With every important decision I make, there is always a why. I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a Physical Therapist. To be honest before I started volunteering in my first outpatient clinic I had never even been a physical therapy patient.
I grew up thinking I wanted to be a veterinarian. I really liked animals and science so I thought it was a perfect fit. About halfway through my undergrad career I gained some hours in a veterinary clinic and it was nothing like I thought it would be. I realized quickly that my heart wasn’t in veterinary medicine. Being someone who always likes to have some sort of a plan, at least for the big decisions in my life, my anxiety was through the roof. I felt like I had no direction and no idea what I wanted to do in life (a feeling most people experience at some point) but obviously being a dramatic 20 year old it felt like the end of the world.
I knew I still wanted to do something with science and the health fields so I threw myself into every possible direction I could think of. I declared a minor in Child and Family development because hey, I liked working with children maybe I could be a science teacher. I somehow landed a job at the Salk Research Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California – for those of you that don’t know, Jonas Salk cured polio – had literally no idea who he was when I got an internship at this world renown neuroscience lab, somehow so #lucky that I landed that job completely clueless. This opportunity gave me so things other than just exposure to the most cutting edge neuroscience research in the entire world:
- Insight – many of the other research techs were in between undergrad and medical school and gave me a lot of advice as to how and why their chose their career paths
- Knowledge – I learned 1000x more doing science in application here than I ever did in my undergraduate labs and classes
- A segway into the research world – it was Salk where I developed my sharpest critical thinking skills that allowed me to have an entry into a Movement Science research lab at SDSU (also these skills are something any good health care worker should have)
- Cultural awareness – all of my coworkers were literally recruited from countries all over the world. It was truly an amazing experience to be surrounded by the most intelligent yet vastly different humans in all physical, mental, and cultural forms
Although Salk was not directly the reason why I decided to go to PT school, I felt like I really grew up in the 3 years that I spent there. It will always be a crucial chapter of my life, as I would absolutely not be where I am today if I had not had those experiences.
The summer after my sophomore year, I started volunteering in my sorority advisor’s clinic, where I fell in love with Physical Therapy. I never knew exactly what PT’s did until that experience but I remember walking out after my first day, having a feeling of such immense clarity and also relief – I finally knew what I was meant to do (God i’m literally so sorry that was so cheesy).
I’m going to back track for a sec – I coached gymnastics for 3 years in highschool/beginning of college. This may seem completely unrelated but I swear I have a point. I LOVED coaching gymnastics. To this day it’s still my favorite of past jobs I’ve had. First of all, I love working with children – it’s such a nice break from the real world; children are hilarious and also just completely honest (which is also hilarious). But I could never figure out why I loved coaching so much until the day that I realized I wanted to do physical therapy. I love body movement. I love body mechanics; I love being able to tell someone what their exactly body is doing, and to coach them to manipulate and train whatever movement or goal they are trying to achieve. As if this wasn’t enough, the best part about coaching was that I was able to be a tangible part of my student’s progress. I literally physically and mentally helped achieve their goals every step of the way. While PT is obviously not the exact same as coaching, this connection was the base of my passion for physical therapy and body movement. I’m sure this may sound weird, but to me it makes perfect sense.
Since that first day in the clinic, there has never been a doubt in my mind that PT is for me. PT school has been a huge transition, I have never worked this hard in my entire life. I knew grad school was going to be a challenge, but for me, the outcome always and still does (even more so now) outweigh the work I knew I was going to have to put in 1000x over. If you’re having doubts about whether or not you want to choose PT, ask yourself if the work you’re willing to put in is worth to you what you will get out of it. If you’re having doubts about yourself and your capabilities, remember that if you get to do what you love most then you’ll never work a day in your life.