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Jab waqt aye ga, dekha jaye ga ~Romesa Qaiser Khan, 4th year.

Final prof- after what seems like forever has ended. A new final year has come in. The hashtag #onelasttime is being seen again albeit under new copyrights and flight check-ins show up in news feed every single day. Such is the changing that takes place every year, one class coming in and another leaving. Yet nearing the end of my own time here makes me wonder, do I know where I'm going? For that matter, does anyone around me?

Sure we all got here by planning and by design- one simply doesn't pull a merit in the 90th percentile out of the blue. Most of us brought our assumptions with us, or at least a vague idea of what we would do, what our personality is like and what our answer to the run of the mill "where do you see yourself in five years?" would be (excluding the ones who like to live dangerously on the edge of the unknown or are just really, really indifferent to their circumstances in life) but medical college isn't as medical college looks. If you leave the same person as when you came in, then you haven't done your college experience right.

Five years sounds like an eternity when you enter these gates for the very first time, the days inching by slowly in the struggle to make friends, challenging how smart your smarts really are, finding your niche in the little bubble that will be your second home for a very long time. And then you blink, and suddenly time is flying by. Between endless cycles of copy-making and coloring in drawings like overgrown preschoolers, wasting entire hours of our lives for that one signature on a mere attendance sheet, between petty competitions on score and pettier politics on life, amidst the little cliques of "our people" we like to think will last- we suddenly become adults without knowing how. All this time that was supposed to prepare us for real life has been thrown away. We're pushed into the unforgiving world much like a skydiver without his parachute. We're in free fall and the end is near; and we're finding out just now- we are not prepared.

The mid-medical life crisis hits around third year. Those who will end up settled and married are setting dates to do so. The ones who aim for foreign shores are well into their exam preparation and shutting out university life in sacrifice. Some are ready to go happily wherever life takes them, no grudges held or regrets untold. And then comes the majority of us- who are just really, really lost.

We're beginning to find out how useless our shiny hard-earned distinction medals are, how being part of a gazillion societies is really not a talent, how popularity or anonymity don't translate to anything in practical life. When doors are shutting fast based on your name, your nationality and most of all religion; when even your home institute doesn't find you worthy of giving you a job; when society at large treats you like a pariah for demanding basic human rights while parading its corruption as righteousness- that's when you come to ask yourself: Where am I really going?

I've seen people change their plans in a heartbeat- doing house job one day and quitting to study for USMLE the next. Getting observer ships in the States when they're appearing for Part 1 exams. Completing their mandatory year of post-grad purgatory only to find their specialty of choice has no available training slots. Getting married not to their university sweetheart but a stranger out of the blue or suddenly finding themselves straddled with babies when just an year ago they were ready to go abroad. And the saddest thing is, none of this is our fault. When was the last time someone actually took out time to counsel us as every single sane educational institute on earth does for its students? When was the last time instead of mocking us out of pseudo-nationalism for taking international exams, someone gave us a back up plan? When was the last time we were encouraged to pursue our field outside of our textbooks, by field work or creative thinking so we could match with our colleagues at places like Aga Khan? When were we told it's okay to ask for better studying/work conditions without being villainized? When, just when, did we have a chance to explore our options without taking the risk of having our life fall apart?

The answer is simple: never. And that answer won't change for a while, if it changes at all. So do yourself a favor- think. Put aside your textbooks for a moment, shut down your social media and have an honest heart to heart with yourself and your parents. Why are you doing this? What are you looking for? What opportunities do you have and what windows can you avail right now? Are you studying USMLE because all your friends are doing it? Are you getting married because you think your biological clock is ticking? Are you settling for the government jobs because you're scared to step out of your comfort zone? Just how much exactly has your idea of "where I'll be in 5 years" shifted in the now?

Use your experience, use your intuition. Find out your options, find out what you need to do. It may be harder than "jab waqt aye ga to dekha jaye ga" but it is necessary- by the time you think your moment has come around, it has already passed you by without you noticing it.

While you're still in medical school, the world can be your oyster but once you step out of these gates, everything you know to be true will be proven wrong. Honesty won't be the best policy but flattery will get you everywhere. Failing once won't guarantee getting a do-over supplementary exam- one chance will be all you get. Most of those daily phone calls with your closest friends will fade to once a week, then a month until they stop coming at all as all of you build new lives away from each other. Your popularity will fade away- new people wouldn't have time to care about who you are or how many followers your instagram can draw. Your parents won't be around to take the slack for you-you'll have to do it all on your own.

Follow the road that leads where you're meant to go.
Whether you're in first year or final, chalk out a life plan. You may not be able to control your life a 100% but you can prepare yourself. Don't rely on the bubble that is university life, this illusion until you're being forced to let go. Leave on your own terms. Get out there and experience what you can. Make mistakes now so that life doesn't knock the breath out of you later. Throw away all the extra baggage you don't need. At the end of the day, the kind of life you have is your responsibility because we are adults after all- and the scariest part of that is knowing that the decisions you make now will have consequences that will determine your entire life.


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