4: Doctor’s Orders

4: Doctor’s Orders

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible

Doctor’s Orders

Desire is transformed into drive when a dream creates a passion for action.

~Dr. Robert Anthony

I was sitting in the lobby of a doctor’s office waiting for my annual check-up. I was impatiently applying my favorite apple-scented lotion to my hands when the nurse called me back to see the doctor.

I plopped myself down in the examining room chair, annoyed that my mom had even scheduled the appointment to begin with. As doctors so often do, when he arrived he dove right in to the basic small talk about my health history. But then he threw in a question that took me off guard.

“So Robin, what are you going to do after high school?” he asked while scribbling away on the file in front of him.

What was I going to do after high school? Was he kidding me? He wasn’t. He continued scribbling away at his notes, with not even a glance in my direction.

“Uh… I don’t know,” I mumbled. I didn’t know. I was seventeen. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do after high school. I had just had a meeting with my high school guidance counselor about this very subject. A meeting in which she told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t “college material” — and I believed her. My grades were sub-par. Education wasn’t exactly emphasized in my family. “You don’t know? Well, why don’t you go to college to become a doctor like me?” He smiled as he glanced at his watch.

Go to college to become a doctor? Who was this man kidding? I thought he was crazy for even suggesting it. I was the youngest of five children and no one in my family had even graduated from college, let alone become a doctor. And I wasn’t college material.

Yet, none of this mattered. He remained silent, awaiting my response. I looked up and noticed his gaze remained focused on his file, still scribbling away.

Rattled by his question, I blurted out what I believed to be true.

“I’m not smart enough to be a doctor.”

Time seemed to stand still. The doctor immediately stopped writing; he capped his pen and turned toward me. He moved any and all distractions aside; he looked me straight in the eyes when he very seriously said, “Let me tell you something; you don’t have to be smart to be a doctor. You just have to be persistent.”

Just as quickly as time seemed to stop, it abruptly picked back up again. The doctor hurriedly gathered his things and rushed off to his next appointment. I never saw him again. On the ride home I found myself thinking about what he had said. I continued to think about it when I was at school. What would I do after high school?

Even though I wasn’t college material, that doctor made an impression on me. I applied to a college close to home and soon found myself walking the campus as a new student.

I felt completely out of place. I was going through the motions but I often questioned what I was doing there. Had I set myself up to fail? Then I would think back to that doctor’s appointment. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough for college, but I could be persistent.

So, I began breaking down anything that seemed daunting into steps. For example, I didn’t think I could pass the statistics course that was required for my program. While I didn’t think it was possible to pass the course, I did think it was possible to get a passing grade on the first assignment. “After all, anything is at least possible, right?” I found myself thinking. “Surely, stranger things have happened,” I would tell myself.

I put all my energy toward passing the first assignment and when I did, I put all my energy into passing the next assignment. Then I put my all into passing the first exam and so on. Viewing each assignment individually didn’t seem so overwhelming. Individually, it seemed maybe possible.

I used this approach for each task and sure enough, the sum of each individual achievement got me through the course and then I started all over again with the next. I discovered that when I was persistent, I could achieve things I never believed possible. I was pleasantly surprised to find that with each individual achievement came newfound confidence in myself.

I became the first in my family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. I began to dream bigger.

If I could graduate with a bachelor’s degree, I wondered if it was possible to earn a master’s degree. For the longest time I had convinced myself that I shouldn’t press my luck but the question of “What if?” remained. Ten years later I gave in to the “What if?” and I enrolled in a master’s degree program.

I honestly thought I was crazy for even trying. I was working full-time when I enrolled. Then I got married and then I got pregnant. It wasn’t easy juggling work, a marriage, becoming a new parent and the seemingly endless and lengthy assignments. But, I persisted. I had grit. I thought possible. I graduated with a master’s degree in September 2014, two decades after that conversation with my doctor. I only wish I could remember his name. I still think of him often and wish I could shake his hand and tell him “thank you.” Sometimes even the smallest moments in time can have a life-changing impact.

Even if you’re told you don’t have what it takes to succeed, it’s important that you never stop dreaming. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Sometimes even the “experts” are wrong: get a second opinion. And then get a third opinion, or better yet, don’t even ask them — find out the answer for yourself.

Think possible.

~Robin L. Reynolds

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