Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It's Not ABOUT Me

I am moving forward, but how do I know that forward isn’t taking me away from where I am supposed to go? How do I know that forward isn’t a tangent, a distraction, a she-devil in disguise? For my entire life I have known that I would go to school until I could add the letters PhD to the end of my name. For my entire life, that is, after I decided that indeed I would never be a great toe dancer and grace the stage with my incredible toe-dancing prowess. I even had the general direction, medicine or a similar field, set in my head. So, here I am, cracking the books at nearly fifty to pursue that piece of the person I first met as an acne-ridden teenager in Ms. Chapman’s biology class. I won’t call it a dream that I am pursuing. It was never a dream, a vision existing only in my head until that day I decided to act upon it enough to see it to reality. It was never a dream. It was always just a fact, like childbirth or wrinkles or menopause. Just as I was always left-handed, I also was always a doctor. Always.

Now that I am here, though, I can’t help wondering if this is really where I want to be? Is this really who I am? Was my fourteen-year-old self wise enough to know what she saw when she looked in that mirror? Was she confused, too hopeful? Was she simply acting out against a past she never wanted to meet up with again? Because, yes, becoming a doctor is my way of thumbing my nose to poverty, to hunger, to teachers who looked down their noses at a scrawny little cigarette-smelling mouse of a girl with too many questions, not enough compliance. Becoming a doctor is my way of getting as far the heck away from not having enough money for store-bought Valentine cards, field trips, or a hot tray lunch as I possibly can get. Becoming a doctor is my way of standing in front of all those people who made fun, who put down, who dismissed and saying, “Kiss my ass, world, for not believing in me. You had no idea the sass and gumption inside that little girl. No idea. And here I am. Here I am, where I am, so that I can serve YOU. Dismiss me NOW.”

The funny thing is, I no longer feel a need to prove. I no longer feel the need to show others that I am smart and capable and worthy. I know that I am smart and capable and worthy. That is enough. That is all that I need. I no longer feel the need to prove to myself that I will never again be in that place, that place of cold floors, dilapidated homes, that place of fear and humiliation. I no longer feel the need to prove to anyone that I am the same, that I, indeed, am the same as you.

So why, then, am I doing this? My time is limited, the work is hard, and I am no longer certain that I desire the end product.

Why am I doing it? I am doing it because of a teacher, a writer, and an entrepreneur.

It was that high school biology teacher who saw potential, who believed in me when others didn’t. She made sure that I was able to attend summer seminars offered at local universities. I was the nerd, yes, who studied genetics and contraception and tse tse flies when other kids were hanging around the community pool. I loved it. I loved every single second of it. Not only did this teacher make sure that I attended these seminars that my parents could never have paid for (and where the money came from, I have no idea), but she believed. She called me doctor. She put a thought into my head that a possibility existed, a possibility that, to this point, was beyond my grasp, beyond because as much as I desired to go to college, college was not an option for me. It was not an option because not only did my family have no money, but my father, through his dodging of paying his share of taxes, made applying for loans or grants impossible. This teacher, however, believed. And she let me know that she believed.

I am pursuing this goal, too, because of a quote, a simple line from a favorite author. Anne Lamott once said that “only one six-billionth of this is about you.” I am pursuing my degree because my life is not about me. My life is about what I have to offer others, what I was graced with, what I have a responsibility to give back. I have gifts and talents and skills that are not my own, that are not for me. I have a responsibility to use these, to use these for others. And I will.

I am doing this, too, because of the opportunity provided by a local entrepreneur. I am doing this because there was once a young girl who was smart and capable and worthy and who had a vision of herself as a doctor, a vision of herself helping others, putting herself out there to empower others to follow their callings, to better themselves, to become everything they were put here to be despite hardship, lack, or obstacle. I am doing this because a business owner had taken a liking to a man pouring sealant on his parking lot, a man who had a daughter of whom he was very proud. The man was proud because his daughter was smart and got good grades and wanted to go to college. She would be the first in the family to do this. He himself had quit school after tenth grade and wanted to give her this. He wanted to give her this, but he couldn’t. Still, he was proud. No, the man could not send his daughter to college. But the business owner could. And he did. He paid for the man’s daughter to attend her entire first year. He offered the opportunity, the foot in the door, for this child he had never met.

And, so, I will take that opportunity that I was given, and I will send it back into the world to provide the same for others, to move forward in love and compassion and giving. I will move forward, tangent or not, in order to say thank you to a man I will never meet.

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