Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago, I was studying furiously for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) while trying, unsuccessfully, to deny that I was falling in love with the man who would soon become my husband. Ten years ago, I was still uncertain of who I was, still trying to prove myself through my accomplishments, still seeking my identity in the approval of those around me. Ten years ago, I needed to be able to say I was pre-med in order to feel like I was somebody, believing I would only enjoy life if I was doing something that other people validated was important, impressive. Even though I think my heart knew all along that my most natural aptitude, my most passionate endeavors had nothing to do with chemistry, physics, calculus, and biology, I pressed on until life circumstances gave me the freedom to be honest with myself--and what a relief that was.

To let go of the pressure. To let go of the nagging questions of whether this was really what I was made to do. To enter fully into the life I knew with certainty I was called to, with Josh.

I took the MCAT and scored a decent score overall: it certainly wouldn't ensure my entrance into medical school, but it wouldn't eliminate me from consideration, either. A closer look at the score, however, spoke volumes. Of the three equally-weighted sections of the test--physical sciences, biological sciences, and verbal reasoning--I scored the maximum points possible on verbal reasoning and squeaked out a barely respectable score on the other two. As a pre-med English major, I was competent in both, but it was clear which one was in my bones, which one I was designed for. And let me tell you, it isn't chemistry.

My husband, however, is a PhD chemical engineer with an education from a world-renowned university, brilliant beyond description in the hard sciences, creative beyond measure when it comes to fixing, rigging, or otherwise MacGyvering his way through a problem (and here he grows terribly embarrassed by my gushing). So my science background isn't for naught. It's nice that I have a basic understanding of the sciences, that I generally know what an oligomer or an isomer is, that he can describe at a semi-technical level the experiments he's conducting at work without totally losing me, and that we can converse in science speak over breakfast, as in, "A bike ride with the kids sounds fun, but I'm not sure I can muster the activation energy to make it happen."

And I'm still wholly fascinated by the body. I've studied a bit of nutrition and exercise physiology over the last year as I've trained for the MS150; my understanding of the nervous system has been useful as I've sought to understand the pathology of multiple sclerosis since my sister's diagnosis four years ago; and I love teaching Ben all about the systems of the body, from the way his digestive system uses the different foods he eats to the reason Auntie NetNet sometimes has trouble walking to the important job our respiratory system has in supplying the oxygen our body needs to live.

Nothing in life is wasted--no experience, no relationship, no knowledge, no belief, past or present, even when it comes from a place of vain, selfish glory.

In late August of 1999, Josh and I drove my parents' little black Honda Prelude from my hometown in California to my home in Boston over four 16-17 hour days in the car. This trip solidified our suspicion that we were meant for each other, and I no longer bothered trying to deny that I was wildly, madly in love with this man. In the fall, I set in on my honors thesis on the role of medicine in Jane Eyre, in June I unreservedly accepted Josh's proposal of marriage, and seven months later, I walked down the aisle with more certainty and conviction than I'd had about anything thus far in my life. I had completed the pre-med curriculum and the MCAT, and that was enough for me: to prove to myself that I could, and then acknowledge with relief and a bit of trepidation that I wouldn't, pursue medical school.

Ten years ago, if you had asked me what I would be doing in ten years, I could not have conceived of the place I am now, neither of the events that have transpired nor of the peace and fulfillment and confidence I have--wholly apart from my accomplishments (or lack thereof). This is a gift of grace, and one I could not give myself.

I imagine I will feel much the same in another ten years.

1 comment:

  1. Go Shaundra! Thank you for sharing your heart. This is as good as going to the grocery store with you or just the two of us riding in the car and accomplishing your errands. Thanks!


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