Leaving My Hometown - A New Challenge

I am amazed how quickly the time has passed by. For some reason, I have been remembering my last days in the Dominican Republic prior to my moving to the US. It appears like it was yesterday but in fact, It was 25 years ago.

Maybe, I am remembering that episode of my life because recently, I have been mentoring young physicians and guiding them in their career path.

As you might know, I was born and raised in a town called San Cristobal, in the Dominican Republic. As a member of the Norberto’s household I enjoyed a very nice place in the society of my town. This particular position was based on the extraordinary reputation of my parents who were seen as exemplary Christians and citizens.

For a long time, I was waiting for the day to come to the US in search of my training in cardiac surgery. I was looking forward to it. But once the day was getting closer, I started to feel nostalgic mainly because I was leaving behind my place in that society as “the son of Reyes and Gradia” in exchange for the unknown.

Needless to say that it was a very complex mix of feelings.

I will never forget my last conversation with Dad prior to my departure. He told me how proud he was of me and that he was certain that I would achieve my dreams. But as a good Christian, he had to say something more. He summarized for me his code of life by saying:

“Faith is like a muscle that gets weaker if it isn’t exercised and as long as you keep God as the center of your life, everything will fall in place at the right time”

After that conversation, while we were waiting for the currency exchange, he taught me how to make tie knots. That was difficult! Then, finally, he gave me my $150 to come to America to start my new adventure.

The day of my departure, a three car parade full of friends and relatives, accompanied us to the airport. I must admit that saying good bye to Mom and Dad was so sad. By that time, they were already sick and deteriorating day by day. It was very hard to leave them behind but they wouldn’t allow me to stay either.

I hugged them and quickly left and didn’t allow myself to turn around to look at them. My eyes flooded with tears. Those tears were a mix of happiness because of my new adventure, but also extreme sadness by leaving my beloved one as well as my place in my home town. 

Once I sat down in the airplane I couldn’t stop thinking about my childhood, then I started to feel fear of the unknown. A question came to my mind, "Am I going to be up to the challenge? ,Will I be able to withstand the competitive nature of the American surgery residency training programs?"

Those questions were overwhelming for a 25 year old man that had never been away from his parents.

So in the midst of fear, I decided to pray and at the end of the prayer, I concluded with the following plan:

“I will try with everything I have, I will get better every day, I will compete with myself so tomorrow I will be better than today”