I turned 30 years old recently. To mark the occasion, I want to reflect on my first three decades on Earth.
First, my regrets. There are plenty. From a professional standpoint, I regret entering medicine rather than law, as I feel I would have been better suited to the latter. But of far greater importance, I regret the years I lost to depression. From freshman year of college until well into medical school, I remonstrated myself daily over my own perceived shortcomings and allowed myself no pleasures or peace. In doing so, I achieved perfect grades and exceptionally high test scores, but I missed out on everything that matters: reading in the park, laughing and drinking with friends, having a romantic partner, going on vacations, pursuing hobbies. Instead of enjoying the halcyon days of youth, I despaired beneath a burden of intrusive thoughts, mental anguish, and physical exhaustion, a burden that nearly drove me to suicide in a dark Houston apartment.
My accomplishments and happy moments, I am grateful to say, far outnumber the regrets. I enjoyed a sheltered middle-class childhood filled with the love of my parents and siblings, the company of close friends, and the support of great teachers. Though it cost me dearly, I achieved academic success rivaled by few. I have scuba dived in the Caribbean, have flown airplanes over endless stretches of wheat fields in the summertime, have helped thousands of patients at an inner-city medical clinic, have stood beneath the giant redwoods of California, have biked across the Golden Gate Bridge, have climbed the trails of the Rocky Mountains, have watched the crowds of Times Square, have sat upon the steps of the US Supreme Court, have sipped a latte at the original Starbucks store in Seattle, and have interacted with brilliant colleagues and mentors at top universities. I have lived and worked in six countries across three continents. In those travels, I have driven the Great Ocean Road out of Melbourne and seen the Twelve Apostles as a crimson sun set over Earth’s southernmost sea; have zip-lined through one of the planet’s only cloud forests; have visited humble Buddhist shrines and ornate Islamic mosques; have taken a centuries-old train up Mt. Victoria; have attended an F1 race under the lights and infinite wealth of downtown Singapore; and have smelled the roasting beans of coffee farms on the slopes of ancient volcanoes in San Jose. I have advocated for LGBT rights. I have taught chemistry and biology at a public high school and have impacted the lives of 150 students, helping them to think more broadly about science and about their world.
I have experienced much from life thus far, and I hope to experience more in the future. I hope to write more extensively. I hope to continue traveling and working in countries around the world. I hope to better the health and lives of people around me through public health policy work. I hope to return to teaching in some capacity. I hope to find someone I love and who, somehow, loves me.
Here’s to the next 30 years.