This video has become my anthem – one that I could probably recite backwards in my sleep. Every single day I let it’s words sink deep in my tissues and reverberate off my ribcage.
Because it is so easy to forget
that you truly have no idea what you are capable of.
Never be discouraged.
Never hold back.
Give everything you got.
Fall forward. – Denzel Washington
I never used to cry during movies.
Those people quietly sobbing and blowing their noses during movies never made sense to me. The truth is, I just didn’t have enough experiences yet. As I grew older, I realized the pain my mother endured leaving her abusive marriage, and I watched the golden view of my father wither away into a person I don’t recognize. I watched horrible things get worse, and instead of not feeling anything during movies, I began to feel too much. It’s like watching a movie where a parent loses their child, and the parents in the audience are the only ones crying. Because they can relate. And now I watch a scene filled with pain or heartbreak or loss and I can’t stop the tears from coming out. Now I cry nearly every time I watch a movie.
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.
As I bee-line towards the East Coast over valleys and states, I have realized the irony in my temporary escape:
My father, bound in dependence and adult briefs in the corner of an assisted living home, re-iterated his death wish to my sister just before my plane took off.
My mother, buried in years of depression that had been washed over by alcohol and pain pills, was headed to the hospital for presumptive liver failure.
Yet here I was, strapped in and headed to a national conference where I would be surrounded by patients whose greatest wish is to simply stay alive.
I am traveling from those who don’t care to stay alive, to become immersed around those who would do anything for it.
What a divine coincidence.
For me, Easter symbolizes rebirth, just as Christians celebrate it for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter was named for a Saxon goddess known as Ostara (Oestre/Eastre), who was a symbol of the dawn and the spring. In ancient times, eggs were a potent symbol of fertility and often used in rituals. To this day, rural midwives – such as those in the Appalachian Mountains – embrace this philosophy by predicting the sex of an unborn child by dangling the egg from a string over the belly and watching the rotation. For centuries and across many cultures, decorated eggs have been tokens to wish for prosperity and abundance in the coming year.
Easter has rooted itself deep in my chest as my favorite holiday. Do you know that feeling as you walk out to witness the first snowfall of the year? It is the loudest calm I have ever heard. For a moment, I find myself holding my breath in the wake of the quiet stillness, witnessing a transcendental display of the turning of another new page in the year. To me, Easter symbolizes another turning page: awakening the new year. It’s the first sunny day after a long, cold winter: where people come pouring from their houses to fill the streets of the city. This is my New Year – buzzing with life and growth, emerging from winter and budding towards the sun.
I fear the unknown. My summer research project, for which the funding and IRB are not established, send a heavy pit into my stomach. A medical research trip, by myself, trip to rural India paralyzes me in fear. The complete ignorance of everything I must tackle on my own creates a violent drum in my chest: obtaining a visa, the correct vaccinations, traveling through Mumbai alone. The expansive unknowing of extracurriculars I should be doing, leadership positions I should be tackling, applications I should be submitting.
Then I realized: each unknown variable is a plea for personal expansion and growth. To plunge forward in something so entirely foreign to you would provide more growth and learning that you can even imagine. These are the experiences that push you farther than you’ve ever known, because they are nothing like you’ve ever experienced. You have the tools to conquer them. These are the ambiguous obstacles that could initiate life-altering shifts, if you accept the opportunity. You have the chance to decide to embrace that fear and allow it to surge through the marrow of your bones. Recognize it as opportunity, excitement, and a privilege.