I saw myself as a surgeon-in-the-works at a young age, taking the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as a challenge to tackle at the ripe age of four. To all the adults out there who think that huge, terrifying, looming question is an appropriate go-to question to all kids under the age of 18 (or older), it’s not. No four year old can possibly know what he or she will be passionate or skilled enough to pursue as a career.
But before I was as wise and beautiful as I am now, I was as stubborn as I was at age four. When it came time to actually apply, I was going pre-med. Medical school costs, be damned! I volunteered in the OR four times a week. I volunteered for a non-profit that went abroad to perform free surgery in developing nations. I grew up watching my father’s video recordings of his latest appendectomy and never felt the least bit nauseous. I even watched every Grey’s Anatomy episode and pictured my life in scrubs, ready to start my education in becoming the next Meredith Grey (minus all the sex with a married man).
During my first semester of college, I learned a lot. One of the most important discoveries being a major flaw I had overlooked in my planning: I hated science. I’ll admit science was never my favorite class in high school and even the much more naive 16-year-old me knew. There were aspects of biology I enjoyed, I was pretty good at physics, and I liked the math in chemistry, but all that together? It was like Satan’s chemical reaction but the product was too boring to be deadly. When it started taking up 16 hours of my day every day, I realized I couldn’t stand memorizing polyatomic ions or sitting in 800-person lectures.
The worst part was I was still doing well in my courses. Plot twist, I know. I could show up to chem lab, sure. I could even marry my Bio textbook, but what I would do to read a paperback or workshop a personal essay was more shameful than any thing done in the name of a Klondike bar. I liked the idea of being a surgeon– I still do– but I liked the experience of discussing my writing in my creative non-fiction Writing seminar far more than hearing the word Orgo or the acid reflux that came next. I wanted to be Meredith Grey 2.0, but I didn’t want to spend eight plus years dedicating myself to subjects that kind-of-sorta interested me. I didn’t want to push myself to learn information for a job I might like. I didn’t want to wake up in the morning dreading my day. And it occurred to me that I didn’t have to make that mistake.
On the second day of my second semester, I could feel the heat. I was about to purchase my new set of textbooks and I had the various syllabi for my new courses laid out in front of me and it looked an awful lot like my first semester…except everything had an extra roman numeral attached. I saw my life flash across my eyes (JK, just the next semester, but I realized it could be my life). I asked myself, what if I did something different? What if I actually did throw up my hands in the name of good old’ carpe diem and sign up for journalism classes, exclusively? I felt such relief in just the mere proposition. I didn’t want to continue being unhappy; I hated my life, but I didn’t hate myself.
Dropping pre-med was one of the hardest academic decisions I’ve had to make. It was also the most liberating experience. I may or may not have actually said, “YOLO,” out loud, but I went with it. Off course from the path I had splayed out for myself, I was able to look at the course catalog with the only prerogative being to enjoy. I realized education was a privilege and one of the only opportunities I would ever get to learn… whatever. Whatever I had ever wanted to learn or what simply caught my eye last Tuesday.
In my new courses, I discovered my fascination with the history of semantics and the trends in the evolution of poetry. I liked philosophy and literature and loved having enough free time with my schedule to join clubs and fully engage with my peers. I also liked sleeping. Weird.
So I may never get my own set of scrubs and four year old me may be disappointed, but I’ll never regret taking the chance to take advantage of my college years and truly exploring all of my interests. Why trade happiness for a toddler ambition?