I entered college like a lot of students do— with a singular goal to get a practical, employable degree. For me, that degree could be in one of three fields, or it wasn’t considered practical: engineering, business, or medical. I chose medical, because, you know. I like to “help people”.
Throughout my freshman and some of my sophomore year, I worked towards this. I shadowed, I studied constantly, working toward my medical school dreams.
Except, they weren’t my dreams. Medical school was a dream I thought I should have, and I thought people wanted me to have, and maybe they did. But it doesn’t matter what other people want you to do.
You have to do it for you. You have to live your life for yourself, the way that you want to, not the way your parents want you to, or your older sibling did, or the way you think will look best, and impress the most people.
People say that following a passion won’t get you hired, but how is pursuing something that makes you unhappy better?
Adults—parents—have this odd tendency. They go through life in one career, with friends in that career, and then, when they’re older, with kids, they decide that their path to success is the best one. And maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. In their defense, it’s a path they know works.
There is more than one road to success. This seems like such a no-brainer, but I honestly didn’t think there was as a freshman. I really, truly thought that I had to be a doctor, and that my grades were more important than my happiness.
It took sitting down and talking with a professor and role model to realize that there is a lot more out there than just STEM. It took even longer to realize I didn’t need a STEM career to prove to myself I was smart.
There is more than one way to quantify success. Success doesn’t have to mean a paycheck, or an advanced degree, or a Nobel Prize or Pulitzer. It doesn’t have to mean a 4.0, or a dizzying amount of extracurriculars. You get to define your own success; by happiness, by the difference your making, by the way you treat others. Success is unique to the individual.
I don’t know when I realized I hated the idea of going to school for 8 more years, and being in a hospital, and having to deal with real, actual pain, but I did. Maybe it was in the Emergency Room, when the little girl I had played with all week died, or when I vomited after watching a routine surgery, or one of the many nights I stayed up in the library panicking because I had to 4.0 this one.
But I realized it wasn’t what I wanted, or what I was cut out for and I made a change. You have to have goals for yourself, not goals that someone picked out for you.
You will never work as hard at something you aren’t passionate about as you will at something you are, and even if it is in an obscure and unlikely career path, hard workers get jobs. You just might have to do a little research to find out just what sort of job is right for you.
At the end of the day, you’re never going to make everyone happy, but that doesn’t matter. This is your life, not anyone else’s. Be it a degree, a job, or any sort of life change, you have to do it for yourself, not for them.