When I was in my 2nd year at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, one of our professors, Dr. Leslie Solomonian, had our class answer 9 reflection questions. Once we had finished she collected them and told us we’d get them back once we were ready to graduate. Last week, during a celebratory lunch for our graduating class, she handed us back our reflections, giving us a chance to look back on the 4 years we’ve spent as naturopathic medical students – especially our 12 months working directly with patients in clinic, putting our naturopathic principles and modalities into practice – in order to realize how far we’ve come. Here are my answers:
1. What drives your curiosity and makes you want to learn or do more?
Passion, belief in the good of humanity.
2. In the past weeks or months, what experiences brought out the most energy and enthusiasm in you? Describe the situation(s).
Going to Colombia and volunteering with “Un Techo Para Mi Pais” and working with children with HIV at “Fundamor”. Having the opportunity to see the strength and resilience that other people embody. Seeing that, despite their lack of privilege, they still have the strength and hope to live their lives to the fullest. I know that I can do something to help them along their journeys and, by taking part in that, may be able to receive help with mine.
3. In the past weeks or months, what experiences were especially draining? Describe the situation(s)? What aspects of the situation(s) drew energy away from you?
Being judged on things that should not hold as much importance as the things we have control over and the things we value: my likes/dislikes, skills/weaknesses, strengths, things I have tried to improve, learn, things I’m working on – these are things that matter. Shopping, worrying about physical appearance, the frustration with being evaluated for superficialities as a reaction to unexamined insecurities all draw energy from me.
4. What perspectives/values do you have now that you didn’t have a year or 3 years ago?
I used to judge and evaluate others based on markers that do not do justice to the complicated, whole person in front of me. I channelled this negative energy through my own insecurities and, rather than examine myself and explore the source of my own pain, I would turn it outwards, blaming others, my circumstances, the world and preventing it from being an opportunity to learn and evolve as a person.
5. What skills/abilities do you have now that you didn’t have a year ago? 3 years ago?
I feel stronger now, friendlier, more open. I want to say that I am braver, but I still struggle with many of the same anxieties and insecurities that I’ve always had; I may be more aware of them now. I know myself a bit more, I am healthier both mentally and physically. I cherish balance and simplicity as keys to a healthy, happy, meaningful life.
6. What types of people bring out the best in you? What characteristics do they bring out? Where do you find these people in your life?
The best people for me are those than genuinely care about me and care about themselves. Those who have goals, balance, self-esteem. Those who are in touch with their emotions and willing to examine deep within themselves.
7. What are some “unknowns” you are currently experiencing? What allows you to live with the uncertainties in a way that feels right for you?
I am currently living in a long distance relationship, still in the midst of a struggle with my own self-image and personal evolution. I worry about my living situation, my finances. I hope to take things day-by-day and try to be conscious of and enjoy the many things I have to be grateful for in my life.
8. Consider a “lucky break” or “happy coincidence” in your life. How did this moment open new doors for you? Was there something that you did to help create this serendipitous moment?
Going to Colombia and meeting the people I did helped kick-start everything that I’m living now. Approaching things with an open mind and open heart and a dose of courage made the decision to travel and live abroad possible. It made it possible for me to consider 4 more years of academic training, moving back to Toronto and pursuing a career in a little-known medical speciality that is still in its infancy.
9. What is important to you now that you hope you will not lose in coming years (value, principle, strength)?
I hope that I don’t lose my passion, my principles, that I continue to cultivate my faith in myself, my life and optimism for the future. I want to continue to search for Truth and avoid allowing myself to be consumed by material attachments and ingrained, unexamined societal norms.
With two more weeks left to go in our naturopathic medical student careers, the anxiety to quickly finish underlies a sense of immense pride in myself and in my fine colleagues. While some things may not have changed since second year, I can’t believe how much I’ve learned from colleagues, teachers, preceptors and, of course, my patients. They challenge me not only to be a better doctor but to examine my life and deeply held beliefs. It’s been a period of growth and maturation; a wonderful, challenging, expensive four years of therapy. I can’t wait to see what contributions to the field of medicine we make in the years to come.
Congratulations Class of 2014!