I am and always will have a love for science. I can devour it all—chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy and physiology, medicine. I LOVE that shit. So guess what I did?! Yep, as any self-respecting high school scholar, I went to college for it. And, it was SO easy. I also enjoyed it very much. But now, I don’t consider myself a scientist, because science feels more like an interest of mine, rather than how I define myself. It took me years to figure that out.
The reason I considered myself a “scientist” was because for starters I was really good at science, but also because of my curiosity and the desire to learn about how and why things happen the way they do. While in college, I studied nuclear medicine technology (after changing my major from pharmacology and toxicology). I LOVE this field because it is a perfect mix of interacting with people (patients) and nerding out over quantum physics and chemistry. I had no trouble understanding how photons (i.e. gamma rays) interact with matter (i.e. the human body) at different energies to produce an image that revealed the true physiology of a human body. When I actually started working in a radiology clinic, I had so much fun starting IVs and injecting people with radioactive isotopes.
I did become bored though, because radiology is super mundane (in my opinion) in that you do and say the same things all day everyday with the only variety being the patients. Okay, so I moved on to the field of public health, where I earned my Master’s degree. Not as rigorous from a scientific perspective, but I was involved in a few research studies that made me feel all science-y. Not to mention, the data analysis aspect kept my mind occupied. My ability to take data, process it, and communicate it in a concise and engaging manner is what made me feel like a badass scientist.
I’ve since graduated and have been working in the field of public health/healthcare doing just that. Only, I’m realizing with each day that passes that I am not meant to just work day in and day out in this arena. This has been difficult to come to terms with because we live in a society where we must follow along the path that we went to school for. And ironically, we usually go to school for things we are interested in.
But that does not mean that what you’re interested in is what you should make a living doing. Hear me out. I’ve recently realized that my purpose here on Earth is to help people. What’s interesting about this it that I’ve spent the last several years along a path where I would use my mind and my critical/analytical thinking skills to impact healthcare. In my mind this looked like doing research and being a scientist, so I spent several years taking this path in particular. You can connect this to helping people, but it would be a long stretch. What I am here to do is to help people DIRECTLY.
My existential crisis comes into play here. In healthcare, the usual avenues you take to help people directly are to become a nurse, physician, social worker, community health worker, and the like. The problem is that I don’t feel called to do any of that. Damn. What now?
I really don’t know, but what I do know is that just because you went to school for something that interests you, does not mean you have to pursue it your whole life. It also does not mean that what you went to school for is your only interest. Doing things outside of work/school (including things you have never done before) that you absolutely LOVE is such an important part of self-discovery!!!
And think about this: all of the things you have ever done (including going to school, work, etc.) have led you to where you are now. Sometimes it takes doing something and hating it (or feeling off balance in it) for you to realize what you should be doing instead. Sometimes, going to school and spending tens of thousands of dollars on a degree and not feeling thrilled about your field of study is worth every penny because you’ve gained so much more clarity about which direction your life needs to go in (or at the very least, which direction your life does not need to go in).
So, if you’re working your butt off and feeling like you don’t know why or how you fit into the world, keep going along this path and exploring because soon there will be a fork in the road and it’ll be obvious which way you need to be going.