Passion in Fashion

Every time I pick a new career direction, I get all dreamy about it and excited. After a few weeks or months, that excitement is replaced by fear that I will be miserable with my decision once I invest a lot of time and money into it.

The problem with making a decision in a health-related field is that you have to invest time and money into it. You have to decide and then you have to commit, often without knowing how you’ll change. Okay, maybe that’s true for a vast number of professions.

A lot of pre-meds I know quit being pre-meds because studying for O-Chem was too stressful, and after talking too much about med school and getting extremely scared that even if they did their best their efforts might be for nothing, they quit and sought out new directions that seemed to have fewer obstacles. One friend had been pre-med and a biochem major. I think she was rejected from med school or her grades weren’t very good, and so, within a year, she took the LSAT and enrolled at her state law school.

These are the kinds of decisions a person makes at 22, when the world is one big glowing ball of possibilities. You have to prove yourself quickly, sometimes before you really find yourself.

The ideas I had at 22 about what I wanted were very different from the ideas I have now. At that time, I was feeling a great big void. I didn’t feel like  I had much of an identity either. I wanted to go into investment banking, consulting, or law, so all that time I had free, I could be at work and because I didn’t know anything else, I wouldn’t be distracted by a personal life. I’d be too busy at work. I’d be a soldier and work would be the boyfriend who couldn’t break your heart, or the people who couldn’t disappoint you. And I would get paid and live in a lovely townhouse in a hip part of Chicago.

Fast forward 7 years and I really want to have time to go to the gym, cook, see movies, travel, and spend time with good friends. My job can be tricky about hours, so I realized how much I want to be able to have a set schedule. I do want to be able leave work at a certain time. Not a specific time, but I want to work a designated amount of time. I don’t want the kind of work consultants and lawyers have, where they bring stuff home all the time  and spend an undetermined time pouring over it. They don’t know how much time they’ll have to spend doing something.

Anyhow, the pre-meds who quit often cite not being “passionate” enough about medicine to want to slog through O-Chem or do all the work necessary. It’s strange to say this, but I don’t think they’re articulating themselves correctly. It’s hard to get through pre-med. There are all these intro classes and you feel like “you’re not meant to be” a doctor if you can’t ace them. It’s not true. I mean, it doesn’t even make any sense to think like that. Nobody loves locking themselves up to study.

Cal Newport wrote a little case study that makes a ton of sense to me:

Short Case Study #1: The Disillusioned Pre-Med

The most common student e-mails I receive are from pre-meds who are struggling through tough organic chemistry courses, are not having fun with it, and are worrying that perhaps becoming a doctor is not “their true passion.”

The mastery-centric approach to passion has a simple solution to this issue: focus your effort on mastering the art of being a pre-med student. Clear your schedule of junk so you have abundant time to become an A* student in the topic. Become obsessive about the effectiveness of your technical study habits.

The feeling of “passion” you seek will be generated once you start kicking ass in your courses in a way that outpaces your peers and earns you the respect of the professors. Until then, of course you’re not going to feel warm and fuzzy — at this early point in your student career, becoming a doctor is just a superficial interest. You have to build a recognized skill to transform it into something more.

I think there are some people who decided not to become doctors simply because they were afraid they were going to fail at it. They might have made wonderful doctors if they hadn’t been so scared.  I know a lot of people who had probably not great MCAT scores and okay premed grades and ended up going to Caribbean med schools (and they are now doing pretty good residencies in the US).

I don’t honestly think being a doctor is for me. I like people, but I know how difficult and angry people can be. Patients can be good, and they can be terrible. I don’t think I would want to design a treatment plan for someone. I honestly don’t think I’d like being questioned on decisions I’ve made that concern someone’s life. I think everything a pharmacist does, however, aligns really well with who I am and how I like to work. I’m intrigued by drug discovery and nuclear pharmacy. I like the idea of being able to work in a pharmacy or being able to work at the FDA or being able to work at a pharmaceutical company.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t daydream about spending my day getting fit  and drinking martinis and trying new things and meeting new people. But I wasn’t born into a rich family (at best we were lower middle class) and I’m not marrying into  a rich family and rich people are too weird for m, and if anything really confuses me about my tendencies, it’s that I have some weird feeling that I want to lie around all day and just wait for time to pass in a dreamy haze. It’s really silly and weird, and I don’t get it. It’s not realistic at all, and it’s not who I am or who I want to be.

Well, this has turned out to be thought vomit basically. But my point was going to be that I think the whole concept of “being passionate” about what you do is misleading. You have to work hard and gain expertise, and then you will be passionate about what you do. When you’re flailing around, like studying Water, Electrolyte, and Acid-Base Balance, you aren’t going to feel very passionate (if you’re me), simply because I’ve taken exactly three biology classes up until now and I still need to strengthen my grasp on this material. I do have odd moments of “This is so awesome!” and these feelings that I’m being amazingly enlightened in a way that is incredibly useful to me, but that chapter on electrolytes and acid-base balance was really difficult.

Which, sigh, naturally means, I’m just going to have to read it again.

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