I have always had a plan. And since coming to college I have lost the plan I have had since I was a 9.
When I first started college I had a plan: double major in English and Psychology, go to med school and become a doctor. It was a simple plan, easy to follow and it allowed no room for deviations. I may have over simplified my plans because while there was a straight plan and seemed easy to follow, it allowed me no leeway or any real time to think over other options. Or maybe the way I was thinking didn’t give me enough time for other options.
I was raised by two Haitian parents, both of them immigrants, with my brother and me being the first generation of our family being born in the United States. There is a joke among the Caribbean first generation that our parents will only accept three job options as viable and sustainable: doctor, lawyer, or engineer. These are the only three jobs that both offer a job and your parents’ support. But the thing a lot of people fail to understand is that this is literally not a joke. This is literally the options that I am limited to. But we’re gonna touch on that later.
My future plans were to become a doctor for a couple of reasons. I wanted the financial stability that it offered, I wanted to help people, and mainly I also wanted the job stability that it offered. None was going to fire a doctor and even then hearing about a license getting revoked is a rare incident which suggests that the doctor in question must have been truly horrible at their occupation. I wanted to do all those things and so, I got knee deep into the pre-med culture and started working towards the doctor goal.
I started off my first semester by taking chemistry since that would be the largest requirement to complete. For those of you who don’t know, in order to get into medical school, you’re required to take two years of chemistry, at least. So Inorganic and organic chemistry were in my future. So I started Inorganic chemistry and let me tell you, I was struggling. The class was difficult and despite the many support systems that I used and despite the hours I dedicated, I could not master the subject. The concepts seemed so abstract and strange. During the lecture, I felt like the professor was speaking in a whole other language.
There were several points where I clutched my phone to my ear, bawling my eyes out as I screamed to my mother and father about how miserable the class made me feel. All my friends seemed to understand the class perfectly and I was foundering. I would write lab reports only to receive lackluster grades. Eventually, I was put on the list for kids who were in danger of failing the course and I withdrew.
It was during this time that I began to reevaluate a lot of the choices that I had made.
Did I really want to become a doctor? Why do I want to be a doctor? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Is there something that I want to do other than this?
A lot of self-reflection happened in the break that followed the end of my first semester. I am now in my second semester and I know that I don’t want to be a doctor. I want to still help people and make an impact in my community, but now I know that I don’t have to be a doctor to do this. I want to do something that makes me happy and something that will I will never get tired of.
After a while, I decided that I wanted to be an editor. I like reading and from this, it is obvious that I like writing. It would be perfect mix doing something that I love and also a sustainable job.
Now back to what I said about Caribbean parents and my lack of options.
A lot of the reasoning behind this is because doctors, engineers, and lawyers and the money makers back in the Caribbean. While everyone else is kind of hoping that the stability of their jobs doesn’t change, these three occupations are always in high demand because people will never stop being sick, getting in trouble, and wanting new things. These jobs are always in high demand around the world, so the ease of moving from one place to another in exponential. My parents want this life for me. They want me to be a doctor because that way they know that financially, I’ll be able to support mself.
However once, I broke the news to them about my possible plans. They kind of freaked out.
“Well, how much does an editor make?” my mother asked on the phone. “You need to consider how much they make.”
I tapped away on my phone and found that editors make around $53k a year. I reported this back to my mother. She said nothing on the phone for a little bit then she said,
“I make $80k a year and I’m struggling. You think you can live off $50k a year? After taxes and insurance. Fifi, when they say $50k a year, that isn’t the amount of money that goes into your hands. It might sound like a lot but it really isn’t.”
I stayed silence, rolling words in my mouth. “It isn’t really about the money. It is more about doing something that I love and not regretting later on in life.”
“Of course!” my father shouts from his end of the line. He was on the phone in the office while my mom was on the phone in the kitchen. “Of course. We just want you to be happy.”
“You know, I know a lot of people who wanted to be writers! They’re doctors and they’re still writers.” My mother was not subtle at all.
Later on in a conversation with my father, he mentions law school, and I know I am boxed.
You know, I think that the scariest part of all this is seeing a plan that I had since I was young crumble. There seems to be too many options but there also seems to not be enough. At first, I was scared at the lack of order when it came to my future. There were too many variables and too many ways that things could go wrong. But also there are so many ways that things could go right. I am scared that I honestly don’t know how the future goes but I think a talk I had with one of my advisors cleared a lot of things up for me.
She sat across from me at her desk in her office and said, “Look at me. I got my degree in English and now I help college students like you.”
I don’t know why that is comforting. The thought that maybe everything will work out in the end is comforting slightly because look at her, she majored in what she loved and she doesn’t seem to regret a second of it. And I wanted something like that. Something that will satisfy all my needs but also be something that I enjoy. Now when people ask me about my future plans, I kind of just shrug my shoulders. I’m not sure anymore. And I think that’s okay.
But that’s just a thought.