Knowing when to stop and when to keep going

Perhaps the difference between the foolish and the wise is knowing when to stop and when to keep going.
Nearly four years ago, Layla Taghehchian, the daughter of a dear friend, was approaching college graduation from UL with a degree in biology. She asked if I would help edit an essay she was writing to get into physician’s assistant school. I said, “Sure.” Then I asked, “What exactly is a physician’s assistant?”
According to the American Academy of Physician’s Assistants, a PA is “is a medical professional who works as part of a team with a doctor. …PAs perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to practice and prescribe medications.”
I told Layla to bring it on. She read me her paper. We edited it. She applied to several schools. The schools are highly competitive, but we were hopeful.
Several months later, I learned Layla had not been accepted. She got a job, but she deliberately didn’t seek the best job she could get. She sought a job that would make her a more desirable candidate for PA school. She became an EMT.
A few months after that, Layla came around again. She explained she was applying to PA school and wondered if I would help edit. We edited her paper a second go round and, once again, Layla applied to a variety of schools across the country.
Months passed. I was afraid to ask what happened. Finally, her mom told me that Layla didn’t get into any of the PA schools.
At that point, some of her friends encouraged her to move on. Instead, she kept her fulltime job and enrolled in paramedic school. She believed being a trained paramedic would be smiled upon in another attempt at applying for PA school. Often times, three weeks would pass before she would have a day off.
When the time came, she called me again, “Ms. Jan, would you help me edit my PA school essay?”
I told her I would, but this time I did some research. The little bit I could find told me that PA schools didn’t want anything canned. They wanted the same thing that they rest of us want — heart. When Layla brought her essay the third time, I said, “It’s good, but this time, you’ve got to go all in, Layla. You’ve got to dig deep and tell your biggest truth. You’ve got to figure out what is it in you that is driving you as hard as this is driving you to become a PA.”
I could tell she doubted me. But like her, I was undeterred. I kept going. “You’ve tried the other kind of essay that was true too and full of all the stuff you thought they wanted to hear. This time, tell your story — one that could never be confused with anyone else’s.”
And she began to tell me about the cheese sandwiches her grandmother made her every afternoon when she got off the bus from school. She told me about growing up between two cultures — Cajun and Persian. She told me about her grandmother’s heart attack and death — and that she never got to say goodbye. Layla’s whole story unfolded right before our eyes. It was her story and hers alone — and it was beautiful.
She wrote it down, and we both knew it was good.
Once again, she mailed in her applications. Within a few months, I began hearing that she was getting interviews all over. This time Layla was accepted into plenty of schools. She got to pick the one she wanted! Earlier this month, she started classes.
I am proud of her for so many reasons — and the main one is her wisdom. She knew to keep going when so many of us would have quit.

Honduras bound.

hondurasWhen life is getting too comfortable, I’ve found it wise to devise a kick-in-the-pants-reality check. Keeping the bounty of our lives in perspective is almost impossible. I seldom realize just how comfortable most aspects of my life are — from hot water on demand, to the perfect pillow and bed, to car windows that dance at a fingertip’s notice.
Through the years, I’ve created reality checks in a variety of forms. I’ve learned to plan them in ways that are also fun and, as such, they are rarely to be confused with Galahad-like efforts. In fact, later this week, I’ll leave for an adventure/reality check as I join a medical mission, comprised of other Louisiana folks, to Honduras. The goal of the trip is to provide medical assistance for those who have access to little to no medical treatment. I plan to assist translating and however else the medical personnel need me.
My Spanish is rusty, but I’m usually able to communicate what’s needed — though my attempts may not be beautiful or grammatically correct. However, I’ve come to believe communicating at a disadvantage is good for me too. Surely, one of the best things about learning another language is the humility and courage required. I expect a week of doing my best to communicate in Spanish will be good for the nooks and crannies of my noggin, as well.
Learning and practicing a second language, especially as an adult, is fun too. The whole experience of learning something completely new can be truly exciting. I’ve read some research that indicates that some people exhibit different personality traits when they speak different languages. I can’t say for sure, but I agree that speaking/thinking in a different language presents a different take on the world. As I was reviewing some Spanish lessons last week, I learned a new conjunction and you may have heard me squeal — apparently, I’ve not cool enough to hide my excitement in Spanish or English.
Until now, my preparations for this upcoming adventure have begun and ended with practicing Spanish. Usually, when I’m taking a major trip, I plan, plot and research all the options and possibilities. This time it’s different. In fact, I’ve only recently learned the basics of the journey, including the names of towns and villages where we’ll be staying and working. I’ve appreciated that other people I trust are in control and have done this before — so I’m going on faith.
I do know that the weather should be considerably warmer than here, and several people have simply said the word, “bugs” to me in terms of my preparing for the trip. I believe I’ll take some bug spray and ointment. I’ve been advised to bring minimal clothes and gear — shoes and towels that I plan to leave there and three changes of clothes. This point of this trip is not about looking good. I understand that in the villages where we’ll stay for the majority of the trip, electricity is intermittent and hot water is relative.
All the more to appreciate once I get back home.