I’m a science major on the pre-med track and that takes up just about all my time. My friends joke that it’s like I work a full-time job. Most days, I leave in the morning and do not get back to my house until sometime that night. Weekends are eaten up by physics, biochemistry and other gross sounding science classes. It’s a lot of work, and even though it is just an undergraduate degree, it does call for dedication and sacrifice. I think the closing of finals season is a perfect time to explain why I put myself through all of that. Despite my stress, tears and frustration, there is a reason that I don’t give up. There is a reason that, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time, studying for finals brings me joy. If you know me personally, you’ve probably seen a bracelet on my wrist. It looks kind of weird. It’s one of those colorful choker bracelets you could get at the dentist as a kid. Some people think it’s a tattoo. Others think that I’m bleeding which always generates a funny reaction. It gets some funny looks, but I wear my bracelet as a reminder.
When I was 10 years old, my best friend Ashlyn was diagnosed with leukemia. The bracelet I wear today is the kind of bracelet she used to wear. While she had cancer, our school and those who loved her would sell them to raise money. We called them “Ashlyn bracelets.” Ashlyn did pass away, but she left such an impact on those who knew her AND those who didn’t. I’ve never seen one person have such an effect on so many people to the point of gaining the love and support of an entire community. It blows me away even to this day. Right after her death, I knew that I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to help kids like her. I wanted to help families who were hurting. Even through the ups and downs of my own life, that desire stuck with me.
So here I am in December of 2016—many years later. I still miss my friend. I never stopped. I think about her often because she is the reason I do what I do. She is the reason I am interested in medicine. She is the reason I want to help children with cancer. She is the reason I don’t mind staying up all night to study for a biochemistry exam. She is the reason I know that it’s all going to be worth it.
The people who come into my life will always hear about Ashlyn. I’ll never stop telling her story. I can’t stop telling it. Her story has formed a major part of my story. I’ll carry her with me always. It makes everything that I do worth it. It makes reading a text book more special for me. It makes me weep when I think about getting to tell a family that their child is cancer free.
So, as finals end, think about the reason you are studying. Think about what drives you. Think about what carries you forward. Find joy in what you do. It will change your perspective. It will renew your passion. It changes things. It makes it all worth it.