepted to a DO school and is now a family doc with a practice focus in preventative medicine and weight loss. As I said, I absolutely respect your decision, but I do think it needs to be said here, for all to see, that the medical community desperately needs ‘out of the box’ physicians, and there are schools out there who realize this.
    Happy birthday, I hope your summer is one of the best yet 🙂

  118. I’m sorry Gena. I’m sorry that this dream was not to be and I cried as I read this beautiful post. I have never written about this but hey, why not now? You bravely shared and so will I . I was one of those “numbers people” you wrote about. I was a math girl and went to college expected to be pre med. I fell in love with sociology and took a nutrition class (but I didn’t think that was a real career option or not an option my parents would like yup). When I graduated I did a post bac year and studied for what else? My MCATS. I don’t know if it was that it wasn’t meant to me, that the MCATS are really hard or what but I had my first panic attack the night before I took them and it wasn’t pretty. I didn’t get in either. I was ashamed but something else happened, I wasn’t really sad. I don’t think I ever really wanted to go. I was in love too and though I could’ve gone back to Tulane and pulled strings and been accepted, I stayed in NYC. It felt like such a lame move. What smart, independent female chooses the relationship? I did but I also found my other love nutrition. And over the years I realized that this numbers girl loves the emotional/human part of my counseling career and I like to write. I know what you’re feeling. I gave up piano too and sometimes regret that too but you are a star and there was something about this that wasn’t right but you had to test it out and you did. And if you really wanted to push you could go out of the country and reapply. The universe is telling you something and I know from the little I know you that it will be ok, nope it’ll be fucking amazing. Love to you. Let’s get together this summer.

  119. I really believe we have a wisdom within us that shines when we get to that place of “can’t.” It’s natural to second guess it but when you come through to a place like where you are, although so hard won, you are really even more fully on your path with both feet! Congratulations on all your accomplishments and happy birthday!!!!

  120. wow. i read every.single.word. i had a sneaking feeling this might have been the case. after i graduated pre-med i began to do lab work thinking oh, i’d do a couple years and maybe go back and get the old md or do the md/phd route. HA! when i looked into it, it wasn’t that i was too lazy, but when i saw that you basically have to be super human after a certain age to get accepted i balked.

    a lot of doctors are groomed from an early age (either coming from privilege or from a family who ‘expects’ great things because they are coming from another country etc). i know this sweeping generalization isn’t true of all doctors and perhaps a bit unfair. however, i’m sure you came across many who did ‘all.the.things’ not really because they had intentions of altruism, but because it’s just what you do to get accepted. the sense of entitlement in the road to becoming a doctor is strong! i mean…most of us have been told we can do anything if we work hard enough for it. that is, in some ways the greatest lie of our generation.

    i went through a period of feeling waaaaaay mediocre and a time of self loathing where i simply felt inadequate. but after some wise words from nate and some careful reflection, i came around. it’s not about being ‘the best’ or holding a particular ‘title.’ we’re all humans in this crazy thing called life. each doing our best to navigate this journey tinged with bad times and speckled with moments of pure joy. it’s impossibly complicated and beautifully imperfect. no two experiences will ever be the same yet we are constantly comparing which leaves us often self defeated. i’m happily plugging away in a cancer research lab and make vaccines from resected tumors for patients. it’s challenging and incredibly rewarding even when it’s stressful. as much as i love that, if i found myself working in a coffee shop with good people, i’d be content there as well.

    you are wise beyond your years, happy birthday gena!

  121. dear gena,
    your story is rich and i’m sure you know that all that learning is not for naught. you have done and will go on to do many many more great things in this life!
    also..i am in the throes of grad school and the wendell berry quote made me cry, so so lovely

  122. It takes real courage to share ourselves as we really are, not just as we wish ourselves to be. Thank you for sharing your story so beautifully and candidly. None of us get through this life without having things go differently than we’d hoped. They say the adventure is in the journey, but that doesn’t mean that isn’t hard sometimes when the destination isn’t the one we’d planned. Thank you for giving a voice to what all of us experience but what can feel vulnerable to share. I’ll be eager to hear what is next for you! It sounds like there are lots of possibilities ahead, and I know that whatever comes, you’ll meet it with your signature grace.

  123. Sorry girl but I had to come back and share this impactful post by Danielle LaPorte on how to give up a dream. I thought you might like it. http://www.daniellelaporte.com/how-to-let-go-of-a-dream/ also
    If you’ve not read The Desire Map yet maybe now’s a good time to check it out. I’m part of a great book club here in Saudi where we all get together each week to encourage each other through working through the Desire Map. It’s a different way of goal setting to achieve your dreams and you touched on it at the end of your post about realising all is not lost if you still get to achieve your core desire to help people. What a breakthrough!!!!

  124. Wow Gena! Thanks for sharing such an intimate and heartfelt post. I was gripped. Sorry you had to go through all of that and I feel honoured that you’ve shared this journey with us over the years. I look forward to seeing and where it all takes you and super excited for the new love in your life too, Big love from the Aussie in Saudi Arabia xxx

  125. You are, and will always, be a healer in my books, Gena – as I said all those months ago: Keep your mind firmly fixed on your dreams, and they will happen, probably in the most unexpected ways. It is the courage of trying, knowing for the rest of your life that you did the rarest of things, that will always keep your heart happy. Be true to yourself as you approach the path that leads forward, your instincts will be the best of guides – as it has been these 32 years. Wishing you love and light in this special time, and hope to one day thank you in person for your sharing spirit 🙂

  126. There is so much richness in this post, so much richness of heart and spirit and words. I won’t repeat any of the things I’ve said to you in recent months over text, because you know it all; instead I want to thank you for the strength of this post. For proving, over and over again, the radiant, fire-bright core of you that can never be broken or doused. For always inspiring me, for making me laugh, for being courageous and self-assured and unsure and humble and brilliant all at once, in the way that we all always are, all of it. You are magnificent.

    Thank you for the Barry quote. I desperately need that myself right now.

    Happy birthday, my sweet. I wish I could be celebrating with you this year as last, with a too-strong Mad Men-inspired cocktail in my hand. Who could’ve imagined where we’d be this year, or where we’ll be next? I’m looking forward to finding out.

  127. I regularly read your blog and I emphathize with your frustration here. I know what it’s like to devote a great deal of energy to something that doesn’t work out the way you thought it would (it was graduate school for me). From what I’ve seen, you’re incredibly talented, driven, and one of those persons who can rightly be called a life-long learner. I believe you’d be successful in a number of health-related careers. A public health program would be lucky to have you.

  128. I can imagine that writing this post was a painful, yet therapeutic process, and it in no way reeks of failure. In fact, I see so much growth and insight that I know will carry you through whatever your next steps may be. Just imagine if you had never tried? At least you learned so much–clinical and philosophical–along the way, and have no regrets that you tried.

    As for the future? Who really knows? I still have no clue what I’m called to do but every day is a chance to find out, to heal, to connect. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. As always, you give me hope!

  129. Your way with words will lead you to your next journey.

    Thank you for sharing your story of wants and upsets. Life is a trip. You’re going to be just fine! (but you knew that already.)

  130. I support you through this – you did NOT fail. I commend you for going through the long process and working so hard. Go celebrate your birthday, and here’s to the new chapter of life. Hugs xo

  131. Thank you for your courage and honesty in sharing what was most certainly a character forming challenge to overcome. I will have to reread this wonderful post several times to capture every nuance and idea that you have expressed so beautifully. As one of your regular readers all I can say is that you have handled (sweat pants and wine included) this personal setback with your customary grace and dignity. You have come out of this able to embrace the beauty of uncertainty, and the richness that not knowing your next move undoubtedly brings to life. That is in itself one of the most valuable lessons we can learn. Sometimes for the A type personalities amongst us, the lesson that life needs to teach us, is how to simply just BE. How to move gracefully through day to day life, experiencing the luck and privilege of just being alive, without fixating on the ever shifting mirage of an end goal. I think that’s one of the toughest lessons that I have had to learn over the last 10 years, just to let go, be, and having the patience to allow your soul to speak to you without the internal cacophony of that exam to pass or promotion to achieve.
    Great news about finding a new love in your life amidst this chaos.
    As ever, I send you my fondest wishes for a happy and bright future in whatever interesting and eclectic form that may take.
    Take care and have a great, relaxing summer, which I hope will include both sweat pants and wine!
    Kate

  132. Gena, I come back to Choosing Raw day after day for your beautiful words. Your prose is like poetry and I enjoy reading all posts from simple recipes to more heartfelt stories like this. While I am so sorry that your original plan did not work out, I know that it will only serve you as you find your niche in the future. You already reach so many people and do help them to heal through the food. I cannot wait for your book and to see what is in store for your future. Happy birthday and best wishes to you.

  133. I love you, Gena! I love your honesty. I love your tenacity. I love your willingness to bare our soul for and to others.

    Happiest birthday, dear one, and SEE YOU SOON! xxoo