When I let myself wallow, I breathe long and deep and slow and sometimes, sometimes I stop breathing all together.
Just for a minute. I lie down, stare at nothing in particular, and listen to my heart pound: each throb against my rib cage a shattering reminder that I am here for now and every breath you have is borrowed my dear, so please — make the most of it. My heart slows as I do this and I think, sometimes, that life is a curious thing: that I have this small-ish organ made entirely of a muscle unique to itself (did you know you have three types of muscle tissue? skeletal, smooth, and cardiovascular — and that last one, that’s what makes your heart beat.) and that I cannot truly control it. I can tweak it every now and again: a lack of sleep here, a caffeinated beverage there, some exercise to “get the blood flowing” a bit faster than it would.
But I can’t make it stop. And when, one day, it does stop? I will not be able to make it start again.
I want to study medicine. That sounds somewhat fancier than I want to be a doctor. I do, though, that’s the thing. I want to put myself through more school, through more learning, through tests and trials and labs and residency and maybe, one day? One day I will sit here typing, just like I am now, but I will have initials after my name that mean my mama and daddy can look at me and say she made it. We didn’t know if she would, but God carried her through and just look at our big girl go.
Mostly, though, I want to be a pediatrician. I want to learn as much American Sign Language as I possibly can, and I want to be a pediatrician. I want to study long and hard and someday, someday, maybe work in a city where I’ll keep studying for years, years, and more years: a place where all these hours spent pouring over textbooks and test books transform into years spent practicing medicine and I know it won’t be perfect, not by a long shot, but maybe, somehow, between the medicine and the signing and the crying and the laughing — somehow, I will make this world a little more beautiful before that cardiovascular muscle does stop moving; make one small corner of this big, broken world a little more whole, a little more lovely, a little more hopeful. Overflow out of my own desires and in doing so end up helping others with theirs.
Not that my life or success or happiness depend on this dream. They don’t. For all that it’s my dream, mostly I just want to make it to well done, good and faithful servant after a messy life of love and hope. It is my dream, though, my Miss Rumphius dream. Did you ever read that book? The story starts when Miss Rumphius is just a little girl named Alice. Her grandfather tells her that she may certainly travel the world as he did and retire by the sea. There is a third thing you must do, he tells her.
What’s that? she asks. He answers with a smile that’s all patient love, a simple sentence reaching little Alice’s heart that rings just as true in my own.
You must do something to make the world more beautiful.