When I was growing up, Law, Medicine, Engineering were synonyms of one word: Success. Throughout my childhood, I’ve been surrounded by dedicated and hardworking people who have made their careers a living dream.
My dad has always been fond of electronic equipment and became an electronic engineer. My mom, who grew up in a male-dominated society, decided to enter the field of mechanical engineering but my late grandfather, who was a successful businessman, convinced her to become an industrial engineer, still successfully reputable.
In actuality, my parents’ family is a mix of doctors, engineers, and lawyers; people who have set the bar very high. As such, I told myself that being anything else would result in an unhappy future, one that can be avoided if I push myself, and study hard. All of my high school years have been filled with academic prowess. I moulded myself into the perfect student: high grades, a perfectionist nature, and complete devotion to school which became a second home at that point.
However, it came to a great personal inconvenience. I had a dearth of the social skills that my classmates made up for their lack of effort. I missed the self-reflective period that most teens encounter, and never understood what I was aiming for. “Just be better” I repeated to myself. But my scholarly luck ran out once I entered college.
Regular, average, typical. That is what I became after high school. I wasn’t any different from any other student that joined the Science Program. Everyone was the best student at their high school. Everyone thought that they were smarter and unique because of their strong dedication to getting an A.
The only difference for me is that most already had their career goal set: finish college, enter an elite university, all while volunteering, playing a sport, joining clubs, and tutoring (if they still had time). Meanwhile, I was left out of the future doctors or engineers or the other high-achieving career club that my classmates (or my competition) created.
I lost the drive I had in high school, the one that awarded me with Student of the Year for my graduating class and a reputation for being the smartest kid. Most importantly, I lost my identity. Since those early years, I had one defining feature: my intelligent. That’s what most described me. I always believed that my future was still secure because of how smart I felt.
Some days, being intellectually smarter than my classmates gave me a sense of superiority. I never realized how arrogant and condescending I acted around them. I got the best grades and recognition from teachers. The closer I got to a perfect GPA, the higher my self-esteem.
Once in college, I had to redefine how I saw myself. The first year of college served to explore myself, an overdue process. I learned that I had various passions apart from school: sci-fi books and movies, astronomy, jogging, volunteering, and learning languages. Slowly but surely, I was gaining insight into what I love. Now, I tell myself: “Just be happy.” I now see the world as people who try to achieve happiness instead of my competition who will steal my successful future.
While learning American Sign Language, or more commonly called ASL, I learned about the Deaf community, one that is undervalued. For one, their access to information is unequal to people who can hear. Also, they are equal and not “less” than others, a term I thought I understood until I finally accepted that they are capable of doing everything except hear. For that reason, I am proud to be an advocate for Deaf rights.
I have gone on a humanitarian trip to Ghana where I spent three weeks with Deaf kids of all ages, helping them come to term with their Deaf identity, meanwhile learning about mine. That trip taught me that I enjoy being part of their community and being surrounded by children. I felt comfortable around them.
After that trip, the thought of becoming a doctor came back. I pushed it in the back of my mind until I asked myself what kind of person I wanted to be. “A healer,” I told myself.
A few months later, I announced, once again, to my parents that I needed to become a physician. It seemed that it was the best way to heal someone.
They decided to test me by bringing me to a hospital where my mom’s cousin was a neonatal doctor. She showed me the neonatal ward which was something that my parents called a fantastic opportunity. Instantly, I felt in the right place. My curious nature overtook me and I asked how this and that worked, how was that baby’s condition, and how were they helped.
Santiago and Noella were the names of the first neonatal babies I encountered. Usually, names don’t stick in my brain, but them, I will never forget.
From that day, I told myself that I would work harder than ever to accomplish my dream: to heal all the Santiagos and Noellas that I could.
Now, I dedicate myself to become smart again, but not for my identity. This time, it was to prove that I can be successful in making my dream come true: healing children.