Medical school is stressful. Not the “busy schedule,” kind of stressful either. It’s the “life-consuming, soul-destroying, completely overwhelming,” kind of stressful. There were days when I just didn’t want to deal with life in general. In the mornings, my alarm would go off and I would plan my run. Part way through my run, I would consider not going back to my apartment and contemplate skipping my classes for the day. This happened every day for almost six years.
I had always attributed my lack of interest in medical school to my
parents. They had forced me to go to medical school, even though I told them I would be miserable. Of course I had been right, I disliked medicine intensely. It was easy enough, I found that I was good at it and I continued to drag myself to class everyday. By third year, I was so depressed that I had (what I would now classify as) a nervous breakdown. I stopped running, eating and only left the apartment for class. I spent an entire break from school in bed, leaving only to use the restroom or shower (sometimes). It was awful. I kept visualizing my life and in my head it was the most depressing future I could ever imagine. I pictured myself going to work everyday, dealing with patients and never being happy. It was too much to bear, so I just shut down.
At the end of several weeks, I finally decided enough was enough. I drove to see my parents, I was going to tell them I was done with
medical school once and for all. When I arrived home my grandmother was there. She was in the process of baking babka wielkanocna for the holiday so I asked if I could help while I waited for my parents to return. Perhaps it was speaking Polish with my grandmother or maybe it was licking delicious gooey batter off my fingers, but by the time my parents arrived home I had completely forgotten that I was there to tell them my life-changing news. Baking has always been an important aspect of my life, but at that moment I realized that I could take out my frustrations on cupcakes. It was a game changer.
I spent the weekend at my parents, planning my baking shopping list. My mind was finally off of medical school and instead it was thinking about how many Meyer lemon’s I needed for tarts. When I got back to the city I headed straight to the store, I bought over $300 worth of
random ingredients and then stopped by a kitchen supply store for extra accessories. Back at my apartment, I baked for hours. My counters that had once been covered in nothing but medicine, were now covered in flour. I kneaded dough until my fingers cramped and rolled it until my arms were sore. It was wonderful. After I took the last cake out of the oven, exhaustion took hold and I slept for twelve hours straight. I woke up feeling oddly refreshed, went for a long run and then delivered the baked goods to my classmates.
For the rest of my time in medical school, I took plenty of time out to work in the kitchen. My friends and classmates loved it, so much so that they began to request certain recipes more than others. The favourite ended up being my Black Forest Cupcakes, which were requested on a weekly basis. It quite literally got me through medical school and made me realize that I would ultimately survive the experience.
It seems like a silly thing, to think that baking cupcakes could really have such a profound impact on a person. To me, it has always been the act of baking more than the finished product. Even though I enjoy tasting my creations, it is ultimately the pleasure they bring others that makes me so content. Once I found that I enjoyed baking, it became an outlet for my anxiety which helped me through medical school.
So, would I have still been a physician if I had not discovered my love of baking? Probably. My parents would have forced me to finish school and if I had decided to drop out, they would have pushed me toward engineering. Baking didn’t save medical school for me, but it did help me find some sort of balance in my hectic life. To this day I continue to bake for my family and friends. I think they are glad I had a nervous breakdown, because without it they never would have been able to taste what they consider “the most amazing cupcakes ever.”