by Valerie Lopez
In a stark, sterile emergency room, I found love.
Granted that it definitely was not the best romantic setting, I heard the crescendo of violins and might have felt the same rapture Darcy experienced the first moment he sees Elizabeth Bennett. I just knew there and then, what I was going to spend the rest of my life doing.
All throughout my semi-traumatic years of adolescence, I always felt as if I knew what I wanted to become when I grew up. First, as I was suffering through the pains of teenage angst, I thought of becoming a glorified writer valiantly exposing the flaws of an all too commercialized, war-torn, politically corrupt, Britney Spears-infested society. Until I realized how hard it is to be a writer. Then, I watched a whole slew of John Grisham movies and decided that I would become a noble lawyer fighting for the cause of the underprivileged and the oppressed. I scratched that idea out once I started participating in Lincoln-Douglas debate in high school, where I was severely disillusioned by the petty catfights girls would initiate against each other once debate rounds were over. More importantly, it didn’t matter whether your arguments were morally sound; winning debate tournaments in my experience required your eloquent abilities to convince the judge you deserve to win, to make your opponent look bad, and to speak so fast your opponent can’t even propose contentions against you because hell, he/she didn’t know what you were saying. If you can convince a judge that eliminating a minority of the population for significant benefits for the majority, you take the gilded, plastic trophy home. Although this experience does not necessarily translate to what the law profession is, it was enough to turn me off. I do firmly believe that being a writer and a lawyer are very noble pursuits; I just couldn’t picture myself spending the rest of my life being either one.
I started to avoid family get-togethers because I despised the perpetual question every single aunt and uncle wanted to know: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Err, hell if knew. I loved English in high school because a. I had a brilliant teacher and b., I love books period. But I already eradicated the possibility of being a writer, and I lack the supreme genius of crafting fictional stories. And then, I got lucky: I was forced to take Biology, loved it, and thought about being a doctor.
I came to Whitman with that knowledge, and although having survived a year of Templeton’s (bless his awesome soul and his tropical shirt) chemistry, I started questioning whether I possessed the ability to grace certain science classes and be in a medical profession.
Again, I got lucky. This summer, I worked in an Emergency Room, and it validated my hopes of being a doctor. The ER had the makings of an emotional orgasm: the harsh, fluorescent lighting, the bustle of doctors and nurses and their slightly gaudy scrubs, the sweet machines, cute nurses, the McDreamy doctor, the IV carts, the medical charts, xray photographs…yeah, I’m a freak, I know. Although I couldn’t provide medical attention to the patients (because a. that’s really illegal, and b. I didn’t want to kill anyone) it was really rewarding to be present in that environment where science comes to life and where people had the ability to help someone every minute of their 12-hour shift. Even though I was working the menial tasks, I loved it. It was the perfect ménage a trois of biology, social interactions, and selflessness.
It’s always very helpful using this gratifying experience when I question whether certain classes are worth it. I realized that all the possible professions I considered, all had the same, unifying purpose: helping other people. They were all merely different avenues of service, and it was great that I found which one I’m willing to undergo hell for.
I feel that sometimes we base life-determining goals on the glamour our society presents certain professions or endeavors to be, and reality can be quite different. Perhaps one of the inherent flaws in our system (and by system I mean the system of determining what we want to be) is that we are not exposed/ don’t expose ourselves enough to opportunities that validates what we want to do later on. Nevertheless, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to get my feet wet, and I happily splashed about the puddle.