Another Year, Another Candle

The message, “Happy Birthday Father Blair,” was carefully scribed on a cookie and perched on the cake that my parents brought to our house last Sunday. As their well-meaning Engrish announced 48 hours early, today is my 28th birthday, marking yet another year of my existence on the planet. And what a year it’s been.

I was halfway through my classes a year ago, clueless as to whether my work was going to pay off in the end. I was rightfully proud of my postbac grades up to that point, but my undergrad record was still dismal and nothing could be done about it. The MCAT was too far away to be a top priority, but too close — and too important — not to add to my list of anxieties. Yeah, I was under a lot of stress. I was also happy, so much happier than I had been in previous years. It felt good to be busy again, but I’d been busy before; the difference was that I was finally taking care of myself, had finally found what I wanted and was working full speed to reach for my dreams. It was a daily struggle with textbook, problem sets, and exams, but it was a struggle I relished. Don’t get me wrong; it’s also nice to take a break from it all, and right now I’m being kept busy for entirely different reasons. I’m still as happy as ever. But there are days when I wish I was once again waist-deep in my coursework. I’m sure I’ll wonder what the hell I was thinking in another year.

A year ago, Kim and I had talked about starting a family, but (obviously) hadn’t actually started one yet. I’d be lying if I said it was an easy choice for me to make, and I pontificated on the subject in October. I’m still a little scared and uncomfortable with parenthood. I’ve always been excited about it, though, and I’m starting to understand why it’s just so cool to be a dad. Emerson shows little flashes of herself throughout the day, and those are the moments I remember when she’s asleep or when she surprises me in the middle of a diaper change. Sometimes I look at her and imagine her as a child, adult, mother. I find myself eager to see how she develops but hoping she could stay this small and innocent for just a while longer. I’m going to have a hard time coming home and having to study with her just outside the door. As a matter of fact, I’m less worried about my workload as a medical student than my ability to be a good father while also being a medical student. She’s going to be nine months old when I start, and I predict that I’m going to be a lot more interested in teaching and playing with her than I will be in the minutiae of human anatomy. At the same time, I think I’ll be consumed with my studies and extremely motivated to be a top student. This will be a challenge, to be sure, but I’m sort of looking forward to it.

My friends would probably say that I’m far too concerned with my age, and that I’m too young to feel old. Maybe they’re right. The truth is that I don’t feel old at all, but I am rather scared at the increasing speed of time. I can’t believe that I’ll be almost 29 when I finally start medical school, that I spent so many years spinning my wheels when I could’ve swallowed my pride and changed paths much earlier. I’m happy with the way things are now but I do regret the risks I never took, the choices I chose not to make over the years. I think this past year is evidence of what can happen when I learn to merely acknowledge the fear of the unknown, to take risks and choose the paths that aren’t always safeley lighted.

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