Last October, I went to a financial aid workshop in which one of the speakers asked us to make a quick drawing of where we saw ourselves in 10 years. It was an exercise that was supposed to get us thinking about how to adjust our financial habits in order to achieve the vision that we saw for ourselves. This was uncharted territory for me. Up until that point, I had only ever imagined pieces of that 10-year vision because I didn’t want to “jinx” myself. (What can I say? I’m mildly superstitious.) But there I was with my blue pen hovering over a white sheet of paper, and this is what I drew:
(Please excuse my drawing skills. They have never been my strength.)
Let’s start with the top left part where my “patient” tells me “Thank you for listening, doctor.” Why did I have the patient say this instead of hundreds of other phrases? Because just a couple of months before this drawing came to be, I had spent 6 weeks shadowing physicians in a New York hospital, and the biggest lesson that I learned from the experience was that listening is central to quality healthcare. This includes listening to the patient’s symptoms but also to what they tell you about their everyday life.
A year later, this is still as true as ever for me. I’m currently working as a receptionist in a medical practice so listening is crucial to what I do throughout the day. Sometimes patients (particularly the older ones) have entire conversations with me while making appointments, and I love making that connection. Because of all of the texting and online chatting that many of us engage in these days, sometimes I feel like we’ve lost the art of conversation. “It was great talking to you.” Hearing that makes my day.
The next part of the drawing has to do with marriage. (I know. I know. My future husband is rocking some funky hair.) At the time of the drawing, I was in love with someone, and the thought of not having love in my life in 10 years was almost inconceivable. I imagined a partner who would be supportive and who wouldn’t be intimidated by an independent woman with thoughts and ideas of her own. (Please point me to a millennial woman who doesn’t want this.) Someone who would understand that my busy lifestyle might mean that we would be apart for periods of time and who would have a fulfilling career of his own. Ultimately, I wanted someone to come home to at night after a difficult day of work and someone with whom I could share all of the joys and challenges of my life.
A year later, I have doubts about whether what I wanted is possible. After all, being a partner to a doctor is no easy task. Maybe that time apart will put a strain on our marriage. Maybe he’ll think I love my career and my patients more than I love him. Maybe a marriage will hold me back from mission trips and moving across the country and spending long hours on my own. Or maybe not. Maybe the man who I described before does exist. Maybe he won’t be all of those things all of the time, but he’ll try his best to love his ambitious, humanitarian wife. At least I sure hope so. Physicians dedicate their lives to the lives of others so don’t they need someone who they can lean on? I’m not afraid to say that I do.
And then there’s the drawing at the rightmost part of the page. A baby. Or rather a “maybe” baby. I was trying to be realistic with that “maybe” because I knew that as a physician (depending on how I structure my life), there might not be time for raising a child. After all, if I ever have a child, I want to give him/her the best of me. Not the parts of me that are left after a long day at work. I don’t know if this is possible with the kind of career that I want to have. I also know that I don’t have to make this decision right now so that’s what the question mark is for.
The words at the bottom left of the drawing are probably the most important part of it. I know that being a doctor is not the easiest career choice. I know that I will be tired a lot. Like a lot. But ultimately giving my time and energy to others is what gives me purpose. It’s what I know will make me happy on my deathbed (as macabre as that sounds).
So why am I going into all this detail for this drawing? Because I, like other pre-meds, sometimes doubt whether I’ll ever make it. And once I do make it, I wonder if I will love it like I think that I will. After all, there are so many steps in this process, and sometimes, I stumble and fall flat on my face. But I always get back up. Part of the reason why is this vision that I have for myself. It keeps me going through every anxiety-ridden moment. It keeps me working hard and dreaming big. And I know that this vision is in flux. The details of exactly what my life will be like are unknown to me, but at its core, I believe the vision will stay true for the rest of my life. I feel fulfilled. Sometimes exhausted but always aware that I have a purpose.
And as for my fear of jinxing myself? I’m slowly pushing it away. Hey, world. It’s Slavena, and this is what I see for myself.
About Slavena Salve Nissan
Slavena Salve Nissan was born in Baku, Azerbaijan (a former USSR republic) and comes from an ethnic minority known as the Mountain Jews. She moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was 6-years-old and graduated with a major in biology from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College in 2015. She’s planning to start medical school in 2016 and in the meantime, is working as a medical receptionist. She has a lifelong love of both the sciences and the arts and dabbles in cooking, interior design, photography, genealogy, women’s rights, and poetry.