Growing up, I was always told to become a doctor. I distinctly remember that when I was in first grade, I received an assignment on a colored paper that said, “When I grow up, I want to be…” I had scribbled in “art teacher” on the blank. When I brought it home to my mother, she laughed at me and told me that her daughter would become a doctor. Ever since then, my brain was wired to think that the only option available to me was to become a doctor.
Others have also expected me to become a doctor because my grandfather owns a clinic, and my mother is a doctor, too. A frequent question prompted by adults and anyone curious to this day is, “Are you going to study medicine like your mother?” Or, “Do you want to be a doctor like your grandfather?”
A vast majority of the people around me told me that I would become a doctor, and I believed it.
I did well in all of my classes, and I especially enjoyed math and science. My friends took my calmness and precision during a frog dissection lab in seventh grade as a sign that I was destined to become a surgeon. It was unimaginable that I would be interested in any other career, until I joined DECA.
In eighth grade, my mother urged me to join DECA, a marketing and leadership club, to try something new. I was reluctant because I had no interest in marketing or even any idea about the components of marketing. Regardless, I joined and found myself participating actively and taking the lead in activities, such as collecting necessary items for mothers in the N/IICU and selling Otis Spunkmeyer cookies to raise funds for the club.
Although I had joined quite recently, the supervising teacher encouraged me to participate in the Georgia DECA State Competition. I had never learned about marketing before then, so just imagine my absolute shock when I placed fourth amongst high schoolers. Placing in the top 10 meant that I got to attend the International Career Development Conference in Orlando, Florida and learn about the vast world of marketing and the variety of careers it offered.
After these events, I began to reconsider what career path was best suited for me. I didn’t want to talk to my family about it because I was scared of how they would react. I was still traumatized by what had happened in first grade, though my mother had probably forgotten. To make matters worse, I hadn’t performed so well in Honors Chemistry in sophomore year, so my confidence in my abilities was shaken, making me confused about what the best option for me is.
It’s come to the point where I feel like pursuing business would be more scandalous than having an affair. There are times when I think that medicine is my one and only companion, like when I get excited discussing pathogens and working on biology. At other times, I wonder whether marketing or business is better suited for me since I’m a people-person, and I love working on group projects that involve creating and presenting products. Both of these careers have a math background, but medicine also has science.
They’re so different, but I feel connected to both.
In order to make the best choice for my future, I've been conducting some research online to learn more about these fields. I'm also participating in the healthcare administration and advertising events for Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) this year, in the hopes that competing will show me which topic is my strength. In addition to research, I'm trying to get a feel for what it would be like to work in medicine and business by applying to summer camps, internships and volunteer positions. Hopefully, firsthand experience will help me figure out which field suits me. The struggle lies in that the more I learn about both of these fields, the further I fall in love with them.
Is it possible to just have the best of both worlds?
I wouldn’t say that any one person is to blame for my indecision. It’s not like my family or those adults foresaw their questions and expectations to lead to my existential crisis. However, I don’t think it was acceptable for my family to impress on my young mind that I could only become a doctor, regardless of whether they thought it was the best choice for me. Children should be open to exploring careers on their own and finding their own interests. Adults should simply guide them to the right path, nothing more.
Also, adults who ask me what I want to be and just straight up assume that I want to go into medicine agitate me. Not everyone is going to be who their parents or forefathers were. This isn’t the 16th century, when children of farmers became farmers, or children of blacksmiths became blacksmiths. My grandfather’s father wasn’t anywhere close to being a doctor; he worked hard from the bottom up to make his own path.
So stop making assumptions and pressuring already-stressed kids about their career choices. Instead, ask them what they like to study or about their hobbies. This way, you could probably help them narrow down their choices and offer them some insight.
And to all the high schoolers who either know what they’re going to do with their lives or are still undecided: just believe in yourself. Know that whatever you do end up doing, being happy is what’s most important.