“I have something to tell you all”, suddenly every member of my family stared at me. I could see their blasé curiosity in their eyes across the dining table. What did I have in mind again? Wondered my brother.
I took a deep breath in and looked straight ahead… in the void:
“I want to become a doctor”
“What? That is one your worst idea ever, Olivia!” screamed my eldest sister.
So you would think that announcing my job dream of becoming a doctor would be welcomed with happiness and pride. Finally, I was gearing toward a “real job”… this is what my father used to say to me. But nope, the idea was welcomed with despair and bemusement.
“Why?” asked my mother, upset.
“Why now?” added my sister in law, who liked to intervene in matters, which did not concern her at all.
But what you do not know yet is, except for my sister-in-law, every single member of my family is a doctor.
The fact that they didn’t warm up to the idea told me a lot about the profession or at least their perceptions of it.
- Being a doctor is a lot of stress
“You have a lot of responsibilities when you’re doctor. Mistakes can be fatal” rumbled Elisabeth, my sister. But at the end of the day, many jobs are very stressful. Being a teacher is stressful, being a cashier is stressful. I did not believe that stress should be a reason not to pursue a career.
- Doctors don’t even earn that much money anymore
“You will not be rich by being a doctor.” Continued David, my brother, who just bought a four-bedroom penthouse near Central London. So I was not sure what he meant by “rich”.
- It is not that glamourous
Really??? The last time I checked “Doctors” were among the most attractive professionals for men and women. I called that being very glamorous.
- People don’t trust doctors as much
“There is a rampant lack of trust towards doctors. Is this really what you want to experience?” rubbed Elisabeth in. “Oh yes” I interrupted, “The conspiracy theory that all doctors collude with pharmaceuticals for profit. If it was the case, doctors should earn a lot of money, which debunked point number 2 and point number 3, since glamour comes with money. Am I right?” Claire, my sister in law, nodded in agreement.
- It takes at least 10 years
“Olivia?” in the chaos, my dad finally spoke. We were all waiting for his reaction, would he back me or take the others’ stance?
“It takes 10 years to become a doctor, at the GP level… you are 31 years old and you are a mother yourself, have you thought about this? Why such a dramatic change of career?”
There was the bomb: my age and my society status as a mother.
Yes, I kind of forgot to tell you that I was not a teenager deciding on university, but a 31 year old woman, mother of one fabulous little girl, who had a change of heart regarding her career… and as you guessed my name is Olivia.
I understood my father’s enquiries and I did consider the challenges of the decision.
“I think it’s my dream job, dad” I responded like a little girl. As if I needed his permission, as if I needed my family’s permission. But to be honest with you, I would feel better about this endeavour with my family’s backing, despite being 31 and having a job of my own.
Before announcing the news to my family, I surveyed a couple of people and it was interesting to list the type of reactions I got from the news:
Trusted colleagues: “Oh my god, you’re so right, get the fuck out of here before they get you!”
My Best friend #1 Lewa: “You know you will never be rich this way. You should have gonna work for Goldman Sachs”
My best friend #2 Christina: “Why? By the time you’re done your biological clock will be done too. Don’t you want another child?”
The loving naïve
My daughter Lina: ““if that makes you happy, mom”
That’s why I generally hang out with children, from their perspective everything is possible.
Now let’s go back to the Sunday family dinner.
“How do you know Being a doctor is your dream job?” asked dad.
It was a difficult one to explain.
“Well, I have always wanted to be a doctor” I whispered.
“What????” to the general surprise of the room
Despite being speechless by the news, they were speaking a lot, or should I say yelling. I continued ignoring the storm: “I know what you are thinking, when I was younger I kept saying that I didn’t want to be a doctor, because all of you are doctors and I just wanted to set myself apart… I just wanted to be special”.
Generation Y issue… I know.
The chaos got even stronger.
“Enough!” screamed my mom. “As a family, we should support Olivia, this is an important decision.”
“Under one condition Olivia…” she added. I didn’t see that one coming.
“Over the years, you had many ideas…”
My mom continued: “… therefore I am going to ask you to work on that idea for a full year and I know what you think, I don’t care about your age. But for a full year, you are going to experience life as a doctor, you are going to spend time with patients and in any shape or form. Yes, on top of your job and your duties as a mother… and if after a year you are still convinced that this is your dream job, then you’ll get our full and unconditional support.”
There it was, the last type of reaction. I called it the Prove it reaction. The hardest to brush off, because it was up to me now to make it happen. At least with the other types of reactions, I could have just said: “you don’t understand me”.
But the Prove it reaction meant what it said on the tin, not just to my family, but most of all to myself.
Later that same evening, I went home thinking there was one last person I needed to speak to.
“Hey! How was dinner?” he asked.
“You could have come, you know.” I responded not answering the question.
“I don’t have to anymore.” He smiled. “Let me put our daughter to bed”
“Sure! Afterwards can we talk?”
He looked at me suspicious. I didn’t waste another second and I just told him.
“is that it? That’s what you wanted to tell me?”
I nodded surprised by his lack of reaction.
“Well, good luck!” he said turning his back on me and pulling our daughter along with him.
You are missing an important information. This man I just introduced you is my husband, Cole… and we are separated, living in the same house though.
“That’s all you have to say, Cole?” I pursued.
“You’re the one, who wanted to end things. Why should I be concerned with your decision now?” he replied, shrugging off.
Alright, I thought. After all he was right, this decision concerned me and me alone and I needed to make some action plans.
I had 12 months, or 52 weeks or 365 days to make it happen. Where should I start?
When was the last time I opened a chemistry book? I suddenly wondered.
“15 years ago.” Oh my God!