Growing up with psychiatrists as parents gave me expose to the world of mental health and neuroscience, so I have always had it in the back of my mind that I would explore that field of study. Medicine has also been something I have wanted to pursue. And so, since coming to Duke, I have had an interest in majoring in Neuroscience and taking premed courses, and everything I have done at Duke has solidified my desire to pursue these courses of study (or at least have done nothing to deter it). I took the right classes, and they piqued my interest. I got involved in extracurriculars that either interested me or took up too much of my time (i.e. swimming on the Varsity Team) to give me time to explore other interests let alone breathe. This summer has been the first time since coming to college or even in my life in general in which I have immersed myself and dedicated my time to something that didn’t directly relate to my presumed interests or supposed career path.
However, these past few weeks, I have become immersed in a completely unsuspected world that I would never have experienced if I hadn’t applied to DukeEngage in Miami. As I mentioned in my last blog, working with Martin at CCLS led me to stumble into the art of grant writing —in particular the beast that is federal grant writing. This is something with which I never anticipated becoming familiar, and when I was assigned to this task, I was apprehensive.
While this work has been outside of my comfort zone, especially in the beginning, I have realized that I actually do like it. It requires a meticulous and careful eye to parse out the exact words to convey the required meaning and level of precision. It truly is an art—one at which Martin is incredibly skilled, and I feel lucky to have learned about it through his mentorship.
I hadn’t thought about this work as anything more than a service to help CCLS gain important funding—that is until the CEO of CCLS engaged me in a conversation about what I wanted to do as a career. This conversation started out under the pretense that Martin would have to retire eventually, and that CCLS might be interested in a young graduate to start at an entry level for his position. To this, I apologetically mentioned my desire to pursue medicine, but made sure to say that I was open to other career paths. And until that moment, I didn’t consider that I might be. For the first time, I thought what it would be like to pursue something other than the path I had been tentatively set on since coming to college. It made me remember the part of myself that I had been neglecting—the part that loves to write and to find the nuances in language. The part that loves to read and even considered majoring in Literature or English. I don’t know if I will change my major or career interests, but I am grateful that I have been given the opportunity to explore and remember parts of me that I had forgotten to remember.
This summer has also made me feel incredibly lucky in another sense; it has given me the opportunity to live in the moment. Since coming to Duke, I have mostly worked toward goals. The Neuroscience classes I have taken were for the goal of obtaining a major in a field of interest and passion, the science classes were for the goal of preparing for med school, the endless hours of swim practice for the goal of a far off and unreachable competition, and so on. As I have told family and friends about the immigration work I have done for this second part of my summer, I have been told several times that I am lucky to be living and getting direct exposure to the problems our country is facing right now. I am currently doing research for a grant to help represent undocumented alien children—the same ones who faces haunt the news and journal articles. I have no other goal than to do the work of the day and do it well, to live in the moment; because the service I am immersed in is directly tied today, and that is so refreshing. Immersing myself in issues that do not immediately impact my life or my defined interests is a wonderfully new release.
I remember sitting outside our apartment in the first week of this program wondering if I made the right choice in doing this program. It seemed to diverge from everything else I had previously been involved in, and I was anxious that I would regret it. At the summer’s close, I know that Miami was the refreshing dive into real life and out of my own defined life path—a shock that I desperately needed.