I was born in a small town in Michigan, to a middle class Indian family. My sisters and I had a pretty balanced upbringing. We attended karate classes and learned French and violin, where we were the only non-white students in our private school, while also attending bharatnatyam classes and being part of a small, but active Indian community.
I always saw myself as a doctor. I think my parents had something to do with this, since both of my younger sisters also became physicians. While they never came outright and said, “you have to become a doctor”, we had many family friends who were physicians, and I could sense the respect that my parents had for them. I was also exposed to medicine at an early age by accompanying my parents, who also worked in the hospital, though were not physicians.
I am now a specialist. I completed an internal medicine residency and did an extra two years of fellowship training to specialize in autoimmune disease and arthritis. I have been practicing for four years. It’s not easy, though. You sacrifice your twenties, which for women pursuing medicine also often postpones finding a partner, having kids, and life experiences like getting a job, traveling, etc. It’s long hours, and no pay until you reach residency +\- fellowship, when it becomes minimal pay per hour. But, in the end, it’s worth it. While medicine is not as easy as it was twenty years ago (more paperwork, lots of legality, more bureaucracy), I find it to be very rewarding. I’m also in a field which allows me to have a life outside of work. I work 35 hours per week seeing only outpatients (non-hospitalized patients), and never take call or have to go in on the weekends or holidays.
I have been married to my husband for 8 years, he is also a physician. Our fields have a lot of overlap, so I can discuss work troubles as well as life troubles. He’s great! I’m also close to my immediate family.
My advice to the next generation career-wise is to pursue what you enjoy, as long as you can support yourself with your career choice (ie. an art history major may be interesting, but consider what your job prospects will be with that degree). Expectation and pressure all resolves when you achieve your goals--that’s good incentive.
While I ended up following the stereotypical doctor/lawyer/engineer path, I enjoy what I do, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. However, I do have Indian friends who were pushed into medicine by their parents and ended up quitting, all after wasting their time and amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
Along the way, don’t let freedom you experience at college overtake you-grow and learn, but don’t lose site of yourself and your goals. College is probably the most important step in determining your career path. Don’t focus on your negatives or on negative qualities like racism, sexism, etc. You can accomplish anything with hardwork and perseverance. This is America after all. Indian-Americans are the most financially successful minority in America- which coincides with us being one of the most educated groups. I guess all that pressure to succeed has its upside . There’s no limit.. after all, we even have an Indian-American female governor-go Nikki Haley!