Monday, February 1, 2010

Planning for the future

My daughter is very into birds and ducks. She has this game where the baby duck is looking for its mama, which she makes us play with her over and over again until we want to vomit. Anyway, yesterday we were playing this game with her and my husband (a.k.a. Captain Obvious) commented, "She sure likes birds."

Me: "Yeah, she really does."

Husband: "Hey, maybe someday she'll be an ornithologist."

Me: "..."

Husband: "You know, someone who studies birds."

Me: "Um, yeah, maybe..."

It seems like we spend an awful lot of time trying to figure out what her future career is going to be. I have to wonder if anyone can predict such a thing at age three.

As for me, my mother wanted me to be a doctor, so I was trained to name "physician" as my chosen career as early as age four or five. But I went through a few other career options in my mind before I took the MCATs at age 20 and got my first med school acceptance at age 21. I don't think the idea of going to med school really solidified until the latter happened. (Sometimes I think I'm still not 100% sure.)

So my question to the masses is: When did you decide that you wanted to be a doctor? Or else, when did you decide you wanted to be a [insert chosen career]?


  1. Although my parents always emphasized "college", this concept was never attached to a specific vocation - although my dad always jokingly (I think) suggested becoming a mortician. As it turned out, I started college thinking that I wanted to pursue a career in law (!)...this changed rapidly after being exposed to the typical "pre-law" curriculum. I floundered for a bit trying to figure out where I wanted to end up and as it turned out, I ended up taking a year off after graduation prior to starting med school - which was a good thing. Even now, I tell high school students that I meet with that they have lots of time to figure out where they want to end up.

    I know there are many out there that can determine at a young age what they want to do and stick with it (my older sister is just one example - she's still doing at age 50 what she decided upon at age 12) but for the rest of us, having some extra time makes a lot of sense. Just don't pigeonhole your daughter into becoming a ornithologist too soon (pun slightly intended).

  2. I grew up wanting to be a doctor. Nothing but a doctor. From the time I was 3 years old ... a doctor. (I had a female pediatrician, I wonder if that influenced me?)

    Then, in high school, struggling with math ...and desperately not wanting to take algebra, I threw that dream away in one 5 minute conversation with my principal.
    "Peggikaye, you have to take algebra!"
    "Mr. G, no, I don't!"
    "Peggikaye, yes, you really do!"
    "Mr. G, no, I really don't ..and won't"
    "Peggikaye, if you don't take algebra, you can't be a doctor!"
    "Fine, I won't be a doctor" (yes, it was this fast, this plain)
    "But if you dont' take algebra, you can't go to college!"
    "Fine, take me off the college prep list"
    and I got up and walked out of his office ..and went and registered for Accounting and Business math (an option back then)

    Alegebra kept me from achieving my goals when I was young at 45 it is still the wrench in the cog ...but I'm doing it ...slowly but surely.
    My plans to become a psychologist will not as easily be thrown away.

  3. I decided I wanted to be a doctor when I was 17, 21, 26 and 31.

    Right now I want to be an epidemiologist.

  4. For a long time, my mom couldn't understand why I became a doctor. She thought I should take over my dad's architectural firm from him. Finally, after a number of years, I told her, "It was the biggest challenge I could think of." She understood.

    That, looking back, is really the truth. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything, so I ultimately chose neurosurgery - the hardest specialty I could think of. I thought, "When I get to the end of my life, I don't want to look back and say, 'what if'."

    Thus, I stumbled into what was clearly the right choice for me. Despite the struggles for balance my career has created, I can't imagine doing anything else. Funny that it could work out so well without a conscious decision to "be a doctor." I think the man upstairs guided me this way for reasons I am still learning about.

  5. I wanted to go to med school because my dad was a doctor, but shrank from the pre-med course load in college. I wanted a "true" liberal arts education. History, psychology, philosophy, religion, the works. I finished college at 20, but couldn't get a good enough score on the GRE to get into a Ph.D. program - I really wanted to be a psychologist (like dreaming again, but backwards!).

    Med school was my default. I worked in psychology and molecular genetics research while I took the pre-med classes at my local college. Borrowed MCAT study books. Made a decent score. Got in early admission.

    So in a way I got back around to my original vague desire. I was torn between doing that and being an astronaut - but I rejected my acceptance to the engineering program at Wash. U. cause I couldn't imagine, at the time (16), being in a city away from my parents.

  6. I didn't decide to be a doctor until after college, after working for 3 years, when my sister was in a horrific car wreck. I was hanging around the hospital quite a bit and got to know the staff. Anyway, I love my career and know I made the right one. I get to use my brain, help people and make a pretty decent living doing so. When I was 6 I wanted to be a movie star. When I was 8 I wanted to be a marine biologist. When I was 12 I wanted to be a geologist. When I was 18 I wanted to be an international law/immigration lawyer. I hope you're daughter picks something imaginative and fun. My parents and husband thought I was crazy. Now they are glad I didn't take their advice.

  7. This is really encouraging! My aunt, a neurologist, pointed me to this blog when I asked about how she (amazingly) balances work, her two kids and her marriage, and all of you women are such great role models for those of us looking to enter the field!
    Right now, I'm in the middle of college and even though I've wanted to be a doctor since I was about 10, now I keep wondering if I want to do law school, go into politics, be a researcher, take 3 years of and explore the world. It's so nice to see that I'm not the only one having 'epiphanies' constantly!

    Thank you!

  8. I'm glad this blog has helped you, Anon! Thanks to KC for starting it :)

  9. I decided that I wanted to be a doctor midway through my junior year as a literature major at a small liberal arts college. I ended up writing my thesis in literature but otherwise took a more than full load in all the med school prereqs my last 3 semesters and then applied to med school during a year off in between.

    I don't try to actively discourage my kids from going into medicine (my 6 yr old seems very inclined in the direction of science generally and has a great deal of wonder about the human body), but I'm certainly not encouraging them to do it either. It's a hard road and a hard life, as many on this blog would confirm, so I think it's only for those who truly, truly want to do that and can't imagine themselves doing anything else.

  10. My aunt [an OB-GYN herself] bought me a Fisher-Price medical kit for Christmas when I was 3 years old. I spent the rest of the day driving everyone in the house crazy trying to listen to their heart and take their temperature. I guess you could say I was hooked...and since then, my answer to "What do you want to be when you grow up?" was always "a doctor."

    Sometimes it's hard to grasp the fact that I actually stayed true to that 3 year old's declaration. Well, almost true anyway- I'm in my 2nd year of medical school right now, so I've still a ways to go. This is undoubtedly the hardest thing I've done- but I know in my heart that there's nothing else I'd rather be doing.

  11. Let me first say that I love this blog. I get the RSS feed on google and am an avid reader.

    I am currently chipping away at the pre-med requirements--2nd quarter of organic chemistry!--and am all at once excited and completely overwhelmed about the prospect of medical school.

    I came to the choice in an interesting fashion. I went back to college 2 years ago after a 3 year hiatus thinking I wanted to go to chiropractic school. So, I started my prereqs and did my year of gen chem and gen bio while going to night school to get my license as an Esthetician. When I would get overwhelmed with my studies, I kept telling myself... "you don't have to get perfect grades, you aren't applying to medical school." Well... guess what! Now, I am going to apply to medical school. Thank god the grades I was so bummed about were 3.7s.

    I had a "come to Jesus" moment upon realizing that when I first became interested in chiropractic I was walking around telling everyone, "Did you know that chiropractors can deliver babies?!" Somehow, nobody ever pointed out to me that if I just wanted to deliver babies and do maternity care, I could go to school to learn to deliver babies and do maternity care.

    When I realized what I really want to do, I spent a week being all weepy about it. I was crying because I was so happy that I had actually pinpointed my heart's desire. But, also, I was sad knowing how hard I am going to have to work for the rest of my adult life and about the sort of sacrifices I am going to be making when it comes to having relationships, raising little ones, and just having hobbies and free time.

    And I haven't even applied yet! I suspect the real work has yet to begin.

  12. I decided late, during my senior year in college, after spending a summer working in journalism, and realizing that it just didn't do it for me. Why medicine? I still can't quite explain in. But my mom is a nurse, and medicine was always something that seemed like an option. I suppose in some way it was my fall-back plan. Which is weird, right?!
    Now I've just started my clinical rotations in medical school, and it's been fascinating watching my classmates (and myself) finally be at the point where we can START to evaluate if we made the right choice. It shocks me that we got this far without ever really being exposed to the day-in-day-out realities of medicine. A morning spent shadowing in the NICU as a pre-med, or being allowed to scrub in on a c-section as a first-year really don't give you a good picture.

  13. I don't remember wanting to be a doctor since I was young. However, looking through old papers from 5th grade, I found a "where will you be 20 years from now" project, and I had drawn a picture of myself as a physician.

    I was (am) an avid reader, loved writing and history...(and also arguing)...and in high school I thought I would like to pursue a legal career. This lasted until my senior year when I took a "law" class in high school. UGH, most boring, dry stuff ever (to me, no offense to our lawyer friends)!

    Fortunately, I was also taking an Anatomy and Physiology Honors class at the same time. I just loved learning about how everything *worked.* It drove me to pick Biology for a college major. After that, it was a short jump to medicine. I have no regrets. The only other career I can even fathom is writing, and blogging has allowed me this creative outlet while depending on a career with a bit more of a predictable income. (Well, so far...)

    As for my kids, I have few career wishes or aspirations. I'd like for them to choose college, but ultimately I want them to find something they love doing as much as I do.

  14. When I took gross anatomy during my course as an occupational therapy student. Someone told me I was really good with the scalpel, and half-jokingly suggested I become a surgeon. Now that's my new life goal.

  15. What a great post (as always), Fizzy.

    As the daughter of a physician (my dad), I thought I was going to be everything and anything BUT a doctor. Marine biologist? Interior designer? Anthropologist? Children's author? First woman president? Public health practitioner?

    And then it caught up to me, during my 2nd year of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer: I would not be able to stand the rest of my life if I knew that OTHER people were doctors and I wasn't. I wanted to be able to treat people as well as care about them. I wanted to know what doctors knew.

    So here I am, 13 years later, board certified and done with standardized tests (at least, until 2018). There are some days that I question my decision, but I really think that even if I won the lottery I'd still work in the ED part-time...

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. For as long as I can remember, I told people I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. My parents never pushed me into it, although I know it made them happy to hope their daughter might be a physician one day. I think it might have been because my childhood pediatrician was the father of my best friend at the time and the husband of my mom's good friend, so we were at their house a lot. And my friend had a big house, a very, very big house (not that we were living in squalor or anything), and a lot of toys. Way more toys than I had. Could I, at the age of 6, have equated the being a physician with the having of toys? Sometimes, I think yes :) I explored other options as I got older, but I really do love what I'm doing, as much as I hate the reality of being an OB/Gyn intern right now...

  18. i was playing doctor with all of my stuffed animals and dolls since i was teeny tiny, so everyone around me knew i'd be a doctor pretty much my whole life. i didn't figure it out until freshman year of high school though (er...i didn't admit it to myself until then), mostly bc i was so afraid it wouldn't work.

    i'm now in my 2nd year of medical school :)


Comments on posts older than 14 days are moderated as a spam precaution. So.Much.Spam.