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Happy Monday!! As promised, I am going to take some time this week to share some of my journey with you in being a medical spouse. In today’s post I’m going to start with before Medical School! We’ve definitely taken a unique path and so I think it’s worth telling the back story!

Before Medical School

I met my husband Tony on Monday, September 10, 2001 at 8am in Harmony 1 at Berklee College of Music. (Harmony is Berklee’s term for Music Theory). It was the day before 9/11- he was 17 and I was 18, and you could say that day- that week- changed the course of our lives forever.

I was a Music Business Major with Voice as my principal instrument, he a Jazz Composition and Arranging Major, a Guitar principal and Trombone secondary. I was actually a classically trained vocalist, and I hadn’t planned on attending Berklee. During the time of applying and auditioning, my dad became very sick (he’s fine now!!) I had applied to The Julliard School, the Manhattan School of Music and The Oberlin Conservatory. At the time, Berklee was my “safety school”, as they offered rolling admissions with no audition back then (Things have CHANGED a lot since! It’s much harder to get into now!) Being my parents’ only child, I wanted to stay close to home in case my Dad’s condition got worse (thankfully-it didn’t!) I won’t violate his medical privacy, but all I can say is we owe some incredibly dedicated and astute doctors in Boston to his accurate diagnosis and subsequent recovery.

In deciding to go to Berklee, I withdrew my applications from MSM and Oberlin (Julliard didn’t even offer me an audition. It’s fine.) Does it surprise me AT ALL that I met my future husband on the very first day of school- a school that wasn’t even in my “big life plan”? No. Not even in the slightest.

My husband is from outside of Buffalo, NY. We were very young, and definitely not ready for anything serious at the time, and remained very good friends throughout college. The truth is, we totally fell in love with each other when we first met, and even talked about marriage then- but like I said- we were too young! Even after I transferred to The Boston Conservatory to pursue my classical singing training, we still would meet at Starbucks or go out for Thai food every once in a while. I loved everything about this guy. I loved how bright and intelligent he was, I loved that he came from a small rural town in Western New York and how down to earth he was, and I loved his sense of humor. In class he used to look at my homework- point to one of my answers and whisper, “Um, that answer is SO wrong!” Ha!

I was, admittedly, never all that “great” at Music Theory. Ask me to translate and memorize an aria in Italian or German, or ask me to sight sing and I’m your girl. But Music Theory? Not my forte. However, his logical brain thrived on the mathematics of music. So our friendship started with him tutoring me in Harmony 1 (a class that he should have tested out of! Am I surprised that he didn’t and we ended up meeting? NOPE!)

After a turn of many different events, he moved back to Boston after we graduated from school in 2005. It was then that we finally became a couple. We were both suddenly thrust out into this “real world”- one that had changed so dramatically due to 9/11. We both found ourselves looking at each other, asking, “Okay- now what?”

Choosing a new path for both of us

I had HUGE dreams of becoming a performer. I started preforming in musical theatre at the age of 5, started my classical voice training at 13, and continued participating in every choir, production, recording, ensemble, and lessons that I could all throughout high school. Truth be told, I used to practice waving for the paparazzi in the mirror as a young person! I always knew that I wanted to perform professionally and that I wanted to “make it big” as they say.

While we were trying to figure out what our careers as musicians would look like, we travelled to both Nashville and NYC. In Nashville I met with a producer who had been interested in some of my original music (my demo made it into his hands at a networking event I had attended earlier in the summer in Orlando). Tony came with me and we fell in love with Nashville. If you’ve never visited you need to- it is SUCH a special place! With two years of Music Business at Berklee under my belt let’s just say I walked away from a less than favorable deal with that producer. It wasn’t meant to be. On the flights home (one from Nashville to Atlanta and another from Atlanta to Boston) we had a lot of time to talk about what we wanted out of our lives- our goals as a couple and as a family, and whether or not staying in a career in music was the right thing for us. I definitely knew that I always wanted to have a family with more than 2 children, as I grew up as an only adopted child. When we had visited NYC I met with an agent for musical theatre and he told me “You’d better not get pregnant for the next 10 years. You need to devote this time to your career.” Was it really worth postponing such an important dream of mine? To me, it wasn’t. It wasn’t even something I needed to think on.

As much as it broke my heart, I realized that pursuing a performing career wasn’t what I had originally thought it would be. It would require personal sacrifices that I just wasn’t willing to make- even if I decided to pursue classical voice as a career, I would have to travel and be away from Tony for most of the year. This really wasn’t the life I wanted, as much as I loved to perform.

For Tony, he had always been interested in medicine but never knew anyone growing up who had pursued the field. He was naturally talented at music and so for him that became his “thing” and going to college for it was an easy decision. During our time of soul searching he thought about going back and getting his Masters so he could teach music at the college level. We both searched for the heart of what we wanted to do in our careers, no matter what the field. It came down to serving others. Medicine, to the both of us, is one of the best and most direct ways to serve.

“Do you think I could become a Doctor? Do you think I have what it takes?” he asked me on that flight.

My answer, of course, was an unequivocal Yes.

We came up with a plan then and there on that bumpy flight from Atlanta. Tony would start his post-Bac pre-med classes, taking one class at a time while working full time. “I will see how I do. Then I will take the MCAT- see how I do on that. Then I will apply to medical school and see if I actually can get in anywhere”.

I thought about pursuing a career in medicine too, but truthfully, I felt discouraged. I knew the training would be demanding, long, and expensive, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to juggle being a wife and Mom. I also worried that it would be difficult for us both to be pursuing medical education at the same time. (You know I feel differently about that now! But I’m glad I chose the path that I did as the timing is working out extremely well!)

As a result of putting my medical career on the back burner (for the time!), the following fall 2006 I enrolled in school for Massage Therapy. I decided that I needed to find a career that was still related to medicine that I could take anywhere in case we needed to move around the country. It also couldn’t put us deeply into debt and had to have a training that I could finish in a relatively short amount of time so that if we did need to move when he started school, I would have a few years of work experience under my belt to make me hirable. I graduated with my License in Massage Therapy in November of 2007 and started working at Bella Santé in Boston that following January. I worked there until July of 2010 when we moved to Rochester, NY because Tony was about to achieve his goal- Medical School. (We also were married in June 2007!)

On our wedding day, June 24, 2007

Getting into Medical School

In 2009-2010, Tony interviewed at 20 different medical schools all over the country. He got into 11 of them. The University of Rochester was actually his very first interview and I was able to go with him to it! I dropped him off at his interview and drove all over the area and I must say I  fell in love with Rochester (I still love it there!) When I picked him up I said, “This is where we need to be!!!!”

He laughed, as it was his very first interview and he had a lineup of some pretty major programs all over the country- Harvard, Georgetown, Pitt, Johns Hopkins, Ohio State, University of Miami, NYU, Columbia and BU to name a few! Also, I loved my work family at Bella Santé and leaving that behind would be so hard. When all was said and done University of Rochester gave him the most money to go there. I trusted my initial instincts, and with the financial package they offered it was the easiest decision. Somehow my heart just knew that was where we both needed to be!

Tony’s White Coat Ceremony at The University of Rochester, August 2010- He made it!!

Coming up on Friday… life during Medical School- What it was like for me to move and change jobs, making new friends, what his daily life was like, studying, having children, and  living and working as the wife of a full time medical student!

Thanks for stopping by! XO, Ashli


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