I never was the kind of kid who knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up. I figured it would be something ‘science-y’ because those were the subjects that I typically understood and enjoyed the most. I also knew that while I really enjoyed reading literature and social sciences, I was not much of a writer, so any career that involved a significant portion of creative writing was out. For most of my life, I never seriously considered being a doctor because they had to go to school for too long (tell me about it!)
The idea to become a doctor fell into place when I was a freshman in college (a story for another time) and I have never regretted it for a moment since then. But I will say that I sure dismissed a large portion of other careers without really grasping what they were all about. I have already discussed my underestimation of the breadth of possibilities in a legal profession. It turns out that there are some other careers that appear to line up with my interests and skills to a greater degree than I ever realized.
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for history. Many of the books I read are of a historical nature, the few shows that I record on the TV that aren’t sports are usually some history special, I got a History minor in college and part of the reason I started this blog was to have an outlet for love of history. Despite all of the times I wrote the word ‘history’ in this paragraph, the one thing I never really considered was majoring in history and becoming a history teacher or professor. The biggest drawback to that career was that to advance far you needed to write a lot of articles, papers and books. And since the one thing I could count on about myself was that I had little to no writing skills, that was not the job for me. But I think I miscalculated.
Recently I finished reading a book that I borrowed from my brother Brian called “At Home: A Short History of Private Life” which got me reconsidering what I do for a living. The book itself is fascinating as the author’s premise is that he is going to walk the reader through his old English country house room by room. Each room is a jumping off point for a history of the many things about day to day life that you don’t think about very much, yet you should because the history of how life has changed and how many of the things around us came to be is very colorful and interesting. If you ever wanted to know why they call it “room and board”, this book is for you because it has the answers to that and many other quirky mysteries of daily life.
When I finally finished the book I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” How cool would it be to have a job where you sit and try to come up with cool and original thoughts? Not only that, but once you come up with your interesting idea you get to dive in a do the research to support and craft your story! And people pay you to do this! If you get really good, you might even get to go on a book tour and show up on morning talk shows and do radio interviews.
This book also opened up my eyes to a world of possibilities for historians. I always thought that to be a historian, you had to focus on serious things like Colonial America, Ancient Rome or World War II. But I was wrong. As he was telling his story, the author referenced all sorts of tremendous historical specialists. There was someone who was studied the history of silverware and another who was an expert in the history of Victorian furniture, to go along with countless other sources of information for the book. If I only I would have known this was possible! I would have loved to become the foremost historian on the underground bowling culture of Colonial America or pastries of Illinois and Wisconsin during the Civil War or some other topic that I was passionate about.
Or maybe I could combine my love of history, pop culture and witty humor and carve out my niche. There are a handful of things I have read in the past weeks that have been so brilliant and right in my primary area of expertise, I know that I can make this happen if I just had some time to think big thoughts and then execute my idea. This dialogue about the ups and downs of Mariah Carey’s career, an excellent analysis of Eddie Murphy’s career, and even this ode to MTV’s Rock and Jock series all indicate to me that there is a place in the world for a pop culture historian like me.
The only downside is that my wife, kids and I have all grown accustomed to eating on a consistent basis and getting a regularly scheduled paycheck. So tossing off all current attachments to my job in the world of medicine, heading to the hills and writing the definitive manifesto on Daniel LaRusso and the Karate Kid series is probably not the best life move at this time. (Wait, somebody already did that? Now I’m really sunk!)
It took me a long time to realize it, but in life passion can get you very far. It is so important in life to find something that you are interested in and invested in and make your career out of that. Even if you, your parents or your neighbors don’t think it is a “real” career. With enough drive, determination and passion, you can make something out of seemingly nothing. This is actually one of the things that draws me to medicine the most. You can go in so many different and exciting directions, the only thing limiting you is your imagination.
There is no way I am going to quit my day job, it is far too exciting. But, I think that I will make sure to keep this blog going so that I can continue to feed my quirky inner historian.