I was 16 when I went in and 23 when I came home. After seven years, I was willing to take on any obstacle that would come with being able to finally be home be with my family. Plus, anything beats waking up to the smell of cold cement walls!
In the year that I’ve been home, I’ve taken steps toward getting into medical school, but like everything in life, it’s a process. I am presently pursuing a triple major at َQueens College while working through my medical school pre-reqs.
Before starting the fall semester, I was volunteering as an ESL tutor for international students and working on a four-course pre-med program with Harvard Medical School. I even had the chance to work for Bard Prison Initiative as a tutor for a short period before leaving to tend to my education. Despite these minor feats, re-entering society came with a host of problems.
Medical schools want to see a significant amount of volunteer hours under an applicant’s belt. So, one can only imagine the despondency I felt when my violent felony prevented me from receiving several hospital volunteer positions. It took nearly a year to finally get an opportunity to shadow a cardiac surgeon.
Like me, you’ll inevitably confront roadblocks that will slow you down but I assure you that they are actually offering you a source of resilience to attain your goals. My advice to my peers coming home is to keep your eyes on the prize, and keep moving forward no matter what. Slow motion is always better than no motion.
Take care of yourself. You only get one body. For someone coming home, it is easy to fall into the routine of working nearly all day, barely getting sleep, while still questioning whether you’re doing enough. Supporting yourself is important but don’t neglect the other aspects of you, like your mental and physical health.
Women, especially, may fall into the trap of overextending themselves. It’s important to recharge yourself and take a break when you need to. You cannot give anything to anyone when your cup is empty. One of my biggest mistakes was overextending myself to too many people and too many activities. The thought that so much lost time and so many favors had to be compensated for was always looming over me.
Refrain from being overtaken by any feelings of indebtedness to others. Those who really mean well won’t mind taking the walk with you. With that being said, be very discerning with all your relationships. Remember that you’ve changed while you’ve been away, but everyone else may not have. And that’s OK, but be conscious of when to keep a distance from people who are not conducive to your well-being or who may put you in risky situations. In the same vein, having loving and supportive family and friends is very crucial to your success.
I was happy to have my family’s financial and emotional support, but there were times when even they could not understand me on a basic level. That was OK as well.
While prayer is my primary means of coping with difficulty, I have found great comfort in my peers who have shared similar experiences as well as ambitions as me. There are some things that only people who have been on the inside will truly understand.
Najet Miah is pursuing a triple major at َQueens College.