From my earlier post today, “From the Projects to the Ivy League Part 1: How I Grew Up”, the story continues…
I cannot say exactly what happened to make me this way, but for as long as I can remember, I have always dreamed incredibly BIG. I credit so much of this to my mother and the rest of my village, because for me, it took a loving, supportive environment to cultivate that kind of audacity. I also point to my background, because it took a special sort of dissatisfaction with the trajectory that my family was on that significantly empowered my grit. As I have grown up, I have continually chosen to level up by reaching for the stars and opening myself to new skills, perspectives, and experiences along the way.
Becoming a part of my educational institutions and the medical profession has opened my eyes in ways that were not readily accessible to me in my youth. In this case, it is true that you don’t know what you don’t know. If I had never braved the “acting white” unknowns, then I would have never discovered the many people who not only look like me, but also talk as clearly, move as strategically, and dream as boldly as I do. There is endless power in finding and bonding with these people in spaces not originally intended for us.
If I had never braved the “acting white” unknowns, then I would have never discovered the many people who not only look like me, but also talk as clearly, move as strategically, and dream as boldly as I do. There is endless power in finding and bonding with these people in spaces not originally intended for us.
There is also distinct privilege in exploring both domestic and international cultures distinctly different from my own. I feel an immense sense of gratitude to have learned from and shared with so many friends from countries in which I have never even stepped foot and so many people who embody the experiences of lifestyles that I may never live. THAT, my friend, is what leveling up is really about. Educational degrees matter so much less than the exchange of skills, perspectives, and experiences that will forever shape my growth moving forward.
Applying the Best of Both Worlds
While I often still feel the burden of living in two very different worlds, I have come to realize that the blessings greatly outweigh the burden. Professionally, I want to “grow up” to be the leader that my institutions have trained me to be – skilled, strategic, adaptive, innovative, and impactful. On a very basic human level, I really just want to be like my mother – a kind, authentic, and outgoing spirit who is full of southern charm, feels perfectly comfortable in her own skin, and loves to help other people feel the same way. I feel blessed to have been trained in the ways of both influences, and I am doing my best to rise to the challenge of embodying the best of both.
I find particular joy in mentoring students and counseling patients from underprivileged backgrounds, because I have personally experienced what many of them are up against, and I can use that common ground to help empower them to demand better for themselves and their families. Because of how I was raised and the experiences I have had with being treated as “less than”, I have vowed that no matter how successful I am or the people around me become in the future, I will never view anyone as anything more or less than equal to every other human being, including myself. At every university I have attended, I make it a point to approach everyone with the same level of respect, from the janitor or drug-addicted patient to the world-renowned surgeon or Nobel Prize winning researcher. In my very strong and unapologetic opinion, empowerment and dignity should be basic human rights. Perhaps, if more people felt this way, then we could better begin closing the gap that so many of us have to straddle.
For people straddling the underprivileged and privileged worlds, I have some pearls of guidance that I wish someone had given me:
- Focus on what unique skills, perspectives, and experiences you can bring into each world to make it better by virtue of your joint residency in both worlds.
- Never allow yourself to feel like you have to be the unofficial spokesperson of a particular identity, whether race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, or other, because that is a self-inflicted burden that is not necessary for you to bear in order to embrace your true authenticity.
- Recognize that we are all interdependent because everyone has a role to play, so always treat every person in all worlds with respect.
- Open your heart and mind to finding “your person” or “your people” who get it (“it” being your lived experiences in both worlds), then pour your heart and soul into them, and allow them to do the same in return.
- Give serious thought to the values you have learned from each of your worlds and create your own unique blend of the best of both worlds, ideally even using it to help mold the generation coming behind you.
Some say never forget where you come from. I say never forsake the fact that your uniquely crafted experience is your superpower, and never allow self-doubt or external biases to be the kryptonite that decides your fate.
Here’s wishing you the HAPPIest Authenticity of all!
With Love and HAPPIness,
The HAPPIest MD
P.S. Tune in later for Launch Week Day 5, featuring a Purpose principle post, “Why Medicine, Or Any Other Career for that Matter?: Asking the Career Questions that Matter Most”