In high school, I dreamt of becoming a surgeon. I wanted to stand beside an open chest cavity and perform miracles. I wanted to be the person that people came to when they needed help. My own experiences with the medical field led me to believe that it was what I was meant to do.
In seventh grade, I began the arduous surgical process to have my right leg lengthened. I was born with a genetic condition that caused my right leg to be about four inches shorter than my left and resulted in scoliosis, back and knee problems. I spent most of my middle and high school career either at the hospital or in physical therapy. For some reason, though, I didn’t mind it. I liked looking at my x-rays and navigating the sterile halls of the hospital. I figured that by having gone through this process, I would be better equipped to console my future patients.
The thought of 14 years of school didn’t scare me; I was convinced that I was meant to study medicine.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I began the prerequisite classes needed for medical school anxious and excited to take the first steps into my future career. I joined research labs and began volunteering at the local hospital.
However, as my college career progressed, I noticed that I was becoming a tightly wound ball of anxiety. I would spend my time constantly studying, only to get B’s and C’s in my classes. The summer of my junior year, I knew I no longer had the grades to get into medical school. Not only that, but I realized I wasn’t happy with my chosen field. Did I really want to be giving it my all only to constantly fail?
When I complained about my summer class to my aunt, she simply told me, “If you hate it, don’t do it.” And for some reason, that resonated with me. I realized I didn’t need to be putting myself through my own personal hell each day to achieve a dream I wasn’t sure I wanted anymore. I realized my family just wanted me to be happy, and I finally found that I needed to do the same.
As soon as school started this past fall, I switched my major to English.
Realizing that I simply couldn’t make myself be good at something, no matter how hard I worked at it, was the hardest part. I desperately wanted to be good at math and science and see my dream through to completion, but deep down I knew this career wasn’t for me. I was working myself to tears and setting impossible standards for myself.
The science classes I took taught me valuable life lessons, but the most important thing I learned from them is when to realize I’ve had enough. At the beginning of the semester, I went back and forth constantly. I worried that I would regret switching to English and giving up on a dream I had nurtured for so long. Eventually, I decided that if I still thought I had made a mistake by the end of the semester, I could always switch back.
Now, halfway through the semester, I know I made the right decision. I hear my friends stress over their organic chemistry class, and I can’t help but think how glad I am to not need to struggle with memorizing anatomical functions or calculating chemical equations. Although I had always found math and science interesting, I never had a natural affinity for the subjects. I had really wanted to be good at it for the sake of my future career.
Instead, I have always loved to read and write, and now I get to do that. I’m pursuing what I love, instead of trying to force myself to love what I was pursuing. Medicine will always have a special place in my heart, but I realize that I can still use my appreciation for science in my writing.
I hadn’t given up on a dream. Instead, I found a new one.