Written by: Ayo. A
One thing I’ve realised in life is that you are allowed to change your mind...
A couple of years ago, I wrote a personal essay on my secret-ish blog about how career fulfilment is like a 100m hurdling race. At that time, I was forging ahead with my single-minded goal of becoming a doctor. Not just any normal doctor guys. I wanted be a Super-Neuro-doctor/surgeon person (you know, the kind of surgeon Ben Carson was in his book ‘Gifted Hands’ before he tried to become President)...
Anyway, in order to achieve this career goal, I did the most logical thing anyone looking to get into any profession should attempt, if the opportunity presents itself; I got some work experience in a hospital. So in my spare time when I wasn’t working round the clock at the hospital, I began the application process for med school, which meant preparing for a psychometric test on steroids (ergo an unnecessarily difficult test, in my opinion) and writing a personal statement.
Now anyone who has ever been through this process can testify to the fact that it is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the most stressful things ever. I remember preparing for the numerical reasoning section of the test using a website called “Maths is Fun” because that’s how bad I was at Maths. After months of avid prep, I eventually took the test and wasn’t at all prepared for the outcome. I failed. Woefully. My score was so low, I didn’t even bother making university choices. It was so depressing and shocking because “I SHOULD have passed, I even used a website meant for 10 YEAR OLDS to improve my basic math skills! Dammit! Why me?” I was inconsolable. Meanwhile, I kept ignoring the small voice probing me, asking me whether medicine was what I really wanted. I even ignored the fact that I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the work I observed the doctors doing on a daily basis. I kept telling myself I’d been saying it for years so it MUST be true, even though I disliked being in a hospital. Also, my family would love it if I became a doctor. We don’t have a doctor in the family and they would be so happy if I was “The Chosen One”.
Those were tough times but I wasn’t about to give up on the dream, so I stayed working in the hospital and applied to medicine again the year after. I failed/borderline passed the steroidal psychometric test this time but at least I was still able to apply to my university choices this time around. Phew! Sigh of relief right? No. The next stage was a test of endurance as I waited for interview updates from my university selections. September to March felt like forever and a day. Luckily for me though, I got one rejection every other month until I had no choices left. I had failed to get into med school, again. *Cue devastation* “What is my life? I hate my life! Why me God? Nothing ever works for me”.
At this point, my good friend who was a doctor had already defected, but I wasn’t about to do that to medicine too, because “What would people say? What does that say about me? I’m supposed to be the chosen one!”
The funny thing was though, if you had asked me how I liked the hospital environment and why I wanted to be a doctor, I lacked the enthusiasm required to inspire anyone that this was a lifelong desire of mine. In retrospect, I realise that I was more in love with the idea of being a Super-Neuro- doctor/surgeon person rather than the reality of it. So for the first time in years, I stopped (after wallowing of course). I stopped doing anything and asked myself the question we’re all trying to answer...
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?
In attempting to figure out the answer to this question, I realised that I first had to release myself from the self-destructive thought that I was a failure because I didn’t continue in my quest to become a Super-Neuro-Doctor/Surgeon person.
I had to stop thinking people cared what the hell I was or wasn’t doing with my career because the real truth is, people do not care as much as you think they do.
More often than not, they’re trying to figure it out too. Even those who appear to have it all sorted are STILL trying to figure it out. I also had to relieve myself of the pressure of comparison. The behemoth of all the notions I had to overcome as the pressure from family; I had to learn how to dismiss the potential disappointment my Nigerian family might feel when I finally told them that I was, in fact, not the chosen one. It was an arduous but necessary endeavour but I’m glad I went through it; it allowed me to change the narrative and ask myself a different question:
WHAT DO YOU LOVE?
By asking myself this question instead of the former, I had a clearer idea of what I could envision myself doing with my career and I’m happy to say that after spending three years in a job I didn’t particularly love, I’m finally on a better trajectory. I eventually found a role which allows me to merge my creative tendencies with my love of the sciences.
Even though I’ve found something I am genuinely interested in, I believe this is only the beginning and I can’t wait to find out what the future holds. So you see my friends, sometimes in life the scenic route is a difficult but necessary road to travel and as a dear friend once said to me, “A good career doesn’t necessarily have to stick to a predetermined course. A good career is evolutionary and progressive.”
At the start of this essay, I compared career fulfilment to a 100m hurdling race and in a way, it is, but it’s also not like that at all at all because some principles can be ignored. I’ll explain… Imagine you’re on a track with the other athletes, you start the race in lane four and you therefore have to jump over the hurdles in lane four until you get to the end the track. Easy enough, sounds a lot like real life, no?
Now let’s switch back to the track. Imagine you’ve already started your race and after jumping over three hurdles, you decide you want to continue on in lane five instead of lane four. We all know that this would be such an absurd notion for a trained athlete to consider, right? Especially at this point in the race. Not only would you piss off and potentially injure your opponent in lane five, you would get disqualified, you’d ruin it for everyone and it would be the end of your race. In real life, the end of your race means you’d be dead. THE END. I don’t mean to be morbid, but I hope you understand what I mean when I say career fulfilment is also NOT like a hurdling race.
So for anyone out there who was in my shoes: Figuring out your career is not like a hurdling race because you ARE allowed to change your lane; in fact, you can have as many lanes as you want, if you can run in them without hurting anybody.
I’m so glad I found out that I was allowed to change my mind and I hope you’ll have the courage to change yours if you feel the need to, too.
What, if anything, are you afraid to change your mind about right now? Let me know in the comments!