My friend, Kiki, has had an interesting decade. She was an honor student at Hofstra University, finished early and jetted off to Greece to compete in So You Think You Can Dance. She’s lived in both New York and Los Angeles and worked as a professional dancer, and yet, she says, all these years, she’s just been going with the flow. Never really making decisions for herself. That is, until now.
Kiki has recently decided that she wants to be a Physicians Assistant and, at the age of 28, she is pursuing that dream and finally feels like she’s living life on her own terms.
I spoke with Kiki about what it means to find your passion, even in the strangest of places.
Caitlin: So, you grew up outside Boston, and then went to Hofstra University and majored in Broadcast Journalism. Was it always written in stone that you would go to college?
Kiki: It was definitely always the next step. I didn’t really have to make a choice. I never even really thought about it. Even when I was applying, it was like, I’ll apply to a few and get into one. I didn’t even really think about, “Where do I want to go? What do I want to do?” I was just kind of like, New York sounds cool. The reasons for my decisions were not really substantial.
Caitlin: So, senior year, you finished up early and went off to Greece before graduation to compete in So You Think You Can Dance in Greece. I think a lot of people would hear that and be like, “She made a decision, she took a leap.” But, you don’t see it that way.
Kiki: That happened because my Aunt saw the audition on TV and said me and my sister should go. And I just went with it. I didn’t decide it for myself. Once we got in, it was exciting and cool, but it wasn’t because I really wanted to be a dancer or on the show.
And when I came back to New York, people were like, “You need to get an agent, go do it.” And so I was like, “Okay, that makes sense.”
So, instead of really finding myself and what I wanted to do, I just went with the flow.
Caitlin: So, tell me the story of when you really discovered what it is you want to do.
Kiki: So, I was dancing for a while in L.A. and I knew I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t know what else to do. I was really struggling, and wanting to find my next career. And then my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I went home to be with her in Boston as she was recovering from a double mastectomy. I was sitting in her hospital room and a nurse came in and was messing with the equipment and assessing my mom. I was asking her a lot of questions because I was really curious. She turned to me, and was like, “Oh, are you in the medical field as well?’
I think I laughed and said, “No, girl, I’m a dancer in L.A.”
I started thinking about it for a few days and started saying, “I want to be a nurse!”
I started thinking about what that would involve and what it would give me in life. I was like, I want to make money and I want to make a difference. It will keep my brain working and challenged. So, I just went from being a dancer, to being like, “Oh shit, I finally know what I want to do.”
After doing my research, I discovered that being a Physician’s Assistant (P.A.) is the best bet for me. Once I decided on that, it was so empowering. I knew it would be a long journey, and it has been, I still haven’t gotten into school yet, but all that hard work doesn’t feel as hard because I’m no longer in limbo and I know what I want. So, I’ll commit to ten years, and it’s cool.
Caitlin: So you’re doing a few years of prerequisite classes and then you have to apply for schools and then you’ll have a few years of school. Did that ever almost scare you off?
Kiki: No. Because I know I can do it. If I do what I need to do, this will happen.
Caitlin: As we go through our 20’s and see people hitting milestones and being successful, does it ever make you look at your own life and freak out? I know it does to me sometimes.
Kiki: Of course I compare myself sometimes, but I really try not to. You know, as long as you’re working hard and you’re kind and you’re a good person, you’re fine.
I think our 20’s are rough as shit. I think it’s as angsty, if not more than the high school years.
Caitlin: So what would your advice be for someone who feels like they need to make a change?
Kiki: I think it’s important to be reflective and give yourself time. And never settle for anything. Because I knew I didn’t really want to be a dancer and I wasn’t going to settle for that. I couldn’t. I knew I would figure it out, it just took awhile.
The rest of the hard work sucks, but it’s nowhere near as shitty as not knowing what you want to do. I feel like it was my first real, adult decision. Having committed to one decision and deciding want I want and need now, the fact that I’m heading in this direction, that’s the biggest thing. It’s empowering.
What was the first big, adult decision you made for yourself? We talked a few weeks ago about what it’s like to finally feel like an adult. Maybe making one big, tough decision is the thing that does it. What do you think?