Every now and then, I start second-guessing myself about my career choices. This is only natural because they have changed so much over the years. I went to college with the intention of becoming a criminal lawyer in part because that was all I had ever seen on shows like Law & Order. After a semester, my plans shifted when I decided that I wanted to become a psychologist. I had grown up in a family with an autistic cousin and several foster cousins with varying degrees of cognitive deficits and mental illnesses and I really wanted to understand them better. Besides, I wanted to get a better understanding of why I came out so differently from many of the people I grew up with. Psychology at least offered some interesting perspectives on the nature vs. nurture debate.
A little while later, my mother managed to convince me that I really should be gearing my efforts toward becoming a psychiatrist. She had worked in mental health for several years and felt that the ability to prescribe medication was going to be integral to my overall success. With that, I became a premed. All was well until my junior year when a combination of emergency surgery, death and the family, and my car being stolen sidetracked me for a good five weeks of the Spring semester. Then I made the decision that I didn’t really want to be a physician because spending so much time in the hospital had soured me toward the whole practice of medicine.
At that point, my mind was refocused on law–specifically mental health advocacy or trust law with an emphasis on people with special needs. I figured that I would go to divinity school after getting my bachelor’s degree for personal reasons and use that time to prepare for the LSAT. (I always knew I would be in ministry someday, so I figured that I might as well get the Master of Divinity program out of the way while I was young.) However, I changed my mind again during a key internship that taught me about the capacity building needs of small, faith-based nonprofit organizations. It was there that I made the decision to pursue a PhD and study nonprofit organizations.
Since then, I have been pretty content with my career path. Still, I have to admit that there have been moments when I began to wonder what my life would have been like if I had gone in a different direction. For example, I had to transfer out of Temple in the same semester that I would have been graduating from law school, but instead of preparing for a job as a trust lawyer or a mental health advocate, I was preparing to restart my PhD studies. There were a few hospital visits that I have had as a minister when I realized that I had a decent amount of medical knowledge. (I guess having a father who is a physician and a mother who worked as a billing clerk is the reason.) It made me start to rethink my decision not to go to med school because being a broke graduate student isn’t fun. Then I remembered that I didn’t want to retake organic chemistry.
In the end, I don’t regret any of the twists and turns in my career trajectory. It’s refreshing to have familiarity with a wide range of topics. It should make conversation easy, but since I’m an introvert, it doesn’t make too much of a difference. I’m just thankful that God has blessed me with such a wide range of academic experiences. After all, most people don’t get the chance to change their minds so much.