The truth is, I have been having a hard time adjusting to my new life– something that did not happen during my transition from high school to undergrad. I suppose I left my undergraduate college expecting life in medical school to be similar; undoubtedly harder, but similar. I was excited about living in my own apartment, the science-oriented student body, and the block class schedule (meaning that instead of having multiple classes at once, we would have one class at a time every day until it would finish and we would move on to the next one) in my new life. While I was prepared for these changes, I simply did not anticipate how these qualities would synergize and put me through an entirely different experience from what I was expecting.
The medical school campus is beautiful– it is located in the art district of downtown Fort Worth. Even just by walking around, you can always see the Forth Worth skyline lightly covered by fog. The school is far more organized than any undergraduate school I had ever been to and took great pains to maintain a cutting-edge image. With its bold facilities and top board graduating board scores in the nation, this school is often referred to as the Harvard of Osteopathic medical schools (the program I chose to follow). Partly due to its distinction, the buildings have a rather professional and “clinical” feel to them rather than an atmosphere of worn academia.
The change in atmosphere was an interesting change from the atmosphere in undergrad– it no longer had the “school days” vibe. Rather, it had a more career-oriented vibe that encouraged professionalism. This change I admit was not completely unexpected, but whatdid catch me off guard was the sort of people that such an environment molded the student body into. As one would expect, the halls of the school served to create dignified, professional physicians. While I would love nothing better than to join the ranks of such healers, I felt that some of the “charm” of school had disappeared with this change. It did not feel like I was coming to school every day– it felt like I was coming to work. Indeed, this feeling was reinforced upon observing the transportation habits of most students; since there were no dorms on campus, everyone would commute to campus in the morning and then largely leave once school was out for the day. Because students would go home at the end of the day to their room mates (or even their spouses), there was not much to call “campus life” after 5 PM.
I suppose a part of me missed and constantly strived to reclaim the peaceful school life of my senior year in undergrad. I would find myself purposely acting a little “looser” in some settings just so that I could break away from the strictly professional image expected from me in medical school to momentarily breathe the air I used to college. Just as I did before, I did not really worry or stress over exams / grades and still valued my free time to partake in some of my more time-consuming hobbies (such as coding and gaming). I had slow yet encouraging success though– I managed to reconnect with a few people I knew back from undergrad (one of which sat across my bench in Biochemistry Lab) and got to know some of their friends. The sort of people you can sit back and laugh for minutes on end because of how utterly stupid you are acting in each others’ presence. They were bright students to be sure, but for some reason, it was easier to connect with them. It would always be a nice feeling when Josin, Suin, Christine, or someone else shouted out a “hey!” in my direction… it brought me back to the days when it was normal for students to be just milling around campus for no reason.
…and suddenly, it was time for midterms, accounting for about 50% of the course grade.
See, this is a phenomenon that I failed to recognize when I would previously look forward to the block class schedule: while it is true that one does not have to “switch gears” between different subjects on account of having the same class every day, this design also makes it extremely easy to fall behind because of the constant flow of information. Indeed, I was already struggling with the long lecture hours (I tend to have a hard time falling asleep at night) but as I left work for “next day,” the work quickly piled up. Even single lectures would often have 60+ slides that we had to know cold. As such, midterms snuck up on me (it had only been a few weeks, but we were half way done with the course’s contents!) The immediate next thing that surprised me was the class average. It never really sunk in until then that everyone in my class now used to be a pre-medical student, meaning that despite how clueless certain people came off as in class,they were here for a reason. The class average was extremely high (and this has shown as a consistent trend– averages either in the ‘A’ or ‘B+’ ranges). As for me? I was below average and completely caught off guard.
I honestly do not mean to sound the least bit arrogant, but it was a real shocker for me to find the majority of my class above my academic level (or at the very least, at it). What also discouraged me was the larger prevalence of people older than me (the average age of entering medical students as of right now is 27-28 and here I was entering at 21) and their inevitably sharpened knowledge. It was around this time that I withdrew myself from everything– online friends, social interactions, and hobbies to really focus on my school work. As per university policy, I was required to visit someone called a Learning Specialist on campus, which was in essence a psychologist with an emphasis on study habits.
I have to note however that while I am usually skeptical about such types, she was extremely kind and easy to interact with (she has to deal with people with scienced-up brains like mine every day anyways). She was able to explain things to me in terms of physics and planets– I’ll let you ponder that one!
Despite feeling better after such sessions however, I would find myself gradually falling deeper and deeper into my pile of work and began to wreck my lifestyle because of it. My sleeping schedule floated all over the place, I would eat junk foods or meals that were easy to prepare, various chores piled up. It was at this point that I missed having a room mate like Charlie (my previous room mate for 3 years)– I feel that I would never have let my lifestyle degenerate to such an extent with someone else in my habitation. Knowing that I was living in such a manner and then going through the motions of school just made me feel even more lost. It was at this point that I began to escape from this world into the gaming world.
Two more tests came and I still could not figure out my problem with studying, nor could I easily break myself out of the rut I had fallen into. Despite it not meeting my expectations and despite it causing me such trouble in life, I have never for a second doubted the path I am on. I would like nothing more than to become a doctor and watch the proud faces of my friends and family that have supported me all this time. That– is the truth.
The truth is, I began to play a game called Persona 4: Golden on my Playstation Vita around the time when I began to perform poorly in class. Actually no, that is not quite right– I had already started playing the game during the Summer, but it had sat in its case while I eagerly waited for medical school to start. When school began to take over my life and my grades began to slip, I rediscovered Persona 4 as way to pass time in bed (I frequently have trouble sleeping) and later, as a way to pass time in life.
The post What You Leave Behind is one of my most cherished pieces on this blog for a number of reasons: It serves as a reminder of the carefree “college” days that people so fondly talk about, spending every day with my friends within arm’s reach, and the hope-filled conversations we would hold about going to graduate school afterwards. For someone who moved from place to place for most of their life (thus never really going to the same school for a significant length of time) and having enjoyed such a successful 4 years, undergrad was (to date) the best years of my life. Despite this however, Idid not want to stay in college forever. On the contrary, I was very much looking forward to starting medical school afterwards, especially having worked towards getting accepted for so long.
The medical school campus and surrounding area is beautiful and well laid-out. My school is profoundly organized and constantly impresses me with the amount of thought they pour into providing educational facilities for us. A very professional and slick environment to study in.
I have nothing to complain about and in fact am not complaining about anything, but the simple fact is that my expectations going into medical school were wrong. Don’t get me wrong– I have zero regrets about going into medical school and still want to be a doctor, but for some reason, I never mentally prepared myself for all the changes that would take place going in. First of all, there are no dorms on campus so everyone commutes. The consequence of this setup is that people don’t really linger on campus for social reasons because everyone just finishes up what they need to do and go home to their parents/spouses/roommates. I knew that I would not make close friends right off the bat when entering a new school, but I feel like this sort of set-up makes the campus feel more like the “college” campus I was used to and more like a somewhat sanitized work environment.
While this sort of environment was not entirely unexpected, I did not really expect in either so I had to mentally adjust a little bit. Just as I was getting into the routine however, I performed below average on my class midterm. Then I picked up Persona 4 and began to put hours and hours into that world… in Inaba.
You see, Persona 4 gave me back everything I had lost at a point in my life when I was vulnerable. The game takes place in a rural, nostalgic town of Inaba. During the day, you go to Yasogami High and listen to your teachers’ lectures.
After school, you can choose to train, work a part time job, study, or spend time with a friend/classmate to get to know them better (thus increasing your social-link score while they open up to you to share more personal things). Interwoven between this day-to-day existence are story events, sometimes advancing the murder-mystery plot of the game while other times creating memories with the main character (“you”) and your friends. To cap it all off, the game has an amazing soundtrack to perfectly fit the mood in all the scenes.
Persona 4 became an escape for me into a version of my past– my undergraduate days in the form of the protagonist character (who I named after myself). In fact, I came to love all of the core characters in the game and eagerly worked to increase my social ranks with them so that I could learn more about their stories. To me, they were real people. The memories we had together were real despite them being fictional characters. While at times some of them annoyed me or made poor choices, this was no different from “real” friends; There was not a single character that I truly disliked. The game was so atmospheric, so compelling, that I was living in Inaba with Yosuke, Chie, Yukiko, Kanji, Rise, Naoto, and Teddie.
There are two characters in the game that particularly stood out to me: Rise and Naoto.
If I had to pick, Rise would probably be my favorite character. In all honesty, by virtue of the way her character is written, there are a few incorrect reasons to like her, but I found her to be very charming partly because she seems to be so crafty and insidious in a (genuinely) playful way. Just because she was such a fun character to talk to, her social links were the first character’s whom I maxed out. What really brought me close to her however was her personal story and the personal realizations she had throughout its course.
During one segment, we are discussing her past career as an idol (which she recently left because she did not like the “fake” lifestyle). As we are talking however, we run into her old manager who had been looking for her. Since Rise had now been replaced by another idol to market, the manager basically wanted to tell her how naturally talented she was and how she could have been a wonder in the business. While he said all this in a positive, cathartic way, when he finally left, Rise was feeling crushed. In fact, she started crying because she suddenly realized how she lost everything. She had been so busy trying to escape the life of an idol that she did not properly pay attention to what she was throwing away. It was pretty clear that she still did not want that lifestyle, but it also seemed like she did not realize until then what all she had, and what all she discarded.
To see her internally struggle like that… I felt an intense kinship with Rise. Right in Kept After Class’ description, it says “one never knows how much they have until it no longer exists.”
I’ve been aware of this phenomenon for a while now, but even then, wasn’t I going through the same thing right now in medical school? Four years of undergrad. I focused for four years on getting into medical school, wanting to get in so badly that I did not mentally process what I would be giving up and leaving behind. To suddenly be aware of such a thing… I felt so bad for Rise. It was at that point where in my mind, she was completely human, and I set the social flag in game to pursue a relationship with her.
As I pursued more social links with Rise, I learned more about her as she opened up. She ultimately does decide to go back to modelling, but this time with a fresh outlook. She realizes that even though she was not aware at the time, her stage-character of “Risette” was still her and that she will likely spend the rest of her days trying to reclaim those days if she does not get closure. All the while, as she was chasing that Rise, the new “non-idol” Rise was making memories with the rest of us. What she realized was that all the roles we play in life are ourselves in one way or another. She was going to embrace all her sides and confidently spend her days knowing that Rise is Rise and not a series of masks.
Once again, I found Rise’s inner issues mirroring my own. I am all too familiar with trying to chase down the good old days and the roles I played back then. Heck, when I used to be GM Chii, I practically was working an idoling job as the server’s figure-head and mascot. I can still remember the manner of speech I would use to appeal to everyone on the server so that they would be excited. There have been countless times when I try to bring back a role, only to do it in a lackluster manner that ultimately causes it to die ungracefully– and while I am busy trying to revive these roles, time is passing in the now. In reality, those roles were here inside me all along, and I would never be the person I am now without them. I suppose I had come to this conclusion a while back, but to see Rise struggle and reach the same conclusion just made me feel that much closely bonded to her.
The character of Naoto is a bit of a different story however. When I first met Naoto in game, I did not like him much at all, and for no real reason either. As time passed, I began to grow more curious about Naoto, and began to wonder, “just why do I dislike him?” To be completely honest, I eventually came to the conclusion that it was because his demeanor was so similar to mine.
I always felt that if I were to just meet my clone out in public, I would dislike them. Naoto had a sort of calm, analytical attitude and did not seem to want to be bothered with integrating with other people. These are the qualities that I feel I possess by default sometimes which I tend to dislike about myself and constantly try to reverse them. Heck, Naoto even often wears a hat similar to the one I would wear in undergrad.
Just like how I feel that I would like my clone better if I understood their inner feelings and rationale, I began to like Naoto better once his secrets were put out in the open. In fact, I was surprised when I realized that aspects of his character were as a result of him pretending to be someone he was not, something (as I stated above) I can understand. When I saw Naoto smile when having fun in an animated cutscene in game, I couldn’t help but smile as well.
Persona gave me exactly that– a persona to place over my struggling person in real life. While I love the game and consider it my favorite, I cannot say that I am proud of getting so sucked into it, especially during a time where I should be focusing on the world around me with utmost concentration. If nothing else however, Persona did teach me the value of facing oneself and admitting all sides of their character. While the in-game world and the memories created in Inaba really are fact, I also have to acknowledge that there are times when I should put that life on hold to focus on the life around me. That– is the truth.
Having read all of this however, what is the truth? One has to wonder if the truth they uncover is in fact the entire picture, or whether integral parts of it is obscured by fog…