2016 Essay Competition - View all entries

Like a Diamond

Pamela Davis - Jacksonville, FL, United States

As children everything interests us. Some grow out of this, others like myself, do not. Therefore, my career has many facets, like a diamond, as you move it around you see different things. Looking back, it seems pretty logical I would finally settle on the major I did.

In my youngest years, I remember wanting to be a doctor or a writer. My great grandfather and his son were doctors. I never met either one, but my father's mother, would talk about them, so would my father. They seemed like very interesting people. They lived in the South, in a small town in Tennessee.

I particularly liked the story about how they saved my father's sister, Theopal, we called her Aunt Opal, from death. She was just 6 years old when she contracted spinal meningitis. According to my Grandma Davis, Aunt Opal would have died if her father, Dr. Bertram and his son hadn't worked day and night to save her. Aunt Opal lived, but did sustain damage to her cognitive functions. She seemed in many ways like a five or sixyear-old but in the body of an adult.

She loved learning though, and my Grandmother Diana, or Dina, as my dad called her, had been a school teacher. Aunt Opal went to school her entire life, while my grandmother was alive. Grandma lived to be 96 years old and many people complained to her that it was foolish to let Aunt Opal continue with her schooling into middle age, but Grandma, bless her, saw how important it was for my aunt and let her continue.

Aunt Opal was carrying her school books the first time I remember meeting her. She proudly showed my sister, Marie and I her workbook. We looked at the pages and saw it was for a very young child and we looked at each other with surprise, and some confusion I remember. We were pretty young ourselves; I do not think in school yet, but we knew that adults did not usually read books like that, but we kept silent and looked through the pages, as she proudly showed her work to us.

These experiences made Medicine alive for me. It was not just a career, it was a wonderful, life-saving endeavor, a real adventure in living. It could change lives. Needless to say, my parents did not encourage this passion I felt. They thought it was not a woman's calling. Maybe they did not see the depth of my desire to do it, but like a fire, it is so easy to douse the flames of desire in the young mind. Without proper fuel and tending, the desire is replaced by more immediate things, like dancing lessons and dates.

I really do not remember what first started me on wanting to be a writer, but I do remember creating a book, in 2nd Grade out of binder paper cut in thirds and stapled on one side. It was titled, "The Mystery of the Broken Heel". It was a mystery story. I gave it to my teacher, a young Catholic nun, in the hallway one school day, and eagerly asked her to read it. She smiled at me with her tomboyish looks and wireless rimmed glasses and walked away. It was later returned, without much fanfare, to my disappointment. I had expected more. My love for books and writing lived on though, inside me. It is still there, today. I have kept it alive. It is being rekindled, I am happy to say.

So you might ask, well what major did you select? It was Anthropology. Yes, not many people in San Francisco in 1969 were embarking on a career in that field, but I loved learning about the progression of man and cultures over time. Looking back, I now see, it is really a parallel of our life's journey, I think. We start out and things are discovered and developed along the way. Sometimes the discoveries are alone, sometimes with other people, or sometimes even with other animals.

I loved it, and this time I did not let the teachers talk me out of it, with their comments that no jobs were out there really, only teaching, and you needed advanced degrees for that. I still moved forward. By this time my parents were divorcing and busy with their own drama, so they did not say much.

I should add that I am part Native American, Cherokee Indian, my mother was from Chickasha. Oklahoma. Her mother was a self-taught herbalist. She collected the wild herbs by going out into the fields, woods and down by the rivers. The local medical doctor would often take her with him to visit patients. Her own children rarely went to the doctor. She used her own treatments and cures. So you see, Anthropology blended the medicine, the mystery and the desire for discovery of my own ancestry, in one profession. I use it all the time, but it never became my formal career. What career did I settle on? I will leave that for another essay.