The Crooked Road to Success

In applying for medical school, I was in need of research as it is one of three pillars to applying for a career in medicine.  One must have exemplary grades, basic science research, and medical volunteer experience to make it through the door for an interview.  I had crossed over from a business background to biology and was therefore lacking in contacts.  I needed research fast.

My grades were always A’s throughout most my endeavors, but the other top students had greater favor with the professors. They had been around the tenured professors since the beginning, and I had been rushing through classes as I had already been in college 3.5 years at this point.  I found an evolutionary biology teacher who crossed into psychology that was willing to give me research blindly without really knowing me after he was impressed with a paper I wrote.  I was relieved and grateful as I was already prepared to beg.

Our first meeting found me in his office.  It was a dingy unkempt space with a wild smell.  He attempted to tell me what his expectations were.  I was immediately distracted by a curious brown paper bag that kept moving slightly with a scratching sound.  My mind reeled possibilities. He never looked at the bag or acknowledged that I had noticed it. He simply talked through the scratching for an hour.  Our meeting ended with a vague notion that he was interested in how hard wired self awareness was present in the brain and manifested itself as psychological oddities in the afflicted.  He did not actually give me a task but handed me a notebook full of papers and gave me an office.

In visiting the office, I found at least twenty brains sitting in jars on random shelves in formaldehyde.  It struck me that the brains were not necessarily human although humanoid.  They did not have their own jars, which seemed exceedingly strange.  I was given a computer and a meeting time one month later.

I did not use the office except to show my future wife of my rather large space.  I met with the professor once more in which he gave me nearly a completely different view of his research.  It occurred to me at this point that he was scattered and not sure of what he had told me in the first meeting.  After an hour, he struck me as possibly developing dementia.

In all, I ended up researching multiple papers on the topic and giving him a possible location for the phenomenon he was looking for.  Without any further discussion, he simply accepted what I told him and congratulated me on work well done.  He wrote an excellent letter of  recommendation and I did ultimately get accepted into medical school.  I had seen him after finishing his class and this research about a year later.  He did not look at me as if he had ever known me.

When applying for medical school, I was given an interview with a neuroscientist.  He was a Ph. D. and not an actual MD, which meant he would likely know minutia very well.  I was concerned that he might see that the research was rather vague and likely incorrect.  I did not mention at the end of the research I was convinced that his hypothesis was completely nonsense.  I discussed with the neuroscientist the hypothesis and the outcome of the research.  I was convinced that the topic I discussed was not his strong suit and he pretended to understand and show interest when he actually did not want to appear uninformed.

The point of this tale is that, when we give an account of our lives, the idea that I did research in a emerging part of a junction between neurology, psychiatry, and evolutionary science as an undergraduate sounds impressive.  Yet, the actual account is laughable and seems somewhat scandalous.  Life is like that.  Somethings are genuine.  Some are fraudulent.  When we hear of men doing great things it is important to realize that each moment is human.

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The path of even the most successful is crooked and fraught with genuine victories, defeats, and sometimes nothing more than fake showmanship.  Acquiring greatness is filled with moments less than great.  So keep in mind that no matter how long the journey seems or how difficult, it is fallible individuals that you seek to emulate.  I tell you this not to deter your journey, but to let you know that it is possible.

– Savage

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