Was going to put this under comments to the previous post but then decided to just post it separately because it was getting kind of long. Thanks for the responses so far. They were greatly appreciated.
I've been looking into some of the other fields, but I admit only half-heartedly. I am somewhat uncomfortable with not going "all the way" and not having complete autonomy (though not even MDs really have that these days due to the insurance issues). That all being said if I manage to rule medicine and dentistry out, I'd still consider PA or PT.
For now I am putting my hopes on that summer research program I start soon. It might work out because I really do love the underlying science. I think that if I find a job where I am always learning and still contributing something to society, albeit indirectly, that perhaps I can still be happy.
Regarding my playing: I just assumed that because I started so late that there is no hope for me ever being a professional. I haven't even allowed myself to think that there is hope because when I do I tend to get starry-eyed and impractical. I do believe that I could get to a point where I could earn *some* money from oboe playing. Maybe by forming a small group to play at weddings or something like that. That would be several years off but it's definitely possible. But given that I live in an expensive area I doubt that I'd be able to make a real living off it. Plus I don't think I'd want it to become my job. I'm not sure I could take that kind of pressure.
Even though I wouldn't be able to live off it I would still like to be the best I could be. I have daydreams where I become a teacher or professor and have the summers off to devote entirely to music. Surely then I could be the best I could be?
I've always wanted to ask my teachers what my potential is but have been embarrassed to. Maybe a part of me is scared about what they'll say. If they were to say that I am not all that talented at oboe I will be sad. But if they say that I could have made it to the top I may become consumed with trying (however futilely) to live up to my potential.
I definitely can NOT live without playing, that much I know is true. Whether I can be an MD and still play the oboe is uncertain. I think I will have some time, but it's going to be limited compared to what I'd have if I didn't do medicine. If my innate oboe potential is a 500 (random number) I feel that if I go into medicine I am automatically reducing it to at least 250 due to time constraints. Perhaps that is still good enough to join a community orchestra. But maybe I'll get paged during rehearsals or I'll be on call every Tuesday, etc. If I did medicine music will NEVER be first. Medicine will always be first before anything else (even family - ouch!).
But shouldn't your passion be first? Shouldn't I try to hit that 500, or even exceed it?
Medicine and music are indeed doable, particularly for people who are already good at their instrument when they start. And for people who are good at managing their time. I am not in that position though. I'm an intermediate student at best and am a chronic procrastinator. The other issue is that I also have to start thinking about family planning because medical training would run through my thirties and into my forties. So when I add everything up together I can't convince myself that I could still be an oboist if I become a doctor, hence my hesitancy to go into it. I've often been told that you CAN have it all, just not all at the same time. My life choices have brought me to this crossroads where I'd either have to try to have it all or will be forced to give something up. And if I had to give up oboe, becoming a mom someday, or medicine, the choice would actually be really easy. Even if I do think "what if" for the rest of my life. 2 out of those 3 things I am 100% I do want.
When I think about my ideal life it includes involvement in many activities: I'd have a job that is intellectually stimulating, not like my position back in corporate America. Preferably it would be in the sciences because science makes the brain happy. Because I do like people, medicine has always seemed like the right choice, but I am actually an introvert by nature. I wouldn't exactly mind working by myself again as long as the work is meaningful to me. I could always hang out with people during lunch. I do want to help people but it doesn't HAVE to be directly through my job. For example, if I were to do research as opposed to clinical work, I could then go into inner city schools as a volunteer and talk to students about careers in the sciences. One of my chemistry professors does this. I really love talking to kids and would enjoy working that into my life somehow. Besides it might be a better way to give back than vaccine injections. I'd also go back to martial arts and finally get my black belt. The older I get the more I realize how important it is to try to stay fit. I'd have time to play my oboe every day and continue lessons. Maybe I'd even be able to take some continuing ed courses in music or something. Several schools around here have wonderful adult certificate programs. I would love to play both in an orchestra and a smaller chamber group someday. And let's not forget time for spiritual activities, family, and friends. What a busy but enriched life it would be! I've seen it time and time again that I tend to be happiest when my life is balanced, when I am able to include as many of these things as possible without too much stress. I like medicine but am so afraid it's incompatible with this ideal.
My husband too has told me that no matter which route I chose I will always wonder "what if". Maybe I just need to understand that and move on. As wonderful as medicine is every time I make the decision to go through with it I suddenly feel as though I'm trapped inside a box. That I will be in there toiling while the rest of my life happens outside of me. Try as I may I can not get rid of that imagery. When I decide that I won't do it I can imagine a life where I have time to pursue absolutely everything I can dream of. Yet there is also a hint of sadness here because I had to give something I really wanted up. Perhaps it's a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. Do I pick medicine and risk not really being present in my own life? Or do I give it up understanding that I will likely take some regret with me to the grave? I guess I can hope that the joy I will feel through my other activities will make up for it.