Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On Career Choices, Part One

So, over the past half a year or so, I have managed to finish two different books, one of which I am currently trying to get published.

It sounds like quite an achievement, doesn’t it? After all, not many people can say they’ve written a book, certainly less can say they’ve written two. Still, it has been an interesting journey getting to this point in my life.

When I came back from my mission, it was initial decision to try to be a published writer. The reason for that came from my own personal desire to continue writing throughout my life, and advice I got from my mission president. I had an interest in writing since high school, where I had cobbled together a 360 page, single space monstrosity that I was eternally working on. Even during my mission, I would spend breaks tinkering with story plans and ideas, and the writing group I had joined during my freshman year and BYU had given me many wonderful experiences, including meeting my future wife.

The advice from my mission president also was fairly blunt. He had placed me in various leadership positions over the two years I’d served under him, and it was his observation that I didn’t much like managing people. I could do it, and I could enjoy some measure of success at it, but both he and I had noticed that I endured an awful lot of stress as a result because I tried to drive myself and everyone around me to perfection. Given that most jobs that are able to support a family in business, education, and research involve some level of management, and worse, bureaucracy, he felt I should pursue a less management oriented career. I agreed.

Then I got home. Life is much more complicated and less pleasant than a returning missionary likes to believe. I had to think a bit more seriously about where a future income was going to come from, and about what I could support a family on. Based on the advice of family and friends, I chose Molecular Biology for my major, and just kept working on writing as a hobby.

Years passed, I courted and married my wife, and my career goals continued to be refined. From the stories I was hearing from one of my mentors who I had worked under in high school, research was not exactly an encouraging place to go. Medicine quickly took the place of research, and seemed to provide me with everything I would want in a career. A way to help people in my daily work, a stable financial basis for my future family, and a real career I could grow and develop in.

Unfortunately for me, my medical aspirations quickly ran into some hefty obstacles. None of the members of my immediate family had ever really been involved in medical practices, and aside from a pair of cousins who were EMTs and also just barely applying to med school, I was kind of isolated from everyone else who did. The advice from the school career counselor was “do research instead” which must have seemed logical, because by the time I started seriously into premedical preparations, others in my class had been doing volunteer hours and job shadowing for years.

I soldiered on, confident I could win the med schools over. The MCAT came, and I did fairly well on it, which was a good sign. Other signs were less than stellar. To my dismay, I found I was applying later than I should have been, and I sorely lacked a lot of the volunteer experiences that I needed. While I rushed to catch up, rejection letters flowed back to me, and by the time I graduated, I had nowhere to go.

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