February 20, 2007

Why learn something new?

My father never smoked a cigarette in his life, but he suffered from emphysema, most likely brought on by his commission in the military. He was commander of an artillery brigade during World War II. While he lived to age 84, he spent a good share of his senior years on hospital beds.

The years before he passed away, he often said to me, "If you had become a doctor, you would be treating me. You should have studied medicine." That time I was into information technology and marketing.

I didn't know then how to reply to my father's sentiment. But now I know. I would never have become a doctor, even if I tried real hard. I wasn't born with the brain cells to store volumes of medical information and readily access them for the patients I needed to treat. I wasn't even born with the stomach to stay calm and collected when a fellow human being screams in pain and gushes blood. I wasn't born with doctor genes.

Instead, I was born with a deep sense of curiosity and awe... at the universe around me. I might be curious enough to learn about health and sickness, and biology and mortality, maybe even psychiatry or surgery, but I'm also curious about thousands of other non-medical things.

At age 13, my curiosity in the kitchen led me to learn how to bake different types of cakes, cookies, and desserts. My mother couldn't stop me from pedaling the sewing machine and making my own clothes. I knew how to crochet, embroider, and make handicrafts. I think I was 16 when I learned how to mix cement and lay down bathroom tiles. Balancing on ladders to paint walls and window grills was as much an adventure for me as raising aquarium fishes, growing cacti, and solving jigsaw puzzles. Later on I found myself building wall shelves, practicing karate, and climbing mountains. Then computers and the Internet came along, opening up more stuff to delve into.

Much of this curiosity must have been handed down by my mother. She was half Spanish and big on discipline, but as she taught me how to set the table and entertain guests the old fashioned way, she also taught me never to fear new things. Read. Travel. Mingle. Observe. Absorb and appreciate as much as possible.

I wasn't born with the brains and guts of a doctor. I was born with a heart compelled to explore, find adventure, and learn new things everyday. My ailing father wouldn't have understood, but I think that if he could read me now, he would still be pleased.

Stories about my parents as my inspiration and role models are here:

No comments: