When I was accepted to Simmons College for undergrad, I had no concrete idea of what I wanted to major in. Looking back, it seems crazy to think that I had to know exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life at 17 years old. Even just 10 years later, I realize how such a big decision is put on someone so young. But I always knew that I would go to a four-year college right after high school and so I needed to make a decision relatively soon.* I always looked up to my older sister. She went to Simmons College and that’s when I fell in love with the school and with Boston. She also majored in history and for whatever reason I decided that I wanted to major in art history, which was a program at Simmons. I wasn’t entirely set on the idea but it seemed like it would be an interesting job, despite having never taken an art class; not to mention I had zero artistic ability. (Again, I was 17.)
When my parents and I went to Simmons for an accepted students day, when you can explore the campus and go to seminars on different programs that the school offers, my mom suggested that we go to the Physical Therapy seminar. I had never had PT before, but my mom had and she thought that it would be a good fit for me. The people who spoke at the seminar, professors and current students of the program, did it for me. I was hooked (although I will admit that the idea of possibly having an internship at a hospital with famous athletes was a draw).
Turns out that my parents knew me better than I knew myself at 17 (shocking, right?). I struggled a little in the beginning with the course load; science had never been my strongest subject in high school but it quickly became my favorite. And I got better at it, truly learning to love it, which makes learning it a heck of a lot easier. I also realized that I have a much more literal brain and a job in art history where you have to think abstractly would have been a disaster. And I am almost certain I would not have loved that job.
At work, I get asked a lot by my patients how I decided to become a PT. Some people have these dramatic and amazing stories about themselves or a family member. And most people knew they wanted to be a PT for years. My story isn’t all that fancy and I didn’t know until college but it’s sweet in its own way. The second question that I get asked all the time is if I love what I do. And I honestly and quickly say yes. I am fortunate that I am in a field where there is so much variability. And as someone who loves working with other people, it’s the perfect job. It’s also incredibly rewarding and has made me a more empathetic and compassionate person, which I now see as one of my best qualities. I see people who seem to hate their jobs and I feel so lucky that that isn’t me. It so easily could have been, if I had decided that this wasn’t a good fit two years into the program and had to start from scratch.
This does bring up another point though. Do you have to love what you do? I got lucky with my chosen career path but not everyone has the same luck. I see so many people who have jobs that are so distant from their actual major. It might not be what they thought they would end up doing, but it’s a job and they have grown to enjoy it. I’m reminded of this article from Jezebel which makes a strong case for why you don’t need to love what you do (spoiler: sometimes you just need a job!). There are usually stepping stones that people need to navigate in order to get to the job that they love and that’s okay too. Most of the time, what we get out of a job is what we put into it. And if you are passionate about what you do (even if your passion is driven by the need for a paycheck or health insurance) then then there is a good chance you will love your job.
I’m curious to know how people decided on a certain career path? Did it fall into your lap or was it something that you had to muse over for a long time? Did you end up being what you thought you would be as a kid? (I wanted to be a veterinarian and a cowgirl :)) And now that you have that job, do you love what you do? I would really like to hear.
*On a side note, living in California where community colleges are very prevalent, I see the positive side of spending a couple years there so you can make a better decision on your future and save some money.