By Maseray S. Kamara
Fearless is walking blindly and purposefully in the direction of a deep a guttural belief or conviction. Fearless is unwavering faith in a purpose, a movement, or a goal greater than yourself.
In my opinion, fearless is largely a misnomer – without fear it implies. Let’s be clear – I feel fear but I live my life in spite of it.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” It was a subtle jumpstart to my day; the words were printed over my bedroom door. As I exited into the world, the reminder propelled me to my purpose. As a soon to be medical doctor, I have a had a long academic journey and medical training is laden with peaks and valleys of triumphs and failures. But, as I reflect on this glorious journey, I realize I was rarely overtly overcome by fear. I wasn’t scared when I applied to college. I dreamt of attending an Ivy League, and I’m a proud Princeton alumna. I wasn’t scared when I applied to medical school. My grade point average was scarred, but MCAT demonstrated my abilities and my application highlighted my personal mission and vision. I applied to medical school confidently; rejection letters and waitlist offers did come however, I knew, deep down, that I would be accepted, and I was. I wasn’t scared when I applied for residency which is a trainees first job as physician and the continuation of medical training. I was not scared, and I can proudly say I will be a general surgery resident physician starting July 2018. While I have many accolades, the truth is I’m not a super hero. I’m not an odd ball or rarity. As Michelle Obama once said, “I’m just an ordinary woman making extraordinary decisions on a daily basis.”
To understand what the term fearless truly means I must reflect on a time when I was scared and overwhelmed by fear; it was studying for Step 1. The first test in a three-part series of our medical licensing exam. The stakes were high. We were told that our score was the most important part of future residency applications. A competitive score could open doors and lay down the red carpet, while a poor score could limit your chances of practicing the specialty of your choice in the geographical area of your choice. I let the high stakes get to me.
For the first time in my medical school career, I doubted my intellect and abilities. After hours upon hours of studying, my practice exam scores were just barely acceptable to my standards. It didn’t make sense that I had excelled in my medical school course work with my average score meeting the “Mastery Level” distinction at my school. I was overwhelmed. I felt defeated, and I was scared. Ultimately, I pushed my exam date back and took some time to re-evaluate, get in the right mind set, and create a study plan that would help me get over the hurdle.
I changed my mindset. I reflected on why I went into medicine and my personal mission to use my training and talents to serve the medically underserved. And, when my thoughts and actions aligned with my greater purpose, the fear dissipated. It was merely background noise because I knew, deep down in the pit of my gut, who I was and that I wasn’t put on this earth to play small. I approached my Step 1 studying with a newly found motivation, and I successfully tackled that hurdle.
Fearless is not listening to the external “cant’s” but, the internal “can” deeply embedded in your purpose. Fearless is being internally motivated and propelled. Fearless is getting quiet, being still, and feeling the urge to keep pushing, to keep grinding, to keep working despite the pain, despite the overwhelm feeling, and despite the struggle. Fearless is grit multiplied by persistence over time.
Maseray S. Kamara is a general surgery resident physician, writer, and speaker. Follow her inspiring medical career on Instagram @drkamara.