Yesterday I returned from a sweet and luxurious vacation to Bali, Indonesia with several days in Dubai, UAE on long layovers. I received some much-needed restoration to my poor adrenals and relaxation after almost 4 years of intensive medical school, finishing up this June. I know that I have it good…better than good. I am happy to say that I spend most of my life in gratitude, and in this 4 years in medical school, I’ve been running ragged pulling in all of the opportunities to soak up learning in the prospect of helping those in the clinic currently and in my future practice. I turned a bit of a corner on this vacation though, and realized that I am coming to a time in my life where it no longer seems acceptable to me to just learn. It’s time to do something.
I think when in medicine we all have points in our careers, whether it be in medical school or 20 years in, that we realize that sometimes we are just spinning trying to keep up with the circumstances in our patients lives, while the system keeps putting them in the same positions over and over again. Hopefully we all have times where we visit other places, perhaps out of our comfort zones, and experience the challenge others live in, and the ways they live their lives through it. Hopefully we get to experience the feeling of despair for others followed by the desire to serve and change our world for the positive. But then what.
It’s so easy to turn a blind eye, or to simply forget. We get the privilege of being able to move on with our lives and not change a thing. Not do a thing. I remember in my early 20s when I returned from Haiti after being there for a month. I was deeply depressed. How was I supposed to live my life in all of this privilege? Eat my fresh nutritious meals, sleep in my bed with my brand new comforter, under a roof with heat and air conditioning, showers, kitchens, TVs, lighting, clean water. As the depression lifted and I found purpose in going to medical school and learning to help others, I can’t say that I have done much more at this point besides learning to reach out in my global community. Perhaps it wasn’t time for me, or perhaps its too painful. Who knows. I can feel the stirring in me again, though.
I didn’t expect to feel the anger, sadness, and shock I did when I went to Dubai. It didn’t take long to uncover the egregious violations to human rights hiding discretely in the shroud of affluence, beauty, and progression that Dubai has become known for. After speaking to a local woman for some time and hearing about the Filipino women who become enslaved, raped by the families they work for, and sentenced to flogging or stoning for “adultery” when reporting it, I felt angry, sick. I could feel them there. I could feel that it would take just one wrong step for any of us women and we could end up in the system that endorses forced disappearances and flogging and stoning to death for rape victims. But I got to be a tourist. I got the safety of my hotel, of being white, of getting to leave on a plane whenever I wanted.
These women could not do that so easily.
After reaching out to a fellow sister in advocacy, I am grateful to have some leads and inspiration for advocacy here, including Polaris Project, where I can become involved in Seattle in serving human trafficking victims. I don’t know exactly what I will do yet. I know I don't have the answers, and am in a spiritual search for what is right placement for me in advocacy, in human rights movements. There are so many wonderful organizations to become involved in. Right now I am simply grateful to the beautiful humans along the way in the past couple of weeks who have reopened my heart and eyes to the opportunities I have to serve and give of my gratitude in different ways than the one on one I am blessed to be a part of in patient interactions. I am searching, putting up prayers along the way for the beautiful souls who need help, love and direction in this world, including me.