Well, it’s been a minute, hasn’t it? The last time I posted, I had just gotten back from a semester abroad in Ecuador and a trip to India. Now, I’m halfway done with my spring semester of junior year. Life has been so crazy since being back. After having six months of life centered around cultural experiences and exploration, rather than work and rigorous studies, it was extremely difficult to get back into the studious routine that I have lived my whole life. Now I’m back into the swing of things. It’s been one of the happiest, yet most strenuous semesters of my college career. I’m happiest in the sense that I’m reunited with my friends and professors who I’ve missed, and I’m back in a community that feels like my second home.
My classes in Biochemistry, Systemic Physiology, and a History course on Poverty, Charity, and Welfare are so intellectually stimulating; they have made me begin to think about how I can use my future in science to provide a voice for those who are less fortunate.
The biggest weight on my shoulders is the MCAT, the entrance exam a person needs to take to apply for medical school. I’m taking the exam in less than a month, and this semester has been a roller coaster of feelings from peace to anxiety to confidence to inferiority. When I got back this semester, I realized that more people in my class are applying to medical school than I thought, and immediately I felt threatened. I felt like now more than ever I have to prove myself to others. That mentality quickly spun out of control. I would get these thoughts saying that I needed to be the best, not only for the MCAT, but for my other classes as well. If other people did as well as me, or almost as well as me on exams or anything that had a grade attached, I would get mad at myself and I couldn’t feel happy for the other person. Then one day, I began thinking, why do I get upset if other people, especially my closest friends, achieve something good? As their friend, shouldn’t I be happy that they are happy and succeeding? If I worked hard and achieved something, wouldn’t I want others to be happy for me? I realized that I had let comparison and envy obscure my perception of the events occurring around me.
In Ecclesiastes 4:4 it states, “all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” This verse resonates so deeply with me. Because I let comparison and envy take control, I lost sight of why I want to attend school and pursue medicine and public health. When my head and heart are in the right place, I know I want to pursue this career because it combines my interest of science with my desire to fight for social justice, especially in regards to access to quality healthcare. Plus, I believe that a large aspect of faith is not only what you believe, but also how you conduct your life in order to bring love, joy, peace, etc. into the world. Especially with all of the horrors occurring recently, I feel especially called to take action by doing everything I can to bring goodness into the world; for me, I think medicine and public health is one way I can achieve that.
However, when I let envy and comparison creep in, I find myself wanting to achieve not with the hopes of fulfilling my vocation to serve others, but to impress others. I either want to be as successful as other people, or I want others’ successes that I do not have. This cycle truly is like “chasing after the wind.” These negative thoughts don’t make me a more successful person—they bring me down and threaten my relationships with others. These thoughts never make me feel satisfied because they force me to believe that my worth stems from how I compare with others, and I forget that my worth comes from God, who created each of us to be unique individuals.
So throughout this last month, I was reminded that it’s pointless to try to compare myself with others because God intentionally created us to be different individuals, pursuing God’s will for our lives in different ways. They only way that I can find peace and joy is if I become content with who God created me to be, not by how well I appear in comparison to others. This is still very much a struggle, and I think it always will be something that I have to work on. However, acknowledging that envy and comparison are areas of my life I need to address has already helped me start changing my actions towards others. For example, I’m trying not to talk about grades or any scores with people because that can just turn into a numbers game. Also, when something good does happen to one of my peers, especially if it’s something that I wanted as well, I don’t offer up a shallow congratulations, but tell them how happy I am for them after I have processed the news to the point where I genuinely feel that emotion.
Like it said in Ecclesiastes, envy is meaningless, and I can attest to it first hand. We live in a culture that thrives on competition and success, but I realize that if I can resist the temptation to look to others for self-worth, I can find peace in the fact that God made me for a specific purpose, unique to anyone else, and with that in mind, I can focus on becoming the best version of myself.
Lots of love,