By Richard Coca
“I’m not pre-med.”
“Then, what are you?”
“Good question. I don’t really know.”
I’ve had the above “conversation” many times, and if it’s done anything, it’s only installed a weird sense of confusion within me. Throughout my freshman year, I’ve taken many classes that are categorized as “pre-med” requirements. I’ve also come to the conclusion that I will be trying the human biology core in the upcoming academic year. Yet to the disappointment of many — or what feels like a disappointment, anyways — I am not pre-med.
I’ve come to realize this over time. Without the calling that many other of my pre-med friends have had, I knew I was different, yet I enjoyed these classes that were often heavily STEM-based, and I loved the lab components. At one point, I was even considering being a biomedical researcher, hopefully joining a lab at some higher-ed institution, but then I also learned that the graduate school life may not be for me.
I’ve learned who I am through negation. Quite frankly, I don’t know if that’s the healthiest way. I have learned what I’m bad at — i.e. surgical skills and/or anything that requires fine motor skills. I have also learned what I’m not so bad at — i.e. chemistry, biology, etc. There are also skills and techniques that are somewhere in between.
While many of my peers seem to be set on their major, I am still placing pretty heavy bets on human biology being the one. We’ll be dating in the fall and the winter, and if we don’t work out as a couple, I’m scared I’ll miss the prime age for marriage. All the time I take to “explore and figure it out” is more time I fall behind my peers. This search for a major, for purpose, for what I really want to do in life, is quite frankly exhausting and a poor waste of my energy. It’s also further feeding my impostor syndrome.
Everyone I admire in the professional world shares one common theme. None of them really ended up in the same place they started — and that gives me hope. The most interesting people almost never have a linear path, and, I hope, neither will I.
Even if I do start off in human biology, who knows what I’ll do in life. Maybe I’ll use my skills from The Stanford Daily and flirt with journalism. Maybe I’ll join a nonprofit and use my skills there. Maybe I’ll work in the media industry. Maybe I’ll return to biotech. Maybe I’ll even become a pre-med again.
But, who cares, either? I’ve learned that I’m blessed to have the support of friends regardless. As a good friend put it during one of our chemistry classes, “I’m sure you’ll be successful in whatever you end up doing.” That’s the kind of energy I hope to carry with me, beyond being a non-pre-med.
Contact Richard Coca at richcoca ‘at’ stanford.edu.