Here is a bit about a big change I went through during college, if y’all care to read about it:
Before I realized my love of languages, I thought I was going to be a doctor. When I first started college, these were my thoughts:
- Science is cool
- Dissecting things is fun
- It’ll be nice to have money when I finish school
I still love to read about biology and science (I’m also an extreme scifi junkie), but for me, retaining the information wasn’t the challenge.
The challenge was everything else.
For the first three years of college I was absolutely miserable. Sure, science was fun, but I felt like I had nothing in common with my classmates and the coursework was so intense that I had very little time for anything other than work and school. I don’t think I read a single book during those three years, and when I look back on that time in my life, I feel like I’m remembering some empty, soulless version of myself.
Fortunately, I realized after two years that medicine might not be for me, so I decided to get a job in health care to see how I handled it before committing to medical school. I got certified as a pharmacy technician and worked in a hospital for a year. The money was great for a student my age (I was 20 at the time I started), but I absolutely hated it. Health care is ridiculously understaffed and horrifyingly stressful. No matter what I did, I was paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake and hurting a patient.
In that year I managed to squirt myself with chemo, cause a delay on a little girl’s seizure medication, and compound IVs for half the hospital using the wrong type of fluid (there were other incidents, but these were the worst ones that I can remember). It’s scary how commonplace mistakes like these are. The people who handle your medications are still human, so if you feel like something is wrong, by all means, SAY SO. The people who are able to work in health care without eroding into hateful, soulless wraiths are heroes. I don’t know how these people handle the pressure, but it almost broke me.
During my (very little) spare time, I was also trying to teach myself languages. I already knew a bit of Spanish and Chinese from my grandparents, but I had fallen in love with the German language (thanks, Rammstein!). Back then, studying languages was a sort of hobby of mine and it wasn’t until much later that I realized that this is actually a useful skill.
*Image of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight via https://tvrecappersanonymous.wordpress.com/
Toward the end of my third less-than-satisfactory year of college, I started to think, “Ok, I’m not going to sell my soul to health care. Now what do I do?” Since the most specific future plan I had was “not medicine,” I decided to give foreign languages a shot. I decided that I wanted to transfer to a different university in a nearby city because it had a better foreign languages program than the one in my hometown. I was only working Friday nights and weekends at the hospital, so I didn’t think changing schools would affect my work schedule.
After I had been accepted to the university, I heard about a summer program for people who wanted to learn German. It was a five week intensive language program through the University of New Mexico. By intensive, it meant that all classes would be given in German and all of the students would only be allowed to speak German during their time there, both in and out of class. It wasn’t cheap, but they did offer scholarships. I decided that I wanted to do it, but there was a problem.
They didn’t want to give me the time off from the hospital.
My supervisor said that, even though they were short on hours (spring and summer tend to be the off season in health care) and it would actually be helpful for them to have one less employee to worry about, it wouldn’t be fair to the other technicians for me to get a whole month off. I explained that this was for school, not some lavish vacation where I would be relaxing for a month, but she had made up her mind. She said that if she said yes to me, she would have a bunch of other people bugging her for time off in the future and she didn’t want to deal with it (this was actually the worst person I’ve ever worked for. It was so bad that I now refuse to list her as my supervisor on my resume).
Then it came up that I had transferred to another university (my boss required students to print their school schedules for her every month so she would know if we dropped any classes, because my boss was a power-crazy, spite-filled succubus). She said that I should have checked with her before applying to this school, because how would she be able to call me in to work if I was at school in some other city during the week? I pointed out that I was only working on weekends and that I would still be able to keep to that schedule after I transferred, but she gave me an ultimatum: quit my job, or quit school.
I quit my job, and it was the best decision I ever made.
…Aaaaand that’s enough soul searching for now. I’ll try to finish the story soon. I promise.
***Update: here is part 2, if y’all feel like more (why do I keep saying y’all? People don’t actually say y’all where I’m from, but I feel like it fills a much needed void in the English language: a plural second person pronoun. Y’all. Woohoo!)