So from the title of this article, you are probably wondering how did an established Pharmacist, who spent 4 years earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, and then worked tirelessly for another 4 years in Pharmacy school, decide to make a 180 degree turn in life and pursue a career in fashion? Well, the decision did not happen overnight. It was a passion that was always present from childhood, and recognized by my family at an early age, but didn’t come to life until much later.
As a kid, growing up, I always wanted to be a physician. Being a daughter of a medical doctor, I felt strongly that this was the future career for me. I would always see my father off as he went to the hospital and then go back to playing, drawing, or studying. I would say I was an “average” student when it came to math and science. But average wasn’t good enough, especially growing up in an Indian household. In order to get anywhere in life, you had to excel in math and science. That’s what was ingrained in my head. Don’t get me wrong, I could “explore” other interests, such as dance, choir, instruments, but these were just hobbies. These were not things that you could pursue a career in. But what was I was really good at? ART! Color, design, dressing my dolls up, pairing clothes, drawing, crafts…These are the things I EXCELLED in. I would make crafts or draw pictures and do it over and over until it was perfect. It was an obsession. I would practice on scrap pieces of paper until I knew every stroke of the pencil, and then I would redraw it on the final piece of paper. If I made a mistake I would always figure out a way to correct it – anything to make sure my drawing was perfect. This obsession stayed with me throughout grade school. Whenever I had a chance to show my creativity, I embraced the challenge, even while other students would shudder at the thought of even drawing a straight line. The idea of using my colored pens, pencils, and markers brought a sense of therapeutic joy to me. It was my secret escape to showcase my true talent.
Another element that contributed to my interest in art comes from my exposure to Indian culture. India is known for its music, poetry, art, and most importantly, beautiful clothing! My sister and I would always find an excuse to wear a new Indian outfit to a party. The glitter, embroidery, stitch-work, and color coordination all mesmerized me. I remember watching my mother as she would get ready for an Indian party or wedding. She would drape a six yard piece of cloth, known as a sari, so elegantly over her body and carry it with grace. I was in awe with the colors and textiles and would imagine the clothes I would design. I had ideas in my head as to how to mix and match the clothing so it would be something new, something no one had seen before.
I think my parents secretly knew that I was very good at art, but always emphasized the importance of math and science. They would ask questions like, “How are you going to support yourself as an artist?” or “You need to be independent so that you don’t have to depend upon anyone else in life.” So did that mean pursuing a career in the arts meant that I wouldn’t make it in life?
I was able to keep myself content through high-school using art as a hobby. I had finally decided that I would major in Biology in college, and then apply to medical school. It looked like I had a solid plan and I was on my way to becoming a doctor, just as I always had dreamed of. Off to college I went, and my interest in art took a back seat. However, I still took art classes on the side as a break from all the science classes I was taking. I enjoyed learning about Indian ancient art and for a brief moment convinced myself that I wanted to be an art historian. I eventually talked myself out of that. I also thought about minoring in interior design. I talked myself out of that as well. So as you can see, I was fighting an inner desire of pursuing something in art and always convinced myself to stay on track of going to medical school.
Finally, it was time to take exams for medical school. I studied, and studied, and then…I received my results. No one was going to accept me to medical school with these test results. Do I take it again? Do I put myself through all that agony of studying for this exam? What do I do now? What’s the plan? Time was running out for me and I had to make a quick decision. I had to choose a career that was in the medical field and still somewhat lucrative. I had heard that Pharmacy was up and coming. I quickly decided that this was the best alternative for me, and that’s how I ended up in Pharmacy school.
Four years later I graduated with a Doctorate in Pharmacy and was about to start my career. I was proud of my achievements. I was looking forward to new opportunities and meeting new people in pharmacy. It wasn’t until a few years later that I felt secure both in my career and financially that the thought crossed my mind… “Hmmm, maybe I can explore that fashion thing now…”
That “fashion thing” started off on my first day at clothing construction-101. I was excited to start my journey in fashion design now. I was taking evening classes while still working full time at the hospital. Even though there would be long days, it didn’t matter. I was here to learn. I walked in with my professional clothes, matching heels and, all my binders and folders, ready to receive the syllabus. I walked into class. But what came next had me second guessing this whole fashion thing… what did I just get myself into?!
Want to know what happened next? Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Pill Dispenser Turned Fashion Designer where I continue my story about my personal journey to becoming a fashion designer.