July 20th, 2019, while in flight to Colorado
They say that comparison is the thief of joy..but really what they meant to say is impostor syndrome is the thief of joy. All my life, I’ve compared myself to the next brightest kid in the room. Why can’t I get those test scores? Why do I have to study three times as hard to get half the grade they did? And most of all, why wasn’t I get gifted with the ability to study, comprehend, and deliver? But little did I know, I was granted with a bigger gift. The gift to fail, cry a little, and get back up. I was born with something that wasn’t found in organic chemistry books or a lab manual, perseverance was my gift. I realized much later in my life, that it was a SKILL to fight back against all your odds. To not be defined but the no’s and the doubts of others. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew I was meant to serve others. To make a difference and to re-cultivate the image of what a “pre-medical student” looks like.
No, I was not given guidance and mentor-ship in undergraduate years. I didn’t have anyone to hold my hand to tell me what was the best course of action for picking classes. I labeled myself as a pre-med student, and did the best I could with the resources I had. Growing up as a first-generation student, was pressuring, but it was enough pressure to keep me going. To keep fighting, and to keep holding onto every dream that I have.
I realized when I was in Footprints, I had a gift of connecting with others no matter the color, the religion, the societal background, or the education. At a very young age, I was taught to respect and to love those different from me. Perhaps because my race doesn’t fit a single category, but I always felt like I could connect with anyone. But most importantly, the angry and the hurt ill children. The ones who were mad at their disease and the cards they were dealt, but often spilled and projected their anger on to their “eager” volunteers. I saw through it. And I listened to the voice that felt unheard. I knew it needed to be expressed in other ways. In ways that would bring light and moment of escape from their illness and their labeled identity of a cancer patient: art, creativity, and education. Seem like a weird mixture right? But when you mix these components together, something beautiful happens. They feel empowered, inspired, and most of all happy. I believe our emotional well-being is connected to our physical health and healing process. Whether it’s proven or not, happiness breeds confidence, and confidence generates hope. Hope mixed with purpose reveals a fighter. And a warrior among others. My journey in Footprints revealed to me that I had something special to bring to medicine. Something that could impact and re-define the mindsets of younger patients. This is something that my fellow friend, Marshall taught me. He taught me the unfair sides of cancer and the light that can be found within. Despite his suffering, Marshall always managed to find the light in the darkness. When I was stressed about an exam or flustered about my busy schedule, I just had to sit back and listen to Marshall’s spirit, Marshal’s wise mind. He believed the good could be found in anything. It was just up to you to find it and grasp it. You see, Marshall taught me it was your responsibility to find your happiness. It was up to YOU to be happy and make fun of the cards you were dealt. And that’s exactly what he did. He seized every moment to laugh , every moment to love, and every moment to create: little did I know he was my greatest inspiration to my own dreams and to own my purpose.
The seasons of my life teach me something new. Like we all know, we don’t know the purpose initially, but every season creates a stepping stone to your destiny. That’s how I would define research and graduate school: a season. A season that woke my potential up like a sleeping lion, and slapped me in the face with my so obvious gifts and talents. I learned in graduate school the difference between a s skill and a passion. During my graduate studies, I realized I had a gift of connecting and mentoring, leading, and growing from my failures. Grad school showed me it wasn’t my lack of ability, but my lack of connection and application of knowledge I had, that made pre-med courses so difficult. I didn’t have a connection with the knowledge I was gaining, and it felt so intangible to me. I would read something, memorize it, and try my best to spit it out on an exam before I forgot it. But grad school was so different. If you didn’t learn the course work and truly comprehend it, you couldn’t use it. And that became a game changer for me. I knew if I mastered the hands-on application (lab work), I could learn the theory and concepts behind it. And that’s when studying became learning, and a tool for application. I realized I needed to apply the knowledge to truly understand it. I needed to see what purpose that knowledge would have and why I needed to understand it.
To be continued….