Tuning Out the Naysayers
I remember vividly the first time someone I looked up to, respected, and valued their opinion, openly told me I would not become a doctor. All my life I was told that I could do anything I wanted IF I worked hard and dedicated myself to the craft. I assumed it to be true and thought others felt the same way. That was until one day in high school, my Spanish teacher told me I wasn’t good enough. I had been in this teacher’s class for 3 years, taking upper level Spanish 3 and 4 and even taking AP Spanish. I did well in school despite my hectic schedule with extracurricular activities and my propensity to cause trouble when I was bored. I had openly expressed my career interest to others and they seemed supportive. My chemistry teacher even helped me participate in a program that exposed me to careers in the health professions as a junior.
One day during Spanish class, I was talking about applying to colleges with my friends. I had a list of schools that seemed atypical to most given that I was applying to HBCUs and my friends were sticking to bigger named schools in Virginia where we went to high school. My teacher overheard the conversation and switched the conversation to majors. My classmates mentioned art history, psychology, political science, etc. When it was my turn, I stated biology, on the pre-med track. My teacher scoffed. He looked at me and said, “You think you are going to be a doctor?” I said, “Sure” in an unintentional yet overtly cocky way. He said, “ok.”
At the end of class as everyone was leaving, my teacher called me back into the room. He said to me, “are you sure you want to be a biology major? It’s pretty hard and most people that are pre-med ultimately fail. You should really consider something else.” I didn’t know what else to say, but thank you, and I left the room confused.
That was the first time that anyone discouraged me from pursuing my dream. In his comments, there was concern, but only concern that I would fail. There was no concern that I was choosing the wrong major and I had a bigger/better talent that was yet to be unearthed. It was clear that he did not think I could do it; that I could be a doctor. However, I did not allow that conversation to impact me in a negative way. Admittedly, it did serve as added motivation and I’ve often wanted to go back and tell my old teacher about this conversation which I am sure he forgot.
All too many times, pre-meds hear this kind of “discouragement” from someone along their journey, be it from a family member, friend, teacher, guidance counselor or anyone else aware of their dream. Another T4D mentor, Dr Renee Volny Darko had a similar experience, shared here in this clip:
The key is to remember that these individuals who are telling you no are not the gate-keepers. They are not on the admissions boards and they are not reviewing applications. They, for whatever reason, are telling you no when in fact they are not the one deciding your fate. You are in the driver’s seat. You determine your future.