Hearing the World’s Signs to Slow Down

via Daily Prompt: Heard

Yesterday a friend of mine shared an article with me. It was about reading the signs of life that are begging you to slow down. I had to laugh as I read through the list, as literally every single one of them was something I have gone through in the last year. For so long I have been running at 1000 mph. The problem was in the fast pace of my life, definitely, but it was also traveling with no direction. I felt like I was going in circle, doing nothing but growing weary and tired. I went through the motions of life, simply getting by but I had in a sense lost purpose. The scary part was that I didn’t quite realize that it was happening.

As humans, we hate to admit that we are struggling or need help. Admitting this means we are weak (or so we think), and in this world weakness is one of the worst things you can be. Therefore, we often take our experiences and attempt to process them on our own. There is some truth to this as learning the skills to process on your own are important, but what I have learned is that we are not meant to handle life on our own. I firmly believe that admitting weakness and reaching out to those around us actually shows strength. I’ve seen the destructiveness in my friends as they try to overcome the challenges of life within themselves, and I am guilty of it as well. The idea that you must handle the challenges on your own led me down a spiral that ended in nothing but unhappiness and almost a complete loss of identity. I didn’t know who I was and so looked for my identity in the worldly things around me (school, relationships, etc). I was running in a circle, with no obvious way out.

Luckily I have people in my life that help me get out of the circle. I have been blessed with some of the best friends and family anyone could ask for. They are always there for me, inspiring me to do better and be better. They call me to the standard they know I want to be. Whether I am strong or weak, they constantly build me up. That is what true friendship and relationship is all about: someone who inspires you to be better every single day and build you up to become that person. I think that you should surround yourself with the people you want to emulate. We were all made to be people that change the world and leave it a better place than we left it. Some people, unfortunately do not heed that call but choose a different path. That is one of the greatest responsibilities of life: the freedom to choose who we become.

You never know how you will impact the life of another person. There is much darkness in the world we live in. We are plagued by violence, war, injustice and death. What this world desperately needs is light. Light can come in many different forms, but I think it starts with us. We have the power to change the world simply by being us, and that is not something to take lightly. This was one of the great lessons I have learned.

One of the greatest things I have learned by going through medical school is the meaning of treating each person individually. The value of each human life is something not to be taken lightly. Before starting medical school, I was in India for 5 weeks. While not there for a medical mission trip and learning medical skills, it taught me a lesson that no classroom could ever provide. While there, looking into the eyes of the starving children and reaching out to the forgotten dying, I realized that there is no greater gift that I can give than to live my life in service of others. I have been given many gifts, and the best way for be to be thankful for them is to use them for others. While in India, I worked in a home for disabled children. Each child had his own disability that required a unique and specific way of interaction and care. One child might need you to carry him because he couldn’t walk, another needed you to be his ears because he could hear, yet another needed you to be his eyes because he couldn’t see. While the disabilities were visibly obvious with the children I worked with, I have learned that we are all disabled in some way- that is what makes us human.

We all have our weaknesses and things that make us who we are, failures and successes alike. We are all hurting or going through struggles that most people will never see. As such, every person deserves treatment for his or her specific problem. This world tries to create a mold that everyone is supposedly supposed to fit, and when someone doesn’t, they are reprimanded and no one is quite sure what to do with them. But who created this mold? If we are all created uniquely us, how could there possibly be one mold that could fit everyone in it? It’s not possible, and I honestly think our world would be a much different place if we learned to break this idea.

Martin Luther once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of  comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Medical school drills you, drives you, challenges you to question everything you thought you believed about the world and human condition. There’s a reason most people don’t talk about what school was like, I feel like most are like me and block it out of my memory. The constant doubting yourself and your abilities, the questioning of how and why you thought you could do this, the comparison among classmates and even the best of friends, and the constant stress that drives you to wonder if you will ever make it out alive. Everything is amplified: emotion, fatigue, and the slightest incidence in your life has the power to completely overwhelm you. It’s the going through the motions of life and school as if you were sleepwalking, never quite sure if you are dreaming or not. When I was in the depths of doubt and wanted to give up my lifelong dream of being a doctor, this quote sums up how I was able to get through it. I realized that medical school is not everything, and my failure or success in it does not define me. I think this applies to people in any aspect of life, as we each have our own unique “medical school” experience that forces us to doubt ourselves.

The article that my friend showed me was a flashing neon light, signaling to slow down. One of the best things about my trip to India was learning to do that. In the midst of a city with 14 million people, I learned how to find silence. It was in that silence that I found peace. Finding the silence is not an easy thing to do, and I struggle every day to remind myself to create time for it. Whether it be prayer, meditation or simply sitting still, the value of slowing down and allowing yourself to simply experience the world around you for a few minutes cannot be overstated.

In a world so full of business and darkness, we need to learn how to slow down. Only then can our unique light shine through and change the world in which we live.

Sincerely yours,

Jess

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