All my life, I haven’t given myself the opportunity to think of other possible career
options besides becoming a practicing medical doctor. Interestingly, during my childhood I
never played doctor although I played cook, caterer, driver, dress maker and business woman.
This is why I believe that in certain ways, my desire to become a medical doctor was shaped
by other people –mainly my family – rather than myself.

I write about my career plans because it’s the most predominant aspect of my life. The
past twenty one years of my life have all been moving towards that one goal, a goal that I
have made my own and that has become the center of attention.

I’m the last in a family of three. I have two beautiful successful women as my sisters,
who have set a very high standard for me. The shoes that I have to fill are very big and at
times, I feel my own steps become lost in them. I’m quick and eager to report my successes
to my family. I do it because I know my family has invested a lot in me, and I want them to
be proud of me. I’m quick to tell of my successes, but alone I struggle with the failures.

One of the toughest times in my life was the beginning of college. I reached my worst in terms
of insecurity and identity. I was conscious of my speech, my color, my looks, my clothing,
my walk, my voice. I was timid, the little confidence that I had disappeared, and I felt awkward
in a gathering because I said little to nothing. Gradually, I stopped hanging out with people
altogether. I went from my room, to my library.

I missed home and family. This was all me, for the first time in my life. Each time I spoke
to my family, I assured them I was fine with a bold confidence, the confidence missing when
I was with my peers. I returned to a bare room – literally empty, with little decor.
I was miserable and unhappy. I survived the semester painfully.

I joined a few student organizations and made a few friends but I still felt different; I
imagined people talked about my awkwardness when I walked by. My insecurities worsened. It
went from the emotional to physical. My weight became an issue. My eating habits were a mess
during this period. I consciously lost a significant amount of weight but it didn’t make
me happy, and I gained it right back. I was changing, I was struggling, I was going through
one of the toughest times in my life, and I was alone. I realized that the family that I had
always reveled in impressing was not close by and I had to look within me to find motivation
to push myself. The person I had become was not who I really was. I was unhappy, dissatisfied
and lonely.

I started spending more time in the library rather than my room. I never fully grew out of
this phase. I made friends through classes that I took. But my self-consciousness never left
me. Self doubt was with me constantly. I thought-through my comments in class so much that
by the time I decided to contribute, the class had moved on. My sentences began with apologies
for my ignorance, or incompetence, or incapability. While it could be interpreted as modesty,
I knew it was lack of confidence. It was my form or protection. I wasn’t ambitious; I
settled for less when I knew I could achieve better. I was so afraid of facing others and speaking.
I felt I wasn’t taking an advantage of the Smith education like I should.

The turnabout came when I encountered one of the Smith women who helped me both academically
and socially. My academic performance improved drastically, and I developed more confidence.
I didn’t make a hundred friends overnight, and I still didn’t talk unless it was
necessary, but it was a big improvement. I challenged myself to do things I never would have
dreamed. The importance of peers became clearer to me than ever before. Someone who was so
similar to me motivated me. I believed it was possible. I developed a new form of excellence
and importance. I feel the relationship with my family even became stronger because there was
a genuine excitement as I described the past week. I still kept the tough moments to myself.
I began to grow and find things out for myself. It was a turnabout in my life. I relaxed, and
became myself. I still had my reservations but I was overcoming it gradually.

In retrospect, I don’t think I was at any given time a failure. The fact that I was
in a new environment and chose to stay within my comfort zone didn’t make me a failure.
What I went through was a phase. I wish I could have been able to tell my family more. But
I didn’t want to be a source of worry. I’m very content with the outcome. I currently
occupy leadership positions at Smith and work with several departments at Smith as teaching
assistants. For me, that’s a big leap. This experience has made me realize that my family
may well be the most important element in my life; however, I should not have allowed that
to get in the way of my own personal growth. I feel I would have dealt with the transition
better if I had communicated with them. But I battled with myself. Thinking I was too much
of a failure to share that kind of news with them. I still do not communicate my challenges
too well with my family. I still enjoy telling more of my successes than my failures.