It is entirely possible to stumble blindly into a career of medicine

I wanted to be a journalist. Like Rory Gilmore. Or Lois Lane. You know, running around after leads, protecting my sources, dealing with a slave-driving-but-loveable editor-in-chief.

(It probably says something about my dedication to journalism that I can only remember the names of fictional journalists.)

I love writing for writing’s sake just as much as covering a story. I love the hum of life in the newspaper houses I see on TV. The only newspaper house I’ve been to in Mobay isn’t nearly as hum-filled. That’s probably why I don’t feel the magic so much any more. Maybe I should go try the Gleaner’s Head Office in Kingston.

My point is that I love words. I love them all the more when they’re strung together with some kind of cohesion (unlike this post). And up until 2008, I was dead set on doing some degree in the Arts at UWI. So how did I end up, four years later, halfway through my MBBS? There’s really no one answer to that question.

Back in ’08 when Mummy was trying to be understanding about my passion for writing despite her passion for seeing her daughter in a paying job, she dug up some career options I’d have if I pursued a degree in the Humanities Dept. She had looked at Political Science degrees (with which I’d be working at the UN by now), language degrees, and other things that I forget because they really weren’t that interesting. Pol Sci was really the only thing that grabbed my attention. And journalism. But, my mother argued, you won’t make any money doing that. Your grades are so good, she pleaded, why can’t you just do medicine like you wanted to when you were eight?

Ordinarily, I would have stubbornly clung to my starving artist future, but I was really undecided. I had the grades to do medicine, I thought, so doesn’t that make me obligated to do it? Shouldn’t everyone who can, do? What did passion matter in the face of opportunity? These questions kept me up at night for months.

In the end I gave in to my mother. And aunt. And friends in the science path who wondered what took me so long. And my own guilty conscience. Because I felt I had a duty to live up to my “good” science grades, because a medical degree practically guarantees a solid future, and because being a doctor meant saving lives instead of just writing about them. I dusted off my dream of becoming a forensic pathologist, which I’d shoved up on a shelf beside my dream of becoming a paediatrician (that dream is really far in the back), and I finished that school year, applying to do science subjects in C.A.P.E. the next year.

At first it was okay. My Arts friends felt slightly betrayed, but also unsurprised, as if they’d known that I never really belonged to them. I didn’t really make any friends in my new course either. I just wasn’t used to people my age. I finished my 2-year C.A.P.E. degree and got accepted to medicine (which is a whole other complicated story). And then the regret started.

All of a sudden, I knew exactly what I would have done had I continued on my Arts course. A Literature degree, obviously. And then I’d work minimum wage jobs at a publishing house, climbing through the ranks until I made editor-in-chief or branched out to start my own publishing company.

In my first year of medical school, this future-that-could-have-been appeared so clearly that it practically blind-sighted me to everything else. My first summer in med school, I was on the verge of dropping out, working for a year to pay off student loans and then going back to UWI to study Literature. I was in tears most of the time, fighting with myself over job security or job satisfaction (not that you can’t have both). But, once again, I was talked out of it. This time by KT, thank god, because I doubt anyone else could have said anything to convince me otherwise.

Since then I haven’t had any serious relapses. I live vicariously through my friends who actually have Literature Degrees, and I write as much as I can. It helps that I actually enjoy medical school, and that I wouldn’t change the two years for anything, and that I’m looking forward to helping people in the near future.

But I still have dreams about the life I could have been having if I’d been a little more stubborn.

9 thoughts on “It is entirely possible to stumble blindly into a career of medicine

  1. kenliano says:

    First of all: I had no idea that Rory had become a journalist. I left Gilmore girls when she was still in university. Heh. Thanks for the info.

    Second, this post does have cohesion!!!

    Third: Thanks, this was a good read. It’s a cool bit of insight into your mind, and sort of causes me to think about my own life.

    Like

  2. kpetro13 says:

    I know exactly how you feel. That’s why I’m finishing up degrees in both political science and film production. My rationalization for not pursuing a writing/literature degree was the idea that I can write anywhere, no matter what. I don’t need a degree to put words on the page. I do; however, need a degree to feed myself, and I don’t think there’s shame in wanting security.

    Like

      • kenliano says:

        And yet, people always make it sound like you’re stupid for choosing ‘passion’ over security. I personally don’t fault people for choosing whatever they choose. Life is too short to spend too much of your life in insecurity, OR to spend too much of your life doing what you don’t want, so… Either way, you’re kind of screwed.

        Yes… Hollywood does, doesn’t it? It’s their job. :/

        Like

  3. farahcolette says:

    Heya, I just stumbled upon your blog and it is an amazing read for me as someone who is in the opposite situation, haha, a Spanish and Literature graduate who’s studying for the MCATs now. I wanted to be a journalist too, badly. I worked at the Gleaner, I’ve contributed to magazines all over, I’ve learned how to speak, read and write in another language to tell their stories, I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world documenting the things I’ve seen. I love stories, I love people, I love the power of them. Truth is though, as a Jamaican graduate who has fought for the last couple years to make a living out of this particular passion, there sadly just isn’t much space for people like us in the world right now. With the recession, and our society the way it is, there was never a huge field for the written arts, and now it has even less priority. As for other countries, haha, well – it’s hard enough for a British journalist to get hired in London, not to mention Jamaicans. :P

    I think the thing behind good writing, though, is an interest in good stories and the people behind them. I think many good storytellers have a good conscience, and a passion for people, a desire to leave a mark on the world. That, combined with a good grasp of the sciences, sounds like the makings of a pretty good doctor. Both my parents are doctors, and I’ve always admired what they do. Seeing as how there’s little room for my love for writing in the modern world, and having gotten the benefits of a hugely liberal arts education and found myself now desperately clawing at an entry to medicine, I’d say don’t feel too bad! While I thoroughly enjoyed the 4 years I had doing my first degree, more than anything it made me secure in the reasons I’m trying to do medicine now, you just took a shortcut to the same destination. There are times, especially now, when I think of the money and time I could have saved and I sort of wish I’d figured this all out earlier. The scenic route was fun, but hardly efficient, and I’ll be 5 or 6 years older than everyone else in med school if I do get there, haha. So there’s definite cons to a liberal liberal arts degree.

    Your writing is really great. I’m liking it a lot. Keep it up! (: x, F.

    Like

    • read.robin says:

      I am completely blown away by the depth of this comment – THANK YOU. :D

      I’m thrilled to meet someone who took the other road! I’ve often wondered what it would have been like and it sounds like everything I imagined it would be, complete with unsatisfying remuneration x) It is utterly disappointing that there’s such a limited space for the literary arts in our society, though. I’d really love to change that.

      You phrased it so wonderfully when you compared storytellers and doctors; I wish I had written that in my essay for med school. It’s brilliant and so true. I’m still a bit wistful about missing out on a Liberal Arts education – I generally prefer the scenic route, to be honest – but there’s no rule that says you can’t go back, eh? And don’t worry about being older than anyone else! The range of ages in my class alone is kind of amazing: we’ve got kids as young as 19 and grown-ups married with kids.

      Thank you for making contact, and I will most definitely be reading your blog. I love finding fellow Jamaican bloggers!

      Like

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