Hey readers! Today I want to talk about why I chose to pursue a career in occupational therapy. I didn’t always know what I wanted to do, but I did always know who I wanted to serve. Let’s start from the beginning:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
When I was little, I watched my mom go to work as a nurse to take care of people every day. Whenever I stayed home from school because I was sick, my mom took care of me with soup, tea, and binging “The Price Is Right” on TV. She instilled in me at a young age the importance of taking care of others. I am the oldest of three children, and when my mom worked the night shift I used to help tuck my brother and sister into bed when they were little.
When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered either “a mom” or “a nurse” because I wanted to be just like my mom. Let’s be real, I still want to be just like her. She taught me everything I know about kindness, compassion, empathy, selflessness, and how to give to others – all things I need to be a great OT.
Eventually, I decided that I didn’t want to be a nurse anymore (thanks to way too many stories about bodily fluids that have been thrown at her over the years…TMI?). However, I still hadn’t discovered the field of occupational therapy.
My Experience in Best Buddies
In high school, I wanted to join as many clubs as possible. I’m not sure if I was an over-achiever or just wasn’t sure what I was interested in yet, but one of the clubs that I joined was Best Buddies. If you are not familiar with it, Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization that fosters one-to-one friendships, employment opportunities, and leadership programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). According to their website, they aim to end social, physical and economic isolation for people with IDD. If you know anything about me, you know that their mission perfectly aligns with my own values and goals.
When I joined my high school’s chapter of Best Buddies, I was matched with a “buddy” who I went on social outings with on a regular basis. Together we went to Best Buddies Prom and Special Olympics, both pictured below. It was through this friendship and other Best Buddies events that I found my love for working with individuals with IDD. I discovered a passion for supporting and empowering the individuals who I met through that program. I even still make a point of getting together with my buddy a few times a year (usually school breaks), because she really just makes me so happy.
My Mid-College Crisis
This will likely come as a surprise to many of you, but I actually did not start college with a major in any healthcare field. I actually went into college thinking I wanted to work in fashion (this is coming from a girl who now wears athleisure clothing more days than not…I can’t remember the last time I wore jeans to class). About halfway through my first year at Lasell College, I started to doubt my career choices. Looking back, I’m not really sure what I was thinking when I chose to be a Fashion Merchandising major, knowing how much I loved Best Buddies and helping people. Anyway, I guess I eventually figured out that I was in the wrong major because I had what I refer to as my “mid-college crisis.”
During this time, I felt really unfulfilled in my classes (granted most of them were general education courses) and in my extracurricular activities. After lots of Google searching and using my mom’s healthcare expertise, I eventually discovered occupational therapy! I learned that through OT, I can continue to serve individuals with IDD, among many other populations. I was able to switch majors to Exercise Science in order to fulfill most of my pre-requisites for OT school, completed observation hours, and took the GRE. I’m not going to lie, this was very stressful at times. I was a year behind my peers and had extra courses to take off-campus and online in order to graduate on time (shout out to Marisa and Cris for supporting me in this! I literally could not have done it without their constant guidance). During this time I found a love for exercise and met some of my very best friends, both in and out of the classroom.
During college (after my “mid-college crisis”) I discovered a club on campus called The Barry Price Center Mentoring Club. I joined as a member during my sophomore year and served as co-president during my junior and senior years. Lasell College didn’t have a Best Buddies chapter, but this club was very similar! We organized and hosted social events for individuals with IDD and Lasell student volunteers on campus. This club provided me with an opportunity to continue the work that I love throughout my college career – fostering friendships and social skills among individuals with IDD.
Getting into OT School
During my senior year of college, I applied to and interviewed at multiple OT schools in Boston. I got into my top two choices, MGH Institute of Health Professions and Boston University, and ultimately chose to attend MGH IHP. There were many reasons why I chose to attend the IHP, one being how welcomed I felt at the interview. I honestly felt like they were the ones trying to impress me rather than the other way around. Of course, I was on my A-game, but it didn’t feel as cutthroat as other interviews did. I felt at home there.
I still clearly remember receiving the e-mail that I had been accepted to MGH IHP. I was at my exercise science internship, and I knew that I would be receiving the decision any day. On a quick break, I checked my e-mails on my Apple Watch. I wasn’t able to open the whole e-mail on my watch, but the subject had the word “congratulations” in it and I nearly started crying right there. I was so in love with their program and my heart was set on going there, so opening that e-mail was a huge moment for me (plus that was the first school that I got an acceptance from). From that point on, I could really envision my career as an OT, and the journey was unfolding right in front of me.
Another selling point for me was that the IHP has a Best Buddies chapter! It is one of my personal goals to continue volunteering with Best Buddies throughout grad school as well as after I graduate. Since joining the IHP Best Buddies club, I have attended a large-group meeting to get to know the participants and I participated in the first Best Buddies Friendship Walk in Boston.
I am so excited to see where my OT journey takes me, both throughout grad school and beyond! My professional goal is to provide occupational therapy services to individuals with IDD, and in that role, support and empower my clients. I hope that all of you will continue to follow me along that journey here on my blog. Thanks for reading!
OTs and OT students: Why did you choose OT? Comment below!
(All photos of Meg and I are posted with permission.)