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Leading yourself: finding my own career path


As children, we all have been asked what we want to do when we grow up. People expect children to give one answer, name one dream job. This idea of one career path causes a lot of pressure for young people when trying to choose the “right” field of study or work. Nowadays, since high school grades play a bigger role than they did a few years back, kids have to know at a very young age what they hope to do in the future. It is an impossible expectation. In reality, people's interest may change as they grow. Similarly, as relationships between people, a person's relationship with their job might last a lifetime or there might come a time when it is wiser to continue separate paths.

As a child I dreamed of becoming either a veterinarian or a nanny. Neither of those dreams became reality and, in the end, I ended up studying two seemingly very different fields. Yet, if you look closely there are unexpected intersections to be found.

First, I became a doctor. My parents did not encourage me to study medicine, nor did they advise against it. There aren't any doctors in my family. I attended a science focused high school and it might be that environment that influenced my decision making. I always enjoyed chemistry and biology, so going to medical school felt like a natural continuum. Yet during medical studies I longed to gain a broader understanding of the world and humanity. Even though I did not always enjoy studying medicine, I have definitely enjoyed my work as a doctor. Especially, I enjoy working in public health care because I get to meet people from all kinds of backgrounds. In that way work as a doctor offers a broader view of the society.

There is a lot of medical knowledge that you must possess as a doctor, yet our work is still essentially based on human encounter. Sometimes the human experience is complex and difficult to put into words. I always felt like medical school did not offer enough tools for that kind of understanding. Doctors are anticipated to follow certain treatment guidelines, and good so. Yet sometimes when talking with a patient, it may feel like medical discussion alone is not enough to make the patient feel understood. I felt like I desperately needed new, different points of view, to gain more understanding of life as whole.

Laura Tenhunen. Image by Siria Lemma.
Laura Tenhunen. Image by Siria Lemma.

I think that art and humanity have always walked hand in hand. Philosopher James O.Young has stated: “Art can open deep insights into complex, multifaceted subjects like ourselves, our feelings, our relationships with each other, and our place in the world (Young, Art and Knowledge, 2000, p. 97)”. Inspired by arts, I started to attend art history courses in the Helsinki Open University, first in the evenings, but quite soon it escalated into full-time studies and eventually I got accepted to the Faculty of Arts.

In the beginning of my studies, I felt like I had betrayed my patients and my workplace and thought that my studies were kind of a break from “real life”. During my studies, I came to realize that at the same time when there definitely is a need for people who put all their effort into one field to gain expertise in what they do, there is also a growing need for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives and knowledge.

I feel like together medical school and film studies have offered me a really unique viewpoint to the world. In my bachelor's thesis I studied the representation of mental health problems in Finnish contemporary films and felt like I got to use knowledge from both of my professions. To be honest, I am studying arts because of my own personal interests, but I really think there's a lot in the art field that can also help me become a better doctor.

I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to create a professional path that looks like me. And of course, my path doesn't end here. Curiosity never ends, hopefully, and a person is never ready. I still have many dreams I wish to follow. One day I hope to become a psychotherapist and maybe through that, gain one more viewpoint to humanity. □


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