What Will Make Me Happiest?
I love to write. I love when a thought pops up in my head and I feel my fingers dancing around the keyboard as my brain races. The possibilities are endless. I can write things that are funny, or sad, or personal, or just plain weird. I can make worlds happen and explore my own, and I can bring entertainment to other people while I do so.
I wrote for myself all the time in high school and college, and now that I’m actually posting my work publicly, people are liking it. Publications are liking it and I’m consistently producing work that does well statistically and that I’m personally happy with. I feel validated, but I don’t need attention in order to enjoy it. The funnest moments for me are when I’m letting the ideas flow out of me, and I’m not too invested in what happens after I click “submit”. I’m still writing for myself, and that’s part of what makes it so fun. I’ve thought long and hard about making this my life and pursuing a masters in screenwriting, and have been taking note of admissions deadlines and requirements. But something stops me.
It’s the ER.
Terrible things happen in an ER. People die. Lives are changed in a matter of mere hours. The homeless, elderly, and poor come in with preventable injuries that could have been avoided if they had access to regular, timely care. You see children that have been hit by cars or worse, by the people who are meant to protect them. Babies are lost.
However, beautiful things also happen in an ER. Lives are saved. People are given second (or third or fourth) chances at life. Relationships are repaired. Selflessness and love abound.
The moment I stepped inside the ER I knew that it was for me.
In 2013, I began volunteering at a level one trauma center in my city. It’s one of the busiest in the country and definitely an intense, overcrowded, understaffed place. Here’s an inside look at this ER if you’re curious:
I hit the ground running and immediately fell in love. I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a Physician Assistant (PA) because they had a flexibility between specialties that doctors don’t, and I wanted to work in an ER. I planned out my life:
- Finish college (CHECK!)
- Get healthcare experience in a low-level hospital job while studying for the GRE. This will take me 1.5–2 years
- Take extra classes with a post-baccalaureate program because I’m missing physiology, microbiology, and some others, which will take about another 1.5–2 years
- Apply to PA school, get accepted to one of the three year PA programs, and go forth and kick ass!
I knew I wouldn’t be a practicing PA until the age of 30 but I was okay with that. I planned for the long commitment, the erratic part-time hours and low pay of a scribe or other entry-level health profession, the limbo of doing this while not being 100% sure that I would even be accepted to PA school. What I did not plan for was my love for writing hitting me like a truck.
I know that I could do both; PA at work, writer during downtime. However I also know that if I do this I’m not going to be as prolific as I’d like to be. PAs work a lot, and I also want to make time for my family and my own physical health. I know most would tell me to be a PA and have writing as a hobby, but I would love if it was much more than a hobby. If I were to make writing my life, I could write as much as I want and write books and screenplays. I know that I could get accepted to a masters program in screenwriting (I would definitely want to do the masters if I decide on writing; it’s not for everyone but I know that I’d want formal education before I launch into anything) and make a comfortable life for myself. I’m confident enough in myself to know that, although being a writer is extremely difficult, I could succeed. And I also know that I could be a kickass PA and that they make mad bank so money’s not the deciding factor here, nor is the possibility of success.
Both of these lives can make me happy. And both of these lives come with risk: not being accepted into PA school and not “making it” as a writer. But I know deep down inside that I can be accepted into PA school and I can do a screenwriting masters and succeed in that. So which will make me happiest? Which is the most worth it? There’s no way to know. I’ve weighed the pros and cons of each but it all ultimately comes down to “What do I really want?”
I want to be happy.
I’m happy now. I write as much as I want because I am unemployed. I go to interviews for both entry-level health jobs and writing jobs, seeing which will work out first. I go into each interview with enthusiasm and preparedness because I really do earnestly want that job, regardless of whether it’s being a junior editor or a medical assistant. Either would make me happy and right now, I’m fine letting employers decide what I’m going to do.
I just turned 23 on the 9th. I know that your twenties are when you figure yourself out. I feel pressure but I’m old enough to know now that no matter how much you plan, things rarely work out exactly the way you expect them to. I also know that once I have some work experience in either field I might be more ready to choose which is the career and which is the hobby. I’m going along with the flow now and seeing where life takes me, but I’m also very aware that one day there will come the point of no return and I will have to choose whether I’m a writer that likes healthcare, or a PA that likes writing.
The fork in the road is coming, but I’m not quite there yet. I’m walking, but slowly, taking deep breaths and soaking in the beauty around me. And I’m happy.
Update: About a week after writing this piece I got offered a job in an ER! I am very excited and of course I’ll continue writing. Yay!