The unintended path to living my best life
I always wanted to be a doctor. Not for the title or the prestige attached to it, but because I wanted to help people. As a child, I had very little ambition apart from doing what I could to assist others in distress, and medicine seemed the best avenue to such selfless aims. Little did I know that medicine needed many prerequisites, which were totally outside my wheelhouse.
I loved biology in high school, but somehow, math, physics, chemistry, and anything else remotely related that would take me to the path to medical sciences seemed so foreign, illusive, difficult to grasp, and utterly frustrating. I eventually passed all these courses at the CXC level, but I had no passion or urge for these subjects.
However, I came alive with English language and literature, and history was in my blood. My mother, Gloria Bean, was a long-standing stalwart of Caribbean history teaching, and to her credit, she never forced it on me, but I somehow could not escape getting high grades in history with half the effort compared to the mediocre grades with twice the effort I received for some science subjects.
I also seemingly could not escape the detailed logical mind of my father, Errol Bean, who studied theology and philosophy and who could dissect fallacies and syllogisms with ease.
After finishing high school at Wolmer’s High School for Girls, I entered the University of the West Indies, Mona, with hopes dashed of doing medicine but with renewed vigour to study psychology to again “help” people since I had always been interested in the human mind and had a knack (still do) for summing people up easily.
Those hopes also became as fleeting as the morning mist after the programme was filled to capacity. Lo and behold, I landed on history. Why not? I was good at it, and while I had no idea how I would later make a career out of it, I threw myself into the detailed study of past civilisations, along with a political science minor.
I graduated with first-class honours and continued on to an MPhil (yes more history) and a PhD (even more history). Clearly, I couldn’t get enough. Destiny eventually led me to work in gender and development studies, a space I have been for over 10 interesting years.
Studying Humanities was the best decision life ever made for me. Proper grounding in the area not only teaches you content, but gives you deep understandings about yourself and teaches you how to read between the lines (and write your own lines) and appreciate one’s culture.
I have lived a rich professional life as a result of my work in history and now in gender and development studies. I have travelled extensively for reasons linked to my work and research; have been able to empower young persons who have similar passions; and have met lifelong friends who are family as a result of my educational choices. Perhaps most important, humanities education is a firm foundation on which to build numerous careers.
Studying the humanities teaches you HOW to learn, HOW to think independently and creatively, and HOW to ask the right questions. Persons with a good grounding in the humanities have gone on to live fruitful and lucrative lives. They run companies and they even run countries!
A survey of the world’s national leaders usually reveals a background in history, languages, philosophy, and literature even before pursuing other areas such as law, business, political science, and guess what – medical sciences!
There is something to be said for the massaging of the mind and critical thinking skills that a humanities and liberal arts education affords.
I always wanted to be a doctor; I wanted to help people, and I wanted to live my best life. My tertiary education in the humanities has afforded all three. With the humanities, the sky is no limit.
Dr Dalea Bean is a lecturer and graduate coordinator at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, RCO at The UWI. Her first single-authored book: “Jamaican Women and the World Wars: On the Front Lines of Change” was published in 2017. This article is one in a series that seeks to promote and highlight the impact of the arts and humanities on the individual’s personal development and career path. Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.