My American Dream: 15. In Which I Applied to Medical School for a Girl

by Harijan

I remember the day when I got that phone call from my interviewer at UNC-Chapel Hill. It was March 8th, 2005. I paused the Grand Theft Auto 3 game, “hello.”

My imaginary, 3-dimensional, highly-interactive protagonist was suspended in freeze time while the SWAT team shot at him. A vaguely recognized voice came through the phone, “Hi, Aram. This is Doctor Smith. I am calling to let you know that the admissions committee at UNC met yesterday and decided to accepted you as a student. Congratulations!”

“[Loud 6 year old girl like shriek] THANK YOU. [ear piercing shriek again]”

“I think you’ll be a great fit at the school. Congratulations! Your admissions packet should be going out this Friday.”

I was so happy, ‘I just got into a FREAKING medical school, mang!’

Then it dawned on me, ‘oh yeah, I guess she‘s really not the reason for going to medical school anymore.’


Remember how I told you I was forced into a life of a zombiehood because I lack the necessary female nurture during my adolescence?

Well, It wasn’t until I was 21-years old that I first dated someone. My first girlfriend, let’s say her name was Pancake.

Pancake was a Korean girl who went to UNC. I met her through an older Korean friend I knew at a Korean church.

In addition our common heritage, Pancake and I also shared an extremely unhealthy amount of shyness. Unsurprising then, there wasn’t a whole lot of talking when we first dated. Most awkward moments ever for dates. This is the sort of the thing that you have to experience as a child so that when you’re 21, you don’t look like a retard.

Despite that, we grew fond of each other and opened up. I think we dated for about 3 years.

During this time, Pancake was applying to go to medical school. Because she grew up in a family with very conservative views, the fact that she was going to be a doctor meant that any man she marries would have to be a doctor or be in a profession which generates more income than her. Or else, it would be too shameful for the husband to be in a lesser profession. Others would look upon with a frown.

“That’s a ridiculous idea,” I told her.

I thought people should be together for their loving relationship. Not for the commensurate level of socioeconomic status. I thought even if I was a janitor who is happy to make 10 dollars an hour*, we should be together happily regardless of what others might think.

I told her what I thought.

She told me she couldn’t be with me anymore.

Out of fear, I signed up to take MCAT right away.


I got rejected the first year. I applied again and got that acceptance call the second year. By this time, Pancake had been gone to California for two years to study medicine, and we had broken up the year before.**

So far, this is the biggest example from my life of doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons.

I am glad that Pancake was so unreasonable with me back then. It started me on the right path and bought me time to find my own reasons.

I sometimes wonder what I would have been doing tonight and where I would have been, if it was not for Tradition’s ridiculous views on life. Then I realize I have to wake up at 5 next morning and fall asleep in bed.

*By the way, $10 is what currently I make as a training surgeon, and believe you me, I tie knots really fast for a first year resident.

**Pancake is now a pediatrician in California.