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Only When You Speak Up

When I welcomed the new year, I was a 22-year old medical student enthusiastic to continue her fourth year. Armed with my new year resolutions, I was ready to take on the first year of a new decade. I was ready to make better decisions in my life so I wouldn’t mess up the new opportunity I’d been given.

Little did I know that all those plans would disintegrate into dust, through no fault of mine but by forces beyond my control, forces I’d failed to take into consideration in my planning. But you can’t blame me because nobody predicted this.

I have never before experienced as many emotions as I did this year. So many highs and lows. Nevertheless, I have learned a lot too. I have made some startling discoveries about myself, my family, and even my country.

The lockdown period allowed me to spend a lot of time with my family, more time than I would have liked but thinking about it now, I realize that I wouldn’t have had it any other way. You see, I have learned that family is one of life’s greatest treasures and one you would love to have close when life smiles on you and even when it decides to throw lemons at you. My mental health was highly preserved because I was surrounded by love. It’s truly the best place to be.

Soon enough I started to get restless because I knew that I couldn’t afford to waste this opportunity. Being a medical student, I hardly have any free time. I had already had a glimpse at the unpredictability of life, so I had to start. I just had to start. The resolutions I had written at the beginning of the year couldn’t lie fallow just because everything had gone awry. I decided to do the best I could with what I had been given. Time. So I started writing again, I started exercising again, I started trying new recipes in the kitchen. I started praying and studying my Bible again, I was determined to know God for myself, to practice faith instead of religion. I didn’t want to remain the same at the end, I had to make myself believe that there would be an end. I even read a self-help book. I hate self-help books but this one turned out to be really informative. It taught me how to better manage my finances.  All of these practices kept me sane even when the terror felt endless.

Apart from the pandemic raging around us, new threats came in the form of police brutality. It felt good to see the uprising, the movement that began all over the world against this injustice. This ongoing battle has made me understand that only when you speak up and demand freedom will you be paid any attention. If you keep bearing the pains of injustice in silence, hoping in silence for change, praying in silence, nothing will come of it. 

The crimes against women also shook me. It is sad that as a female, living in this world means I have to constantly fight for my survival. I have to fight the unjust government, fight the philosophy that there should be limits to my thoughts and deeds, I have to fight the people around me for my right to freely live. It is sad, indeed but I’m glad we didn’t stay quiet, instead we showed our strength to those who doubted us in the first place.

I have learned so much from this whirlwind roller coaster ride called 2020 but the one thing I have inscribed in my heart is to live, not just exist. Focus on what’s important while enjoying life as much as possible. Don’t put off your aspirations and dreams. Start as soon as possible because the end will come and when it does, you don’t want to leave behind a load of ‘what-ifs’ and ‘shouldas’.

When I welcomed the new year, I was a 22-year old medical student enthusiastic to continue her fourth year. Nevertheless, I will be leaving this year, a 23-year old medical student still in her fourth year but with a new look in her eyes and a mantra in her lips pushing her towards a bigger goal because this battle called life has to count for something for her, for her family and for her country.

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