Every Door is Open.

Today I was walking through the hospital to the cancer Institute, like I do every morning, when a glossy photograph of a neurosurgeon in the hallway caught my eye. I’d seen this collage of pictures on the wall hundreds of times, but today it hit me:

I can do anything.

Neurosurgery is actually the last thing on my career list, but today I remembered that if I truly wanted to do it – I could. If I decide that my heart truly sings when it’s transplanting lungs, or threading catheters through veins to remove a blood clot, or rushing off in a helicopter to the scene of an accident, or finding new herbal treatments for cancer – I can do it.

But this wasn’t always my future. My roots were born where Christmas didn’t happen every year, the government paid for my school and my lunches, and I knew the stale taste of food banks. My childhood friends have grown up to flaunt their bare bodies for money, and I have no doubt that my future wouldn’t have been much different had I not driven myself to pursue something that I believed was impossible. This wasn’t something that was handed to me or something I stepped into.

You have to have a vision – one that you create. One that you don’t have to push yourself towards because it pulls at you. You have to gain the passion and the unwavering confidence to know that even though the other guy has a million things you never did, you can fall seven times and stand up eight. You’ll show up earlier and work harder and longer, and you’ll be happier the whole way through – because this wasn’t something that was handed to you.

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A Tiny Olive.

In the small conference room stuffed with soft, plump armchairs and soothing colors, the only clues into the bad news that get relayed here were the tissue boxes sitting on every hard surface.

Why did this family, with the most adorable little girls adorned with bows and flower dresses and glitter sandals, have to be the one sitting on the couch? Blank faces nodded as the genetic counselor carefully explained the deleterious mutation found in their daughter, which was likely at fault for her tumor as an infant and would likely contribute to many more masses throughout her life. She paused before connecting the possible link connecting their daughter to their own genes, and the need for further genetic testing to evaluate the family’s risk.

I found myself staring at the oil painting on the wall above them as they signed the forms. Paintbrush strokes had precariously placed a mountain goat on a thin path sliced from the rock face, with another goat lying on a slanted precipice above sheer cliffs. Wispy clouds hugged the adjacent rugged peaks and masked their surroundings. But experienced brush strokes had captured a moment of fleeting serenity, in which a few streaks of sunshine had burst through the cloud cover and infused the ground around them – basking them in golden light. My mind began trailing the many possibilities to explain the treacherous scenario and the grounded goat. Were they merely trekking home, or on a much longer journey? Was the goat tired and simply resting? Was it ill? Where would they go from here – without any clear path ahead?

The standing goat stared on while the family’s blood was quietly drawn beneath it, capping and sealing their futures inside. Standing on uneasy ground with incredulous challenges obscured ahead, it’s beady eyes were fixed forward – braced and ready.

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The House They Built.

Before the lands were riddled with metal and lights, a man and a woman built a house. It was in the heart of the warm months, and the nights were so clear that they merely crafted their four walls of bundled sticks and left the roof open to the stars. Building their house was incredibly easy – effortless almost – and their first months were filled with smiles and freedom, tangled on their floor laughing and whispering into the early morning light.

Then one day, a storm rolled over the mountains. Giant, grey clouds glowed bright with lightning and it’s anger shook the ground. The man and the woman trembled in the downpour, filled with fear and uncertainty about the future. Their house was flattened in the storm.

After much deliberation, they decided to build another house. This time, they would build it closer to the valley walls for protection. The woman was delighted by having the river to look out on, and they soon found excitement in building their new home. The man would return dripping with sweat, exhausted from chopping trees. The woman worked tirelessly to help clear the ground for their new home and to gather food and cook for them each night. Together, their hands created four thick, oak walls and a sturdy roof. The hours of labor and frustration and failures were dwarfed by the feeling of gratification that overwhelmed them as they slept in their warm house through the winter months. Blankets of snow and screaming winds raged outside, but they spent their nights singing old songs and playing cards in the light of their fireplace.

Then the snow melted, and the peaceful river became an angry, raging force of nature. It ripped trees from it’s banks and cut at the soil. The man and the woman watched, broken hearted, as pieces of their house were torn apart and swept away in the flood.

The man and the woman were devastated, and the storms continued to relentlessly pour over them. The man and the woman cried many tears. They both considered what to do next: try again and face another failure or depart on separate paths.

After many nights, they finally made a decision. They left the valley. The soles of their feet cracked and callused walking the mountain ridges. When they finally arrived, their tired eyes looked to each other and lips moved. They turned their backs on each other, and the man marched into the trees to find the best trees and the woman began clearing the spot they had chosen. They learned from their previous mistakes. They built their walls stronger this time. The man built the porch the woman had always wished for. The woman created a mud mortar to seal the cracks in the walls to prevent the wind whistling that had frustrated the man before. The man and the woman worked on the house for months.

Finally, the house was finished. The man and the woman were much older now, and their long talks had become clipped by familiarity. Smile lines had been etched into their faces, along with the worry lines. The man and the woman laid down for the first time in their new house. The man’s rough hands gently wrapped around the woman, and the same whisper brought the same laugh. The same familiar heart beat skipped inside their ribcages, and they fell asleep within the sturdy walls of their new, safe home.

The years passed,

and the seasons came and went,

but the storms never shook the home the man and the woman built again.

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