We live in a society today in which we are bombarded with a myriad of choices to make on a daily basis. From all the options that we have of take-out food for dinner, shows to watch on TV, or the wide array of video streaming platforms and other non-consequential choices that we face daily, we get used to the privilege of choosing. However, this attitude also tends to trickle into more important decision-making processes, and thus makes serious and sometimes life-altering decisions that much harder for us to make.
Let’s take for example the decision of pursuing a college degree and career, the decision that can affect a person for the rest of her life. When I started college at seventeen, I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise. I got into a school that was known for its business program, Baruch College in NYC, and decided to major in business management. Slightly over a year went by, and although I was doing well, I was not that interested in the finance and economics classes that were part of the curriculum and was contemplating switching majors. My parents, both physicians, jumped at the opportunity to try to convince me once again to go into medicine. I succumbed to their lectures about doctors never going out of style and went pre-med. Two semesters in I remembered that I hated science and called my father crying, feeling like I had failed him, explaining to him that this was not what I wanted to do with my life. He asked me what I did want to do, and at that moment I decided that I wanted to go into psychology. I had always been inclined towards the social sciences—I enjoyed philosophy and sociology, but most of all, I loved my psychology classes. From the first day that I walked into my Intro to Psychology class, I was intrigued. Credit must be given, of course, to the great professor I had that semester, as well as in the following semesters because I took as many of his classes as I could. On that first day, he instructed someone else to be at the podium as students walked in, so that we would assume that was our professor. This man started the lecture, and as we were all listening attentively, one student kept making noises, talking loudly, and mocking the professor. The lesson to be learned here was to see if other students cared enough to tell the disruptive student to be quiet and to pay attention in class—sure enough some students soon did, at which point the troublemaker stood up and sauntered down to the podium, and introduced himself as our actual professor. We were mind-blown and delighted at the same time, and the class erupted in laughter; and I became fascinated with psychology. I graduated with my BA in psych with an English minor—my two favorite subjects.
However, it was a long, winding road that got me to graduation. Switching my major cost me money each time, because each major had its own electives that needed to be taken. It also cost me time, frustration, and feelings of failure, despair and confusion. Not too long after I graduated, I realized that psychology, although fascinating, was not a great field to go into financially, especially not with only a BA. My father, by this time, had built up his pediatric medical practice in Florida, and he encouraged me to move down there and manage it. It was a huge decision for me to make—I had been bartending for years and always told myself I wasn’t the “office type.” After some deliberation, I decided to take him up on his offer and took the plunge. My life made a 180-degree turn—I went from cold weather to hot, from working at bars for tips to working in an office for a set hourly rate, from getting off work at 4 a.m. to waking up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for work. It was not a choice that I made by my own preferences—it actually took quite some time to get used to; instead, it was an opportunity that I was presented with that I took, and that I made work. Fast-forward a few years and I decided to go for my master’s in healthcare management. This decision was much easier to make than the one that I was faced with in undergrad—this time I knew that I was taking the program that would help me excel in the career path that I was already on. Interestingly, this time I did not get discouraged when the workload got too intense or if I did not understand some topics—I knew that I had to make it work in order to attain my goal of obtaining my master’s degree.
My point is this: when we have a limited number of choices, we are much more likely to make the one that we do pick work. There is no doubt about whether or not we made the right one, or if there are better opportunities out there—there will always be an infinite amount of other options and opportunities around us. That uncertainty is what keeps us from making attainable goals and working hard to reach them. That uncertainty is what keeps us up at night deliberating whether or not something is worth our time—when in reality we are wasting our time deliberating! Picking one option, sticking to it, and doing everything possible to be great at whatever it is that you chose is the only way to avoid wasting time trying to find your “calling.” I am still using my degree in psychology—I use it every day at work when dealing with employees and patients, and I use it in my writing when exploring topics that I am interested in (and my English minor comes in handy too!); however, simply because it is a subject that I truly love does not mean that it is the only career path that I should pursue: I am incredibly proud of the strides that I have made in my career as a medical practice manager, even though it is a career path that I never thought I would find myself on. And best of all, I truly enjoy what I do because I am good at it—and only getting better by learning more about my field. This is not the end-all for me—I have other opportunities that I want to pursue in my life as well. However, I now have work experience and education that will benefit me for the rest of my life, even if I do decide to pursue other options—and I now have the privilege of choosing what the future has in store for me with a solid foundation to leap from.
My younger brother, at nineteen, now faces the same predicament I faced as an undergrad. He is just as lost as I was, confused about which career path to pursue. Due to this uncertainty, he is not doing as well as he could be, which I completely understand. Without a set destination to reach, the ways to reach it are limitless; especially if you are second-guessing every route that you set out on, wondering if there is a quicker, more scenic route available. Without a clear goal in mind, we simply run around aimlessly trying to find the best way to be successful, hopping from one major or career to the next, and giving up as things get rough, justifying it as “not my calling.” I had an advantage because I was guided to my career path, and all I had to do was commit to it and work hard to make it work. However, I encourage you, as I encouraged my brother, to simply pick something—anything—and stick to it. To work hard to achieve it without backing out, even when things get rough or you are having an off day. Make this decision your own, commit to it, and do everything you can to excel at it—and anything that you work so hard on to achieve and to excel at, you will find that you truly enjoy.