Almost every major and career path is full of difficulties. As a pre-med, I'm very aware of my struggles and those of my fellow pre-meds. And though I'm also aware that other students' majors are also hard, not everyone is subject to statements that are intentionally discouraging and condescending as I and other pre-meds have been. I've been told things about my career goals that have made me want to quit or just yell my head off. Here is a list of the top five annoying things people have said to me upon hearing I'm a pre-med:
1. "Oh, you're one of those."
Could you please categorize me any faster? I might be "one of those" depending on what you mean by "those." Do you mean that I'm someone who has chosen to go into the medical field? Then, yes. Do you mean that I want to try to help people when they are suffering from medical issues? Definitely, yes. Do you mean that I'm someone who is excited at the possibility of going to work in scrubs (basically pajamas) every day? Totally, yes. But, if you mean that I'm some prototype that fits into your convoluted view of what a pre-med should be? Then, no. I chose what I want to do with my life because of who I am as a person and not the other way around.
2. "You know you're gonna be in school forever, right?"
Oh, I'm glad you've enlightened me on how long med school is because I would have never known otherwise. Although this statement usually comes with good intentions, it often comes across as condescending, as if I made one of the biggest decisions about my life without any thought. I know that it is a very long journey to becoming a doctor, but it is one that I have chosen to embark on happily and excitedly. So next time you feel the urge to say this -- don't. We are well aware of our timeline and it might be longer than you'd personally be OK with studying for, but we are happy with it.
3. "At least you'll be rich."
This is one of the worst and most infuriating things anyone can say to me ever. I'm not going into a field that often involves being surrounded by misery, death, and a sense of helplessness for the money. There are so many other ways to earn money that don't involve telling someone that they or a loved one might not live for very long as part of the job description. If I was just in it for the money, I would pick a job where making a mistake would have way less significant consequences than someone getting seriously hurt. I'm in it because I want to genuinely and honestly help people. Sure, the money doesn't hurt, but it is not the reason I'm becoming a doctor. It's more like an added bonus.
4. "Pre-meds do everything to boost their resume."
I understand where this one is coming from. There are a set of things that pre-meds are expected to do like shadowing, volunteering,research, etc. I'm one of the pre-meds who has done all of those things mentioned and not only because I'm expected to do them, but also because these are the things that have given me the best idea of what the medical field is actually like and it has been an integral part of my decision to be pre-med. So, although sometimes what we do is what the "system" expects us to do, most of the time we are doing things because we enjoy them and not simply because it makes us look like a good applicant. However, in our defense, we do have to get into medical school, so trying to be a good applicant is not necessarily a thing that we should be shamed for.
5. "You're not a typical pre-med."
This is the statement that I get the most often and honestly I'm a little conflicted about how to feel about this. The first time I was told this was really early on in my freshman year of college and I was a little offended because I took it as a comment on my intelligence or my hard work (either way, talking about qualities I hold dear and saying that I don't measure up to my peers made me feel so much worse). I may not be as intelligent as most people who pursue this profession, but my hard work is something that I consider to be a significant part of my personality. However, later on I came to realize that the connotations associated with pre-meds were much, much worse. They are seen as uptight, pompous, and arrogant. Upon discovering this, I then became happy to not be considered the typical pre-med. However, now that I know more pre-meds and know how untrue that perception is, I'm not so sure how I feel about this statement anymore. What I do know is that I don't like being told that I'm not a typical pre-med, regardless, because it either makes me feel unworthy of a field I love or belittles the work and personality of a lot of my friends and peers.
Every possible field a student can choose to pursue has its own challenges. I have spent just as many nights staying up late doing work with people who want to go into social work as I have with future engineers and doctors. Next time anyone tells you about what they have chosen to do with their life, be excited for them. Congratulate them on figuring out what makes them happy and try to find out what led them to make their choice. Don't try to talk their career choice down or degrade them with your preconceived stereotypes, because it is this type of discouragement that often drives people to give up a field they're passionate about, instead pursuing jobs that they don't enjoy and ending up with a job they dread going to every day.