Three years ago when I entered McMaster University, I was following what everyone else was doing, what courses they took, what clubs they joined, and how to get the highest grades. Today, I am choosing my courses based on my goals. I am participating in clubs based on my interests. And I am drawing action plans to overcome my weaknesses. Interestingly, my facilitator once told me to replace the word weakness with areas of improvement. Tonight, I learned to replace the words areas of improvement with growth points.
As I reflect upon the last three years of my education, I have grown towards making my own life map instead of fitting myself in someone else’s toolbox. When I first heard the word, self-directed learning, the immediate image formed in my head was a person studying alone in the library. However, I have drawn a different image now. It is one where the person is reflecting, evaluating, planning, executing, collaborating and assessing continuously to fill the burning curiosity from a question he formulated. Despite my clean timetable, fourth year has proven to be a lot harder than first year. In first year, it was okay to make mistakes. It was okay to take things slow and explore different options. Although it is never too late to try regardless of age, there is always an external pressure forcing you to make decisions. Especially in the graduating year, the decisions are no longer trivial and can cause a ripple effect in your life. For the first time, my esteemed shiny decision-making skills are put to the test. Should I look for a job or continue my study? Should I move out of home or bother my parents one more year? Should I pay off my student loans now?
The problem is, all of these questions trace back to a core issue. So I found myself asking the question, where do I want to direct my learning now after Health Sciences?
Well, the truth is that I love interacting with people and I believe conversations can have a therapeutic role if done with effective communications. I also enjoy learning the science behind the mechanisms of the human body and pathologies. What I love the most is being able to share these knowledge with the health care stakeholders so they are empowered to care for their own health. However, there is another part of me that simply craves to design and be creative. I believe the latter can be satisfied as a hobby. In order for me to achieve success in the medical field, there are numerous skills I need to work on, including communications, leadership, public speaking, and decision-making. Therefore, this is what fourth year is all about to me: taking time to grow and being true to myself. Forgiving and accepting my shortcomings while finding ways to improve.
I can still remember my first meeting with my facilitator as a freshman. She asked me to guess what BKTY stands for. I shook my head, and she smiled:
“Be kind to yourself.”