July 4, 2010 is a day that will be forever etched into my brain. It's the day that I truly had a moment to reflect on what 'independence' means to me as an American citizen and as a sister who has a brother commissioning into the Navy in a few weeks. He'll be a "Navy doctor" when all is said and done, and I couldn't be more proud. The Navy will pay for the entirety of his medical education, and I know he's excited. Yet, as "Anchors Aweigh" proudly graced my ears during a church service yesterday, I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride. My brother, a soon-to-be first year medical student, is willing to make his medical education all about service to his country, and for that, I'm eternally grateful. As I stood with my hand over my heart, I fought back tears.
Since the rocky start that we had to him accepting my wanting to become a doctor, I've talked it out to him. He understands, he's completely on-board, and he teaches me every single day. You see, he spent a year in a Carribbean medical school, but due to some financial issues with the institution, he had to come home for a while and reapply in the United States. He's so excited, and I'm so excited for him. He'll be at a school about an hour and a half from me, so I'll take weekend trips to see him, to help him study, and to just enjoy our time. I love him. So, so much.
Further, I began thinking. Independence means that I, as a disabled American citizen, can become a doctor. And that is the greatest gift I can think of getting. No matter the challenge, Americans live in a country where there has been legislation adopted that protects them and that ensures equality. Though I, and the many others with disabilities will have difficulty that is unexpected or not able to be foreseen, it is incredible to me that there is such a freedom where, in essence, those difficulties don't matter. That is such a blessing and such a reward, and I'm so honored.
Later in the afternoon, we went to see the new version of the film Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. Honestly, it was one of the deepest films I've seen in a long, long time. A scene that stuck out to me and that will most likely creep up in later writing took place after Jaden Smith sustained an injury to his knee during the semi-finals of the kung fu tournament. As he laid in pain on the stretcher, he asked Jackie Chan if he should return to the match, and Jackie Chan said that he didn't think his current condition would permit it. Jaden, the twelve year old that he is, reminded Chan of something he told Jaden a long time ago. He said, "When life knocks you down, you stand straight back up."
I couldn't help but think about that as being exactly the philosophy that medicine has instilled in me. Not necessarily for what it has done for me as a patient but what it has done for me as a future doctor is incredible. I have so, so much to be thankful for, including the patients I will serve, the insights they will give me, and the trust that is instilled in a doctor-patient relationship. See? It's not about me. It's about them.
May you all discover the beauty of independence and the gift of freedom!