For most of my life, I thought I was going to major in something like Drama or English and then go to law school or work at a non-profit. I thought this because my family repeatedly stated how great I was at writing and arguing and that I would make a great lawyer. And although never verbalized, it was always clear that my two older cousins were the scientists. At this point, I can’t really tell if this divide was manifested in my own imagination as a way of protecting myself from potential failure or ridicule or if it sparked from the tacit knowledge I have always felt.
When I was five and my mom cut her finger open and we had to go to the hospital to get her stitches, she told the doctor about a human body exploration program I liked to play with on the computer and he then invited me into the run to look at my mother’s tendons and the rest of the inside of her finger before he sewed it back up. The only chapters of biology I really excelled in during my nearly comatose freshman year were the ones on the nervous system and anatomy. Looking back, it is kind of ridiculous that I didn’t realize sooner what my actual passion is.
I’ve toyed around with many potential careers in the past few years. Working in the front office of a baseball organization, being a lawyer, going into journalism, getting my own office at United Nations, basically anything that didn’t require science or math. Why? Because I had been told countless times by my classmates and teachers that math and science are hard and you must have a natural affinity to them in order to be successful in them. I simply assumed that this meant it would be impossible for me to pursue any kind of career in them.
Then over Thanksgiving break, I found a copy of season one of Grey’s Anatomy at Half Price Books for three dollars. The obsessive DVD watcher in me had to have it, and I quickly devoured the first nine episodes. I know Grey’s Anatomy likely does not accurately depict medical scenarios or what it is really like to be a surgeon, but it does take place in a hospital and uses an awful lot of medical jargon. It started a fire in me. Being a surgeon felt right. It clicked. It was all I could think about.
Over winter break, I became exceptionally obsessive over my future. I was in crisis mode. I was supposed to be a lawyer. I had submitted half of my college applications as an International Relations major on the pre-law track. But nothing about pre-law sounded exciting to me. It sounded like a natural, “easy” path for me to take. Heck, the only reason I was going to major in International Relations was because traveling the world for a living sounded pretty rad. One night, I was literally hysterical and woke up my mother at two in the morning, in complete panic mode. Pre-med basically starts the instant you step on campus, so if I wanted to do it, I needed to decide relatively soon.
My mother encouraged me to do what I wanted. She said that if the only thing holding me back from going down this road was fear of it being too hard, I should do it anyways. If it doesn’t work out, whatever. So the next morning, I changed the major and advising preferences on all of my unsubmitted applications to a science field on the pre-med track. It felt totally great.
It’s been a few months since I had that gut feeling, and I have done a lot of research on what going into medicine entails. I am completely aware of how difficult it is going to be and of how incredibly hard I am going to have to work. It’s totally terrifying and really exciting. Being on call and working for days on end sounds great if it means getting to assist on any kind of procedure.
So I have decided that I’m going to give myself a chance to go after what I am really passionate about rather than settle for the easier route. I know that if I really put my mind to something, I can do it. I’ve done it before when I crushed my Algebra 2/Trigonometry class after struggling in math for five years. I did it when I aced an AP Chemistry test last year. Knowing that all the work I will be putting in for the next eight years will culminate in getting an opportunity to become a surgeon will undoubtedly push me to success. I believe in myself.
Now, I’m four and a half seasons into Grey’s Anatomy and knee deep in medical related internships and research positions I can’t wait to apply for in college. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute makes me want to melt in a way that a summer job in a law office never even began to do. The Atlantic Bridge program gives me hope of fulfilling my (much less intense) dream of living abroad. Honestly, I still kind of can’t believe that I’m actually going to do this. I never thought I was going to take a Chemistry class again, but here I am, excited about the horror that is Organic Chemistry. Of course there is still a lot of uncertainty in my life. I’m seventeen. But at this moment in time, despite how scary and daunting it is, I can say that I have never been so sure about anything in my entire life as I am about becoming a surgeon.