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.
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.