A Turning Point

There are a few times in life where you know that you stand on the point of a needle, where one step can take you to safety or off the edge of a cliff. Right now, I stand at such a point. The figurative crossroad and many possible directions my life can take, are laid out in front of me. I cannot see where the roads will take me, but I can be certain that tomorrow will bring direction to my life. However at this moment, this unsettling feeling of uncertainty impels me to write, a welcome feeling in my mind’s wasteland of creativity.

At the surface, this turmoil is driven by a simple four-letter acronymn: the MCAT. For most, scores are but a small part of a stunning application, but for me, it’s the beginning of a dream. My scores are more than just a number, they’re the product of the hours and hours pored into studying this summer, a fiery drive, fueled in part by my grandfather’s death and my personal motivation to become a physician.

There’s a sense of inadequacy that I’ve felt from the few biographies that I’ve had an opportunity to read. Frederick Douglass, Leeuwenhoek, and a little bit of Marcus Aurelius: all great men who convey their most human traits in their greatest accomplishments. They are driven by their flaws and imperfections, sharing their experiences in humble narrative, men writing of their experiences in a different era, sharing the same sense of helplessness that I’m feeling now.

In the book Nature, Emerson explicates the hell out of this idea of shared lives. It exists across different timelines; this ephemeral connection makes history so vibrant, makes reading so crucial to understanding, and binds two random people in history, who never would have had an opportunity to meet, tighter than glue. The intimacy of reading is liberating – there’s no ulterior motive in text, one is only expected to experience and share the life of another individual for a brief moment in time.

I share this thought with you because I have found this unsettling truth at the pit of my stomach, that I really, really, truly want to study medicine, and that I see a kindred spirit in Aurelius, whose personal diary was committed to history as a primer to the philosophy of Stoicism. In Koch’s theory of pathogenesis, I see an individual, just like myself, blindly rushing towards an uncertain future, unsure of what tribulations lie ahead in discovery. In my journey, I feel the surge of adrenaline that Captain Ahab exhilarates himself on, in search of a great, monstrous whale. In all these famed characters, I see a reflection of myself, hanging in the balance, waiting for something as strange as a couple of numbers.

I know that I’ll look back at my writing, written by my self-conscious, younger self and recognize the anxiety and fear of this exam’s results, except by then, I’ll have taken many more exams, studied much longer, and have dedicated years upon years of service to an occupation that I do so truly love. Even now, it’s a foregone conclusion that I want to become a doctor, in service to the health of others, and my resolve has only been strengthened by the cloudiness of my future. In this last year of school, I’ve set my eyes on an English minor, an idea planted in my head by a close friend, an idea that I would’ve never imagined myself trying a year prior.

I think that there are not enough reasons – well thought out explanations – for why physicians want to pursue medicine. I have begun to embark on this journey, to look for what lies beyond the simple horizon, to dig deeper past the evident truths that contemporary science conveys. Research is only good in the sense that it may move us closer to satisfying the human condition, a strange conception that’s been passing through my mind recently. I absolutely love research and have been writing about my experiences in an unpublished post, but really do feel that research must serve some purpose or it will become aimless and entirely useless. However, the careful meticulousness of research is endearing, for it ties together a love for the natural world and medicine in one neat bundle.

Of course, relationships with others could hardly be called the same. The gooey mess of human life is inextricably tied to medicine and healing; medicine is the application of human relationship to purpose. My favorite quote from shadowing is the quote, “There is no profit in curing the body if, in the process, we destroy the soul” (Samuel H. Golter). In my grandpa’s last days, it was this over-soul that he carried, that now resides within me, a present from my deceased grandfather.

I think there’s a manuscript that my grandfather wrote, hidden somewhere in the bins and metal cabinets in the tiny room upstairs that he used to occupy. There, among the cobwebs and dusty keyboard that sees no more use, are sheafs of paper with his writings, his feelings and his thoughts imparted to paper. I’ve never considered my love for writing strange and it makes sense that it runs in the family, that I’m not the only one who so dearly loves chasing the idea of words on a page.

So I’ll end it on that happy note, as my eyes begin to droop and my hands begin to slow. My plan has worked out, to exhaust myself so that I can find fitful rest and escape from the nightmares that this exam has brought upon me. I am excited, for the new day, for the beginning of a week. I command this week to be one of self-renewal, regardless of what happens tomorrow. This is to you all – a short story of my background – and I look forward to all that comes with the morning sun.

Your friend,

Joseph

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