As I finished internship a few years ago, I found myself wondering which area of medicine I would delve into more deeply. I narrowed it down to haematology, the branch of medicine dealing with blood, and neurology which deals with the brain and nerves. I was fascinated with the brain and how it works and I am still in awe of the millions of connections that make memories that last over decades. Although said memories can be conjured up at will or sometimes erupt on their own or be precipitated by various circumstances, no-one has ever held a memory in his or her hand.
I sat at a café a few days ago and as I glanced up, I saw a face that seemed to be familiar to me but I could not be sure. I vacillated for about an hour trying to decide whether to ask the young lady if she was someone from my childhood. You would think that this would be an easy task, going up to someone and asking his or her name. To be honest, for me it is not.
This is one of the ironies of life. I enjoy teaching and public speaking but I find it a little more challenging to be outgoing in more relaxed social environments. My husband takes pleasure in reminding me that since he entered my life, he has improved my community from a social dot to a social circle. However, that is enough about my social ineptness.
From somewhere deep inside I found the courage to ask her whether she was my childhood friend and as the recognition dawned on her face, I felt my own smile crash through the barriers of timidity and split my face in two! We have not seen each other in over three decades but the memories came rushing back. One of the more poignant stories I will share with you.
By now you must know that I am reserved and cautious by nature. My parents had surprised me with a blue Raleigh bicycle for my birthday and after learning to ride, I kept within the limits my parents had set me. Thus far and no further would I go each evening when I went outside to ride my shiny new bicycle. On this particular day, my friend, let us call her Ms S., suggested that we should have a race. As I considered it, I realised that I would not be disobeying my parents because the distance was well within those confines laid down by parental law. Out of the woodwork, the neighbourhood boys materialised and encouraged us to go ahead with the race. I did not know it then, but that was my first encounter with peer pressure as I succumbed to their urgings and wheeled my bicycle to the designated start.
Every beat of my heart was felt in my ears and I tried to steady the cacophony of thoughts swirling around in my head by steadying my leg on the ground. Somewhere to my right someone shouted, ‘On your mark, get set, go!’ and we were off. With laser-like concentration, I trained my eyes on the road ahead. Faster and faster my little legs pedalled yet they could not generate enough power for me to catch my friend. I was so determined to be the winner that I was oblivious to the crater just a few feet ahead of me.
In a matter of second, my front tyre hit the chasm in the road and like a scene from the Matrix I was catapulted through the air. The fear I was experiencing quickly turned to sheer panic as I noticed that the ground was rushing up at me. My body, a slave to gravity, hit the ground with a bone-jarring thud and I then understood what it meant to have the wind knocked out of you! I struggled to breathe, to move, to do something, anything. Time seemed to crawl by allowing numbness to be replaced by a pain I had never experienced and deep from somewhere inside me a primal wail erupted.
I must have been howling unmercifully because the next thing I remember in the haze of blood and pain was being lifted inside by my father. My mother was panicking as I was bleeding from chin, knee, elbow; maybe even my pride had haemorrhaged after that fall. I do not remember being chastised for racing against an older child and sadly my memory of the incident ends there.
I wear the scars on my chin and knee with pride as they serve as badges of honour earned for stepping out of my comfort zone. By no means am I suggesting that you race down the road on a bicycle at ‘brek-neck’ speed. However, earn your own badges of honour by stepping outside of your comfort zone; stretching yourself, aiming to reach higher heights and achieve more. It will be worth the pain.
(Renee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:[email protected])