There was a time where I would have given anything for someone to come down from the ether and tell me exactly what I was going to do with my life–at times that part of me still exists; but lately, I’m starting to understand the joys of being stuck. Stuck in my plans, and thoughts, forced to get dirty and find my way out.
Albert Camus wrote of Sisyphus, a Grecian punished in Hell, forced to push a boulder to the summit of a great mountain. Each time he nears the top, the boulder falls from his hands and rolls down the mountain, forcing Sisyphus to descend and collect it, only to make his climb again. Camus argues that even though Sisyphus is condemned to repeat this action for eternity, he must ultimately find happiness in his misfortune. The drudgery of Sisyphus’ life allows him to eventually forget the man, the King, he once was and focus strictly on who he is in that moment, who he is trying to become, and the task at hand. There was no longer a fear of failing because Sisyphus knew the outcome, instead, Sisyphus was to find his joy in the path that lay before him and how it differed each time: a pebble out of place, a different foothold than what had been before, an easier road than one previously taken–Sisyphus’ solace was in the momentary deterioration of his monotony, a fate worse than death.
Too often do men and women search their lives for this same solace–a momentary respite from their commutes to their 9-5 jobs, the endless household chores, paper crunching, phone calls, yammering of co-workers, hours of commercial television all leading up to the two weeks a year that they’re allowed to get away. Two weeks that will leave them refreshed if they were able to put enough away to allow themselves to escape–to see a small glimmer into a future that they wish they had if only they had followed their dream, their passion in life, instead of settling for the immediate satisfaction of what was certain in the here and now, trapping them, forcing them to focus each year on two out of fifty-two weeks that allow them the life they originally chose for themselves early on, before they started playing the game of growing older, the game of pretend–of being grown up.
Sisyphus was happy because he had no other choice. He found solace in his Hell, but it was a hell that he was sentenced to, whereas most of us make the conscious decision to live in our Hell because we fear a future that is not guaranteed, we fear to make the leap of faith necessary in order to pursue our passion.
My choice to pursue medicine was not easy to make–in fact there are times where I often question my decision, where I challenge myself to see if it’s truly what I want, and the answer has been yes for a vast majority of the time. I’ve chosen to life my life with a purpose that was not bestowed one, but one that I decided to give myself: I want to help people, I want to leave this world better than I found it, I want to teach, I want to instill in someone the same glimmer of hope for our future as a global society that I would often feel growing up when I learned about our triumphs and our failures in school. I want to bring that hope back to the classroom, I want people to be curious again and to feed their curiosity with whatever inspires them–I want people to be inspired–because lately, it feels like we’ve given up.
I want to become a physician with a focus in global health. One of the reasons why I love medicine is that it’s one of our greatest equalizers. Medicine respects no borders or beliefs–it transcends all boundaries, and reminds us that everyone, regardless of religion, political beliefs, color, creed, or background, is ultimately the same, and as such is deserving of the same access to medical care. I believe in a universal healthcare system–something I feel is attainable if we let go of our pride as a nation–I believe in sustainable energy solutions for ourselves and for our planet, because it is the only one we can currently call home. I believe in the universal access to food, clothing, and clean drinking water, and that all people are entitled to them; and I believe that I have the drive to, at least in some small part, help accomplish these goals as a physician by helping people understand that these things are important, and that they matter.
When people first think of medicine, they think of the sick and injured. And while these are two major components, they paint a very reactionary picture of physicians and the types of medicine each choose to practice. Often, people forget about the preventative measures in medicine, about the importance of policies and education needed to instill in the global community in order to affect change. Hunger and famine are not medical issues–they’re political, and medicine needs a bigger role in politics; the ultimate goal of the physician is to advocate for her patient. To help them avoid sickness altogether by educating them on better living habits, and by standing up for them when they might not be able to themselves.
Recently, the international community decided on the symbol of our planet because many feel that it is highly likely that extraterrestrial life–at least at the microbial level–will be found within the next ten to twenty years: an amazing feat of accomplishment. And as proud as I am of the scientific community for their accomplishments and for their hope in all of us–what’s ultimately represented in our planet’s flag is the assumption that paints humanity as unified in the face of the probable existence of the inter-stellar community; but are we? Most would say no, we live a world of mutually assured destruction; but I believe that it’s possible, and I hope and plan to be part of the change that unifies us as a global community under the banners of the medicine, global health, and the humanities.