Identity: Finding Yourself in Optometry School

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about who I am, exactly. I believe we craft our identities based on many things, such as who choose as friends, where we’re from, the music we listen to, the clothes we wear, how we handle certain situations, our hobbies, interests, and values. However, there is one major facet of people’s identities that hasn’t become important to me until recent years: the profession we choose.

Up until college, I never really thought about my future profession as a part of my identity. The only jobs I’d held involved fast food or retail. As you can probably guess, they weren’t jobs I was too passionate about. Optometry, on the other hand, is something I chose to do. Nobody forced me to do it. I didn’t choose it when I felt I had no other options, as with previous jobs. Regarding a long-term career, this was, and has always been, my plan A.

Now that I’m actually in optometry school, I’m closer than I’ve ever been to making this career a part of who I am. However, the part I’ve struggled with is how it’s supposed to fit in with all the other aspects of my identity. While I’ve had many encouraging people in my life to help me figure this out, there have also been those who have done the opposite. I’ve been told I shouldn’t pursue optometry based several fundamental parts of who I am, such as my economic standing, familial background, and even who I hang out with. The way I see it, when our identities come under attack in such a manner, we react in one of two ways: either we change to fit the mold that was forced on us, or we break it to make our own. Always pick the latter.

This was a lesson I learned in my own way. I struggled immensely to get to ICO academically, financially, and personally. The former two were hard enough, but having people criticize who I was as a person was a whole other ballpark. This is what caused me to initially doubt myself. However, once I was accepted, I realized that none of the negativity was true.

If you’ve also experienced people criticizing your choice, I just want you to know: there is no such thing as what a “typical” optometrist should look like. All the different kinds of people I’ve met at ICO are a testament to that.

I’m finding myself caring less and less about what other people have to say. I’ve made it this far by being me and everything that encompasses: who I hang out with, what music I listen to, where I was born, my familial background, the sports I play, and the many other facets of my identity.

To be succinct, just keep being you, regardless of what others might tell you. You’re going to feel so much better about yourself if you succeed by doing things on your own terms rather than by doing what others may attempt to push you towards. As long as you’re kind, respectful, and hardworking, the rest is yours to choose. That’s the most beautiful part.

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