The thrill of knowing that I made it as a Fellow of a social entrepreneurship course quickly dissolved into a sinking feeling of doom.
Don’t get me mistaken, this is possibly the best thing that has ever happened to me. I want to help people in a sustainable and creative way, and this is an amazing opportunity to foster my ambition. But I have yet to tell my parents that I do not want to be a doctor. No, I have not wanted to be a doctor since I was 17.
How do I tell my parents that I have disappointed them in yet another way?
How do I break it to my mother, who has supported me in every way possible, that I will not be working in a secure career, getting married in a couple of years (preferably to an Asian young man), and having a few children in the next decade? How do I explain to my father, the teacher, that I will not be a doctor or an academic, at least not in the foreseeable future?
As a twentysomething Chinese girl from parents who sacrificed their own dreams to provide a safe and warm nest for me, there is always a battle between practicality and fantasy. My parents wanted the best for me, and stability was an unreachable luxury for both of them while growing up. My mother was the eldest of four, and had to work as a teenager when her father passed away before her fourteenth birthday. She talked about earning HKD 510 (around £44) per month, 500 of which contributed to living costs and her brothers’ and sisters’ school fees. My father was the middle child of a family of seven. When the family moved away to Canada, my teenage father was left behind to his own devices.
My parents scraped and clawed, and finally built a home. They gave me everything they could so I could live the ideal Chinese life. How could I throw something like that away?
Life would be simple. My plans would be settled for the next ten years: medical school, internship, and residency, then maybe settle on a high-earning specialty, and cruise into a private practice or hospital. I would be protected by a white coat and stethoscope. Stable challenges followed by calculated risks.
Not to mention that I am so close to getting through the whole ordeal. I have already finished every possible medical school requirement: gruelling science classes, long hours witnessing the horror of alcohol poisoning while volunteering at the emergency room of a local hospital, doubting my own humanness working at the underfunded and steel-barred male psychiatric ward in China, getting yelled at while wobbling in high heels as a patient representative assistant. I even have the application essay lingering on my laptop’s desktop. I am a click away.
I could get married. All my friends are getting engaged, so why don’t I? Facebook these days is sticky and sweet, oozing with engagement rings and flowers and cute babies, which is seriously terrible for someone with Type 1 diabetes. I could get hyperglycaemic.
Oh wait, yes, I am bisexual. Let’s trash that Pandora’s Box and give my parents’ heart attacks.
I could run away. But I have done that for the past seven years, following my passion while carefully covering my tracks with classes and books. I ran from dorm rooms to hostels, from Pune to Maine. There are only so many distractions that can be dressed up as look-at-me-I’m-such-a-driven-medical-candidate.
I am tired of running away. So I took a leap, and landed in Poplar.
But this time it is ninja training, or samurai retreat. I am sharpening my social innovation throwing stars. I am placed at an innovative, all-inclusive community centre that shares my belief that health cannot be prescribed by a GP surgery alone. Health is employment, stability, and most importantly, good food.