Last June, a little over one year ago, I was sitting at my table reading a blog post about someone’s post-baccalaureate experience, and my life changed forever. Dramatic, yes. Accurate, absolutely. I felt like someone came and sucker-punched me in the stomach. How did I not realize it before? I wanted to be a doctor. It was so crystal clear in that moment that I literally said out loud “but of course” (million dollar question…name that book with this quote! answer: Atlas Shrugged).
So what prompted me to have this epiphany? Well, to be honest it was mainly the realization that I could still be a doctor. I previously had no idea that post-baccalaureate premed programs even existed for career-changers like me. I would be lying if I told you that I’ve dreamed about being a doctor my entire life. That’s simply not the case. I’ve been clued in about it occasionally throughout the course of my life, but I guess it wasn’t yet time to listen to life’s hints. Instead, I pursued my changing interests with ease and zero regrets.
Engineering came first. My fascination with the physical world prompted me to switch my major to civil engineering immediately upon starting college. I entered school as a declared economics major, believing that business was my ultimate goal, but a mere month before freshman year I was smacked with the realization that studying engineering was my calling in undergrad. Notice a trend? All my biggest decisions come on suddenly, washing over me tsunami-style. To date, it’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
Words can’t describe how much I adore the sciences and how much I enjoyed my major. It was incredibly challenging but so rewarding. My courses molded my mind to think analytically and view the world in a realistic, problem-solving manner. I’m a scientist at heart and always will be.
And it was my engineering background that helped me score an incredible job with a large consulting firm. You see, as much as I adored studying civil engineering, I eventually realized (after a summer internship) that an actual career in the field wasn’t for me. For whatever reason, my heart started pulling me towards the business end of the spectrum, perhaps because, while I was strong in analytical skills, I lacked the ability to communicate effectively with others. In other words, I was totally an awkwardly geeky engineering stereotype.
Pursuing this business career pushed me far out of my comfort zone – knowing that I was an extremely shy and introverted human being, it was shocking to everyone to learn that I entered one of the most client-facing careers out there. But once again, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Being a consultant helped fill in the social gaps that engineering failed at – I became an extremely confident woman and a very effective public speaker.
And so I came full-circle last year when I found myself at a cross-roads in life with a similar instinctual feeling about the next steps in my career…in my life. It quickly became clear that I was only now ready to pursue my true calling of being a doctor.
The reality is that I could never have done it prior. I was meant to study engineering in my undergraduate years, my mind needed the skills I acquired from the challenging courses. I was meant to pursue a career in business consulting, I desperately needed to develop communication skills and build self-confidence that is so crucial to being an effective physician. Life works in mysterious, complicated ways but if we listen closely enough, we will hear it guide us down the right paths. Always.
So here I am now, two semesters away from completing my post-baccalaureate studies at Columbia University. Being a student again, after 4 years as a post-graduate career woman, has been a challenging and humbling experience but a worthwhile one. I’ll be posting more about my studies in the upcoming weeks. And since this post is more about the path I took to end up here, I guess I also need to share why I want to be a doctor as well. I can’t wait to share this crazy adventure with you all!