Choosing to Become a Doctor

September 2, 2014
Jennifer Frank, MD

Starting college can be both scary and exciting: especially when choosing a profession. But hard work is never wasted, as this physician found out.

This weekend, my husband and I traveled to Boston for a wedding. We happened to be there as all the students were arriving for the beginning semester of college. Since I went to college in Boston myself, it brought back a lot of memories. Both the wedding and the excited activity of starting school caused me to consider my own young adulthood and all of the decisions I made; choices I struggled with, which led me through many wandering paths to the life I have now.

I remember being told countless times that college would be "the best years of my life." "Not true," I have to say in retrospect. That admonition caused me great worry during my four years as an undergraduate, as I tried to figure out who and what I wanted to be when I grew up. I felt tremendous pressure to choose my future vocation. Since I started college with five different possible careers - a journalist, a doctor, an aerospace engineer, a dance major, or a psychologist - I had a bit of difficulty even narrowing down which core requirements I'd need to select as a freshman.

One lesson I learned from my parents has served me well through uncertain times - work as hard as I can at whatever is before me. That dedication paid off as it left doors open for me long after I needed to make a "final" decision. Back then, I felt that a lifetime of happiness or misery hinged on whether I selected the right career path. Now, I realize, as many of you do as well, that multiple paths can lead to fulfillment, success, and contentment. Additionally, getting all your young adult wishes granted can sometimes lead to dark places.

So, while I look with faint traces of envy at the young students on the T or carrying boxes overflowing with throw pillows and lamps into dormitories, I realize that the best years are probably still yet to come, in some respects, and that the angst and worry and tears and sweat and hard work were all necessary ingredients for the life I so enjoy now.

Similarly, as I watched the wedding ceremony and the beauty that comes with two lives being united, I remembered my own wedding day. It was fun and exciting and scary. It was one of the rare moments in life when you are simultaneously at the exit and entrance of life chapters. As my husband and I celebrated with the happy couple, I realized that what we have now is more mature and comfortable and solid and rich than even the wonderful start to our own marriage, fifteen years ago.

It is good to remember where we've been and how we've gotten to where we are. Such reminiscing reminds us of past challenges that we often forget when we think of our life experiences. It helps us to recall the hope we had for all we now enjoy. It helps us realize that the path we are on now started many years before. And finally, it makes us realize that the choices and the hard work that present themselves today and tomorrow and next week will likewise guide us down a path from which we will look backwards many years from now. I guess it is all about perspective.