Be a doctor, engineer, or die dumb

“You’re a medical bioscience student, not dumb like us”. This is what a friend of mine said to another not long ago. In Malaysia, when you come to the age of 15, you must decide if you will join the science stream or the art stream. If you didn’t choose, I’m not surprised either. You were probably told by others to join the science stream, or wait for the impending doom that your future be as bright as the sky, at night.

Like many, with my string of 7 A’s for AAAAAAAsian, I was able to join the science stream to be automatically labelled as ‘smart and with future’. I worked hard with the usual pressure of my parents with their carrot and stick method, teachers with their mantras on how to score, and the fear of ‘losing face’. Life went on while I sat for my SPM, A-levels, got scholarships, and then, it was time to decide my future.

All this time, I was told to take physics, chemistry and biology to open my options and in the end I would be given a choice to be whatever I want. I suppressed my passion to build my network of friends, suppressed my potential in sports; to be president of multiple clubs and societies, which took many hours of lectures and scolding for me to get involved in the first place.  I finally got to study my degree in communication to be a journalist or vlogger, or so I thought.

People would say: “Don’t you want to be an engineer like your father?”; “You didn’t study medicine? But you’re so smart!”, “You shouldn’t waste your talent, you should study a harder degree then you could switch to an easier job later.” or have the look of confusion and awkwardness while politely trying to find out why you have wasted your education. It seemed the moment I chose not to be in a white lab coat or spend the next decades ruminating over diabolical math, that a unit of hope for Malaysia’s future had died. I later chose to study an additional degree in business as well so that in future, it wouldn’t be so tough to count the coins as I jangle my plastic cup beside the road.

Doctor’s save people? A weather reporter warning people of an oncoming tsunami could save so much more in the 6 hours a doctor performs a single surgery. People who study engineering and science are smart? I know so many of my friends who used to copy my homework in science class, so many who relied on tuition teachers to feed them knowledge while I chewed and digested mine independently, so many who temporarily retained scientific knowledge without understanding it for the sole purpose of regurgitation. Doctors and engineers are rich? The last time I checked Forbes 50 richest Malaysians list for 2015, the first 10 are all currently businessmen (sadly, no women), of which one has a degree in electrical engineering, one finished high school, one who did not, and none who graduated with a degree in Medicine.

I love science, especially physics. I actually did consider becoming a physics lecturer because it may be the only acceptable science profession by society where I can speak to people in a creative manner (also, the lack of physic teachers who actually understand the subject is horribly motivating). Nothing is wrong if studying science is your passion. The problem is when society starts to curb, cut and force your dreams into a mould of some blob of a future.

Anyone can go bankrupt, anyone can suffer a bad life, intelligent beings can do stupid things, and uneducated people can be some of the wisest. There is no one way or one job that guarantees a safe path that is free of analytical thoughts, worries and responsibilities. It’s a degree, not a life-pass. So henceforth I confirm my opinion that with reasonable wisdom, developed foresight, and gusto for life (all 3 you should have obtained through education, but sadly not the case) you would be bombarded with the many difficulties of life, just as foretold by your aunties, uncles, knowledgeable peers and astrological signs; and like everyone else with or without a degree, you will have to deal with it, decide what you want to make out of it, and keep gaining as well as using your knowledge and wisdom to find your happiness and satisfactions.

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