What I’ve learned in China

231/365: Xinjiang Cowboy SilhouetteXinjiang Cowboy/231/Nikon FE2/Expired Fuji Velvia 50/Xianjiang/China

232/365: Chicago Crossing Chicago Crossing/232/Yashica Electro 35 gsn/Kodak Tri-x 400/Chicago/IL

236/365: Hutong Construction Hutong Construction/236/Yashica Electro 35 gsn/Ilford HP5+/Beijing/China

239/365: My Prayers Smoldering My Prayers Smoldering/239/Olympus PEN FV/Kodak Tri-x 400/Guangzhou/China

In the last 9 months I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned how to approach public health research, how to address missteps and mistakes with poise and a positive attitude. I have started the process of defining my dreams and am ready to start my fourth year of medical school. I know what I will talk about in residency interviews. I’ve discovered confidence I didn’t think I possessed. I uncovered and refined my passions. I have gained a greater understanding of my motivations and what I need in order to continue to grow as a person. Most importantly I’ve learned what I love most in my life: Jennifer An.

I’ve been so self-obsessed with chasing prestige and what I imagined others to think would be important for my career that I glossed over other aspects of my life that I knew deep down were the most important. It was a battle of my heart and my mind and for the longest time I let my mind prevail. I justified my mind’s victory over my heart’s desires with career aspirations and countless petty excuses that I now realize are meaningless. I’ve been terrified of commitment and that next crucial step in a relationship where you plunge everything you have into making something take root and thrive. But, if I get another chance, I won’t let fear stop me anymore from loving the one that matters most to me.

It is interesting how one day things just click. How clarity can just set in at a moment’s notice. How a problem that has been staring me in the face for months becomes instantly clearer. How suddenly my vague dream of working in public health has manifested itself into an ideal future with Jen by my side. Before coming to China I believed that global health is where I was needed, that those problems were not only more relevant, but easier to address. That may be true. I used to think that domestic public health problems were too difficult and full of bureaucracy to change. But, China put into perspective what I could and wanted to do with my life. It reminded me the reason I applied and chose to attend Rush in the first place. Rush and Cook County Hospital are institutions trying to make change for underserved and hurting populations throughout Chicago. I’ve had mentors that battle daily in the trenches trying care for and to produce research that can make meaningful change for vulnerable populations in Chicago. I’ve worked in the hospital that was responsible for making it illegal to turn down a patient at the ED, no matter their ability to pay. I’ve lived in a city that has sat at the cornerstone of public health change. I know Jen also wants to continue to change those disparities for the better. That our career pursuits and passions don’t have to diverge but can instead converge. That with our powers combined we could help further transform a city that is suffering and dying due healthcare accessibility and a myriad of other problems. The potential of that future together excites me. It would not be a sacrifice to match in Chicago with Jen, but a dream come true.

There are still too many variables to know what will happen when I get back to Chicago. I’ve made mistakes and sometimes an apology just doesn’t cut it anymore. But, I am excited to return and start carving a direction. I am only in the infancy of my career and my life and I hope things go the way I want. I know now though that no matter what I will be successful and happy. It’s funny, by finally following my heart I think I’ve arrived at a potential future that my mind could never have  conceived, a much better dream than I could have ever imagined before China.  During my time in Beijing, I’ve learned that I want to spend the rest of my life working to love every second of it and to make my family’s, friends’, patients’, and hopefully Jen’s lives better.

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