The country boy reads (An article from Cherone Duggan- Havard University)

I remember getting very worried during my freshman year. People seemed to care about grades and GPAs and extracurriculars an awful lot more than I did. I found myself getting stressed in spite of myself—stressing about not being stressed. I was worrying about not being worried, caring about not caring about what other people cared about. These concerns seemed the silliest of things, but for my freshman self, they were quite real. Never before had I been more conscious of other people’s notions of what success meant, and of how off I was from those measures. I didn’t want to spend hours cranking out essays that I wasn’t interested in so I could “do well.” I didn’t want to do problem sets for that reason, or anything, for that matter. To me, the notion of “doing well” just didn’t matter—not in the sense that appeared to be that of my freshman peers, at least.

At that point, and at points since, I did what any young idea-lover does. I knelt before my bookshelf, as if before an altar, and I asked the divine souls of characters and authors what I should do. With knees and ego bent, I searched the titles, looking for one that promised salvation. I knew the stories they contained, but wanted to remind myself of them, to take my mind out of my head for a while, and put another one in. I found the most beautiful of minds; those of poets and dreamers, of clairvoyants and philosophers. I spent hours with them, curled up in corners of far-off spaces, unraveling intrigue and the present tense, slowly untying their knots. But, this didn’t seem to be enough, my present never fully spoke to these writers’ pasts. No matter what wisdom their tomes conveyed, the voices of the dead and distant minds I was convening with weren’t able to speak back to me; they could only ever speak forward, toward lives and times they never lived. And I could only look back, retracing their steps to hunt for answers where they did not necessarily appear.

So at that point, and at points since, I did what any young idea-lover does, and sought out someone wiser and more well-read than I, to see what she could see. I went to office hours. I went to the office of the professor of my freshman seminar—a seminar about different modes of reading books and the world. I didn’t really have a question, more a series of worries and emotions: about how the freshman culture of thought fixated on grades and conventional pat-on-the-back success made me feel like a lonely idler in the midst of a checklist, about to be crossed out; about how far away the lives of people I knew seemed, across seas and schedules; about how learning unsettled, and about how difficult it was for me to continue thinking of myself as a me in the middle of all these thoughts and contradictions. In other words, at that point, and at points since, I’ve had what any young person, middle-aged person, or old person has had: a glaring existential crisis of perforating doubt.

My professor sat and listened to me. In my sharing of my doubts, she shared with me. I do not remember the exact words she said. And I don’t know that remembering them in the present would make them make the same sense they made to me when I heard them in that moment of the past. I know that back then, they made sense. They made sense because they spoke to me, the me that was then, and has since ceased to be.

Now, I know that the words I shared with her that day, and on days since, have made me confident that I am not alone in doubting, and that nobody ever needs to be. In the raw honesty of approaching someone with doubt worn plainly, there is a reality of openness to learning that I have been unable to find in any other situation, book, or maxim. I trust that in the simultaneity of sharing doubts, of admitting that I don’t know, and don’t like not knowing—there is the potential for connecting, a reality of living, that no book could ever encompass. I have discovered that, for me, my relationships with thoughts and people are strengthened when I see the acknowledgment of doubt. When my sister is sad, my friend is upset and confused, or my thoughts are derailed by questioning and opposition from within themselves, things really become real. Perhaps psychoanalysts would say that it has something to do with childhood and vulnerability. I’m not sure; all I’m sure of is that it’s OK not to have any answers, or even any questions.

After revealing my worries to my professor on that day in my freshman year, I am no longer afraid to share when I’m feeling alone in my thoughts, or utterly confused. She has helped to show me that emotion is necessary in learning, and that in admitting uncertainty, failure does not follow. There is a gradation to learning that cannot be graded, a succession that does not end in “success”… It is not a goal that can be reached in a moment of completion—at least, not the type of learning I’ve come to want and value, the type that forgets about grades and deadlines, stress and success. It’s the type that cannot be capped with designations, because it does not stop. It’s timeless. Tenseless. That’s why, for me, the best classes and interactions I’ve had here have been those where people speak in the true presence of one other, instead of past one another: where past and future cease to exist. In my experience, this type of interaction occurs when people really love the material they are learning, or when they aren’t worrying about their grade, when people take classes pass/fail or as electives. It’s only in the sharing of emotion in excitement, in love, in confusion, and especially in doubt that I find true simultaneity with others. It’s when I feel completely joined in experience of thought and emotion in this way, in classes, or dining halls, or office hours, that I feel what it means, not just to learn, but to be alive.

This is just what I’ve learned so far, from my mentors and my friends—what I’ve come to think from many shared moments. Doubt is not something to hide, or run away from. It’s the place from which to start. From this point, and, by the time this is read, at points since, I do what any young idea-lover does, I continue to share thoughts and time.

For there are many more ways to think, and many more things to share, no doubt.

Cherone Duggan ’14 is one of Harvard Magazine’s 2012-2013 Berta Greenwald Ledecky Undergraduate Fellows.

 
 

A Letter to my Cadaver ( In loving memory of those who donated their bodies to Science)

A moment of silence.

The Doctor On Call

Hello sir, I hope your spirit is peaceful and calm wherever it is. I am also doing well in the world you left behind. I don’t know you but I appreciate you so much for having given me an opportunity to learn. Your body lies lifelessly on an aluminum table at the center of our anatomy laboratory. You are one among many that chose to give back to science in the most generous way, giving yourself. Only the brave dare to do so.

Did you imagine of being here one day? I guess you admired medicine so much that you decided to find your way to medical school, even if not as a student but as a teacher. You are the best teacher of anatomy. You teach us about yourself in a way that no living being can. I want to be a surgeon. I am going to have my…

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A Letter to my Cadaver ( In loving memory of those who donated their bodies to Science)

Hello sir, I hope your spirit is peaceful and calm wherever it is. I am also doing well in the world you left behind. I don’t know you but I appreciate you so much for having given me an opportunity to learn. Your body lies lifelessly on an aluminum table at the center of our anatomy laboratory. You are one among many that chose to give back to science in the most generous way, giving yourself. Only the brave dare to do so.

Did you imagine of being here one day? I guess you admired medicine so much that you decided to find your way to medical school, even if not as a student but as a teacher. You are the best teacher of anatomy. You teach us about yourself in a way that no living being can. I want to be a surgeon. I am going to have my first cut on you, you are the one I will always think of when I think of medicine or even surgery for you are my first patient.

As I look at your pale body, all I can see is dreams that were never realized, songs that were never sung, stories that were never told and hope that was never inspired. What is this that terminated your pursuit of happiness? Were you a victim of war? Or were you a victim of road carnage? I don’t know but I guess you never died a natural death, something in my mind tells me so. Let me not be so sure, perhaps you never chose to be here, may be you were brought here against your will or maybe no one rose to the occasion to claim your body when you called it a day.

Anyway, life must move on. Years have changed things; I am enjoying every bit of medical school including working with you. I will always look forward to Wednesday and Thursday afternoons for we shall be together, drinking from the pot of knowledge. I guess most girls will freak at the sight of your body but I will encourage them that you are a living being, the only difference between you and us is that as our bodies are nourished with blood, yours is nourished with formaldehyde. You are tough, tougher than many men I see around, you are fighting decomposition by all means, please fight on for my sake and the sake of others that we share the same destiny.

I believe that I shall acquire a lot from you and I will never be the same after that. My love for you will sustain me every Wednesdays and Thursdays on bright summer mornings as well as dark howling winter ones.

With great love,

Kiaye Oliver, MBChB.

 

 

 

                               

Another letter to my Dad

father

I hope this finds you well. It has been long since we talked, about thirty days I guess. This means that we are thirty days closer to our graves and thirty days closer to our dreams. Dad, a lot has changed since then. I am a week old in the medical school and I am very excited that I chose this noble path of Hippocrates. Seven years from now I will be a health care provider. How does it sound?

As I look around me, all I see is inspirations; from the rising sun, whistling breeze and the arts and beauty around me. Dad, when I see successful surgeons and physicians who came before me, I feel inspired and at the same time I am humbled by the limitations of my knowledge. I remember you told me that wisdom comes from accepting the fact that we do not know and we begin learning, one step at a time. From learning and practicing, we get the experience.

Dad, I do believe that you would have been a physician had you found the opportunity back in the seasons of your youth. Though time has passed and things have changed I believe that you are a physician, not a medical doctor or something, but a physician of knowledge. Your words have kept me moving through uncertainties with faith, love, courage and hope.

Dad, let me tell you this, far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations; I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow them where they lead. Dreaming of becoming a doctor is even thrilling than being the doctor. I know you are now smiling with hope and calmness. Where could you be at this time? I guess it is at our favorite spot, a place where only one tree bears witness to your words, the Mugumo tree.

Dad, I have reached that point in time, I have to make my own decisions, manage my own freedom and take care of myself. Trust me; it is sometimes difficult having been brought up near you and mum. I remember mum was always there to repair my feelings and dry my tears. It is a bit different here dad, it is me and my dreams against the world. The world never cares, it is so cruel. I built my own small world; I took Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology with me. I hope I will make it through the tough times that are yet to come.

Even with advanced age, you always have something to look up to, something like a dream. That is where my relationship with dreams comes, from my father’s eyes, a fountain from which springs out hope and sometimes even doubt. Dad, allow me to pen off at this point in time, let me look at what Gray has for me in Anatomy. We shall still talk, both in person and in spirit.

With great love,

Kiaye Oliver, MBChB.

The country boy dreams again

A new year is here with us. Last year is now in the tomb, we have buried it. This means that we have buried the past that comes along with it. All we now have is memories, tender memories. Memories that we remember with sentimentality and nostalgia. They might have been sweet or bitter but they still make part of us. It is in accepting them that we find the strength to move on and appreciate each and every day that the sun rises and sets.

I am glad that I have embraced the New Year on a startling note, with new dreams and aspirations. Last year was the most challenging year of my lifetime. It came along with crowns and responsibilities that took the better of me. I remember I took the second slot in the national examinations.  That was a huge victory to me, bigger than I expected. I had to cope with all the ups and downs that come with it. Everyone expected me to come close to perfection, something that I was not used to. Though I did not meet their expectations, I am happy I was true to myself and my true aspirations.

In the same year, I joined banking as a pre university scholar, another responsibility that I embraced with awe and reverence. As a young country boy, barely eighteen years old, I was expected to deliver just like any other employee. I gave it my best shot and did the best that I could. Although I had issues with my temper, I always tried to control it even in situations that I could not bear. During moments of stress at work, I could not afford a smile although I did everything as was expected of me. As an ex banker, I have learnt to smile, even in the face of adversity. I cherish those memories as a banker.

I have come to realize that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future, let’s not be quick to judge others. Human beings were never created perfect beings. In this imperfection comes the beauty of life. We are there to complement each other so that we move towards a common destiny of prosperity and happiness.

This year, I want to be the best me. As I join the medical fraternity, I want to strive to be the best doctor I can be. I know the journey is not going to be an easy one but since I chose this noble path, I must enjoy the paths that lead me to it. Along the paths, a lot is going to change me, from gross anatomy to ward rounds. I can’t wait to have my first cut, I will hold the scalpel and make a straight cut and shout eureka after I shall have spotted a muscle, a nerve or a blood vessel. I will never leave any experience unrecorded as a young writer. What a wonderful year it is going to be!

I am sure love will sustain me throughout this journey. The love for the material we study , the joy of following a dream and  the hope for a better tomorrow shall keep me alive. Sometimes doubt will engulf me but that too is an ingredient of success. It is from doubt that Egyptians got things right and blessed the world with The Great Pyramid. I also want to be a good person in all domains of life; spiritually, socially, mentally and many other perspectives.  I am tough, ready for tough things, armed with iron pants and a sledge hammer. May God see me through. The New Year begins.