Today I officially get offered a position in the UBC MD/PhD program (a program where at the end of 8 years I get both my medical degree and my PhD). Today, I officially thank them for the opportunity and respectfully decline.
This means that officially, as of August 17th, I will become an MD/PhD student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. I’m a little teary-eyed and emotional as I write this, because sending the email to let UBC know of my decision means that I have made my decision. When I talked with my mother before today about booking my flight, packing, finding movers, finding an apartment close to the medical building at McGill, getting car insurance in Quebec, and on and on and on about the details of starting a new life in Montreal, it all seemed like a fairytale – dreaming at a distance about what could be.
Today I am emotional because I officially close the door on UBC. I close a major chapter in my life. I choose to leave the place I’ve called home for 17 years, physically leave the people I love, and uproot.
It’s hard for me because I don’t feel like a grown-up. I don’t feel strong enough to leave all the people I need to support me. I don’t know if I have the strength to start a new life in a strange, though sexy, city. I don’t know if I can handle all the financial matters (the loans, lines of credit, credit cards, scholarships). I’m not sure what lab I will do my PhD in. My French is poor, and nothing is certain for me in Montreal right now.
And those are the exact reasons why I must go there.
Ask Nathan Tippe. I was literally jumping for joy and screaming in the UBC Centre for Student Involvement when I found out about McGill accepting me. I told everyone I know and I was sure that I would go to McGill regardless of whether UBC decided to accept me. And then, of course, UBC had to go and ruin everything by offering me a position with their program.
I started creating excuses for myself on why I should backtrack on my word to myself. I told myself that financially it would be easier to stay at UBC. I have friends who mean the world to me in Vancouver. I can more easily find a place and move and it’s safe and it’s comfortable. I have connections here that I should leverage to make the best of my education. Ultimately, it boiled down to being afraid to leave my comfort zone.
Then, I had a chat with a friend I respect tremendously, and she got right at the heart of the issue. Were you excited when you found out about UBC’s offer? The answer…was no.
Not because I don’t love UBC – it’s my home and it’s the community that has allowed me to become the person that I am. But at some point, I have to leave the nest. I can always come back to do my psychiatry residency here, but I need to first leave in order to appreciate what UBC uniquely offers. I don’t want to take life here for granted. I don’t want to stay because it’s the easy thing to do. Besides, Montreal offers a little taste of Europe in the heart of Canada, the ridiculously beautiful Quebecois, four universities that focus on collaboration, leading international brain researchers and clinicians, and culture oozing out of its pores. I think I can probably make the next 8 years work…
Elisa Kharrazi posted a quote from one of my favourite poems today: “Two roads diverged in a wood and I … I took the one less traveled by”. Difficult decisions are important, because they force us to take a look within ourselves and challenge who we are. We are forced to consider our values and our strength, and understand what our fears are about the road less traveled. Matt Corker’s post on a similar topic was particularly inspirational and timely for me, and I highly recommend it.
Today I take the first step on a journey that lasts 8 years. Today I make a hard decision and I grow up.