Wednesday, February 13, 2013

To Astronaut, or not to Astronaut?

Growing up I wanted to be a plethora of things. I wanted to become a news anchor and be just like Diane Sawyer or Robin Roberts… until I learned that meant traveling to war torn areas or disaster zones. Being a true Californian, I thought I would want to be come a seismologist… but then I decided I would much rather not spend my time thinking about our impending doom and the nightmare of “The Big One”. I thought maybe an astronaut would suit me well… until I learned that there was no oxygen in space.

            I have always been fascinated by science and arithmetic, I was the kid who would toss dolls aside and instead spend my time on “crystal growing kits” and watching ZOOM on PBS. Even now, my friends know my as the one who has watched every NOVA and BBC Horizon documentary and shares the juicy details of what I learned in genetics with them (whether they want to hear about mutated flies with eyes all over their bodies or not). It wasn’t until 5th grade that I started to honestly consider a career in the medical field. Most of my life, I’ve spent a lot of time going in and out of hospitals because many of my family members suffer from various illnesses. I’ve always looked up to those in the medical field with awe; they were magical beings dedicated to trying to help and cure those around them! I could think of no other career that I would enjoy more.

            In 2006 I unfortunately lost an uncle to brain cancer, but I never forgot the courage and strength which with he kept fighting. He had a dream of opening a clinic in my family’s town in Mexico for all those who did not have the financial means to afford medication and treatments. Although he is no longer with us, I remember his love of life, pure heart, and his dream; it is he who inspired me to follow a career as a neurosurgical oncologist. When it came time to apply to colleges, I proudly wrote neurosurgical oncologist on all my applications. It seemed so easy then! “In a little over a decade, I will be a surgeon,” I thought, “I’ll just take the classes I need to take and that’s all, it’ll be easy!”

….And then I got to college. It suddenly wasn’t as easy as it once seemed, the amount of work and readings were slowly starting to get to me. For a bit I even wondered if this path was for me. My grades weren’t as good as in high school and the material didn’t come to me as easily either. “What are you doing Cynthia??” I would tell myself as I struggled over my p-sets.

Then I started volunteering as a Spanish interpreter at Haven Free Clinic, a clinic that offers free consultations and low-cost medications to a predominantly working-class Latino community on Saturday mornings. During the appointments many would begin to tell me a bit of their life stories, the struggles they had to endure to get to the United States to experience El Sueño Americano. However, once they arrived here, the US wasn’t as wonderful as they had imagined. They were working dangerous, minimum wage jobs while trying to support a family, and their bodies had to suffer the consequences. At the clinic, I was able to see first hand, the consequences of a difficult and often unjust country.

            As they leave the consultation room, I’ve had a few people give me hugs and tell me not give up on my dream because I was an inspiration for their children. It seemed kind of weird that 17 year old me could be an inspiration for anyone because I’ve done nothing, and what I have done has been with the help and support of dozens of others. The family, friends, teachers, counselors and many more who have had their own struggles to overcome in this country.

            I think part of the reason why I love working at the clinic so much is because no matter how hard my week has been, how bad my quiz grades were, or how little sleep I’ve had, I know that in the long run all of my efforts will pay off and I will finally be able to give back to all those who have made it possible for me to be where I am today. So regardless of how difficult college “seems” at times, I know I’ll get there because no matter how bad things are, there are others who have it much, much worse.

            I am proud to say that I am the product of several generations of hardworking people who with blood, sweat, and tears have been able to build a better life for themselves. My family’s efforts are finally paying off, and I hope that one day, I will be able to help cure and treat those who have not been so lucky by lightening the load of their worries so that one day their kids can have the luxury of choosing whether they want to be an astronaut, or seismologist, or news anchor.   

Now, back to studying! :)

Con MEChA amor,
Cynthia Campos

1 comment:

  1. Very nice piece. Thanks for sharing your story. Very proud to share my name with you! Suerte!