Listen, I’ll be the first one to give advice if you ask for it. Sometimes I think that I know what would be the best for my close friends or family. So I sort of understand when people give me their input on my actions or future goals in life. I  get it, I do.

But if you don’t know me, don’t you worry about what I’m doing.

Though I do keep an open mind to what my brother/dad/mom think of my choices in life, I don’t always do what they suggest. Because in the end, this is MY life, not theirs. I get that most of the time they are telling me these things out of experience. I do the same thing to my friends. At the end of the day though, this is the only life I have.

I have spent my whole life letting people influence my decisions on things that I have wanted to do MYSELF or something that I really loved. I’m so tired of that. And don’t get me wrong, my parents have always been supportive and know I can succeed in whatever I choose to do. But I remember when I told my Dad that I wanted to be a hair stylist (I don’t anymore), he had a small look of disappointment on his face. He said, “You can do so much more than that, little girl.” Even though I definitely changed my mind about being a hair stylist, I do hate that he wasn’t as supportive as I’d hoped. And once again, I get it. I hate seeing smart people not use their full potential, but it’s not my job to look down on them for it. If you are smart enough to be a brain surgeon but it would make you the happiest to be a high school janitor, by all means PLEASE do what makes you happier. So long as you are doing what YOU want, it shouldn’t matter.

Becoming a dermatologist (or any type of physician) is something that will happen regardless. I love science, anatomy, and anything to do with the human body. I am lucky to have found my passion so young and know what I want to do as a career. Becoming a doctor is not only something that I decided to do because of how much I love it, it’s also something that I require myself to go through with because it will ensure not only my future and stability, but my kids’ futures and stability down the road. If there’s one thing my Dad taught me, you have to depend on yourself first. I’m not banking on marrying a man for him to provide everything for me. If that does happen, great, but I have to think about the worst case scenario. What if I get married and have kids and I have to get a divorce, or the guy turns psychotic? Who’s gonna take care of me and my kids? Uh, me.

When I told my Dad I was interested in joining the military, that same expression came across his face. “I don’t think you’ll like it, little girl,” he told me. He was in the US Army, and fought in Desert Storm. I can understand why he said that, because times were tough back then. That was a hard time for him, and I’ve only heard about his experience from one story he told me. I tried to tell him that it’s EXTREMELY different now, especially in the Air Force. And as much as it would be awesome to join infantry, I know that I’m not built for that.

I have always been so intrigued by the military. I think it’s awesome. Different. For so many years, it was just a pipe dream for me. I have to become a doctor, so I can’t join. I’m not strong enough, so I can’t join. I’ll be too old after I get out, so I can’t join. 

Then I met Cassandra.

I met Cassandra in my Microbiology lab at my college. She was about 30 years old, and in school to be a PA. I soon found out she was an Air Force veteran, and I became SO interested in her life. I wanted to know when she joined and how. She told me that she had been in college for a couple years and then the attacks of 9/11 happened. Three days later, she went to a recruiter and said, “Sign me up!” She served more than 4 years, and her job was an EMS type job. She loved it. Then she got out, and decided to go college to be a PA, whilst working full time as a firefighter EMS on the side.

She inspired me, right then and there, to join the Air Force after I graduate. She went through all of that, and is still going to school. She is following two dreams, not just one. She doesn’t regret any of it. She did all of this for herself, did what SHE wanted. And I admire her for that. I left lab that day, and thought, “Why did I ever think I couldn’t do this?” That was it. I was sold. I don’t want to do what everybody else does. I don’t want to be bored. I want to be versatile and learn new things and experience new things outside of my comfort zone. That’s why the military is so attractive to me.

After opening up about it publicly, I’ve had so many people say the same sh** to me:

“You’re too smart for that, Keely.”

“You won’t like it. You’ll regret it.”

“That’s four years of your life!”

Oh, forgive me, I’m soooo sorry. I forgot that I was supposed to live life like everyone else and how THEY think that I should. Who are you again?

Chances are, you don’t know me. If you do, you should want me to do what makes me happy. Just because it doesn’t match up with your beliefs or your life choices, doesn’t mean you can tell ME that I’m “too smart” for that. Exercising my brain in a different area actually enhances the brain. Learning things and experiencing things in the military is something I’ve never done before. It’s all so different, and that’ what my brain needs. That’s what it craves.

I’ll still be going to medical school after I get out, so it’s not like I’m quitting medicine. That’s simply not an option. I’m just doing something that I never had the courage to do, and that’s do something for MYSELF. This isn’t for you, this isn’t for my parents, this is for me and what will make ME happy.

To all the people who continue to express their opposition to it, or think that I’m not even CAPABLE, you’re just fueling the fire.

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