This one’s easy to answer, not so easy to execute. My fist memory on this, was wanting to be a pop star or artist of some sort. But as we grow older, we tend to silence the vision of our uninfluenced, young selves so that we can choose (& pay for) a career path that is sure (?) to be profitable in the future. It is a very interesting stage in our lives. The time when we are expected to make this incredibly impactful choice – which will effectively define our upcoming 4-5 years – is the same time at which we transition into adulthood.
Only one thing is certain then: We are changing. Our lives, connections & relationships change, our personality & context changes. Our preferences in food & music change too. We either ascribe to a religion or choose to renounce the one we were brought up in. It is no surprise that our goals & professional desires could also change…? But how do we account for this once we’ve chosen? Well, it turns out, switching careers is not as difficult as we think it may be. Nothing a couple of early life crisis can’t straighten up.
Here’s my two cents.
1.- Why did I choose psychology?
I am a people reader.
This has been true for me since I can remember. I spent time wondering where people come from, where they are going, how they got to where they are now in life. Why did they choose the clothes they are wearing, the style they have, the pet they care for, & so on. When picking a career, I felt naturally driven to choosing something that would teach me to better understand, and hopefully help, others. So, I found psychology!
2.- Early life crisis #1
Yup it happened this early into the process!
Education works very differently in Mexico City than it does in Canada. Back in Mexico, I would have finished high school and gone straight into Medical School to learn Psychiatry for 5 years. That was the plan.
Moving to Canada threw a few curve balls my way but a big one being, undergraduate degrees… That’s right, I didn’t even know what those were. In Mexico City, Medicine would be considered the same level as an undergrad is here, same with Law. So, when I realized I needed to elongate my application process into Med School by 4 + years, I was shocked.
But I made peace with it & went to Simon Fraser University (SFU) to study psychology. I LOVED it. Psychology itself is a beautiful subject with indefinite practical & theoretical uses. During the course of my career, I volunteered at 3 different psychology labs. I wanted to get a full idea of what a career in psychology would look like in here, you know, so as to avoid being blindsided again. But that’s not how life works.
From working in the labs I became very interested in research so I decided to do an honours project to see whether research was for me. It wasn’t. I did my honours thesis in developmental psychology. This branch aims to understand a person’s upbringing and resulting behavioural and cognitive patterns by looking at the context in which they grew up in. Looking at influences as early as pregnancy and attachment to a primary caregiver, all the way into adolescence, family structure and social influences. Sounds really cool right? It absolutely is. I learned a lot from my mentors and became even more intrigued by our context of development. The research process however, not for me.
So I looked into psychiatry again! And volunteered at the Vancouver Crisis Centre & the Burnaby Hospital, in hopes to gain clarity & an overwhelming sense of purpose. I know, probably not the place to look for that huh? But once upon a time I believed our careers to have more impact in our personality than they actually, objectively do. We learn & we grow.
I began to question everything; how could it be that I wasn’t enjoying any of the things I knew I was good at. I know I get along with people, I know research is very important, I know that I want to help others and I get a tingly feeling of excitement at the challenge that is understanding & dealing with complex mental disorders. So, what’s wrong?
3. Early life crisis #2
Something. Something is wrong. Right? I kept thinking to myself, am I depressed? What is wrong with me. I couldn’t possibly have spent 4.5 years working towards a career path that I no longer found fulfilling. But nothing was wrong with me. I simply changed. Humans are not static creatures, we change slowly, insidiously, & we are always moving, always learning, always growing.
I stopped thinking of the fruits of my career 20 years down the road & began thinking about my next 5 years. How do I want my every day to look like? What do I want to do aside from my career? Who do I want to be? A social being? Yes. Do I want to spend 5 more years in medical school grinding to become a professional in a field I’m no longer passionate about? No. Do I want to have a flexible schedule and actually see the world? Yes. Hell yeah. I want to travel, and take moxie out and about. I want to live.
4. How to … live?
I had no idea what I was doing. How do I make that vision in my head happen? What can I do to shift my path, my experiences, my triumphs & failures into a future that aligns with what I know I need & want? This is a daunting question. I didn’t know how to do it. I spent the good part of a year freaking out internally at the reality of lacking a clear path. I had always had a path. It was terrifying.
Eventually, I began looking for other options. What else is out there. What else would I enjoy? I was torn between wanting a new career and refusing to attend school for another 4 years. I want to live, remember?
So I literally typed “Certificate Programs” in google and got to lookin’
I found many, I searched alphabetically so you can see the degree of confusion I was in when you realize I ended up deciding on Public Relations. PR allows me to use my psychology background and apply it to a business focused career. Kinda perfect, right?
5. K but like… HOW TO LIVE?
I didn’t answer the question. I’m not sure how to. What I have learned from this process goes beyond switching career paths. It’s about thinking about yourself, considering yourself, listening to yourself. I am the happiest when I am outdoors with Moxie and the people I love, so why did I settle on research and spend countless hours locked up in a lab looking at data?
I am a social being. I love talking to people and learning about their lives, so why wouldn’t I choose a career that allows me to do just that every day. Every time I take on a new client, I will be able to learn about their vision, their business and their motivation behind it all.
It is so easy to get caught up with obligations and forget to harness what puts a smile on our faces and project it onto the world. But we must bring ourselves back to that every time.
We make our own future.