I wrote this piece in an effort to express my “circumstances indicative of some hardship”- a supplementary prompt in my 2017 medical school application. It was quite difficult trying to pinpoint what aspect of my life could qualify as hardship. I was a fairly average student with a typical middle class upbringing. Reflecting about what other people might experience in their lives I felt that it would be insulting to try and parallel my likely trivial difficulties with the true adversity of others.
During a brainstorming session for another prompt that essentially asked “what makes you unique?” my best friend and I discovered an answer to both this and the previous prompt. It gave rise to an explanation as to why I am the way I am and I found some understanding in how my experience has shaped me. I continued to reflect on this discovery and it would be a year later after this revelation that I would actually write about it.
“It is in elevated points of my life where I can consider how much I have experienced from past to present. Reflecting on them has led me to begin questioning their purpose. I am shaped by my experiences and it makes me who I am today, but is that all there is to it? I feel as if there is something more to my experiences that I am overlooking and have yet to realize. I know who I am. I know how I became who I am. But is shaping who I have become really that definitive and encompassing of what my experience’s have to offer?”
My Facebook post from November 2016
A friend of mine discouraged me from submitting a topic like this as a supplement in my 2018 application (this was prior to my miraculous admission for the 2017 cycle). He was concerned of the unintended mental implications surrounding my experience that a third party (in this case a medical school admissions committee) might derive and the risk it put on my application. However, I believed that being able to wear experiences on your sleeve is an important aspect of self acceptance, self expression, and authenticity regardless of the opinions of others.
Love is a powerful tool that nurtures us into who we are providing the constructive value and validation that leads to loving oneself. Love for me was scarce. I knew my mom showed it to me as she fed me, clothed me, provided for me– in all her actions; but she never said it. She never told me that she loved me. In contrast my dad never expressed it in his actions nor words, and instead opted to continuously remind me that I was a “nobody” among other things. Probably a result of their (my) culture where you hardly demonstrate affection, let alone your emotions– as if it were a taboo.
They say actions speak louder than words, but negativity has an overwhelming power that is long lasting and lingering. Especially when words are spoken the loudest. I cried often from what I felt was torment, but not out of sadness. It was out of frustration. That I could do nothing about my circumstances as an 8-year-old. My pent-up resentment wasn’t directed at its source, but at myself.
The resentment subsided over time, but it didn’t change that I still had not developed love for myself. Any value that I may have had was null in the face of what I was told and knew about myself. The guidance I had received for my self-worth remained deep-rooted where any successes was never adequate and amounted to nothing. My best friend noticed my tendency to never acknowledge my accomplishments whenever he brought them up. He noted that it was good to be looking towards my future goals, but stopping to recognizing my achievements will allow me to be happier and content as I pursue those goals. It took some time, but I eventually understood that it was just as much the destination as it was the journey.
What little self-worth that I had caused me to wonder “how could anyone love me, or value me?” I again brought my dilemma to my best friend asking him why did anyone in my life bother with me. His response was careful “…well, there’s a reason why I still talk to you, right? We’ve been friends for years and there’s a reason why we still go out of our way to hang out. I don’t know what that reason is, but it’s something…”. What he told me wasn’t exactly a climax in my life. My doubt as to whether or not I had value showed I felt it to some extent, but I just didn’t understand what that value was. His words did validate both me and what I had already known: that the love and validation that I had sought was around me, but I had to first grasp love for myself to perceive it from others.
I sometimes reflected deeply on the purpose of my journey wondering “Why did this happen to me? Why did I have to suffer when others were given the tools to love themselves and feel it as they grew up?” I wished I could go back in time, and give my past self a much needed hug and “I love you” to prevent it all. When I brought it up to another close friend she told me a story of a man whose small experience and resulting change in actions had a profound positive effect on his ancestors. She helped underline the realization that I shouldn’t get too caught up in a journey and its reasons. That my experiences will guide me to a better future because I will have learned from the oversights of the past.
I have since accepted my experiences and from them have gleaned my own ideals that will guide me in the future. With them I will be a better example for my lineage and society so that they reap the results of my experience without having to experience what I have. Because of the guidance I had to seek out I now value the guidance of others because of its capacity to influence the present and the future.
Originally written July 2017
While in medical school my Professor of Medical Humanities had us read about the subjective nature of suffering. Afterwards he assigned us the following prompt for which I recycled this piece: “If Eric Cassell is accurate with respect to the nature of suffering, then I know what suffering is.” This was a few months after originally writing it and I felt it captured this prompt very well without revision. I hadn’t thought of it in this context, however my experience had been both hardship and suffering.
I’ve shared this piece with a few people since writing it and as the years have passed I can only recall the main theme, and hardly the details of what I wrote. Perhaps I have become removed from my past feelings and no longer relate to them. Since originally writing this piece I have found I don’t dwell on this experience like I once did- a positive sign.