Dream Change, and That’s Okay

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve never liked change. I’ve always been the kind of person who likes to plan things out to an extreme and follow through with said plans perfectly. So naturally, when I decided at age three that I would be a doctor, it never crossed my mind that I was perhaps too young to make such decisions, or that certain things, like career aspirations, are constantly evolving, and accordingly, can’t be planned for perfectly. Instead, as the years went by, I would proudly tell the people around me about my dreams of a medical career, and my family would in turn indulge my apparent interest by providing me with books and articles on the human anatomy. Becoming a doctor had become my ultimate’s life’s dream. Thus, I never, not even in my wildest of fantasies, imagined that I would ever change my mind with regards to my career.

    Though I didn’t admit it at the time, the doubts started during my college orientation week. It was during this time that I met several upper-class students who, like me, had started out as pre-med, but who quickly decided that the medical path was not for them. They told me that doing the traditional pre-med activities, such as medical volunteering, clinical shadowing, and basic research, as well as immersing themselves in the rigorous coursework, had given them a clearer picture of the medical profession and had ultimately informed them that donning the white coat wasn’t what they truly wanted after all. I was a little concerned about what I was hearing, worried that I might stumble upon something that could sully my opinion of a medical career, but in the end, I callously chose to ignore the stories I heard. I had, after all, decided my path long ago, and it seemed too scary to go back now and change it. Medicine also had a certainty about it that made me feel comfortable. I knew the required pre-med classes I needed to take before I graduated, I knew of the sorts of internships I had to apply to, and most importantly, unlike many of my peers, I had clear-cut post-graduation plans in the form of medical school applications. I could meticulously plan everything out to my heart’s desire.

    After taking a few pre-med classes as a freshman, I knew something was wrong. For one, I wasn’t particularly enjoying the course material. Sure, I enjoyed gaining a deeper understanding of human biology, but I didn’t really care for the tiny molecular details. And I detested the laboratory component that accompanied most pre-med science classes. I hated spending four hours a week locked away in the lab, carrying out redox reactions or examining cells under a microscope. Moreover, the classes more than lived up to their notorious reputation in terms of difficulty level. I devoted more hours to studying than I ever had before, allocated time every week to attend office hours, and chose one class every term that had a minimal workload, but hardly interested me, just to make sure that I had sufficient time for my pre-med classes. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but I subconsciously knew that the effort that I was putting into the classes that I didn’t even like wouldn’t pay off. However, I was too afraid to give voice to my doubts. I was afraid of the uncertainty that came with dropping pre-med, I was afraid of disappointing my family, and I was afraid of what people would think. So instead, I ignored my instincts and plowed on. Sophomore year was filled with even more difficult classes, along with additional shadowing and research in a wet lab. And not only did I have an even greater distaste for my pre-med classes sophomore year, but the more clinicians I shadowed, the more I realized that I was not cut out for a career in medicine. I couldn’t imagine myself ever doing the things that the doctors were doing. I also had no interest in my lab research, finding it to be a tedious activity that served merely to bolster my med school application. The lengthy time commitment that medicine requires, once seemed so distant, now was rapidly becoming a reality. Worst of all, my life’s dream was turning into a nightmare.

    By the time junior year rolled around, I was completely burned out. I had devoted so much time to my classes that I hardly had the time to pursue the other things that I was interested in – the things that I would only have the opportunity to pursue while in college. I had to reach this level of exhaustion in order to finally admit to myself, and to my family, that medicine was not for me. At first I felt as though I was giving up on a life-long dream. In some ways I felt like I was betraying myself, and that I was failure for abandoning that which I had been aspiring for since I was three years old. However, my family was incredibly understanding and supportive. They, too, felt as though there was no point in pursuing a career requiring so much time and effort if my heart truly wasn’t in it. Instead, they suggested that I take time to explore the subjects that I really enjoyed, as to figure out what it was that I wanted to pursue. And just like that, I found myself abandoning the pre-medical path, and instead started delving deeper into the topics that I truly found fascinating.

    Despite my desperate fear of change, I have come to realize that things aren’t always set in stone. Nothing can stay the same forever. In order for us to develop and grow, we have to undergo change. And sometimes this means that the dreams that we have for ourselves need to change too. Even though we sometimes believe that we have to follow through with all of our hopes and dreams, it’s completely okay if those hopes and dreams no longer fit us as people. It’s far better to create new goals that ignite that spark within us that makes us want to chase after those dreams with everything we’ve got.