Braving the unknown
“Do you still want to become a doctor?”
Silence. Her eyes stare back at me with some sort of emotion I cannot comprehend. It seems to be a mix of a lot of things — doubt, frustration, worry, sadness, anger.
“I asked, because, you know, with all that’s happening, I just wanted to make sure. Is this what you want to do for the rest of your life?”
She drops her gaze. I don’t need to remind her. She knows. COVID-19 didn’t just go around infecting people and taking lives. It also planted seeds of despair wherever it pleased. It showed us the real state of our country. Health care workers, left and right, have aired their thoughts, pleading for someone, anyone, to listen.
“How are you feeling right now?”
Still, silence. She keeps her eyes down. I understand. It is usually difficult to answer vague questions like that. But I need to know how she feels, for me to be able to help her.
Finally, she speaks: “I’m scared.”
Her eyes remain cast down as she continues: “I’m not scared for my life. I know where I’m going when I die. But I’m scared because I don’t know if I will be able to do anything to help, even by becoming a doctor. Because for me, a doctor doesn’t just treat patients. By extension, a doctor also treats the community, and eventually, the nation. I don’t think I can do that. I’m not brave and smart enough.”I wait for a few seconds before I reply. Her concerns and worries hold value. And there’s no use sugarcoating things, because it’s obvious — our nation’s health care system is in dire need of change, a long overdue one.
“I think you’re being too hard on yourself. Why not take it easy and—”
She looks up suddenly, and I stop talking. Her eyes hold a steady, determined gaze. “I can’t,” she says. “If I don’t think this way, I won’t be able to help create the change we need. We aren’t looking for band-aid solutions to a systemic disease. We have to find a long-term solution. We can’t just sit back and say ‘This too shall pass’ without doing anything. There has to be something we can do. But I don’t want to be all talk and I don’t know if I’m up for the job. I’m not good enough. And I’m scared.”
There is a desperation in her voice that tugs at my heart. She wants so much to help, but she doesn’t feel confident enough. How many others feel like her? But before I can reply, the corners of her mouth pull up slightly. She’s trying to smile, despite the uncertainty.
“But I won’t give up, you know. It scares me to become a doctor. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, and I don’t know if I will be able to do anything worthwhile, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. I’m scared, really scared, but I won’t stop here. I would rather face the unknown than be stuck in a place of ‘what ifs.’ If there is even the smallest chance that moving forward would help someone, I would.”
I smile back. She is braver than I thought. With a lighter heart, I realize that I didn’t help her. She helped me.
As I gaze at her in front of the mirror, I see something else in her eyes.
* * *
Claisyl B. Casiwan, 25, is a fourth year medicine student.
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