Like, really old. Seriously. I'm a third year medical student who is usually the same age as the youngest attendings. ATTENDINGS.
Brief side note: if you don't know the whole medical hierarchy, here's how it goes, in ascending order:
3rd year medical students
4th year medical students/acting interns (AIs)
Interns (although in some services the interns are treated worse than the medical students, and in all services they work a lot harder)
Food service employees
Residents (ranked from 1st year to whatever the last year of that particular residency is, usually called the "senior resident")
Chief Resident (usually in the final year of residency, but sometimes it adds an extra year of residency to be chief resident)
Fellows (depending on if whatever you are doing is a fellowship)
Anyone who brings people good coffee
Attendings (have finished all of their training)
Friends of the Chief who want to see what medicine is like
Chief (head of the department)
Anyway. My point here is that I am usually being taught and generally bossed around by people who are up to seven years younger than me. Which is usually okay, other than all those whippersnappers making a racket, and sometimes I develop the strong urge to knit and put my hair up in a bun. So far they at least have the courtesy to act surprised upon learning my age, which is inevitably followed by the question: so what have you been up to (insinuated addition: "for all those years")?
There are two parts to this answer. Part one: I spent four pretty awesome years working in biopharmaceutical research, traveling, and having a total blast with tons of fantastic people after college. I needed the time to decide what to do with my life and although I sometimes wish I was four years younger now (then again, who doesn't??), I needed that time and I don't regret it one iota.
Part two: I spent four years as everyone's bitch getting a PhD which I now pray will pay off in some small way in the future and will not mean I have missed my chance to have kids or have a career which lasts for more than five years before retirement.
I know that sounds kinda bitter, and I don't really mean it that way exactly. It's just that I think a lot of us Mudphuds start feeling this way when we go back to 3rd year. We are all at least four or five years older, four or five years more jaded and tired and frustrated, and more importantly we have forgotten most of what we tried so hard to learn in the first few years of medical school. We finish our dissertations and show up to 3rd year like middle aged, haggard marathon runners staggering over the finish line, only to find another starting line, populated with these fresh-faced young people who have just gotten a full night's sleep and tons of carb loading. They just took their boards and it is all still fresh in their minds; they are still at an age where they can stay up all night and still remember where they live the next morning.
I haven't quite made up my mind about the abuse issue; that is, does having just gone through four to five years of consistent abuse make it easier to be abused for another three to five years, or is it better to go into it fresh? Maybe it is both, but speaking for myself, it isn't always easy to be treated like scum having just finished the scumfest of all scumfests. I know that medicine is a whole different field and basically everyone in the hospital, including the janitors, know more about medicine than I do, but come on! Didn't I just do this? As they say, it's déjà vu all over again.
Back to my original point. When I tell these younger bosses of mine that I have a PhD, most of them act impressed. They say really aggravating things, like, "Wow!" and "That's great!".
Is it? Is it really?
I dunno. I have been told over and over that I will be glad I did this, and in fact I do think I want to do clinical research, but right now, feeling old and behind and lost, I have to wonder.
And that's not even getting in to the thoughts I sometimes have about what I'd be doing with my six figures a year if I had gone straight into programming after college...
Pretend I didn't say that.