On Failure, Purpose, and Gratitude
For a while now, I’ve been quietly writing letters to my future children (if that’s in God’s plan for me), my godchildren, and my nieces and nephews about certain life lessons that I’ve experienced as a young woman. I’m hoping it feels easier for them to relate to when they get into sticky life situations many young people experience. Mostly, I hope to be a source of inspiration for them. While I do enjoy writing, I am more passionate about story telling. The stories I share in my letters are mostly about love, family, dating, relationships, and faith. Some tell of juicy dates I’ve been on while others about nights I’ve cried myself to sleep from heartbreak, some more inspirational and some more for a moment to laugh. This particular letter is intentionally being posted today, International Women’s Day. As a minority, a child of immigrants, a person of color, and a woman, I wanted to take this moment to celebrate a victory…because as much as it is my own, it’s also for you, the future. Here I go…
I matched into a Family Medicine residency program about a month ago. My job as a 1st year Family Medicine Resident will be my first job as a graduate of medical school, so you can imagine my nerves about receiving an e-mail that would not only represent everything I’ve worked hard for but would also reveal my next career move. This is oddly enough a very scary experience for a newly engaged person. The outcome really affects more than just me. I’ll have to write more about that in another letter. Needless-to-say, when I opened the e-mail that said I matched into my first choice program, my eyes flooded with tears and my heart with feelings of gratitude. In all my 31 years of life, this moment is one I’d like to pause in and celebrate with everyone and anyone who has touched my life in some way.
This particular letter to you might contain some of the most important life lessons I want to share, so pay attention. As you approach some of your most challenging times, whether personally or professionally, reflect on my stories. Maybe you’ll find something that resonates with you.
- Failure is a crossroad. Imagine yourself standing on a path that divides into two, one that leads you to quit and one that leads you to continue. You always have a choice. My journey in medicine has been far from perfect, often punctuated by exclamation points, run-on sentences, and frequented pit stops for much needed rest while others seemed to move on at full-speed. I learned very quickly that comparison was my worst enemy and embracing my own journey would be my best friend. While my road has had many unplanned twists and turns with too many starting points to mention along the way, I always felt that my destination has and continues to be constant. Being a doctor that helps other people is the destination, and no matter the shape of my path, I always believed I would get to this point in time. I’m getting a little teary-eyed writing this part of the letter because I think this is the perfect time to tell you a little bit about my parents. I’m grateful to have parents who have been, on the particular matter of my struggles in medical school, nothing short of perfect. I have made some very costly mistakes and have at times questioned my choices, but my mom and dad gave me the priceless gifts of patience and a non-judgmental space to grow. They knew of my hardships, and without words, I knew they felt my pain. They saw me at my worst and yet still managed to make me feel and believe I could do and be anything I wanted to be. They saw me just as I was and still loved me, and that love carried me through some of my most terrifying days. For this, I am eternally grateful to them, and I can only hope to be the same to you, as you grow into your own person. If you fail, pause for rest, change direction, or continue on stronger. If your choice is to never quit, I know you’ll be okay in anything you choose.
- Your purpose is to love. Maybe at this point in time, you’re thinking about what you want to do or be when you grow up, or maybe you’re at a point when you’re switching careers. Maybe you have no clue where and when to begin? I know of the perfect place to start. Start with love. What do you love to do? Who do you love? I believe that we all have the same purpose and that is to love, as God wants us to love. This includes being a good person and having kind intent behind every choice we make and every action we initiate towards ourselves, others, and God. When you allow love to be your purpose, you can find meaning, fulfillment, and joy in some of the darkest places and during some of the darkest times in this world. Being a doctor is not my purpose. Having the title of being a doctor is earned by graduating from medical school. Having this title has provided me the medium behind which I choose to use my gifts and talents to help others. Helping others is my act of love and what drives me, and this is my purpose. I think this is what makes a great doctor a great doctor, when he or she chooses love as the purpose behind helping patients. For me, personally, being a doctor is not about the title. It’s about using what I’ve been blessed with to make this world a better place than when I first got here. It is about leaving love in places where more is needed. No matter what you choose to do in life and with your career, embed love into everything you do, and you can do no wrong.
- Gratitude is the key to happiness. So, there’s a TV series I want you to watch called This Is Us. Bring out your tissues because this one’s a tearjerker. There’s a famous line that’s brought up several times on the show that sums up its overlying theme. I hope you can live by this one. “Take the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turn it into something resembling lemonade.” I can’t predict what will happen in my life or yours, but sometimes the worst things get thrown our way, and we just have to do what we can to turn some of the most unfortunate events into something better. In my life, I’ve used prayer to help me get through the most challenging times, and prayer is what turned my life around. Being grateful for all the blessings that come your way can change a terrible attitude into a powerful and peaceful one. Keep in mind, blessings may not look or even feel as you want them to in the moment. Sometimes you won’t even recognize something as a blessing when it comes, but if you live being grateful for every moment of life that you’ve been given, your blessing will come. I promise.
There have been so many influential people who have, in their own special way, been such an important part of my journey, and so it is only right for me to share this moment with all of them. To all of these people (you know who you are), getting into residency is just as much your mark on this world as it is mine. Thank you for paying it forward to me. I hope to do the same for others as I continue to serve.
Thank you Allen for seeing me as I am and for making me feel so beautiful inside and out. Thank you for being so solid for us when I couldn’t be, for helping me turn tears into laughter and anxiety into peace during all the rough nights. Thanks for simply being you…(again, another post for another day)
Thank you Mom and Dad for your immeasurable love and support. Thank you for being patient with my crazy. Thank you for teaching me about God and His love through your own actions. Thank you for being great examples.
Thank you Jed, aka Dr. Padre, for understanding me like no other person and allowing me to vent. Thanks for being there for me through all my heartbreak. Thanks for helping me complete some of my assignments (lol), and for teaching me so much about life, medicine, and family. Thank you also for being the best big brother a sister could ever have. I couldn’t have done this without you. Also, I’m very proud of you. We did it!
Thank you Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, and Tata. I can’t talk about you guys right now because I’ll cry in the middle of a coffee shop, and that’s probably not okay. I’ll save this one for another post.
Thank you to all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends. Thank you for your support and prayers and prepped meals to get me through every day of medical school. Thank you for understanding when I couldn’t be there for you, and thank you for providing so much for me, knowing I couldn’t do or be the same for you in return. Your unselfishness is so much appreciated. Thank you for always being there for me.
Thank you to my future in-laws and #teamgozun for accepting me into your family as I am and for the fun and loving way that you support me! I’m excited for our future and lives together as one family!
Thank you to my jiu-jitsu family. Thank you Professor Williams, Professor Dane, Professor Mike, and all of my brothers and sisters on the mats. You’ve known me even before I started on this crazy journey of mine, and you’ve seen me grow in all that I’m passionate about. Thank you too for always being there for me and for providing a second home, a space where I could breathe, be myself, and get healthy both in mind and body. Thank you for adding so much value and meaning and joy to my life. Thank you for teaching me never to quit.
Thank you to all my mentors in medicine…
Small Group 11 – You’re all doctors now, and the world is a better place because we have people like you treating illness and improving lives. Thank you for being my best friends in medical school and seeing me through it all.
Dr. Madrid – Thank you for being the best example of the kind of family medicine doctor I aspire to be. I hope to be even half as kind, generous, intelligent, and unselfish as you are to your patients and community.
Dr. Safaoui – Thank you for seeing something in me. I’ll never forget our conversation the day I walked into your office for the first time. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t.
Dr. Younes – Thanks for reminding me of where I came from and where I am now. Thanks for your support and continued words of encouragement.
To all my professors and teachers all along the way – your dedication to education and the growth of students is inspiring. Thank you.
Lastly, thank you to my uncle, Dr. Emilio Padre, and my auntie, Dr. Linda Del Pilar. Thank you for showing me that small-town people with tremendous heart and drive can do big and great things in this world for other people.
To my daughter, I anticipate at times I will fail as a parent. Thank you, in advance, for your patience and understanding, as I’m sure it will not be easy having a mom who is a doctor. But rest assured, everything I do stems from my desire to love. Know that I am grateful that you are who you are and that you stand for the things that you do.
And if you ever fail, pick yourself up and start again with the purpose of loving to the best of your ability. And don’t forget to live with a grateful heart, for both the good times and bad times will mold you into the person you were meant to be and prepare you for life beyond here. Lean on your family and mentors, and when you feel alone, know that you are so loved.