A Deep Journey Into My Life
“Life is a Journey. Follow your Heart. Chase your Dreams.”
Let me take you on a deep little journey through my life…
Believe it or not, I struggled with weight, with fitting in, and with feeling accepted. I developed breasts before others and always looked at other girls admiring their “flat stomachs”. I did not understand the significance of nutrition and/or exercise and how my body composition was affected by my behaviors. This was not taught in school. In addition to poor body image, a strict upbringing and an inner desire to achieve always left me feeling a little inadequate. My father emphasized education, so popularity was not the main objective. Rather, my focus was on knowledge; however, I never had enough appreciation for my efforts, as I was forever seeking to achieve more.
Now my breasts were subjected to the eyes of overly hormonal boys and all of a sudden, they were no longer the catalyst to being teased. Go figure. Still, I was uncomfortable in my own skin and at the most awkward ages; there was no help that could have saved me from feeling ugly during these years.
High School Years
I remember being denied a date to the school dance by a boy who I would later see, years down the road. Never would I have realized how thankful I would be for that disappointment. It broke my heart to be turned down; if I had only known that there would be so many more opportunities for this young sensitive heart. At this time, life was filled with figure skating practice before and after school, private violin lessons, and finally during senior year, varsity tennis practice. When time wasn’t spent on my hobbies, then I would be at the ice arena watching my brothers play hockey. I loved hockey then and continue to love it now. Looking back I remember saying that I would never end up marrying a boy who played hockey, because they were all trouble. Family struggles were prominent, as my father was hard on me. I always thought his expectations were unreasonable and harsh. I never felt that I could fully meet his expectations. My grandmother, my mother’s mom, was always there for me. She was my very best friend and when she died at the age of 64, my heart was again broken. She was the woman who would sit and listen to me. She never had to discipline me by hand; her words carried enough power to render my respect. When I was upset, she emphasized the need “to be strong”. Two weeks before I graduated from high school, the most important person in my life at this time, would be taken from me.
Undergraduate College Years
Death scared me. When I found out that my grandmother had died, I had no idea of what she went through in passing. My high school sweetheart had no understanding of the loss that I was facing. His lack of care in the situation would bring his role in my life to an end. The woman who I shared all of my most vulnerable feelings with was no longer physically present in my life. Central Michigan University was one of the colleges that had accepted my application for undergraduate studies, but I felt lost and could not see myself moving away from home at this time. Instead of accepting their academic scholarship, I stayed at home. I completed courses at a community college and tried to figure out what I was going to do with my life. College came easy to me. The challenge engaged my interest more that what the courses did in high school. For this reason, I did exceptionally well. Between studying and working clerical positions, I would research career opportunities. I looked into business careers, which I had anticipated. Each and every job description did not fit with my idea of “enjoyment”. For some God-known reason, I decided to research medicine. Now, I think back to mother-daughter work day in sixth grade. I remember a woman who my mother cared for on the rehabilitation unit. She defecated all over her room and my decision at that time was that there was no way that I would ever work in a hospital. It was just not for me. However, years later I left the computer where I researched careers and took a seat with my father in our living room. That day I said, “Dad, I am going to be a doctor.” He had no idea where this was coming from and I am not sure he believed me, however, that day I was convinced. My grades earned me a full scholarship for my studies at Wayne State University, in Detroit, Michigan, where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and the completion of my pre-medical studies.
Between Undergraduate Studies and Medical School
Just as I had since the age of 16, I continued to work. I worked many jobs. My education, however, always came first. Whenever an employer would not work with my school schedule through undergrad, I would give my two week notice. It never failed, I would have a job. My clerical skills and knowledge of keyboarding was highly sought after, so I worked for temp agencies, manufacturing companies, software companies, hospital administrators, insurance agencies, background reference companies, and so on. Those positions paid, however, I never really enjoyed sitting behind a desk and usually, I would get my work done and then get in trouble for talking. Even my first grade teacher made a remark on my report card stating, “Nicole is a bright young lady, however, she talks a lot.” So, with that said, I began using my education and ability to talk “a lot” and began teaching group fitness classes. I received my certification through AFAA and before I knew it I was teaching up to 25 hours of cardiovascular and strength training classes, circulating between 5 gyms, each week. This schedule allowed me to take care of myself while I educated others on how to take care of them. I loved this so much that I went on to received two personal training certifications through ACE and NASM. During this time I personal trained at Lifetime Fitness in Shelby Township, MI. I also was the cardiovascular and metabolism program coordinator and I had the opportunity to teach many through exercise and nutrition seminars. With this new knowledge and my new body, I gained a great deal of self-esteem and confidence. All of the scars of my childhood were still there, but now they were hidden.
People asked “What will you do if you do not get accepted to medical school?” My response was always the same, “That is not a possibility”. With my perseverance and drive, I was accepted and I will never forget how happy my father was the day that I entered medical school. He was so proud and I finally felt that I was earning his respect. After having over a year off from school, I quickly realized that I needed to reprioritize and put academics at the top of my list again. Entering medical school with a degree in psychology proved to more challenging, however, now looking back on it I am incredibly grateful that I didn’t go the traditional biology route like most did. My knowledge in psychology has brought great personal benefit, so it was worth the extra effort required throughout medical school. Although my relationship with my father drastically improved, I recall one argument that I had with my father during this period of time. I told him that I felt that I would never be good enough for him and his expectations of me. For the first time in my life, I saw the hurt in my father’s eyes. He told me that I needed to reassess what I was saying and that they were not his expectations placed on me, but rather my own expectations that I had always placed on myself. You see no matter what path I would have taken in life, my father would have supported me and he would have been proud. It was on this day, that my eyes would see differently.
My father would never see me graduate from medical school, for he died during my medical school training. A devastating stroke took his life at the young age of 53. However, I did graduate from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine knowing how proud he was and how much he supported my endeavors. My father taught me more about life than probably anyone else I have ever known. He taught me the importance of education, working hard, and never giving up. He taught me about honesty and integrity. He showed me unconditional love and the importance of family. He taught me about acceptance and fate. His lessons are held inseparable from my heart and for each of those lessons, I am thankful. With my father’s death came pain and suffering for my family. The hurt I witnessed lead me to question my desire for love, for marriage, for that potential equivalent pain. Two months after my father’s death, I ended a marriage engagement of only four months duration and focused on my career. That particular man stated that I “was not there for him” only two months after my father’s death and he was right; I was not there for him. At this point, I was not even there for myself. I was there for my mother, my two younger brothers, and for the newest addition to our family, my godson. I took no time away from medical school to grieve the loss of my father, for that would not be what he would have wanted. I visited my mom every day for over a year and counseled my family for the great loss that we experienced. Despite my resistance, when I least expected it, I met a man who would become my husband.
Following Medical School
Despite all of the pain that I had experienced previously, life continued. On November 26, 2010, my two brothers walked me down the aisle to enter into a lifelong union with my husband, who was once a boy who grew up playing hockey and who also graduated from the university I was supposed to initially attend, Central Michigan University. Two weeks following this divine union, we experienced “for worse” and “in sickness”. New vulnerabilities, new fears, new realizations, and new experiences marked the beginning of our marriage. My world finally shattered in front of my eyes and uncertainty was ever-so-present in my life; in our life. With that uncertainty emerged that little girl who was discontent and forever seeking to achieve more. It has been a conscious effort, but I have been transformed through strength, hope, and faith. Through positive thinking and daily self affirmations, I realize that “my healing is already in progress” and “I will get through this experience and become stronger”. I look past my fears and I ignore those who doubt my abilities. Grateful, I wake up each day and know that through my experiences, pain, and understanding, I truly can make a difference. Through writing and speaking, I am healing and others are too. There is a great deal of uncertainty in my life; however, I finally embrace life as it presents itself to me.
To My Reader:
I encourage you to follow your heart and your dreams. Yes, there is uncertainty in this. However, through uncertainty one may find true inner peace and happiness. Do not let the insecurities of others discourage your dreams. Believe in yourself, as I believe in you. Once again, thank you for your support and encouragement as I follow this journey called life.
“People may doubt what you say but they will believe what you do.”
Author Unknown, from Achieve Your Dreams