May 17th, 2011 - Kathryn Caves
Ten years ago, I thought I knew who I was. I gave every appearance of knowing myself, who I was, what I wanted, where I was going, why I wanted these things. Scrutinizing my past self simultaneously makes me proud of my determination and cringe at my choices.
At age 19, I was finding my voice but hadn’t fully found it yet. I didn’t know what I was capable of. I knew I was capable of people-pleasing, getting straight As, and fitting into the evangelical world. I knew I wanted to be a pharmacist and make my parents happy. It’s strange to look back and realize which pieces were me, and which pieces I was trying to shove into a mold meant for an entirely different person.
On May 13, 2011, I was packing up my freshman dorm room, which had been carefully coordinated in a vibrant teal and disgusting lime green. I had done what every promising young writer does: go to the University of Iowa to take every pharmacy school prerequisite and exactly zero creative writing classes. I was so sure of my decision to become a pharmacist that I applied for a doctorate of pharmacy program the next fall. With a year of college under my belt, I was fully committed to going to school to learn how to help doctors NOT KILL PEOPLE.
To be fair, by the end of my freshman year, I had accomplished quite a lot. I had clawed my way through the weed-out chemistry classes and gotten my first non-A final grade. I had participated in a 24-hour dance marathon and broke the rules by taking caffeine-laced Excedrin. I had gone through a shockingly cut-throat interview process to lock down a lucrative Resident Assistant gig the next semester. Unfortunately, the one thing I hadn’t done was take a good, hard look at how my life plan was meant for a Kathryn in an alternate universe.
The last ten years of my life have been a huge lesson in the fact that just because you CAN do something, does not by any means require you to DO something. I would laugh remembering all of the signs that I should never have been a pharmacist, if only it hadn’t put me in so much debt. For example, just because you CAN eek your way through organic chemistry and burst into tears during only one (1) exam, does NOT mean you should pursue a STEM field. Just because you CAN tolerate hospital smells does NOT mean you should marry yourself to working in one. Just because you CAN pronounce the drug name levetiracetam without sounding like you’re choking does NOT mean you should take out loans to ensure you can say that word often, with an air of authority.
Today, with exactly one month left of my twenties, I can’t change the decisions I made at 19 or the fact that I paid a sickening amount of money to add PharmD at the end of my name. I can’t rid myself of the title “Pharmacist” unless I do something very illegal.
Looking back on May 13, 2011, with exactly one month left of my teens, I’m not sure if my absolute certainty about my life’s path makes me want to snort-laugh, sob, or yell, “I'M SO PROUD OF YOU, YOU BEAUTIFUL IDIOT!!” I am certain, however, that ten years ago, if someone had told me I’d one day be a writer living in New York City instead of feigning enthusiasm as a pharmacist, I would have done all three at once.
Kathryn Caves is a medical writer by day and a comedy writer by night based in New York City. Her medical writing has unfortunately been featured at obscure urology conferences. Lucky for you, you can read her non-urology-related comedy work on the humor websites Weekly Humorist, The Daily Drunk, and Little Old Lady Comedy. She was also previously a writer and performer for the UCB late-night show "America First?" and Magnet Theater's Moxie sketch workshop. Kathryn is a Doctor of Pharmacy, but please don't ask her to identify any loose pills.
You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @classiccaves.
Kathryn encourages you to support the Equal Justice Initiative. Visit eji.org to learn more.