Worse than my adolescence. Yes, that’s exactly how I would describe it. Believe it or not, my quarterlife crisis has been much more awkward, painful, and insecure than my bushy-haired-and-pimply high school days had ever been.
In high school, I filled notebook after notebook with angsty-but-hopeful poems. My favorite topics were unrequited love (guy friends who turned cold towards me once they learned I liked them) and being an outcast (a.k.a. th girl everyone loved to hate). Those were my problems then. Teenage issues that moved me so much I felt compelled to preserve them in rhyming stanzas (cringe, cringe, criiiiiiiinge!).
College, however, was another story entirely. I decided to change my fate. I became the social butterfly and the confident straight-A student. And yes, I was also well-dressed and glammed-up while at it. I projected an ultra-strong, alpha female vibe so no one would ever belittle me or slight me.
High school would be a million miles away (both literally, because I moved to the big city, and figuratively, because I was the exact opposite of my high school self).
That was how I intended things to be – until I hit my twenties and life became unpredictable, messy, and uncontrollable all over again.
First off, I went to medical school. Certain insecurities started resurfacing – and PAINFULLY stayed:
1) Unlike my peers who were now earning from their jobs, I was still a dependent, ergo, I was penniless.
2) Because my family still supported me, I didn’t have a say in my own life yet (no boyfriends, no sororities, no outside-med distractions – all of which I defied later on).
3) For the first time in my life, I felt I wasn’t good enough. When you are handpicked to be in the best medical school in the country and you feel average and lost among the smart and über-competitive student body, combined with the stressful and demanding work environment (from information-heavy all-day droning lectures to intense exams one week after the other to 36-hour hospital shifts), depression and loss of self-esteem can be inevitable.
So how, then, did I keep myself alive and functional during these bleak times?
I listened to Katy Perry.
Yes, you got that right. I tuned out from my toxic world and plugged myself to her powerful, spunky voice.
I liked that:
a) she was irreverent and real
b) she was very mischievous and naughty
c) but at the same time, she feels the depth of pain
d) and she highlights the importance of bouncing back
In my daily work where expectations were high, mistakes were pointed out harshly, and propriety was standard to the point of hypocrisy (medical school felt like living in a conservative little town where people always had something to say), Katy Perry was someone I could trust.
She was REAL, genuine to the core, and she spoke openly and equally about her successes and failures (her documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me, shows both her ambitious world tour and the downfall of her marriage to Russell Brand).
Katy Perry kept me stimulated when I was too drained. Her crazy, playful outfits and music videos made me happy. As a girl who loved to dress up all the time, I could relate to wanting to be like a chameleon. Confined to a uniform of white and only white, the chameleon in me was restless and couldn’t wait to get out.
But what I love most about Katy Perry is her unwavering belief in herself and in her refusal to change who she is. I felt that pressure in medical school – I was too “out there”, too “ambitious”, too…”different”.
This song truly speaks to me. Katy Perry must have felt this song rising inside her during the 5 long years she struggled to make it as an artist.
She was an unknown girl with an unorthodox background (brought up in an extremely devoted Christian family, where “deviled eggs” was reportedly a bad word, and, hence, changed to “angeled eggs” by her church-leader parents).
She had an even more unorthodox voice and vision for herself, with record labels dropping her because she refused to be the next Kelly Clarkson or Avril Lavigne.
There was even a time in her early 20’s, during this time of feeling unknown and unwanted, that she had to ask her 16-year-old brother for money! She couldn’t pay rent, and at one point, her car had to be taken away.
But still, she persisted. She stuck to her dreams.
This is why her story and her lyrics resonate so strongly with me. I spent 5 long years struggling to be myself in a world that kept telling me I wasn’t good enough or I was too radical.
Being in your 20’s, you kind of feel like you were tricked, like a rug was pulled out from under your feet and you’re slipping, your arms frantically trying to break your fall.
Because when I was a kid, I thought being in your 20’s would be awesome. I would be independent enough to do what I wanted. I would be travelling around the world, in search of badass adventures. I would be empowered and passionate, going after a career I wanted.
Unfortunately from the ages of 21 to 24, I was anything but. I was scared of the future, scared of not having money for myself yet, and scared of being stuck in a hospital all my life.
But like all crisis, once you hit rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up. Resilience eventually strikes.
Now, at age 25, I’m realizing the prize I had to pay to get my MD was indeed steep and plunged me into my most unsettling and uncertain experience.
My principles WERE tested, my self-worth was measured and jabbed at until I decided to create MY own measures, and my relationships were refined such that only those with the purest intentions stayed with me.
At 25 years old, I can say I am a survivor. I’ve been to the depths of hell (if you go to our hospital, you will believe me), I’ve overcome doubt and despair, and I’m ready…to move on to a much better place.
In 6 months, my life here will be over as I’ve known it. I will be marking the end of my 5 years. On to more challenges, perhaps to even more uncertainty, but I know my quarterlife crisis is behind me.
Katy Perry couldn’t have put it any better:
I believe that making it is an achievement. Here’s to choosing to remain myself through these years – despite the push-and-pull, the ups-and-downs, the wear-and-tear.
Making it is the best prize ever. That, to me, is worth ROARING about. : )
P.S. Oh, here is the main takeway for this looong post:
Photo Text by http://www.noclinicfortoday.com
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