Where the Campus Path Leads - My Family Travels

There are times when I gaze out of my dorm room window. The view from the fourth floor of Lockhart Hall looks out onto the main walkway that runs through campus. The walkway is long, straight, and narrow. Eventually, it fades from view in the distance behind the cover of the pines and elms that line the walk. When I look out the window onto this path, I sometimes reflect on my own pathway through life. How did I get here? What am I doing now in my life? And where am I going?

My initial thoughts are thoughts of thanks.  I’m thankful that I’ve had a loving and supportive family that has always been there throughout my life.  My family has helped me form the foundation of values that have guided me, and will continue to guide me through life.  As the youngest of three boys, competition quickly became a motivating force for me.  My summers were spent playing every backyard sport imaginable while competing with my brothers and the older kids in the neighborhood.  This spirit of competition has motivated me on the football field and in the classroom.  Also from a young age, my parents instilled in me the value of compassion.  Treat others as you want to be treated was the rule.  My parents never explicitly stated this.  Instead they led me by example.  As I get older, I realize the countless number of sacrifices that my parents made for me.  My mom gave up her passion, her job as an elementary school teacher to spend more time raising my family.  At the same time, she cared for my ailing grandmother and great-grandmother.  My dad never failed to spend time helping with homework or coaching my sports team, even after the longest days of work at the hospital.  What did I do to deserve such a blessing?  I’m not sure, but I become more thankful every time I look back on my childhood.

When I entered high school, I became extremely focused on hard work.  I was motivated to make it into a good college.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in life, but I wanted to get into a good college so that all of life’s options would still be open to me.  There were only two things that I was certain of: I didn’t want to go to Princeton and I didn’t want to be a doctor.  My older brother Jon was two years older than me and was attending Princeton.  As I moved through high school, I became increasingly intent on going to a different school.  I was tired of being the youngest brother that had always followed the path of two older brothers.  I wanted something new and different.  At the same time, I thought that I didn’t want to be a doctor.  My father is a nephrologist.  Ever since a young age, he encouraged me to follow my passions.  He never pressured me into any field, and in fact encouraged me to try fields other than medicine.  “You have to do what you love,” he used to say.  Heeding his advice, I was sure that I would try something other than medicine.  I didn’t want to be a rebel, but I certainly wanted to carve my own unique path through life.

Despite this, Princeton was one of the many schools that I applied to, and low and behold, I was accepted to it.  After a lot of thought, I decided to attend.  Despite my earlier feelings, I knew that I couldn’t turn down a shot at one of the best schools in the country. Many people told me, “Cherish the time ahead of you.  It will be the best four years of your life.”  Little did I know, attending Princeton would be one of the best decisions of my life.

As college began, I enjoyed my classes and met a lot of new friends.  I consider myself a social person.  Therefore, nothing was more exciting than meeting new faces every day on campus.  In the classroom, I started to realize that I really enjoyed my science classes.  The topics pertaining to the human body were especially appealing.  I gave premed a new consideration.  I casually gained more interest as I watched shows like House and E.R. and read books like “The Making of a Surgeon” by William A. Nolen.  This book profoundly affected me.  Written in the 1960’s, Dr. Nolen details his experiences as a resident in Bellevue hospital in New York.  It allowed me to see the realistic side of hospitals that TV shows don’t capture.  These anecdotes of the challenge, moral dilemma, tragedy, compassion, and humor that Dr. Nolen experienced actually made me believe that being a doctor may be the right place for me in life.  After all, by the end of my freshman year I knew that Princeton had turned out to be the right place for me as well.  The two things that I was certain of going into college had been turned upside down.  Going to school with my brother was not a burden, it was a blessing.  It strengthened the bond that I had with him, and strengthened the importance of my family in my life.  It also helped me to realize that I don’t have to get away from my family, my interests, or my passions to be my own person.

As I look down the pathway, my thoughts come to the present.  I think about the one short month that I have left at school.  It seems like the saying has held true- college does seem like the best four years of my life so far.  Time is flying by.  Weeks pass by as if they were days.  I’m going to miss being in such a social environment, where daily interaction brings me into contact with countless friends, old and new, at all points in the day.  Whether at the dining hall, in the locker room, with my bible group, or at late night study sessions, I can exchange stories and laughs with friends.  However, I realize that life can grow with more richness each day beyond college.  It doesn’t have to stop here.

This finally brings me to the uncertain future, the part of the path that is obscured behind the leaves of the trees.  In the Bible study group that I joined this year, we often contemplate our futures together.  How can we live a life of service while still enjoying every day in our future job.  Through these conversations, I’ve come to realize that I want to be a doctor.  I want to be a doctor partly because I’ve had many trips to the hospital for stitches, broken bones, and surgeries.  Thankfully, I’ve been lucky enough to receive great care with each visit.  I also want to be a doctor because of my growing love for the science of the human body.  Perhaps most importantly, I want to be a doctor because of the same reason that I now love college: the social nature that it entails.  I want to have social interaction with new patients every day while fostering the relationships with existing patients.  I want to treat patients without judging them.  In what other field can I help people in their time of need each day, whether by sharing a smile, a laugh, or a comforting hand?  As a doctor, I can help patients that have not had the love and care that I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life.  I can give them support, just as family and friends have lovingly supported me.  I can embody the lesson that my parents taught me so long ago: treat others the way that you want to be treated.

I’ve considered pursuing a surgical career, possibly working in pediatrics.  But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that the future is uncertain.  Life often has hidden messages and gifts when you least expect them.  The last few years of my life have taken a path that I could not have envisioned.  I have grown as a person, discovering more about myself each day.  One of the greatest lessons that I have learned is to look to the future in life, but to not be afraid to let the path change.  The pathway does not have to be lonely, straight, and narrow as it sometimes appears from the view of the fourth floor of Lockhart Hall.  I can walk a pathway that unexpectedly twists and turns.  Not a path that I planned, but one that I’ve adapted to, and found contains fruits of life that I never knew existed.  I can share this richness with others.  I’ve learned that on my path, I can bring along the company of family, friends, and anyone that I meet, enjoying the journey more with each passing day.


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