You’re a stellar student. You stand out at the top of your class. You make complex titration equipment look like tinker toys. You have the ability to memorize chemical names, to maximize equations, and to name all of the bones in the human body. Simultaneously. Blindfolded. With your arms tied behind your back. While water-skiing over a pond filled with laser sharks.
You’re wearing two pairs of ultra-polarized to shield your eyes from your own bright future, but there is one fact that may still knock you flat on your butt. You don’t have to go to medical school to be successful.
I say all of this because I came into college thinking that I was the next Doogie Howser. I took all of the science classes I could handle, I joined the health careers club, and I had picked out the most affordable med schools in Virginia before I had even finished my freshman year. Then something magical happened: I actually developed a passion for something.
Getting involved with reproductive rights and sexual health education turned my life around. I started spending my days thinking about how I could have an impact on my friends around me, on the students at this college, and on the entire state I’d grown up in. I felt empowered to make change and I felt inspired to get out of the library. No longer were visions of acids and bases dancing in my head giving my nightmares; I had a mission.
Then one day I finally worked up the nerve to ask myself why I had wanted to be a doctor in the first place. I knew that I wanted to do something with my life where I could help people, but that was really the only reasonable evidence I could find springing from my own personal motivations. Everyone had always told me that I was a smart kid and that I should go for “the best” career possible. What I found was that medical school wouldn’t lead to the best career for me. I might be intelligent, and I could very well apply to medical school today, but I genuinely don’t think that a career in medicine would make me happy. Sure, I might end up in a career which pays less than the wages of a plastic surgeon, but that can’t scare me away from happiness.
Today I’m less likely to be the next Doogie Howser than I am to be the next Neil Patrick Harris, and that’s really okay with me. I’m applying to Teach for America in the hopes of making a difference in the lives of kids who need change. If all goes as I’m hoping for, I’ll attend graduate school for public health in the future. It might not be the job which will have guys fawning over me at parties, have my mom praising my life choices, or have people throwing money at me, but that’s okay.
Hopefully I’ll be making a difference in a way which feels right for me and which makes me genuinely happy.
If public service announcements about sexual health education make me jump out of bed in the morning, why in the world wouldn’t I grab a camera and start filming?