“Hey, if you all read or hear news about the demonstration and attacks in Myanmar today, don’t panic. We are all safe here.”
When my parents were raising their children, I am sure they never imagined that they would one day be receiving texts like these from one of their daughters.
I was raised in a traditional Asian household where strong emphasis was placed on family values, filial piety and striving for a good education. It was, and still is, most parents’ dream to see their children succeed in life by becoming a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer, and luckily for me, I myself wanted to study medicine. How apt.
My parents are proud that I became a doctor and have a good job with stable income and am contributing back to society, but they would be happier if I would one day run my own private practice in comfort. I followed the streamline to a tee – medical school, completing internship, doing specialty program, rural district posting and planning to go into subspecialty training.
This was the expected and conventional route. But somewhere along the line, towards the end, I deviated, much to my parents’ despair. I became an anomaly.
I still remember, one very ordinary day last year , while having brunch with my mother and sister, I excused myself to take a call…and 45 minutes later, I came back and announced that I was accepted by MSF and would be going to the field. My mother asked me what MSF was, and when I told her Doctors Without Borders, she thought I was joking. My sister was worried but very excited.
As soon as my mother realized I was not joking, she started to worry. And over the next weeks, she tried to dissuade me from going on mission. Subtly. From obvious reasons such as “Why put your life at risk?”, to completely irrelevant ones (when she ran out of solid reasons) such as “You won’t be able to wear your pretty work-dresses anymore!” (I do have a cupboard filled with nice dresses that I wear to work!). But never once did she stop me from going out right.
My father, on the other hand, is the traditional Asian patriarchal figure – a man of few words. So we never discussed this topic.
And then it got more real. I was proposed a mission and I accepted it -- Phnom Penh or Yangoon. With blessings from my family, great support by my amazing boyfriend and closest friends, embarking on my first humanitarian mission feels better than ever– something which I had wanted to do for a very long time.