What I Wish I Could Tell My 17-Year Old Self

Looking back, there are so many things I wish I could tell my 17-year old self. At 17, I remember looking forward to college. I was looking forward to leaving high school behind and entering a new chapter in my life. I was excited to meet new people and try new things but I also remember being terrified. Terrified of being away from home and my family. Terrified of having to do my own laundry and having to figure out what I would eat on a daily basis. Ultimately, I was terrified of what it would be like to live on my own. Would I succeed at college? Would I do the right things and take the right classes to be able to reach my goal of becoming a doctor?

I’ve always been type A. So, going into college I knew that what I wanted to accomplish. But like many teens going into college, I had no idea how to go about doing that. When I got to college, I got lost. People say college is a time to explore and try new things. The problem is, there were so many things to try, and so many classes I could take, that I lost my way. I felt like I was free floating and that nothing could ground me. I ended up straying from my original goal and I felt lost in the crowd. Often, I’d find myself very disappointed in myself for not having a plan. I was trying to take classes to meet my goal of being pre-med, but I felt like something was missing. There were fun classes that I would have loved to take, but I felt that they wouldn’t help me meet my ultimate goal of becoming a doctor. I wish I had strayed a little in order to find myself again.

Looking back, I wish I could tell my 17-year-old self that it is okay to not always have a plan. It is okay to try new things. I was always so fixated on trying to do the ‘right thing’ to meet my goal of becoming a doctor that I think I forgot how to live and enjoy each moment.

Now almost 17 years later, I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to take those fun classes. Don’t be afraid to stray a little from your goal. Sounds strange, right? But isn’t college a time to explore? Don’t we always hear that it’s a time to find yourself? I will never stop regretting not taking that film studies class. Would it have helped me in any way in my current career as a doctor? Probably not. But it would have given me an opportunity to explore a different field – a different art.

I know that every experience I have had in my life has shaped me in some way or another. And of course they aren’t all medicine-related. Because guess what…life isn’t just about your career. So, live a little, and have some fun. This is coming from a very type A person. You never know, maybe taking that class you would not have normally taken, might make you realize there is something else you’d rather do with your life. Or maybe it would be one less thing that you don’t regret not doing later in life.

Avi Varma, MD. Avi Varma is a family medicine physician practicing in Atlanta, Georgia. Outside of caring for patients in the underserved communities of Atlanta with HIV/AIDS, she spends her time with her three-year-old daughter and a five-year-old husky. Avi uses her social media platform to talk about various topics including medicine, motherhood and mental health. Her goal is to share her personal stories, in hopes that others can gain the strength to share their own personal struggles and triumphs. Follow her @dr.avivarma on Instagram.

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