When I was accepted into college and chose to follow the pre-med track, it seemed as though I had made it to what should have been the victory. I come from a single-parent, low-income home. I worked against the odds in order to become “successful.” Now I was going to be the first Ivy-league educated person in my family - and a doctor on top of that. I knew that the path to becoming an MD was brutally challenging but it was tried and tested and I convinced myself that it was for me. It was a noble profession that truly helped other people and it was something that would make my family proud. That was enough, right?
I ended up staying in the pre-med track for three and a half years. By my senior year, I had completed every course requirement, with just one left. I had three medically-related internships under my belt and many volunteer hours to my name. I had spent a countless amount of time studying, pulling all-nighters and working in the science labs. I was preparing to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). I was almost at the collegiate finish line.
But I was also miserable.
It was never in my heart to become a doctor. In my core, I knew that I was swimming upstream. I chose not to listen to that inner voice for years. I wore myself down following this path - I was often physically sick and mentally exhausted. I treaded water through much of the pre-med track, partly because of the inherent difficulty, of course, but mostly because my heart just wasn’t in it.
Prior to college, I attended a performing arts school in middle and high school. During college, I wrote independent blogs and was part of my school’s slam poetry team. I loved music, fashion, entertainment and pop culture throughout my entire life and I was always connecting with people and living in the spotlight. Why wasn’t I building my career based on being authentic to who I was?
During late fall of my senior year, I finally listened to my inner voice. There was something so clear that I knew I should be doing instead. A passion inside of me that was waiting to be chased. I was terrified of disappointing my friends and family, but I couldn’t hold back any longer. I had to listen. And that’s when I made my jump.
I abandoned my plans to apply to medical school. Beyond simply switching studies, I was leaving what I was “supposed” to do. Everything that had been laid out was now crumbling.
And yet I was free. I entered the entertainment industry armed with a degree in neuroscience and little else. I moved to New York after graduation, took several unpaid internships and started from the bottom again.
It hasn’t been smooth. But few jumps are. I still ebb and flow between struggling and succeeding as I continue to build my career but my belief in my jump remains constant. Taking a leap of faith on yourself and making a jump doesn’t mean resenting or regretting where you came from. Our past experiences shape who we are and each day presents a new opportunity to change your life.
One of the most important things I’ve learned through my experience is the importance of doing what’s right for you and following your own path. If you’re doing one thing but truly want to be doing something else, then listen to that feeling and begin a path toward that something else. I believe that we can all create careers based on being authentic to who we are.
So I ask, who will you allow yourself to be? What unearthed passions lie within you? How will your change your life? What is your jump?
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Follow Anna-Kay Thomas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/annakaythomas
When to Jump™ is a community dedicated to exploring the fundamental question we all think about: when is the right time to go do what you really want to be doing?