When I Grow Up
A study of happiness and disenchantment.
The other day I was at my friend's baby shower. I was sitting down at a table surrounded by strangers, albeit very happy, but strangers nonetheless. Thankfully, the nature of the setting made it easy to meet those who surrounded me, and soon I was among friends. One of those new friends was a girl in the last years of high school (highly fond of biology and dreaming of becoming a physician), and as soon as she found out I was a pharmacist and I found out she wanted to work in the health-care industry, I knew I had an obligation to give her my insight (read: helpful disenchantment).
I've been a pharmacist for about 2 years now... 2 very long years. Relative to seasoned pharmacists (i.e. 15+ years), I feel like I've experienced a lot so far, and I feel like the advice that I give is valuable. So, I began to explain to her, first, my job experiences and the emotional turmoil that followed.
I had worked at a pharmacy as a technician during pharmacy school. It was a job. It paid the rent, clothes, and shoes. Then, I graduated pharmacy school (Hook'em Horns!) and decided that I would continue to work for this pharmacy. A company that has not only supported me during pharmacy school, but one that is offering a position in a very nice city with the only caveat being: I would have to be a floater (traveling) pharmacist. They never tell you exactly what it entails (e.g. driving up to 2 hours to work, staying away from home for sometimes 4 days, working at the busiest and most problematic stores, and dealing with the most harried customers). After having just about enough of the traveling (that they never told me I would have to do extensively), angry customers, angry employees, being angry, and of the big corporation mentality, I decided that it was better for my health to leave a place that made me sick to my stomach before I even drove into work. This is where my professional life took a turn for the better. I was finally beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel! I could picture it so well: dinners at home with my fiance, taking my dogs on long walks, spending time with friends and family on the weekends. All kinds of wonderful.
My next job was at a pharmacy that served nursing homes all over the state of Texas, which meant no public customers! The only interaction I had with the nursing home was with the nurses. Here I found that a huge rift exists between nurses & pharmacy, pharmacy & physicians, physicians & nurses. More angry people. And about what? Angry about trying to help the elderly? This is something that became glaringly obvious while working at this job. How, I asked myself, how is it possible that I've found a job where I'm not traveling and only work every 3rd weekend and I'm still unhappy with my job? Why am I not fulfilled? I'm helping people. This is what I've always wanted to do... just help others. All I find myself doing is helping those who don't appreciate the intricate medical system. There was never any happiness filling a prescription. Still, to this day I do not jump up and down for joy once I've filled something. The receiver of that prescription doesn't jump up and down for joy either. I decided that at this point I needed to tell her why I even went into pharmacy... why my idea of growing up entailed working in a profession that doesn't make me happy.
My parents always had my best interest in mind. Growing up, my they always worked hard for every dollar they earned. Everything they had was because of blood, sweat, and tears. I appreciated that as much as a teenager could when I lived with them. (Side note: Now, as an adult, I appreciate what they did for me even more.) When talking about my future, my Mom would always say: "Work in a job with air conditioning." That was the main concern. Air conditioning. Which is really... fair, honestly. I would not be very happy right now if I was building an overpass. So, I'm thankful for that advice. My Mom would also mention the perks of having a job in health-care... such as: always having a job. I wanted to take her advice. I did take her advice. The more people I would ask about going into health-care (specifically, pharmacy), the more I was convinced this was the way to go. So, I did. I took the right classes, got the right grades, and got the degree I needed to get the job. I got to be a pharmacist! All that hard work! I should have been so happy, but graduation was the saddest day of my life. I finally realized what I had done... for 6 years of my life. I was studying for a degree in a profession that guaranteed stability and air conditioning. How did I not see that I was not chasing my dreams... that I was not pursuing happiness? I was blinded by making my parents proud and doing what others thought would bring me happiness.
I know, I know... you're thinking: poor pharmacist... all that money and no problems and you're not happy? I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm trying to make sure that this particular disillusioned youth (and any other disillusioned youth browsing the Internet) doesn't determine their future happiness by whether there is air conditioning included in their career. I told her, that if in her heart she knew that being a physician would make her happy (despite the politics, budget cuts, and angry co-workers), then she should go for it. Go forward and pursue the happy future in a dreamy profession. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem happens when you've not been given enough information and try to please others. The problem is not following what truly makes you happy.
At this moment I'm in the process of pursuing happiness with my professional and/or trade skills. It could be a while, and I may end up getting out the health-care industry, but I'm in it for the long haul... and, so far, it's been a lot more fulfilling than pursuing a career with air conditioning.
My hobbies that make me happy:
A book to further understand the pursuit of happiness.
Oolong tea for relaxation.
A PCAT study book... just in case you still want to go to pharmacy school.