I feel as if my midlife crisis came early. Maybe a quarter-life crisis? Since the age of 7, I had it ingrained in my head – and worst of all, my dad’s – that I would grow up to be (drum roll please…) a neurosurgeon. Really? Could I have set the bar any higher? I gave him every parent’s dream – a child who will become a determined, studious and successful individual. Can I blame him? Flash forward a decade and a half later and try “confused.”
If you were to ask me how I settled on wanting to be a doctor, I have no right answer. The human body has always fascinated me. To the extent that my 7-year-old-pea-sized brain decided my fate for myself and my entire family. Once that settled into their heads, I felt stuck to it.
I always felt like I was “missing out.” With my science-focused schedule filled with upper-division courses, I couldn’t join yearbook in high school or a photography class in college. Noticing how my peers focused on studying organic chemistry or writing their new research paper, a part of me felt that I did not “fit” the doctor stereotype. Although I did that as well, I also wanted to do a million other things unrelated to the sciences.
My personality has always consisted of being a very social and curious person. Growing up, I loved expressing myself through style and thrived off of trying new things. From experimenting with weird hairdos and wearing leg warmers as sleeves (I started a trend with that in the third grade) to creating my swimwear brand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I also believe humor is a differentiator in living a happier life. I made it a point to make those around me laugh, as it boosts dopamine and serotonin levels. To further solidify this trait, during my Kindergarten play, I – voluntarily – was the clown, and yes, there were other options. Being the reason for laughter sparked something in me, especially when no one was up for the part.
The sciences have always been a part of my academic career: taking harder classes, leading fundraisers and Honors Societies, and even joining a research lab throughout the pandemic. As a senior in high school, my thoughts about switching career paths caught up to me. I did not want to disappoint anyone. I feared switching career paths and having someone say “I told you so,” which delayed the inevitable. It was hard to accept not fulfilling my dad’s dream of being the family doctor. Eventually, I realized the only person I disappointed was myself.
For a long time, I thought switching career paths would put all to waste, which could not be further from the truth. During the end of my first semester of Junior year, I decided to take an internship at The Selling Factory as a Sales Development Representative and attempt a world outside laboratories and hospitals. Currently, I love the fast-paced, collaborative environment of the business world and feel a sense of belonging. I felt uneasy at the thought of saying I did not want to do medicine out loud, but I eventually got the courage to do so.
I also accepted that nothing I learned from my science-focused academic career would go to waste, as the knowledge and transferable skills are valuable gains. Although I learned about the circulatory system or the glycolytic cycle, the skillset to understand these concepts are transferable skills. A few of the transferable skills are discipline, data processing, and insight development. Without my science-focused academic career to challenge and improve my cognitive intelligence, this would not ensue. Businesses have models involving a system that constantly evolves and requires upkeep. What better way to discover how a system works than learning about the most complex one of all: the human body.
What I am trying to say is that it is never too late for change, so do not be afraid to do so. You will find a point of commonality amidst what might seem like chaos. The hardest part is taking the first step, so I have provided five pieces of advice for those contemplating doing so.
The easiest way to deal with a problem is not dealing with it at all. Denial can come in an assortment of ways, from blindly continuing whatever you are doing to finding any distraction that leaves you with no time to think, or even telling yourself nothing is wrong. This coping mechanism may work for some time, but it catches up to you. The sooner you realize that the better off you will be.
Reflection is key. Give yourself time to sit with your thoughts and take it all in. Although it sounds easy, figuring anything out is daunting when we are in doubt. However, if you keep living in denial, you will find yourself frustrated at the end of the day. So sit down and reflect, whether it be through talking it out, journaling, or making a pros and cons list. Reflection is where change begins.
Yes, that cheesy saying in every Hallmark movie where the main character needs to make a life-altering decision, but it is so true! Circling back to my science roots, your gut sends neurons to your brain telling your body how to react: it can be through butterflies in your stomach like when riding a roller coaster, or nausea and uneasiness when you feel unsafe. Point is, the saying is to trust and listen to your intuition. For a long time, I ignored mine and now realize how crucial it was to have paid attention to it. The human body is an intricate and complex system, always telling us something, even when we cannot see it yet.
Change is inevitable. It is a part of life that allows us to evolve and find ourselves. We tend to get stuck on the thought of “losing time” or “I’m too old”, but time is relative. Would you rather stick to what you wanted to do 10 years ago and be miserable? Or reflect, find your passion, and put in hard work for a couple of years to genuinely enjoy what you do for the rest of your life? Time is not against you, and guess what? Happier people live longer. Find what brings you excitement and work to get there, however long it may take – unless you love sitting on your couch and watching television… then we might need to reconvene.
Nothing happens overnight – a baby takes time to walk, a skyscraper takes time to build, and you will take time to change. Do not overwhelm yourself because not everything is figured out all at once. Good things take time. What has helped me is creating small goals to meet the big picture goal. Sometimes, looking at a problem from a bird’s eye view leaves us feeling discouraged, so take it little by little, and enjoy every step of the way.
If you are afraid of change or feel like you are running out of time, remember that you have the power to accomplish anything you wish. The only obstacle one faces in life is themselves. Ultimately, we are the only ones responsible for our actions and living with the repercussions. So why settle or be afraid to act upon something because of what others may think?
If you are passionate about what you do, you will succeed, even more so than in a job that may be “conventionally” more rewarding. You will want to do better, learn more, and deliver more. Will power is the greatest strength the human possesses. Use it, and you will succeed in anything you desire. Do not wait for it to find you. Take the first step today.