This post was originally published on our partner website India.com:
Since childhood, I recall my parents instilling the value of education into my brain. At the impressionable and young age of five I received a doctor’s set for Christmas. But, I never really understood what it meant to be a doctor. There was an association with being a doctor that was so prestigious and that is something that I had been taught since before I had even started school.
When I started school the question of, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” would arise and I would reply “a doctor,” never fully grasping what a doctor did.
I had visited the doctor and understood what a check up was, but there was a larger picture at hand. I remember the years of elementary school that I would reply confusingly, “a doctor superstar,” wanting to be a singer and a doctor, all in one. The truth being, I wanted to be a singer, but I felt pressured into also saying a doctor.
My parents were not doctors, quite the opposite actually. I grew up with my mom at home and dad at work. My dad is mechanic and went to trade school. Neither of my parents went to college.
For a time, this puzzled me that these two people stressed education and being a doctor so heavily but neither had been through the experience themselves. As I grew older I understood, like many immigrants, my parents wanted everything for their children that they did not have—education being one of them.
I once asked my parents why being a doctor was so prestigious.
“Doctors are like Bhagwan (God) they have the power to bring life into the world and cure the sick,” my mom said.
This is a common desi belief. But it was not enough to convince me to become a physician.
I wanted to want to be a doctor, but science and math were not my forte. I was in high school, trying to convince myself to still be a doctor, but I did not take one science A.P. course, despite myself persuasion.
I did not know what I wanted to pursue, but I knew it was not medicine. Still, I worried about disappointing my parents.
When I started college at Stony Brook University in Long Island, N.Y., I was certain that being a doctor was not for me but even telling my parents was nerve-racking. The day I told them they asked, “So if you are not a doctor what will you be?”
It was such an odd question to ask with the many professions that existed, and the endless possibilities for my future.
I was fortunate that at Stony Brook University I found my niche and calling for my career, my true passion was for South Asian studies.
Still, it was assumed by many that I was becoming a doctor merely because I was a South Asian. It was the stereotype that I could not kick despite my dearest efforts.
I recall one time entering the advising center and the women at the desk suggested that I may be in the wrong office because there was a special office for those students on the pre-med track—assumptions are terrible.
As impressionable, young, empowered South Asians, the opportunities are endless.
I would like to think that I did not fall into a stereotype because I was pressured into it but because I am following my dreams.
And like, Walt Disney said, “All dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them!”