Always Get Up – 2017 WCI Scholarship 4th Place

[Editor’s Note: This essay, from Joshua Weinberg, an MS1 at the University of Florida College of Medicine, receives fourth place in the 2017 WCI Scholarship competition, which is good for a $100 Amazon gift certificate and a copy of The White Coat Investor: A Doctor’s Guide to Personal Finance and Investing for each member of Joshua’s class. (I’m counting on his classmates to ensure he doesn’t sell them on the open market instead of giving them to you!) This is an excellent essay about overcoming challenges to reach your dreams and remaining focused with both your time and money.]

My socks never match. Up until now, I’ve only known two types of dress attire: formal, and not. 99% of the time you can find me in my go-to basketball shorts and t-shirt (I do have 1 pair of jeans when the occasion calls for it), and any instance that requires something more fancy than that results in me pulling out a full suit, including jacket and tie. Luckily I updated my suit a few years ago for my brother’s wedding, because before that I somehow managed to make my previous “power pinstripe” suit stretch (literally and figuratively) for the 8 years of high school and college, as well as the roughly 40lbs I grew in between. Before you judge me, let me tell you about the main events in my life that have informed my wardrobe choices.

Until the day I moved out of my parent’s house at 18, I was defined by the actions of my brother and father. My brother was a drug addict, and my father, a long time salesman akin to Arthur Miller’s Willy, struggled to cope, leaving me without a role model and feeling a complete lack of control over my life. The following is an excerpt from a poem I wrote, never officially submitted anywhere until now:

Addiction. Pain. Destruction.

How long can you bear the pain before you go numb, and all feeling is lost.

The feeling is there but there is no perception of the sensory information.

That is how I feel, like a computer.

As if I have felt so much that I can feel no longer and I am simply a machine, processing the information with a blank stare and an empty soul.

How long can you cry before you drown in your own bitter tears, the salty drops sliding slowly down your face, before they land gently on your lips, and some-how, some-way, the fact that you can even feel makes them taste so sweet.

Addict.

Who knew a simple meaningless conjugation of letters that when written together form a word, something so irrationally brought about, so irrelevant to reality, could cause so much pain.

Every hit he takes, every pill he pops brings us farther from brotherhood and closer to strangers.

And with every penny he steals and every lie he speaks, love turns to spite and now that spite is the only thing that holds us together.

The pain, the sorrow, the guilt, living with an addict.

As this was happening, I was lucky enough to discover the sport of wrestling which provided me with a sanctuary where I could stay after school for a few extra hours each day. I took to it quickly and eventually began to love the escape from reality it offered as well as the feeling of control it gave me. My success was solely determined by how hard I worked, and if I worked harder and longer and smarter than everyone else, I could win. Eventually I would have to go home to reality, and after walking in to my house drenched in sweat from practice, I was greeted by a combination of screaming and crying on a good day, or the all too typical red and blue sirens on a bad day. After making it to my bedroom, I began my homework for the full load of AP classes that I shared with all of my peers, with the added stress of barely having eaten in order to achieve my “desired” wrestling weight class. On weekends I earned money passing out flyers for Papa Johns, knowing that I would have to find new places to hide it from my brother who would steal it to support his habit. High school was the toughest four years of my life. But the core mandate of wrestling is to “always get up,” so I learned that given my disadvantages, I would have to fight harder than everyone else to achieve my goals.

So when I get up in the morning, I’m thinking “What can I get accomplished today”, not how I look or what I’ll be wearing. It’s hard to fathom spending the extra minute each morning to put on matching socks because in a world full of obstacles, time is my greatest ally. Every moment counts when working towards my goals, and used effectively, that minute allows me to compete with anyone, whether it be in wrestling, school, or this scholarship contest. It’s also hard to justify buying a new package of socks at Walmart for $6.99 when I’ve been ignoring my dentist’s advice to get my tooth crowned for more than 3 years due to a lack of finances! But luckily with Lynrd Skynrd’s “Simple Man” ringing loudly in my head, and the intense physical and mental challenges that both the sport of wrestling and my home life forced me to endure, I embraced my simple life and have chosen not to focus on trivial expenditures or things.

Platinum Level Scholarship Sponsor

I’m incredibly lucky. My brother’s story is an unlikely one in that after years of crippling opioid abuse, including two overdoses, he survived and eventually turned his life around. This Fall I will be entering medical school—the culmination of a dream to help others that was worked for with literal blood, sweat, and tears. While I have always loved my “Fridays Are Bagel Days” t-shirt from 8th grade, I recognize that with the conclusion of my wrestling career and the beginning of medical school, I have to begin dressing more professionally. Although I’ve prided myself on not focusing on trivial things like the clothes I’m wearing, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t felt embarrassed at times. I want to be able to buy new clothes, wear matching socks, and get a new suit now that I finished my collegiate wrestling career in March and have gained 15lbs since. But I also know that this is impossible knowing that I have tuition that needs to be paid, a tooth that needs crowning, a monthly car bill, and endless other expenses. I’m the type of person who, if given $20 and told to spend it on myself, will inevitably put it towards rent. But if chosen for this scholarship, I promise to first use it on those expenditures that I have deemed “not essential for living,” such as purchasing new clothes so that my appearance can reflect this new professional stage of my life. After that, the remainder will go towards the “essential for living” category, and act to help lift the huge burden of living expenses off my shoulders.

Regardless of the outcome, I know I will always be prudent with both my time and money. And if I’m not able to purchase matching socks, that’s okay too, because as The Verve’s “Lucky Man” put it:

“Happiness. Something in my own place. I’m stood here naked. Smiling, I feel no disgrace, with who I am.”

What do you think? Did you come from an economically disadvantaged background? How did that affect you in medical school? How does it affect you now? Comment below!

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