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Choosing passion over practicality

Before Facebook started bugging us with its insistent questioning of what’s on our mind, or what we like, or who are friends are, or what’s our current status, we had autograph books.

I remember the good old days when, if we truly wanted to know more about our friends, we would personally go around and ask them to tediously fill in the blanks with their fun facts (name, nickname, phone numbers), more fascinating details (their crush, motto in life, what they wanted to be when they grew up), as well as their answer to that ever popular question “What is love?” (to which we would feebly answer with famous lines like “Love is like a rosary, full of mystery” or “Love is as sweet as candy”).

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Ring a bell, right? Well, those days are gone.

Nevertheless, what brings me back to the glorious days of autograph books is the memory of me heartily writing down what I wanted to become when I grew up. You see, I belong to a family of doctors, nurses and dentists—a family in the medical field. My dad is a respected surgeon, my mom took up midwifery, my eldest sister is a nurse, and my other sister is studying to be a dentist. I am next in line.

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Back when we were kids, while my sisters were competing in science quiz bees, I was out there, too, winning in declamation contests and participating in press conferences. But no matter how I would try to deny it, reality always kicked in. The pressure of diving into the medical field was constant and intense. But it was more of what people expected of me, not what I expected myself to do or become someday.

After classes, I would go with and assist my dad in his clinic in his hometown of San Miguel, Iloilo. His clinic starts after office hours, which means he would drive down south from his office in Guimbal, never missing his seven-days-a-week habit.

I saw how he interacted with his patients. I assisted in one of his minor operations, which he conducted for free because a mother was begging him to save her son from excruciating pain. He did not think twice, and just did what he could do for the patient.

His consultation fees were paid in kind: His patients brought fruits or farm crops from their produce, and at times we’d even have live chickens. And he did not—does not—seem to care much that he has no financial gain; it appears that his patients’ tears of joy and hugs of gratitude sufficed.

I’ve seen how my dad is very passionate about his work. He never seems to get tired of doing his job. I can vividly recall that time when he told me how his work would energize him to do more instead of wearing him out.

In one of our conversations while on our way home, he casually asked me if I had decided what degree to take up. I was avoiding such an occasion where he would ask me if I had considered taking a premed course. It was numbing to think that my parents were expecting me to follow the lineup, so I did not give him an answer. I had no answer. Instead, it was he who told me that in deciding on the career I would like to pursue, it should be something I really love doing.

All that time, I thought I knew what I wanted: to be a doctor. Why the uncertainty now?

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And then I got to thinking. I wanted to be a doctor like my father because it was expected of me. Because my father is a doctor, it is generally assumed that I should carry on his practice. It would be a bonus of connections and resources for me. It would be even more practical to think that doctors help people, and are well-compensated and assured of the ease of living.

But were these reasons all I could gather for pursuing a career of a lifetime? Was becoming a doctor what I really wanted, or was it just a wise option? Was it just something people wanted for me?

A semester before graduating from high school, I took journalism as an elective. The course was nothing more than finding my place in this world. I had a glimpse of once again being in a creative bubble, as I was back when I made my own storybooks. I met people, interviewed them, explored places, and wrote stories about all these. I had never felt more driven to do something that fuels my imagination, expression and being.

It was the first time I felt right about the ground on which I was standing. I had the same spirit that pushed my dad to do well in his career. I knew then that I had made a choice. I rushed into my parents’ room, crying, fearing that they would not accept the fact that I could not pursue the path I thought they wanted me to take. There was nothing but silence—until I felt the comfort of their embrace and heard their words: “We’ll support you, whatever your decision is.”

From then on, I have believed that each of us is born with a distinct talent and that we have the chance to use it. As we grow up we should try, explore and discover different things. If we find something we truly like doing and find that we’re really good at it, why shouldn’t we go for it?

But discovering our talents and capabilities aren’t the only things there are to growing up. It might take experience, mistakes, a break, and solitude for us to realize how we can turn these into our passion.

My Facebook profile is very much different from what I wrote in my friend’s autograph book way back when. The last thing I remember writing in an autograph was that when I grew up, I wanted to become a doctor. Now that I have truly grown up, I realize that what I really wanted was to be like my dad—to be a person who chose and pursued a profession, not for practicality, but for true passion.

I took up communication and media studies. I guess all I ever wanted was to be a journalist—a passionate journalist.

Fydah Marie Sabando, 20, of Mandurriao, Iloilo City, is a fourth year student of the University of the Philippines Visayas.

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