Life lessons

When I grow up

psychologist

Once upon a time, I wanted to become a teacher. I would stand in front of my parents, grandparents, and uncle – all involuntary students in my classroom – with a ruler in hand and boss them around to do their homework at the age of four. I gave them long-winded explanations of the alphabet and nursery rhymes. And of course, there was story-telling too.

A few years later, I contemplated becoming a doctor. I would don my father’s stethoscope around my neck and listen to the thudding heartbeats of my reluctant family, diagnosing their illnesses and prescribing medications. I would intently listen to my heartbeat through the stethoscope to understand if there was a difference between mine and theirs. I gave up the idea of being a doctor when I realised I didn’t enjoy science much later. The white coat and stethoscope were impressive, but the actual science behind it all? No, thank you. It wasn’t for me.

In high school, I decided I’d found my calling. I would become a journalist. Because you could study English and that was the only subject I enjoyed at school. I started taking it seriously; more seriously than being a teacher or a doctor. I researched what I would need to study to become a journalist. I wanted to be a sports journalist; not because I played any sport but because I loved cricket and figured it would be a great way to meet the Australian cricket team. More importantly however, I wanted women’s voices in sport. As per my plan, I took up the arts stream after Year 10. The idea was that after Year 12, I could either apply for a university in Delhi known for its journalism courses or else continue in my college with a major in English literature and pursue journalism after that.

But life sometimes doesn’t work to plan.

In Year 11, I was introduced to psychology for the very first time. And I was hooked. Here was a subject that interested me that wasn’t English. It made sense. It explained human behaviour. It had found ways to help people live their lives and cope with adverse events. It was fascinating and strange all at once. Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure about my journalistic dreams any more. But to be on the safe side, I chose English literature as one of my subjects in undergrad along with psychology and anthropology. By my second year, it was pretty clear – literature was nowhere near as compelling as the other two subjects. I didn’t care for Dickens and Elliot and for the first time in my life, I’d ceased reading for pleasure.

I ended up choosing psychology as my major and going on to do my postgraduate studies in developmental psychology. I’ve been practising as a psychologist for 13 years and while I’ve occasionally had mid-life crises of sorts, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing. Studying psychology and having an insight into human behaviour has been a double-edged sword, one I probably will write about in another essay.

What I have realised, though, is all my dream careers and my actual career had one thing in common – to make a difference by helping others. Even today, I dream about writing to help other people, to convey knowledge I have learnt through psychology possibly, or even to make a difference by sharing my own experiences. But, even if writing somehow miraculously becomes more prominent than what it currently is in my life, I don’t think I’ll ever stop practising as a psychologist.

Because nothing else matches the warm feeling I get when a teenager tells me they gave a speech despite their struggles with social anxiety. Or the sense of hope when one of my young people tells me they have decreased self-harming. Or that sense of joy when a teenager with depression has managed to engage in activities for the first time. Or that sense of satisfaction when a young person with generalised anxiety excitedly tells me about the time they tried something spontaneously and nothing bad happened.

But most of all, I feel privileged to be trusted to hold and share their deepest fears, their darkest moments, and their most vulnerable selves.

Featured image by cottonbro from Pexels

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  • Parul Thakur
    19 May 2020 at 6:59 pm

    This was a good personal piece, Sanch! I loved knowing more about you. I was able to relate to my younger days and those ambitions around being a doctor, engineer and what not.
    What I loved most was how your closed this piece. You spoke of what matters to you and came out strongest.
    Parul Thakur recently posted…My heart breaks when I hearMy Profile

  • Marisol de la Jara
    20 May 2020 at 9:41 am

    Such a nice piece! I want to read more about the details on some episodes of your career election. Loved the part about listening to other people’s hertbeats and your own, to understand if there was a difference between them.
    Marisol de la Jara recently posted…Ask me about the weatherMy Profile

  • Danielle Dayney
    21 May 2020 at 7:31 pm

    Sanch, how did I not know that you’re a psychologist? AND that you’ve been practicing for 13 years! You look so young in your photos. I just assumed you were college-aged.

    I enjoyed reading about little you and all your career dreams. You did a great job of placing me there in the story with you. It worked well, and I especially appreciated how you tied everything back to helping others. Well done!
    Danielle Dayney recently posted…How to Eat a Spam SandwichMy Profile

    • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
      25 May 2020 at 4:40 pm

      Haha I’m flattered you think I’m college-aged! I’m much closer to 40 🙂 Thank you for that and also the constructive feedback!

  • Margaret
    22 May 2020 at 3:53 am

    Sanch, this made me smile, especially when teen you thought journalism would be a way to meet the cricket team. I love your dedication and passion for what you do. I share your “find ways to help other people” journey and am grateful that your teen clients have you to talk to.
    Margaret recently posted…How the 2020 School Year EndsMy Profile

  • asha
    22 May 2020 at 11:28 am

    This was a really interesting reflection on how your goals have morphed and changed over time. It’s funny to think about our childhood dreams and how they become more focused as we get older. I like the way you identified the key element that remained consistent through each of these dreams — to help others. It made me wonder how, in helping others, you have also gained and grown. Perhaps that’s the companion essay?

  • Vanessa
    1 June 2020 at 3:50 pm

    I still sometimes miss working in something related to what I study, even though I now have a good job unrelated to it, where you are respected regardless of background relevancy.

    I sometimes wonder if I should look back at ‘relevant’ jobs, but it’s just not practical (remote locations), there aren’t many jobs, and doesn’t pay enough to live on so.. it is what it is I guess?
    Vanessa recently posted…Four More Things I’d Like Humans To Stop DoingMy Profile

  • Simon Falk
    1 June 2020 at 5:29 pm

    Haha, Sanch. I also thought about journalism too for a time. Unlike you, I dropped out of my psychology major at uni (back last millennium) due to failing stats. Maths and I don’t get along. Pity, as developmental psych remains an interest of mine. As a minister of religion I come up against many people with developmental struggles, including clergy.
    I’m sure your doing well at your work and your gratitude posts are exemplary to many of us.
    Simon Falk recently posted…#WATWB May 2020 and Kind20My Profile

    • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
      6 June 2020 at 9:35 pm

      Haha I actually weirdly enjoyed stats! Though research was not my forte!