Aida Alston is no stranger to alternatives to the default path. From testing out of high school at 15, to finishing college with no debt, then going to medical school for free in Cuba, Aida has been walking her version of a pathless path for a long time.

But she’s at a transition point now. She decided not to pursue clinical practice as a physician—again turning away from the default path right in front of her. She’s been a full-time stay-at-home mother since then to her two children, raising them bilingually after becoming bilingual in Spanish herself during her time in Cuba.

She’s a self-described early AND late bloomer, having sped through milestones early on but now slowly figuring out what’s next for her work and family. She understands many of the challenges of going off the default path—like the paradox of choice—and how decision-making and prototyping are skills to be learned and practiced while building a pathless path.

She is from San Francisco originally but now lives in New York with her husband and kids.

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Conversation Topics:

  1. Finishing High School at 15 and going to Med School In Cuba: Her early life, her decision to test out of high school at 15, and her journey through college and medical school. She completed her medical education in Cuba, which was entirely funded by the Cuban government.
  2. Medical Practice and Transition: Her experiences practicing medicine in Cuba and her eventual realization that she didn’t enjoy the job as much as she thought she would. Despite the privilege of having her education funded, she decided to veer away from clinical practice.
  3. Life Transitions and Mental Health: She underwent significant life transitions after returning from Cuba, including becoming a stay-at-home mother. She talks about the psychological weight of leaving a prestigious profession and the impact of these transitions on her mental health.
  4. Exploring New Paths: Her journey of self-discovery and exploration of new paths. She discusses the importance of small experiments in life and work and the value of reflection. She also talks about her experiences with writing and other creative pursuits.
  5. Late Bloomers: The concept of “late bloomers” and the societal obsession with early achievement. She references the book “Late Bloomers” by Rich Karlgaard, which highlights the value of those who find their path later in life.
  6. Sharing Her Story: The importance of sharing her story to normalize the struggles and transitions people go through. She discussed the positive response she received when she started sharing her journey on Twitter.

Quotes:

Freedom In Childhood:

I grew up with a lot of freedom around following whatever we thought was interesting. It was like from the very beginning, like if you want to do this activity, oh now you’re done with this activity you want to do this other thing, you want to do violin great, you’re done with that, you want to do gymnastics great, you’re done with that. We had a lot of freedom.

On Graduating High Schol Early

I was very determined about what classes do I need to take to make sure that I can get out and I can transfer because I don’t want to kind of extend it in three or four years at city college. I knew I just wanted to be able to graduate so that I could continue to dance.

The Good Parts of Medicine

I loved studying medicine so I loved learning the why, I liked reading the textbooks, I liked learning the physiology. So it was like I liked all that background knowledge around medicine but there were clearly people like my husband who was in the program with me, he was ahead a year ahead of me, but we met down there, he clearly loved medicine. I was like oh yeah I can kind of see the difference, I’m not quite that one.

On Ordinary Excellence

it’s okay to not be exceptional. Like there’s so much exceptionality in being regular like having my family and having the kids and teaching them all of these things and having my family come to visit like the kind of ordinary regular things are things to still be celebrated.”

👉 Follow Aida on Twitter and Read Her Writing

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