An Essay

Why do you want to be a PCM Scholar?

I applied to be a member of the Patient-Centered Medicine Scholars Program at UIC. The essay I wrote for the application was largely influenced by the learning I’ve experienced whilst in India, shaped by the teachings of Krishnamurti, in part. Let me know what you think, what you feel : ) .

I search for reality. Sometimes, I feel like I find it. Other times, I feel uncertain. Other times, I find fear. We learn what to do and what not to do, what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. The thoughts and beliefs of countless others shape the experiences, memories and ‘truths’ that we accumulate as we try to figure out how we want to live with others, for others. Popular rhetoric continually urges us to know who we are, to make coherent the identity that is contained by the name, to decide what we want and what we need to do to attain it. The dogma of communicable truth is inseparable from the compartmentalization of life, from the systematic bifurcation of arbitrarily named entities. The result is a perpetual state of contradiction, a fabricated conflict that endures because the type of understanding that we are programmed to seek is unattainable. Indeed, even those constructs that are often portrayed as ends, such as happiness, fulfillment, and love, have been integrated into the same thought structures that convince us that the traditional conception of ‘success’ matters, that faith must be kept in something, that we must have a purpose – that the identity that contains the name, if nothing else, should be remembered.

As an incoming medical student, I am afraid of the institutions of thought and belief into whose jaws I willingly stroll. I am afraid of the mutations that might seem random only because I cannot understand the forces shaping my motives and intentions. I am afraid of slowly but surely turning into the physician that reduces the alleviation of others’ suffering into a task to be completed, into a wrong to be righted, into a lever-press to be rewarded. I am afraid of forever being a prisoner, of denying myself the opportunity to be what it is that I am, of never tasting freedom. But, then I recall that only I, the self, my self, can get in the way of that. And I recall why medicine is the only thing that I want to do with my existence. Unlike fear, pain is real. Everyone has a right to understanding the words that envelop them, to understand what they are and what they love. Pain gets in the way; it stays in the way. My experiences have taught me how to feel both what I feel and what others feel. I have been given time and opportunity to study, contemplate and meditate, to seek, wander and discover. I have been lucky with my health, fortunate with my body. My luck can be that of others; my fortune must be that of others.

Medicine, as a collaborative effort to achieve health justice for patients, can help people help themselves. It can provide people the opportunity to be themselves, to understand what that means, what that is. Medicine, construed as anything but ‘patient-centered,’ is just a business. And I’ve never been much interested in being a businessman.

– JiNiT

You Have To

A Pediatrician. That is what I want to be. I want to take care of the lives of children. I wonder, what is it about kids that makes them different? Why is that age in our existence always timeless? What is ‘innocence’? And why does it demand sacrifice?

Every child deserves a chance. Every single one. This I knew. But only recently did I come to see the mandates of this truth. I asked a dear friend of mine, “Would you die for an idea? For a belief?” She said ‘no.’ But then she elaborated. She doesn’t know how to pick one idea over another. But she would die for the children. She wants to be a teacher, you see. “For the children?” I asked. Her next words were grace and beauty and strength and truth, and only my respect – “I believe in their success, and I love them.”

How lucky I am, I think, to have met a spirit so aligned with what it wants to do in this life. How fortunate will be those kids to have this soul as a teacher, I think. How perfect a reason to offer the ultimate sacrifice, and to know one performed an act of duty.

She is a mother in spirit.

And I think I am a father.

My dad gave me a universe of love in 18 years. I think, ultimately, that’s what I aspire to. I aspire to be the kind of dad that my dad was.

A father so undeniably and immutably devoted to his children.

I aspire to Fatherhood as a metaphysical way of living. As a way of crafting the lens through which one sees the world and the joys, obligations and loves she sees in it. I want to defend, first and foremost, the integrity of children’s lives. More generally, I want to take care of others, while still taking every person seriously as a person. Another dear friend of mine briefly described this book he read about ‘paternal egalitarianism.’ And, my first question, perhaps rather naturally, was, ‘How can you have egalitarianism considering the inherent asymmetry in a paternalistic relationship?’ The book explores that, he assured me. I think I have an idea, though, of what an answer might be. As long as everyone bears a ‘paternally egalitarian’ mindset toward everyone else (terms loosely defined), the reciprocity summed over the whole of a society would result in citizens that both respect one another and treat all as free and equal (the ‘egalitarian’ bit) and are fundamentally committed to the well-being of one another (the ‘paternal’ bit). That’s the kind of citizen, the kind of person I want to be. A Father in spirit, a metaphysical egalitarian at heart. I want to look after kids, look out for others and myself, and effectively express that we are all fundamentally equal.

Some of us need to be teachers. They, I hope, believe in the success of their students. And I hope they love their students, as truly and manifestly as my friend does. Some of us need to be physicians. And some of these physicians need to take care of kids.

I believe in their lives, and I love them. This goes for all my patients. Fundamentally, I shall treat them as equal. I am uncompromisingly committed to the well-being of others. But, I think, in this life, the ‘others’ with whom I wish to spend the most time are children. I don’t know whether my reasons are ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ But, for the time being, I am elated to merely posses them.

I only recently came to see my foolishness. I was so convinced that my dad taught me mostly the things that I didn’t want to be as a father. So much can get in the way of seeing clearly. I only recently came to see how blessed I am to have had the parents that I have. Being a Pediatrician would be difficult, no doubt. It may be nigh on impossible not to ‘bring work home’ from time to time. So I’ll draw upon the humble resilience my mom has helped me construct. It may be nigh on impossible to not make mistakes. So I’ll draw upon the faith of my project in this life, the faith that I am trying my best, Dad, to be my best.

‘You have to die for them.’

That may be contestable. But, I think I would. This life is a treasure. All of us deserve a chance to experience that, to believe that, to feel that. I want to work with kids, because I want to help give them that chance. When an impending journey is enveloped in uncertainty, one can only prepare for the moment of departure. The commencement. Everyone deserves the chance to leave this life with contentment in their being, with a light and lightness in their souls.

My father gave me what I can only hope to give my children. He gave me an understanding of his love. And an example of what it may be to answer your calling in this life, should you hear it. He is a father that is forever with his son, for the deepest understanding is closest to the center of the infinite web that is our being. He is the father that, in letting him go, I have come to hold him somewhere much safer, in a place that absolutely nothing can dream to threaten.

Such is the present extension of my self. A ver qué traiga la vida.

Love you forever, Dad.