Every day, people ask me what I’m going to be when I grow up. For us kids in our mid-20’s and 30’s, this means which medical field we’re going to specialize in when we graduate in a year and a half. To me this is a tough question, kind of like “What is the meaning of life?” The answer is a really big commitment.

But I’ve been going about it all wrong.

I thought that finding a specialty was like finding a husband: “In a perfect moment, I will simply know that my life was meant for __.” In my perfect specialty, I will maximize all of my talents, I will adore the patient population, I will save lives in the most glorious of ways, and I will be happy every single moment. I will withhold my decision until that specialty comes along. (Turns out, that’s not how you find a husband either.)

It’s not that those things won’t be true in the life I choose. It’s that those things don’t come pre-packaged.

For me, and I think for most people, there are many ways to be happy. And this is why I’ve been running around in circles trying to figure out how to align my preferences: if I like cutting, if I like thinking, if I want to treat diabetes or gallbladders, etc., etc., etc. But that’s like comparing apples and oranges when what you need to do is make some lemonade: It’s not about your wish list. It’s about making the best of what you’re given. Because if you’re opinionated enough, every last possible choice has at least one deal-breaker.

I’ve finally stopped thinking about what I want to do, and started thinking about the kind of person I want to be.

I want to be a good colleague. Someone who is kind, fun, and competent, who adapts easily to challenges, and who takes things in stride. I want to be a good wife and mother. One who listens and heals and strengthens. I can’t afford to crash when I get home each day, or take out all my work anger on my family. I want to be a good person. I don’t want to constantly yell at others to get their work done. I want to be the doctor who respects nurses, scrub techs, cafeteria workers… because we are all human beings. The answer then becomes obvious: I will choose something less stressful than what I think I can handle. Because whatever I do, I should do with grace.

Truth is, I’ve seen enough frantic, stressed-out people who claim to be doing what they love most. Choosing a career is about finding a way to serve, uplift, and bring about the best in others. And these are daily choices, moment-to-moment choices. Obviously there is not a single specialty that would automatically make me all of the things I want to be. That’s why it’s dangerous to think that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime choice: once you’ve committed, the work has only just begun.