Sometimes I start early, I’ll ask a six year old what she wants to do when she grows up. Sometimes I don’t ask the non-talkative teen in my clinic. Or sometimes I do and I get a shrug. Most times my teens will tell me that they don’t know, that they’re looking for work, that they’re still deciding. I always praise someone for graduating high school. (And, yes, I’m that person who will congratulate a scared teen for an unplanned pregnancy. Because sometimes that’s what they need to hear. Or not.)
But, I will admit, since for most of my time as a pediatrician I have worked with high-risk, low income communities, I always feel such joy when I hear that one of my teens is going to either community college or four-year college. Maybe it’s the traditional Asian in me (though I try not to focus on academics solely for my own children), maybe it’s because I know their struggle.
I’m in transition as a physician right now. For a number of reasons, I’m venturing into private practice. One of the most rewarding parts of this transition will be having continuity with my patients. I struggled with non-continuity as my work days weren’t predictable and even the patients and families I connected with the most would have trouble scheduling follow-up visits with me. Because of this transition, my patient and family population will change. Not necessarily in a bad way, just different.
And maybe I don’t have an affect on my teens at all. Maybe it’s they who have affected me. I know that I didn’t have that same struggle—the one my dad did as he ventured to another country to go to college, worked through college and medical school with no access to student loans and created a better, easier life for his children.
Maybe I see and appreciate more how much I had when I was growing up. And, maybe, just maybe I just want to see that six year old girl become the astronaut she always dreamed of becoming.
To all the recent high school grads, congratulations. To those of you who are moving on or moving away, I wish you the best of luck. For those of you who are still figuring things out, I wish you something more—the clarity to think through to a future, whatever it may be, and then go out and achieve it.