But I don't want to be an M.D.!

My friend insists I should study medicine, but I want to be a marine biologist

By Cary Tennis
Published August 15, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I am 18 years old and about to start my college life in two weeks. I want to be a marine biologist, and I've got myself into a prestigious college that offers a double major of zoology and industrial microbiology. My parents are broad minded, and have happily accepted my decision. I have spoken with quite a few people who have gone down similar paths, and everything is great.

Except it isn't. Being in India, most people believe that professional courses are ranked higher than purely science degree courses. My friend, whose parents are doctors, and whose ambition is to be a (surprise!) doctor, insists that I am throwing away my life, and undermining my potential, and whatnot. She insists that I follow the common stream and go for medical studies. Out of the 28 people of our high school class, she insists that I am the only one who is not opting for medicine. She says that if not medicine, then I can opt for at least fashion designing, which I had shown interest in for a while. She believes that I will have a stable career in either of these professions, but my real interest is science, mainly biology. She insists that I will not get a stable career or a good salary. She emphasizes "salary."

I am completely uninterested in medical science or designing. If I ever was, it's completely passed now, and my passion for life science has shone through all those. Now I am off to a university, and she insists that I am making a bad choice, that I am ruining my life, that I should do what others are doing. She says that since no one else from our class chose this area, it isn't very good. Apparently, she searched on the Net about my career choice and found it too unsophisticated.

I am confident in my decision, and I am not going to change my mind on this.

But how do I convince her without hurting her feelings? How do I tell her that I am not going to change my mind?

I know whatever she is doing or telling me, she is doing it with my best interests at heart. But I find it to be a bit of mental torture, to be honest. She calls me every day on the phone and lectures me, talking down upon me and making me feel insignificant.

How do I tell her I absolutely do not want to be a doctor, without insulting her career choice and her parents' professions?

Yours truly,

Troubled Friend

Dear Troubled Friend,

Tell your friend that individual motivation is crucial to career success and that you are so highly motivated that you know you will succeed.

Tell her that choosing a path fewer people have chosen means there will be less competition and thus you will be more likely to attain a prestigious position.

Tell her that occupational choices must be taken based not just on what is high status but on one's individual talents and desires.

Tell her that if all 28 of your classmates are going for medicine, that is not a good sign. It means at least a few of them are making the wrong choice and will fail.

Tell her she obviously is cut out to be a doctor but not everyone is.

Tell her that if someone has been dreaming of being a doctor her whole life then it makes sense to become a doctor.

Tell her that you have been dreaming of being a marine biologist since you were little and that you are not going to stop now.

Tell her you are going to be the best marine biologist in the world.

Tell her you will let her ride on your boat and will teach her to SCUBA dive.

Tell her not to worry. You know what you're doing.

Good luck!

Cary Tennis

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