For a long, long time, I told myself I wanted to be a psychiatrist, and I don’t really know why. The Psych part I get, and Psychology is still my major, but why did I feel the need to be a doctor? I find Chem and Bio and the medical field in general really interesting, but I was never truly passionate about it. My career goal switched between becoming a Psychiatrist and Physician’s Assistant to being a Nurse and so many other medical careers, but none of them ever felt entirely right. I dreaded the idea of having zero free time, being in school for years, and not really making any money a lot more than I looked forward to the end result.
Until I moved to New York, Psychiatry was the plan. Before, I kind of felt like I was coasting. I knew I was capable of that kind of intense studying and decently science-minded, and the added pressure I was feeling to do something I knew would eventually provide a little more job security and coin was enough for me to think I almost had an obligation to do the most. But I wasn’t excited about it. There were aspects that I knew I wanted to have in my career, particularly being able to help people through issues that I could personally identify with and understand, but I felt like something was off. Within a week of being at NYU I realized that if I wasn’t at all excited about my future at this moment, I wasn’t going to enjoy it very much later. I have so many other passions that I hadn’t really been able to explore because I spent all my time drawing Lewis Structures and not understanding thermochemistry. I hated the feeling I got whenever I sat down to take a break that I wasn’t doing enough and that stress didn’t mix well with my anxiety. So I dropped Organic Chemistry and planned out my remaining three years here with the intention of completing three minors.
It wasn’t that I was intimidated by the workload of being pre-health. I was intimidated by the knowledge that the work I would be doing would probably make me cry out of frustration (like I did multiple times during my last leg of General Chemistry) and I wouldn’t feel like it was worth the struggle. Three minors don’t seem like a lot to me because I am more than passionate about all of them, and I can see myself using Creative Writing and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies in my future (Astronomy is the outlier, but I love space too much to give that up). I like listening to people talk, and I like helping people through their problems. Psychiatrists don’t really get to know their patients. They listen to symptoms and prescribe medication, but it’s not as deep and impactful of a relationship as one has with a therapist. I’ve also had therapists who were clearly not right for me. It’s been hard to find someone I truly feel like I can trust and tell everything without worrying about being judged, which I think is in part due to generational differences. I want to be that resource for young people who struggle with the same problems.
It was a pretty big decision to look at the possibility of a conventionally great job in the face and say “peace out”, but I don’t want a conventionally great job. I want to be able to construct something flexible that I genuinely love to explain to people when they ask me what I do. The sheer relief I felt when I dropped Orgo and realized I didn’t have to sit through a four-hour lab later that day proved to me that I had made the right decision. I feel so much more like myself knowing that I’m working toward something that means so much to me. I understand that this is a subjective experience, and the mantra, “If you hate what you’re doing, don’t do it” doesn’t encompass the complexity of most situations and can’t apply to us all. Being able to drop everything you’ve been doing for what you actually want to do is, without a doubt, a privilege. However, I do think that everyone has the ability to make the most of what their options are, and – if my 18-year-old opinion means anything to you – that life is about more than making money. My Mom always says that that outlook will change once I have to start paying for electricity, and maybe that’s true, but having spent a large portion of my life struggling with finding ways to be happy and remain happy, making an impact that I’m proud of and spending my time doing what brings me fulfillment is my definition of success.