Around this time last year, I was celebrating the holidays by myself in my apartment in Durham, NC (my roommate and most of my friends went home for the holidays). It is not as bad as it might sound to some people because I appreciate the tranquility and my time alone. Spending the holidays by myself helped me reflect on my journey and the next step I need to take.
Around this time last year, I was also dealing with many family issues, and I was worried about how I'm going to manage my MCAT studies along with my graduate school coursework. Besides, someone recommended that I should consider nursing instead of medicine because as a nursing student I would be able to have a job while I’m in school as I was having financial difficulties. I thought it was a realistic and honest suggestion as the person knows me well, but I’ve never considered nursing as a career choice (I could talk about why I’m interested in becoming a physician in another blog post). The good news is that I have received an acceptance to one of my top medical schools (yay). I feel like I have accomplished some of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year; thus, before setting myself new goals for the upcoming year, I would like to reflect.
To sum up, 2018 has been an excellent year for me and it has allowed me to learn more about myself: strengths and weaknesses.
However, Let’s take a step back into seven years ago…
Around this time seven years ago, I have been living in the US for about three months, and I was eager to pursue my goal of becoming a physician. As I arrived here, I quickly became aware that terms such as ‘poverty,’ ‘corruption,’ ‘hunger,’ ‘disease,’ and ‘death’ often infiltrate conversations regarding West Africa. However, I felt that I lived a rich life in Benin. I grew up surrounded by love, wealth, integrity, happiness, and vivacity. My mother (RIP) always ensured that my four siblings and I never lacked anything. She pushed us to further our education and to be contributing members of society. Upon moving to the US, however, I realized that we did not have it all. Though I knew that great opportunities lay ahead of me in the US, having to learn English, integrate into the American culture, live in more impoverished conditions than I was accustomed to, and face the backlash of being an African immigrant man was quite difficult. My confidence plummeted as I navigated life in my newfound home.
I think it is important to remember where you came from and what you have been through. Sometimes, when I'm having a bad day, thinking about where I was years ago helps me remember that I can overcome the issues and fix the problems that I have now. This incredible feeling of knowing how far you've come in life has no match with the feeling of being defeated.
Now back into 2018,
I believe my experience moving to NYC at 17 had helped me to quickly adapt when I moved to Durham, NC for graduate school and when I was working this summer in Hong Kong. When you live in a city like NYC where everything and everyone is constantly on the go, you learn that it is essential to maintain effective self-care routines and a strong social support network. However, you also learn to keep your circle small.
Keeping my circle small has been an essential aspect of my year. From my experience during my undergraduate years, I have learned that I don't need a million friends in my life to feel supported and happy. Friendship is so valuable to me, and I am so grateful to the friends I have in my life. If I consider you one of my really good friends (even if I don’t talk to you often), know that I trust you, respect you, and I am loyal to you as a friend. I don't need the fake people in my life, and neither should you.
If you are in the same situation like I was in undergrad (I had a lot of friends back then huh) and find that distancing yourself from some people might benefit you more than harm you, then do it.
In my case, I try to stay away from some of my friends who do not understand their privileges--especially those who don't understand why unlike them I must have two or three jobs to survive. We all have privileges and what hurt me is when some people don't acknowledge their privilege or worst--deny it. I'm also privileged. I speak multiple languages; I have unique experiences growing up in Africa. I'm a heterosexual, cis-gender, Beninese-American; I have a master degree from Duke and I'm going to be a physician...Understanding my privilege has given me the opportunity to put myself into someone else shoes and realize what hoops they have to go through to be successful.
I also learned this past year to not take things personally. For example, I have had people telling me that I would not become the successful fashion model or influencer I thought I was going to be a couple of years ago. Although, I initially didn't appreciate it, I'm grateful that they have told me that--more importantly, I'm thankful for the experiences and the opportunities I was able to get as an aspiring fashion model. My “short modeling” career has allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, meet and work with amazing and passionate people.
I’m excited about going into this new year knowing that I’m getting closer to my dream of becoming a physician. Thus, I have to set myself new goals. My only goal for 2019 is to be happy because one of the lessons I have learned in 2018 is that having a lot of goals can reduce my overall happiness. Therefore in 2019, I'm just trusting the process and enjoying my journey.