I’m making this up as I go.

In less than 2 months, I’ll be 29. A year from 30. I am not having some sort of oh-dear-god-I’m-getting-old moment. Graduating high school and starting college at 17, I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I thought I wanted to be a nurse. I screwed up in college. I temporarily lost my scholarship, and I never got into nursing school. There have been numerous times throughout my life since college where I have chastised myself for screwing up. I started working for a hospital in Florida shortly after graduation, and ended up there for 6 years before relocating to NYC. Once again, I started working for a hospital here in NYC. For the past 7 years, I’ve learned so much about healthcare, pediatrics, clinical trials, patient care, etc. Most importantly, I’ve learned so much about myself: who I am, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and what I want in life.
To quote Evan Hansen:
“Does anybody have a map? Happen to know how the hell to do this? I don’t know if you can tell, but this is me just pretending to know. So, where’s the map? I need a clue, ’cause the scary truth is: I’m flying blind … and I’m making this up as I go.”
For the past few years, when I would think about my career, I consistently shaped it after what I was currently doing and what I thought that I could achieve instead of what I want to achieve. I didn’t have a map. I was familiar with the maps that others have followed to get where they were. I didn’t have a destination point on my map, so I had no idea how to get there.
This week, I sat and thought about it. I stopped worrying about what seemed like the easiest plan. I stopped worrying about what fit with my job experience thus far. I thought about who I was and what I was passionate about. I am passionate about improving the quality of healthcare. I am interested in chronic disease epidemiology and Public Health & chronic diseases. As someone with both major depressive disorder and an anxiety & panic disorder, I am passionate about mental health awareness. I am passionate about pediatrics. I am driven to reduce the prevalence of diseases that we can research and hopefully, one day, find the cure to.
So, here I am, with my answer: I want to research pediatric psychiatric disorders. The WHO predicts that by 2020, child neuropsychiatric disorders will become one of the five most common causes of morbidity, mortality, and disability among children. We are not doing enough to address this. There is still too much of a stigma around mental health disorders. Too often children go undiagnosed, or poorly treated. The resources available to families with children with psychiatric disorders are few and far between.
I felt revitalized by coming to this realization/conclusion. The first person I had to tell was my best friend. My best friend, who was diagnosed as a child with bipolar 1 and PTSD. My best friend, whose son has had a wide range of neuropsychiatric diagnoses thrown his way from different doctors: autism, bipolar, ODD, intermittent explosive disorder … and who knows which diagnoses are actually correct. I have learned so much about dealing with children with psychiatric diagnoses through my work experiences, but it’s my experiences with him that have taught me the most.
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I look forward to pursuing this. I look forward to the day where we can discover the reason(s) for the increase in prevalence, and develop public health initiatives to address this increase.