The city of my birth is renown for the prestigious medical university which graces it with ivied walls. I am proud to say that I graduated with honors and took up a coveted internship under one of the city’s finest practitioners. Though I seemed on tract to realize my dreams, that is, building my own practice, I found myself nonetheless quite uncertain and anxious about my prospect.
For in such a city, as one might imagine, there are doctors to be found on every street corner. A fledgling like myself could never hope to command the same appeal as the long-established and well-respected residents. A practice of my own was doomed to be a small one, and in my youthful exuberance, I had designs to save the world, one person at a time.
As my apprenticeship neared its conclusion, this trouble weighed heavily on my mind. I even feared that my mentor would toss me out so woefully unprepared, but in this I did him a great disservice. One evening as I made my final rounds for the night, Dr. Stockman’s door opened and he leaned out into the hall.
“A word.” he said, his voice and face emotionless, making me assume the worst. And when we spoke, it was indeed about the imminent end of our arrangement.
“What are your plans?” he asked, drawing out my fears and the confession that I had no real plan. He chuckled.
“I can understand your plight. And if I may be honest, I would never recommend that this be the place a promising young doctor should start. Here, a doctor has to fight tooth and nail to get a foothold and cling fiercely to every patient.”
The sullen look I wore spoke for me and he continued.
“As it happens, however, I have been contacted by the committee of a small village. It seems they have suddenly been left without a doctor and write to me in search of a recommendation. If the opportunity suits you, I would be glad to send you on your way with a letter of approval.”
I sat flabbergasted, unsure if I was dreaming.
“I hope you understand that I think you’re as skilled as any other in the city, and I do not mean to suggest that you don’t deserve recognition here in the city…”
“No, no.” I exclaimed, “You may tell them I will be happy to start as soon as possible.”
The words were scarcely out of my mouth before I started to doubt them. I would have to leave the city that I loved so dearly, and part with the friends and family I cherished. I wondered if I could tolerate the conditions of a country life, especially in a village as isolated as this one.
But an entire village to look after offered me the solution to my problems and gave me hope of realizing my dreams. A few short weeks later, I enjoyed a bittersweet farewell party and said goodbye to the only life I had ever known.
In the early morning mists of the next day, I boarded a train. The sooty gray skyline that was my world vanished, the cluttered buildings gradually replaced by green and wide-open spaces. The long hours that passed left me alone with my thoughts which dashed back and forth between hope and fear. More than once I was convinced that I would get off at the next station and head home.
But then I thought of the villagers and their need. It simply would not be right to abandon them. I would press on. Stepping off the train, I was met by a coachman. He was eager to depart, he told me, as our destination was still a lengthy journey away.
As the stagecoach bumped along bare, dusty tracks, I was struck by the endless wilderness that stretched out around me. I had no idea that any place could be wilder that the country I had seen.
story by Joe Stanley