I Save Lives

I’ve been hanging out with lots of film people, as I mentioned. This has been a fascinating experience. On the one hand, these folks are more similar to me in background-like ways. They are upper-middle class in upbringing. Often from other states, so far away from their families, and not afraid to move far away from their families. They’re well-educated and thoughtful. They are white, privileged.

But their life choices are quite different. They have chosen to follow their dreams, dreams that surely some people told them they were crazy to go after. And they all just act like it’s normal. Given, these are mostly Tisch graduates, so far away from the uncertainty of freshman year, when I’m sure it was simply refreshing to find other people who believed in their “crazy” dreams and making them a reality. The people with no talent have been weeded out. These are the chosen, in some sense. Sure, they still have to work their butts off to make it, but the attitude is not star-struck. They’re just living their lives and making their dreams happen. You know.

I’ve realized that there is a (little) part of me that is way jealous. These people are going after something that is damned near impossible. And sort of succeeding. It’s like everything I never thought could happen. My roommate, Catrin, pointed out, though, that they’ve all given up a lot to be there (including money), and she added that when she arrived, she was so relieved to be around people who weren’t telling her no, weren’t telling her she should give up on her dreams.

And it’s made me realize that I really am living my dream–I wanted an interesting, challenging job in public health in New York City, to work with data and quality of service. I am totally doing all of that. How is has made me realize that is seeing people who work in this star-studded field be so whatever about their work. Not that they’re not excited, or that it isn’t awesome, but it has become normal, because anything that you do regularly becomes your norm.

My roommate Sam always tells people that I save lives. And technically, it’s sort of true. I coordinate a program that finds sick people and helps them find a doctor and other services that have the ability to prevent the disease they have from being fatal. That’s saving a life, since otherwise, they’d die of this disease. Additionally, people who don’t know they’re infected with HIV are much more likely to pass it on. So I’m saving their partners as well.

But it feels so silly when he says that, because it’s just what I do every day. And because I am mostly just making the program possible, not actually testing people. I guess, though, that actually does more, since I’m allowing testing to be available to more people (especially considering my role in our integrated testing initiative).

What I always tell Sam and other film people, though, is that I also need them. I need the entertainment that films and television shows provide. We all play a role in the world as we know it. And it’s funny, I’ve felt this since I started with AmeriCorps and people had this similar, “oh, wow! You’re such a Good Person” reaction–it makes me so uncomfortable! I guess because it feels like praise I don’t deserve. I’m not trying to be a good person. I’m just doing something interesting and helpful. And part of it I suppose it a judgement about other people. It upsets me that what I do is so good, instead of just normal. I believe it should just be what you do–you just help people. You just expect justice. I am no longer so naive as to believe that that is reality, at least not consciously, but part of me I suppose holds onto the belief that if I just function in a way that is noble, without looking at it really as noble, and if I just expect others to be positive and create justice in their lives, it will create a culture of “good” and justice.

My intention is not mainly to influence others, but I do expect to. We are, after all, social beings, and whatever we do regularly (and see regularly) becomes our norm.

One thought on “I Save Lives

  1. Elana says:

    He is right! From a life-saving perspective, public health officials are even more impactful than physicians. Good on you, Shan 🙂

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