The Importance of Listening to Yourself (or Life Lessons I Learned After Breaking from Tradition)

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In his novel “Letters to a Young Contrarian”, Anglo-American author Christopher Hitchens wrote “[that] time spent arguing, is, oddly enough, almost never wasted”.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. I was raised on dinner table debates. Small and unassuming, yet tenaciously opinionated, nothing made me more content than discord. While I like challenging other people’s beliefs, I never considered the importance of challenging my own until taking economics.

Twenty years before I was born, my parents decided that I was destined for medicine. My sister’s graduation from medical school – and subsequent success – reaffirmed this. While medicine is a noble profession that I have the utmost respect for, undergoing research internships and shadowing doctors in rural hospitals didn’t appeal to me. I spoke with several professionals in the medical field to learn about their perspectives. While all of them professed that they would not have their lives any other way, many of them expressed disillusioned and apathetic worldviews. Medicine is an all encompassing force with the power to either elevate or destroy you – either way, you are consumed. The sheer numbers of hours that residency requires results in your job becoming your life. Even then, sometimes, it is not enough. It might never be enough.

The tipping point occurred while I was preparing for an interview for a direct medical program. In preparation, my sister asked me, “why do you want to go into medicine?” I couldn’t formulate an answer. This was the question I had been dreading-not what my biggest weakness was or what I feared the most-but why I wanted to go into medicine. I imagined myself ten years down the road as a cog in a wheel and came to the decision that medicine was not the path for me. It was a way to become part of something bigger than myself but there were other avenues of doing so. To me, a future career became finding a way to matter.

This is economics.

Economics excites me. Its unsatisfying vagueness intrigues me. There is no right or wrong in economics, simply different results. Economics lends itself to different interpretations, each theory contingent and distinct. In battles between viewpoints, a victor does not emerge, rather a greater understanding. The conversations and debates I have are not limited to the classroom; they are real, rational, and fun.

After a transformative summer experience at an international economics program, I grew engrossed with the economics of crime. While it initially seemed illogical to consider crime as economically beneficial, I soon learned otherwise. I embarked on a three month exploration and ended up writing a thesis centered on the economic effects of crime on urban infrastructure markets. I found barriers: econometric jargon, inconsistent measurements, and obfuscating qualifications. They only motivated me to delve further.

I want to learn about all realms of economic thought. I like to chase the unknown and unfamiliar. After all, I could always use more topics to argue about over dinner.

While my parents initially opposed my decision, in time, they soon grew to support me, understanding my rationalization.

Free to explore what I really care about, my future is no longer something I dread. It is something I can’t wait for.

What have you found as your way to matter?