“You matter.” A bold statement from a stranger.
In October 2015, someone I love very much lost someone truly special to them. I had just started medical school and this news really jerked things into perspective. Life is not a passive force; it is something we are meant to live. With all the marvels at our disposal, too many people live contented with apathy and ignorance regarding the world around them. I’m sure we all have spoken with patients who are afraid that death comes before ever knowing what it means to truly live.
“(Seriously though: don’t waste your time with someone who is going to yank you around. Wear your heart on your sleeve and embrace the pain. It’s the best reminder we have that we are alive right now).”
That was the moment I decided to make a change. I removed the people from my life who were toxic and invested more into the relationships I need to experience raw happiness. (Seriously though: don’t waste your time with someone who is going to yank you around. Wear your heart on your sleeve and embrace the pain. It’s the best reminder we have that we are alive right now). The emotional aftershock drew me away from my studies, but the change made me a better “me.” At the end of the day, our lives don’t really matter to anyone except ourselves and those we touch around us.
My cousin is one of the strongest women I know. Strength is getting slapped in the face by something you never asked for and not letting that slap destroy you. She cried; I encouraged it. Despite the number of people who told her not to cry because it’s “not what he would want,” I encouraged the tears to come. Tears don’t make someone weak. Giving up makes someone weak. I always wonder why she doesn’t give up; I can’t say with certainty that I’d be as strong if I lost someone I loved so much so suddenly. I’ve learned a great many things in these last two months about the importance of love and what it means to love someone.
“We are healers, and we are human… The person – NOT THE STUDENT – matters.”
When I die, no one is going to care how I did on my HB-1 exam. People aren’t going to care how much research I performed in medical school and they won’t care how many officer positions I held. Most people I know will not bat an eyelash when this phase of my life is over and they’ll never see me again. That’s okay.
For the people in my life who do matter – the ones who love me because I’m a neurotic, impulsive, genuine, loony redhead – they will remember all the people I healed, what my smile looked like and how I affected their lives. It’s fruitless for me to sit around and compare myself to everyone else because the people who love me don’t care about everyone else. They care about me, just like the people in your lives care about you.
What matters? What matters is the way we affect others. We are healers and we are human. We have the capacity to love and this is a gift that never runs out. It’s one of the only emotions we are able to experience that does not ever see a plateau, and it is so often wasted. People matter. The people we love matter. The people we are — NOT THE STUDENTS — matters. Don’t lose yourself and your ability to love in the chaos that is school. Do not become so narrow-sighted that you forget how to love.
“Our self-worth is not intrinsically bound to our identities as students… Please, do not forget that.”
Before our parents even knew what we were capable of, they loved us. Years before our stellar academic performance became our reputations, we made friends as toddlers and in kindergarten. When we were accepted into medical school, we had friends who were there no matter what. We forget that our self-worth is not intrinsically bound to our identities as students. Please, do not forget that. Do not forget what matters. Because, at the end of the day, if this world burns to the ground, we only have each other.
You don’t realize how precious life is until it’s snuffed out. Don’t waste the time you have being passive. Be a force! Discover the love you have and let it consume you, and you’ll never feel alone. Medicine is not life; medicine is only a tool that helps sustain it. Although we have all heard the phrase, “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself,” it feels selfish and nonessential to do so.
Take care of yourselves. It isn’t selfish.