The Greatest Gift From God – Toilet Paper and his trusty sidekick, Poop
“No greater opportunity or obligation can fall the lot of a human being than to be a physician. In the care of suffering, he needs technical skill, scientific knowledge, and human understanding. He who uses these with courage, humility and wisdom will provide a unique service to his fellow man and will build an enduring edifice of character within himself. The physician should ask of his destiny no more than this and he should be content with no less.” –Some Wise Old Guy
Now now, I’m sure every single one of you also did a double take on that title, but rest assured, I promise that you will understand why I phrased it exactly like that. Albeit, it’s still probably a stretch and a loose connection to be made, but I believe it’s a strong metaphor and connection itself. So, I’ll try and keep it in your thoughts now despite those earlier pictures, toilet paper. toilet paper. toilet paper.
Though it seems like ages ago, June 17th, 2013 is the day that lives in infamy for me, a day that I contribute as the beginning of my bildungsroman story and what really set the foundation for what I wanted to pursue in my life. For the next three weeks at Cumberland Island National Seashore, I toiled everyday from 7am to 4pm in the severe heat and humidity hacking down trees, heaving rocks weighing hundreds of pounds, hoisting tree trunks on my shoulders and many more. I lost all contact with the outside world, sacrificing electricity, technology, showers and worst of all, the toilet. All I had was a trusty, foldable spade and a roll of toilet paper meant to last me my time there.
Never before had I realized how privileged I was for having double ply toilet paper.
But despite all those hardships and tribulations, I loved every single moment of those three weeks. I loved every gallon of sweat, the painstakingly sore mornings after chopping down trees, and the random rainstorms that rejuvenated my strength. These three weeks helped me to truly see a perspective people rarely see, the wonders of the outdoors at its most pure and raw form. Six crew members, including myself, and two crew leaders worked tirelessly from day to day, living with just the bare necessities. Instead of living in a well air conditioned and comfortable house that park rangers had, we lived in two person tents that were plagued with hot and humid air, the primary festing grounds for hungry hungry mosquitoes (#NoZika #NoMalaria) During our breaks and off days, we explored the island with tour guides and researchers in which we would learn about the historic buildings on the Island once owned by the Carnegie’s. Despite having sand and mud caked all over me in places I still have yet been able to clean, I experienced true beauty, happiness, community, and many wonderful memories. I was able to watch the sunset every night, observe wild horses trot along the beach, and even witness hundreds of turtle hatchlings make the great escape back into the ocean. Through my time there, I enjoyed meeting people from all over the United States never knowing just how different we could be, whether it was the way we talk, the way we make a sandwich and many more. Yet we had one thing in common, we all hated the lack of indoor plumbing!
Despite having sand and mud caked all over me in places I still have yet been able to clean, I experienced true beauty, happiness, community, and many wonderful memories. I was able to watch the sunset every night, observe wild horses trot along the beach, and even witness hundreds of turtle hatchlings make the great escape back into the ocean. Through my time there, I enjoyed meeting people from all over the United States never knowing just how different we could be, whether it was the way we talk, the way we make a sandwich and many more. Yet we had one thing in common, we all hated the lack of indoor plumbing! We wanted a place of solitude and solidarity, a place where we could naturally be ourselves and force the bad from us. We wanted to have that place apart from civilization and apart from other people. But most importantly, we all wanted better toilet paper than that thin-one-ply crap you’d find in a hospital ward. Our orifices were crying for us, more chapped than a chapped kid in a chappy chappity chapped country.
As the days winded down and my three week tenure came to a close, I came to the realization of one thing, I had to not only preserve nature from here on out, but I took it upon myself to preserve and care for human life as well in order for people to experience the wonderful spectacles that nature has to offer. I wish I could say that it was a magnificent epiphany, but it wasn’t, I was “squatting” out in the woods overlooking the sand dunes and the water just as the sun was rising. Huh, the imagery sounds nice, maybe I won’t ever mention that I was taking a dump during that time eh? But I would have never noticed the beauty along the horizon if I hadn’t forgotten my toilet paper roll cache; I had to look up and around to see if it had rolled away and I was smacked in the face with that beautiful dab of green, yellow, blue, and most colors of the rainbow (except purple, cause that’s weird). Although medicine was always on my backburner, it wasn’t until this moment did I decide to care for our future generations, so that they can witness the same magnificent beauty that we were able to witness ourselves. Thus, when we said our goodbyes and parted ways at the airport, it was then that I realized that Mother Nature had transformed me from an arrogant and naive little brat to a wiser, more perceptive and headstrong young man. But as I grew older, I learned of the limitations of medicine, from scientific research and the hurdles that it has to overcome to more of the administrative headaches that deal with policies and how they feel
Thus, when we said our goodbyes and parted ways at the airport, it was then that I realized that Mother Nature had transformed me from an arrogant and naive little brat to a wiser, more perceptive and headstrong young man. But as I grew older, I learned of the limitations of medicine, from scientific research and the hurdles that it has to overcome to more of the administrative headaches that deal with policies and how they feel I knew that if I really wanted to do good, to really bring about change to help and allow people the opportunity to soak in nature, I would have to get my hands dirty and push for technological advancements, scientific research proliferation, and I had to make the most of what I could throughout my own life.
I had to not only preserve nature from here on out, but I took it upon myself to preserve and care for human life as well in order for people to experience the wonderful spectacles that nature has to offer
Though many people don’t understand why I want to pursue medicine, with a degree like information technology and management, I often explain that it isn’t necessarily about the computer skills that I learn, but that it’s not only the understanding and development of technology that I can integrate and implement into healthcare, but it’s also the understanding of policies and capabilities of technology that can be used to help with healthcare. I didn’t want to follow the route of a “cookie-cutter premed student” doing a science major. Don’t get me wrong though, I love my science courses but I don’t think I could have spent four years in a science-heavy major taking classes, some of which I had no interest in as opposed to computers and technologies, which as my mother would say in Cantonese, “I glued my eyes to ever since I was born”. I’m choosing to focus more on the “Management” aspect of my degree, namely because much of healthcare today is governed by ineffective or lack of policies, and even then policies are often passed with one of two ideas in mind, finances or compliance. Unsurprisingly, after having done some work with information security in healthcare, not a lot of consideration is placed on the actual security, efficient workflow, and unfortunately, ways to help the physician maintain a patient-centered care philosophy. Only now in college do I realize that I had a similar epiphany, it was, as expected, back in the days when I was uncomfortable, yearning for more, and most importantly short on toilet paper. Ever since then, I’ve always equated a shortage of toilet paper as a sign to me, that things will look up, that there are greater things for me to pursue, and that there are still things to be done in my life.
With that in mind, I also hope to be a physician that can act as a liaison at the crossroads of very different subject areas of medicine, information technology and policies, as well as scientific research in order to guide the advancement of healthcare in this technological age. In addition, having a strong understanding of technology, coding, front and back-end development will prove to be useful in the advancement of scientific research and streamlining much of the grunt work of data entry and management. It allows me to deal with forms of computational research as well as the aggregation and analysis of raw data. Though my research interests vary, I do believe that having a strong technical background would supplement well with my own interests. As such, having a strong research background would also allow me to further understand the implications of new research as well as to have a more critical and analyzing eye for their methods, results, and discussions. Not only would this give me a stronger and more thorough exposure to the sciences, but it would provide me an opportunity to find the science that I am the most passionate about. Although it may take years or even generations, I hope to be able to put my best effort forward and help with problems that are facing our society today. Aside from the research work, I would have the opportunities and chances to help make myself more well-rounded by attending discussions and round-table debates over an assigned reading, something that I enjoy with my friends because it allows us to learn about different perspectives, points of views, and methods and solutions to the same problem. With each toilet square, I will continue to find myself, and find what drives me to be who I am.