As my third year at the University draws to a close, I feel understand more than ever how absurd it is to expect teenagers to have decided on their desired career path before high school graduation.
Granted, AP classes and summer programs play their part in attempting to foster academic passions — but looking back, it seemed as if there was no incentive for me to try to incorporate my personality into my coursework and resume. I did everything a college-bound student was supposed to do, but for the wrong reasons — I did these things for the acceptance letter. The consequences of this have loomed over my shoulder ever since.
When I was in the eighth grade, I took one of those questionable career tests at my school’s career center — and from that time onwards, I believed that it was my divine calling to become a psychiatrist. The career test result in addition to my occasionally being called a “good listener” by by friends friends made me fall in love with the idea of prancing through medical school and eventually treating mental illness. I realize now that in being motivated by the prospect of job security, I never wholeheartedly committed myself to that path.
This is not to say that I was completely passive — in fact, I was overly ambitious about building up my career. I read books about the human mind. I participated in medicine-related extracurriculars and internships. I strove for perfect grades and an above-average SAT score in high school. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that I was driven by genuine passion, or that there was anything I could have done at the time to cultivate this sense of passion.
Oftentimes I wish I could go back to my freshman year of high school knowing everything I know now, and channel my past motivations into building a more well-informed version of myself.
If, back then, I had actually known someone who lost their life to suicide, or had been good friends with someone who struggled with bipolar disorder, or had thoroughly taken the time to parse my feelings and desires towards my future, perhaps my vision would have been clearer. Because I was driven by a naïve dream rather than experience or empathy, there remained this underlying dissonance between my real motivations and this illusory life I strove to lead.
It took me three years of college to dismantle my rose-colored world. It took questioning my life choices, exposing myself to new worlds and meeting brilliantly passionate people whom I grew to thrive off of. It took breaking down my entire sense of identity and reconstructing it with new perspectives.
These last few days of classes have reminded me of how far I’ve come in terms of learning about the world and the human condition. Every semester that has peeled away has simultaneously exposed and hardened a layer of myself filled with less and less ignorance. I can only hope that by this time next year, I will be ten times more informed and infinitely more driven by a solidified sense of passion.