March 12, 2013
A friend recently emailed me with a question: His little cousin was being pressured to go to medical school, but the cousin wanted to be a musician — did I have any advice for him? I get questions like this not infrequently, probably because I started off in the same position but wound up in a much different place: I headed off to undergrad intended for medical school (via computer engineering); years later, when I should have been in my second year of residency, I was in a rock band with a hit song on the radio. But then, after that, when I would’ve had a stable practice and career, I was back at school getting a second degree. The consequences are still playing out in my life.
I’ve reprinted the correspondence below, with identifying details taken out. If you want, substitute law school / engineering career / business degree / etc. for medical school, and writer / painter / entrepreneur / playwright / potter for musician. Children of immigrants, or any of you being pushed hard to choose “stable” careers early, this is for you.