Written by Stefanie Velgos
Predoctoral Student, Clinical and Translational Science (CTSC), Mayo Graduate School, Mayo Clinic
Remember those “what do you want to be when you grow up?” questions it seems like every adult asks you since you were 5 years old? I do. In fact, when I was 5, I responded with “When I grow up, I want to be a dog.” No joke. My kindergarten peers thought it was hilarious, the teacher tried to stifle her laughter, but I was confused…why can’t I be a dog?
I remember the teacher had a hard time explaining why I can’t become a dog (“you just can’t!”), and how I should pick something like a ballerina or doctor. Another girl said “princess,” but to me, that was as crazy as being a dog. You can’t be Ariel or Jasmine without having a royal family, right? I guess you have to marry a prince to be a “princess,” but those technicalities were not understood when I was 5. I digress…
So my career goal remained being a dog for a few more years. You may think that’s dumb- I mean, after all, I was a preschool dropout. But, to me, the idea of being a dog is awesome. Fur is cool, wet noses are cool, tails are cool, sleeping all day is cool, heck- it’s an awesome career choice. But it made me so much more aware of what the notion of “to be” is. It made me think about exactly why I can’t be a dog, and what the differences between me and a dog was, and it made me really interested in science, in particular, genetics.
The other thing is- it’s okay to not know what you want to do, or even major in when you go to college. I wanted to do a double major: violin performance with molecular biology. Unfortunately, the orchestra rehearsals were in the afternoons, exactly when the labs for the sciences classes were. So I chose science. We were all forced to take those stupid electives to satisfy the college, and I took an English literature class for fun. Guess what? I ended up loving it and making English Literature my minor (Shakespeare is my homie…I mean, brethren). So take random classes in college- I promise, you won’t regret it.
Finally, please don’t let others try to tell you what you want to do. It’s also okay to not go directly into a professional school (medical, graduate, law school) immediately after college. In fact, I actually encourage you to not go immediately if you are not 100% sure of your path. I didn’t jump immediately into graduate school. My work and other experiences made me realize how much I truly wanted to be a scientist (and part-time puppy).