In University of Toronto, I studied Psychology. Among Malaysians, I think this field doesn’t have the same appeal as law, medicine, or engineering.
However, from time to time, I encounter individuals who show a glimmer of interest in this field and they ask me questions regarding it.
"I want to pursue Psychology. Is it difficult?"
Psychology, like how my professor puts it, is the most difficult science in the world.
Why? Because the subjects you put under the microscope are humans. Humans are complex and sophisticated. In any given behaviour that we study, there will be more than one explanation from more than one perspective.
The lectures are long. A typical Psychology lecture for me lasts 3 hours (with short breaks in between) and that is just one lecture. In a typical week, you are looking at about 3-4 lectures like that depending on what courses you take and how you organize your schedule.
I am the type of individual who likes listening more than writing or reading, so I manage to stay focus throughout a 3-hour lecture. The only time when I wouldn't be able to listen properly to the lecture is when I am tired.
Long lectures are not my biggest challenge. I can handle long lectures. My biggest challenge is the readings. There are a lot of them. That is my biggest challenge because reading textbooks doesn't interest me and I get distracted or bored easily while reading.
If you ask me if Psychology is difficult, then the answer is yes. But so what?
So what if it is difficult? You want to run away just because that is the reality? You want to pursue something just because it is easy?
Running away from something because it is difficulty and pursuing something because it is easy is not a good way to live life.
Despite all the difficulties, I decided to pursue Psychology anyway because of my passion for it. I didn't pursue it because it is easy. That is a weak foundation to stand on.
Do it because you love it. Do it because that is what you want to do with your life. Do it because you are good at it. Do it because that is your calling and that is how you see yourself benefiting the people around you.
Don't do it just because it is easy.
"How did you choose Psychology?"
My initial program of study was Biotechnology. Psychology didn't come to mind at all.
I took a first year Psychology course as an elective, something to add on top of my Biotechnology degree. I still remember the moment when I was 50/50 about taking that first year Psychology course because the feedback that I got from my friends wasn't motivating. They hated that course.
Instead of being discouraged, I took that course anyway because of one simple reason – I like learning about people. I closed one ear to the stuff my friends said and took the course out of interest.
I feel in love with Psychology from that first year course. We just clicked. Mind you, I am talking about the very same course that my friends hated.
You might have had the same experience where your friends discouraged you from pursuing something you have interest in just because they don't like it.
If I succumb to peer pressure, I might decide to drop the idea of taking that course. Instead, I asked myself what I wanted, and I wanted to take that course. So I did.
I didn't know it before but I realized soon after that this is what I want to do with my life.
People can only assist you in life. They can offer advice and support, but they can't (or shouldn't) dictate your life for you – it is your life.
The choice is in your hands and you alone are responsible for that choice.
“What kind of job could you get with Psychology?”
I can understand the worry that typically accompanies the tone of this question. You are worried about not being able to make ends meet if you choose passion. That is normal. I worry about it too.
However, I also worry about what benefit can I offer to the community I am living in. Is my presence a positive thing for the community or am I just wasting oxygen?
Having that in mind, fulfilling a need in my community becomes the main factor in my career choice – not the size of my paycheck.
I believe that if there is a need and if one has what it takes to fulfill that need, then there will be a job opening. Either you wait for an opening or you create that job opening yourself. In whatever you are passionate about, there is a need in the community that can be fulfilled through it.
In relation to Psychology, I see that the community needs more awareness when it comes to mental health and treating people with mental illnesses. There is a strong negative stigma attached to mental illnesses, and it shouldn’t be there.
I would like to be among the few who step up and try to reduce the stigma through education and awareness. To me, this is an obvious need in the community that is currently unfulfilled.
The community might not realize that there is an unfulfilled need and that there is a vacuum, but a need is a need whether they realize it or not.
You might see the need before they do, and you step up to fulfill it, despite the probable reality that you are not going to get paid as handsomely as the "popular jobs" and that you are treading into an uncharted territory.
But doesn’t that make it more interesting? It is like conquering a mountain no one else has ever climbed before. That is awesome. On top of that, there will be less competition.
Talk about a golden opportunity.