On learning the value of day-to-day life


photo via Becca Kubick

My work with the medical mission to Honduras these past two years has been nothing short of life-changing. No other service project has so shaped my priorities, so torn me apart or put me back together. From the very first brigade back in early 2019, I felt it: The Calling. I knew that day I was meant for a humanitarian career in medicine and haven’t wavered in my commitment since.

As a kid who never gave the same answer twice to the “what will you be when you grow up” question, I’d been waiting for The Calling all my life. From the stories of my role models, I’d formed this idea in my mind of what it’d feel like. I imagined an out-of-body experience—maybe a surge of energy—and a sudden but complete reorientation of my perspectives and attitudes.

In many ways, that pipe dream wasn’t far off. On that first brigade—Jan. 16, 2019—a patient I’d helped a few hours earlier approached, put her trembling hand on my forearm, looked me in the eyes and told me I was there by the grace of God. I felt a chill run up my arm at the sound of her words and stood statuesque even after she walked away. For reasons I can’t explain, all previous hesitations I’d had about the field of medicine melted away in that moment. I’d heard The Calling.

It was a fantastic feeling and I was riding high for a while after I got home with a newfound confidence and direction. However, far sooner than expected, a related yet strongly contrasting emotion took control in the corners of my mind: frustration.

If I was capable of doing the kind of healing work I’d done in Honduras, why wasn’t I still there? Why was I wasting my time with the boring everyday of high school when I could be pursuing The Calling?

Why shouldn’t I be allowed to start now?

The simple answer, as per one Robert Yanko, is that I do not in fact have a degree to practice medicine. Still, there’s also something to be said about rushing to grow up. I understand, like many my age, the innate urge to get on with life; I’ve been aching to do so for years. However, as I cope with my inability to manipulate the passing of time, I’ve come to realize how easy it is to undervalue the lessons we learn from everyday life.

When I finally achieve the station in life that I’m striving for, I want to be the best version of myself. I want to be driven, patient, selfless, respectful, kind—attributes that are developed through experience , practice and habit-forming. Trying to skip over the most formative periods of my life would be a disservice, both to myself and those I plan to serve.

Though it pains me to wait on the rest of my life—to hear The Calling and not immediately answer—I’m truly starting to notice how much I’m learning from the life I’m currently leading. Working on The Visor has taught me about leadership and patience; my job at Panera has instilled in me the values of kindness and loyalty; and the rigor of my classes has forced me to develop focus and discipline.

I’m taking steps every day toward the version of myself that’s worthy of the future I seek, and it’s high time I appreciate that journey.