September 12, 2012
“Once you decide on your occupation…you must immerse yourself in your work.
You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job.
You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill.
That’s the secret of success… and is the key to being regarded honorably.”
- Jiro Ono
The greatest sushi chef in the world, Jiro, in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, works relentlessly to master his skill. Everyday, for the past 70 years, he has committed to making sushi that tastes better than the sushi he made the day before.
How much of my own life have I dedicated to mastering my skill?
For 12 years, I played piano. In the beginning, I only practiced 30 minutes a day. By highschool, I practiced at least 2 hours a day. Growing up, my piano became my best friend and my enemy. (I hear kids these days call that a frenemy?) With the piano, I shared my joys and shed my grief. It became my enemy when I was lazy and despised practicing. Yet I dragged myself upon that bench and played out of obligation (so my parents wouldn’t claim I wasted their money on lessons). Over time, the piano became apart of me, as an extension of myself: my lungs breathed fluidly like Debussey’s First Arabesque, my heart pumped vivaciously like Chopin’s Etude Revolutionare, my spirit soared like Lizst’s Un Sospiro. Strangely, when my hands finger the keys, they always intuitively know where to go. My fingers frolic without thought, without strain, unearthing the rich melodies etched into my memory.
For 4 years, I danced Khmer folk dance. By imitating the motions, movements, and expressions of Khmer agricultural life, I gained a better understanding about my heritage. I learned how to smile, how to tilt your head, how to raise your eyebrows, how to bend your hands back so elegantly. In Robam Kous Angre (bamboo dance), the brightness of the moon invites the dancers to jump gleefully amongst clicking bamboo stalks. In Robam Kane, the dance titled after the woodwind instrument, the male dancers play the ‘kane,’ wooing the female dancers onto the stage. In Robam Nissat (fishing dance), the male dancers reenact the excitement from the catch of the day, while female dancers carry bamboo trays full of invisible fish from shallow water.
For 4 years, I learned to play oboe. Breathing life into a wooden instrument was exhilirating. There was something absolutely magical that happened when playing a wind instrument, something I had never experienced before. Upon a stage, surrounded by fellow musicians, every deep inhale always produced an auditorium full of vibrant, beautiful sound. The music engulfed me like waves lapping up from the ocean, swallowing me into a cathartic euphoria. But my perseverance wore thin; with each chipped reed, it also chipped at my confidence. Discouraged, I quit.
For 4 years, I studied nursing, and learned anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, nursing theory and clinical skills on how to become a nurse. Then the next 4 years, I worked at the bedside, in the hospital, and learned firsthand what it REALLY means to be a nurse. You name it, I did it. CPR, peritoneal dialysis, chemotherapy, cardiac monitoring, etc… You name it, I spilled it. Urine, stool, bile, wound drainage, etc… You name it, I have been called it. (All the 4 letter expletives that angry patients throw at me.) But really, how could I possibly quantify all the powerful things I experienced? The privilege of being a nurse, caring for patients in their greatest time of need, being their advocate, and supporting them- I am incredibly humbled to have been apart of it all.
In the past 2 years, I’ve become a community health nurse, working with the underserved, the refugees, and trauma survivors. Here I am learning how to tackle health care problems that stem from social issues, like poverty, homelessness, lack of family support, domestic violence, a history of trauma, and immigration status. Here I am developing relationships, getting to know patients one by one and over the duration of many months. Here I am caring for newborns, their siblings, their parents, and their grandparents, all under one roof. But because this is my area of least experience, I have so much to learn. SO MUCH.
Unlike Jiro, I have been blessed with the opportunity to explore many different interests, not just one. Meaning I know a little bit of everything, but I’m not a master in anything.
Still…Nursing and writing have become my life’s work. I will never finish learning all that is required in becoming a good nurse, it is a never ending pursuit. I must persevere.And like Jiro…dedicate my life to itnot complainfall in love with it.(I can do this.)Currently listening: The Hours by Phillip Glass