As a seven-year-old my most read book was a magnolia coloured Your Family’s Health encyclopedia that resided on the bookshelf in the living room. I loved the flow charts and the graphs and the diagrams. My favourite TV programme was Children’s Hospital, a weekly fix that focused on the kids undergoing treatment at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hospital. Medicine was always something that fascinated me, but never something I considered as a career until later in life.
I was naturally good at science and a high achiever, but those things were never seen as cool whilst I was growing up. I wanted to be Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, or Summer Roberts, or Brooke Davis. I wanted to be the popular girls I saw on TV with size 8 bodies, impeccable fashion taste and always, always a career in fashion or journalism. So I followed that interest instead.
I dedicated years – probably a decade – to trying to become a clone of the sort of women I worshipped on TV screens. That’s not to say that the real Hannah didn’t and doesn’t love those things too, because she does. Writing and clothes will always be a huge part of who I am, and in an unexpected twist, they also play a huge role in my mental wellbeing and sense of self. Writing about my emotions and life experiences, and wearing confidently wearing clothes that reflect my personal style always, always make me feel better.
But it was only after the birth of my second son, and after I turned 30 and after I had seen the ease at which you can lose an entire self-employed income via way of the internet, that I realised I might want something more, or at least something different.
I had always said medicine would have been my plan B, in that had I lived my life differently from the start, it might have been what I’d have ended up doing. I never really considered that I could or would entirely switch careers. Because, aside from the fact medical school is a five-year degree (and that’s before the foundation years and specialty training), I felt like I had to follow the game plan that my teenage self had decided upon. I didn’t ever stop to think about what I wanted, probably because I was never in-tune with myself enough to understand what I wanted – so I went to university, got my journalism degree, moved to London, working for magazines and then settled down and had kids.
But the pandemic changed a lot of us. It changed who we are, how we view life and how we want to move forward. It made me realise that whilst I love social media and being part of a brilliant community and working with brands, I have no idea where that path could lead me next week, let alone the next 30-40 years of work I likely have ahead of me. It also made me realise that life is short, and we literally get one shot (at this life, that is – who knows what follows). The urge to study and to go into medicine grew stronger and I realised that I would regret not giving it a go more than I would regret giving it a go and not succeeding.
I toyed with midwifery or training as a paradmedic, but the pull towards medical school and being a doctor was what my heart all in a flutter. And so I did it. I got the balls in motion. I did the research. I sent the emails. I filled out the forms. I had the conversations about how it might work. I fantasised about it. I pictured it becoming reality.
As someone who doesn’t have the necessary A-Levels for medical school (chemistry and biology) and as someone who already has a degree under her belt, several things are true: you cannot get funding from The Student Loans Company and you cannot go straight to medical school without first completing a year-long access to medicine course at college (unless you go for the extremely competitive graduate fast track degrees which are four-years long, instead of five).
So I applied to local colleges who offered the course, and I read forums about funding, and I spoke with an old school friend who is already studying medicine as a second degree. And somehow it all clicked into place.
I had two day-long interviews at two different colleges, and was offered places at both. I started a volunteering placement at a local hospital, and am awaiting DBS completion for another role. I worked out childcare (my college course will be three days a week), and threw myself into brushing up on the entire GCSE science syllabus. Med school applications close in October and I’ve got two very hefty entry exams to take in the autumn so am working on bank questions whenever I have a moment.
I have no idea what will happen next. I would love to get into med school, to navigate the workload and the finances (there will be some loans available, but a fair chunk will have to be self-funded), and still feel like a good mum with her mental health intact at the end. I would love to find a specialty that makes my heart dance and to find that the joys of being a doctor outweigh how hard it is. But I also know not all of that will happen, and that at some point, life may present other paths, opportunities or routes that I will need to take. I am OK with all of that. I am OK with the unknown, and that the success in this decision doesn’t need to just lie at the end goal of becoming a consultant.
Because right now I feel so content with this decision to just fucking go for it. To not let the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘buts’ take away from the pride I have in giving life my best shot. Every morning I wake up and realise I am doing this and every morning it makes my veins buzz with a shot of the good stuff. It feels so right, like it was always meant to be, and I cannot wait to see where this new path will lead me…
(Side note: I’ll still be running my personal IG account and hanging out on The Leopard, because I know I’ll need a creative space to keep my mind at peace!)