I love video games. For the last week, post-MCAT, I've been indulging myself with a video game called Saint's Row and embracing my inner thug. Although I am a rational adult who is capable of distinguishing between reality and games, every time I see a nice car, I really want to hijack it and drive off to my non-existent crib. I won't though, because that's bad.
This year, I turn 25. I can rent cars at the cheaper rate! Woohoo!!! I think these days, it's pretty common for pre-meds to be in their mid-to-late 20s, or even older. When I was an undergrad volunteering at the student-run clinic, only one or two of the med students I met just started medical school after earning their Bachelor's degree. There's nothing wrong with being older, but being pre-med, or a med student or resident, or pre-anything as a slightly-older adult is tough. It's years of deferring life, or insane debt, insane hours, a lot of studying, a really low paycheck, and a lot of sacrifice. That isn't to say that this life/career choice is not fulfilling or devoid of fun, but it's not easy.
I see friends younger than me update their Facebook statuses about med school or pharm school or for other graduate programs and it really, really sucks. On a bad day, I'll think "If they can get into a school, I can totally get in. I was their boss in XYZ program, if they can do it, I can frickin' do it." That is not a particularly productive or good way of thinking though. I have to be very vigilant with myself to avoid defining myself in terms of what other people didn't do compared to me, but in terms of what I've done and how those choices and experiences have helped me grow.
The worst thing, though, is something probably a lot of people can identify with whether they're pre-health or working towards another career goal. I absolutely, positively hate it when friends tell me about their latest expense. The $250 shoe, to add to the other 16 pairs of $250 shoes, or that that $29,500 used Mini Cooper to "you know, use as a burner car while I'm in grad school until I can afford a better, new car." Ugh. Eating out in San Francisco can be ridiculously expensive too. I have friends who also like to pick restaurants that cost $60 per person, not including the wine. I'll go for birthdays and other special occasions, but it's come to the point that I've declined so many times before that they don't even ask me now. In contrast, I can get a cheap bowl of Vietnamese noodles, a beverage, and cover tip for $10-12. Or 20 of my favorite steamed shrimp dumplings for $5.
Even if I was working full-time, I cannot imagine spending so much money on excess things. My $240 video game console made me cry for a long time after I paid the credit card bill; I can't even imagine that much money two, three, or four times a month on things I do not need. I'm also more of a bargain-hunter type. $5 for my favorite dumplings and a belly full of happiness?! Win! If I DID have more disposable income though, I would use it to travel. I think that is more meaningful and educational. And also more memorable.
The good thing about waiting until I'm slightly older to apply for med school is that I'm a little more level-headed now. The financials used to really, really scare me. I used to worry about how to pay for the application process, how to pay rent , what to do about loans once I'm done, etcetc. I see a lot of people panicking like that too on the Student Doctor Network forums. It helped that I worked with dentists and doctors who chose to work with low-income populations. Knowing that, despite their debts, (which are still high, though probably not as high as they are now) they are still able to live and enjoy life is helpful. And also, it doesn't make sense to worry about those things now.
Someday, though, I really want a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes. I'm not sure what I would wear it to...If anything, I would be too scared to wear it outside, so it might just end up on an altar to be admired and worshiped, but dammit I want 'em!