Fresh out of high school, I was lost and unsure what path to take. My parents wanted nothing more than for me to follow in the steps of my father, grandfather and great-grandfather and become a lawyer. They would have tolerated me pursuing a career in medicine, but it was clear that law was the only respectable profession in their eyes. I certainly understood the allure of helping people, but I had zero desire to practice law. I applied for and was accepted for a 3-year appointment with the Peace Corps. I was stationed in a small village in the hills of Nepal.
It was in Nepal, where I first recognized the butterfly as my spirit animal. Nepal is a butterfly viewing paradise. I regularly witnessed their incredible transformation from a speck on a leaf to a cocoon and finally into a beautiful butterfly over and over again. My life had transformed into something completely different than I had ever imagined it to be and it was beautiful.
Those three years changed my life. Living with a local family helped me to develop close connections to the community while also helping me to learn Nepali. Running water and electricity were never a guarantee, which facilitated breaking my emotional ties with technology. While it was challenging at first to get used to daily plates of daal bhaat (rice, a lentil sauce, and side dishes of vegetable greens and spicy chutneys), I eventually embraced becoming a vegetarian. I loved my time in our local school, where I helped students to learn English. I traveled when I had the opportunity, but most of all I grew to love a much simpler way of life. But as I neared the end of my three-year term, I started to notice the butterflies again. I knew it was time to return home to start the next chapter of my life. I felt a compulsion to do so from somewhere deep inside of me. I wasn’t following someone else’s wishes for me, but rather my own heart to a career as a physician.
I had my pick of positions when I finished medical school, but I yearned to settle down in a small community. That brought me here— twenty-five years ago. I wanted to treat the whole person with a mixture of traditional western medicine balanced with eastern philosophy. It was an honor to stand witness to births, deaths and everything in between for almost three decades.
The butterflies have been congregating in the garden again signalling that change is inevitable. I don’t know what this next chapter will bring, but I do know that if there were not change there would not be butterflies. Whatever comes out of this next journey will bring about incredibly beauty. Of that, I am sure.