Dear Mr. Fariborz,
Wow, where has time gone?!? I miss you so much. Reading your e-mail brought back so many great memories. As you’ve heard, I’m pursuing my dream of becoming a physician at Johns Hopkins. Moving away from home has given me the opportunity to really reflect on everything that I have done in life. It pushes me to analyze my decisions–for better of for worse. Over the past 5 years, I have felt like something has been missing in my heart. Hearing from you, as I live across the country with no family here, made me realize how I have allowed my pursuit of excellence interfere with the most important things in life–the little things!
Do you remember an e-mail I sent you when I started my undergraduate years at UCLA? I wrote to you about my first major medical experience. The most interesting thing was that I was the patient watching a team of doctor’s decide how to treat me. I felt a level of vulnerability, but also confidence that I was in good hands. That experience further ignited my passion to become a physician and I have not lost sight of that goal ever since. However, let me explain why I now feel that there has been a dark cloud hanging over my path.
I worked so hard for four years at UCLA and did not allow anything to discourage me from continuing my education. Unfortunately though, I now feel that I never “stopped to smell the roses.” One of the first major sacrifices that I made was halting my martial arts training at the studio. I believed, at that time, that there was not enough time to study and actively be involved in the many community service activities that I was a part of. Unknowingly, I cut out a piece of my heart with that decision.
The martial arts, undoubtedly, gave me the discipline and strength to get where I am today. Ironically, it was the first to go! I still receive the TKC newsletters and usually delete them, thinking that there can’t be much important information in them and that they will only serve as a constant reminder of what I gave up. However, I read the last one you sent and looked at the 2001 Black Belt Graduates. My goodness!! Looking at all those people making such a huge leap is amazing! I read a few of the bios and couldn’t help but begin to cry. I realized the true physical and, most importantly, emotional value of the promotion to the Black Belt rank. I noticed the younger students the most, as they make their way to 1st and 2nd degree Black Belts. It reminded me of my tests and the grueling mix of emotions I felt as I rose in the ranks. Earning my 3rd degree was just icing on the cake. I feel that my most influential exam was my 1st degree exam. We spent close to 14 hours in the studio that day! After that exam, I felt the highest level of satisfaction. It helped me realize how great it is to work for so many years at a seemingly distant goal and finally achieve it.
As weird as it may sound, I miss that exam day and can only look back on it as a memory. I now wish that I could be there to talk to each and every one of this year’s graduates and hear their stories. If I could tell them all one thing, it would be NEVER forget the experiences, friendships, and emotions that their training at the studio has afforded them.
I am now beginning a new chapter in my life as a medical student. There are no words to describe how amazing it is to watch the world’s best doctors in action everyday. Knowing that I will soon join their ranks is the new driving force in my life. There is one major difference though; I have now learned to appreciate every new day, new experience, and new relationship. I truly believe in the saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life…and it could be your last.” Unfortunately, here in Baltimore, I see many young lives end everyday as a result of violent crime. Our ER has multiple patients come in with gunshot wounds and stab wounds every night. I can’t allow myself to just accept these acts of violence and move on. I have become actively involved in a community revitalization project here to help get kids off the streets. I am working to impart the knowledge and discipline that you gave me to these children. I plan to hold free martial arts classes for the neighborhood children in hopes of providing them with similar opportunity that I had when I was younger and becoming their mentor for life.
I am thankful for our relationship, Mr. Fariborz. I feel that we have an eternal connection. Even as time passes and we don’t hear from each other, we are always able to pick up right where we left off. Please don’t let this time be like the others. I want to maintain contact with you. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I will be back in Los Angeles for Thanksgiving. I hope to see you then. Take care.