I have always been a big believer in the right to choose. And I’m not talking about abortion. (As a sidenote, as an extension of my belief in choice, I also happen to be pro-choice pro-choice. Glad we cleared that up.) I see so many people claiming to have made a choice in one way or another, when really they’ve hardly considered the other options at all. Being unaware or ill-informed about one side of an issue does not lead to choice – it leads to dogma. Continue Reading
We all knew he was dying. For the past few weeks I have thought about him for that split second before I turned on the radio or computer and wondered. I sent him a letter, two actually, in the weeks before he died – thousands of people did. We all wanted him to know that he had changed our lives, made us a little braver, a little less afraid and a lot more certain that we weren’t alone in our non-belief. Despite all that, I felt so sad when I heard. Continue Reading
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a doctor. Not because of the money or the prestige but because I really, truly am fascinated by medicine and the human body. I studied biology in school and couldn’t get enough of it. I studied neuroscience in University and found it inspiring and fascinating. And then, I sort of lost my way.
I did okay in University but not as well as I should have. I smoked a lot of weed. Partly because I like having fun and I was young and getting high was, well, fun. Also because it calmed me and made the constant noise of my ever-churning brain a little easier to handle. I actually set out at one point to make myself a little dumber. I thought life would be easier that way. I lost motivation to become a doctor and at some point, put that long-held dream on a shelf (along with my far less realistic hope of becoming an olympic volleyball player). I decided instead to combine my love of science and writing and pursue a Master’s in Journalism. I thought that way I could inspire others and provide the average person with a deeper understanding and greater appreciation for science and the natural world. It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t going to change the world and I became jaded about the state of journalism in general, never mind scientific journalism.
I got engaged. I went to work in Korea. I travelled the world. My husband got into law school and so we headed home so he could pursue his career and I could work to support us. The dream of being a doctor never disappeared. It festered and would come to the surface every once and awhile. I felt like a failure. I felt good that I was doing well in my job and that my writing was supporting us during otherwise lean times, but I knew I had lost a part of myself in the journey. Every time I went to a hospital I felt sick with sadness and bitterness. When I met other people my age who were in medical school I felt fiercely envious. My husband knew this and it would come up from time to time but always, it was unrealistic.
Before long I had come to terms (sort of) with the fact that I had missed my chance. I was getting older. I was horrible at organic chemistry and always had been. Calculus left me even more stumped. We were in student debt up to our ears. I was bound to fail, even if I did try. I became a mother and decided to stay at home. We bought a house that came with a nice big yard and an even bigger mortgage. My life long dream of becoming a doctor was just that, a dream. And that dream was dead.
And then one day a few months ago, I had what Oprah might call a “lightbulb moment”. (Jeez, I can’t believe I just used an Oprah-ism.) My dream was only over if I let it be over. Too old? What does that mean exactly? I will be forty in seven years whether I go to medical school or not. So I can be 40 and still bitter or I can make this happen. As an atheist I am fully aware that this life is the only chance I have. If I don’t do this, it won’t happen. Ever. And ever is a very long time.
There were a lot of tears and many conversations with my husbands. There were even more conversations with myself. “Are you nuts?” You are nearly 33 years old and expecting another baby!” “You can’t do this! Oh, yes I can. No, really, you can’t. Can I?!” And so on and so on. My husband has been nothing but supportive. He asked me very simply, “If we were to have a conversation when we are 80 years old – would not trying to go to medical school be your big regret?” And I answered that yes, it most certainly would. (barring no major screw-ups from here on in. :) “Well than you need to do this. Let’s make it happen.” Can’t ask for better than that.
So, here I am today. Still scared and totally unconvinced that this will actually happen. But I am studying for my MCAT and for me, that has always been the biggest (and unfortunately, the first) challenge. I am scared shitless of this test. I am not good at math and really bad at mental rotation and conceptual chemistry. But I jumped into the deep end and although many study sessions involve tears, followed by renewed determination, followed by another round of defeatism and tears I feel like I have made the commitment to myself at the very least. I might write the test and bomb it. I might ace it and decide that I am happy having conquered that demon and leave it at that. We’ll see, but for now it feels good to be in a place where the excuses and past failures are behind me and all I have is a dream. It’s a very nice thing to have.
This is often a difficult concept for believers to grasp but my atheism is not rooted in a negative outlook or take on life, it is rooted in love and life and optimism. I am not an angry person and I do not have a chip on my shoulder. I am optimistic, pleasant and happy. I am everything a life without God isn’t supposed to look like.
Atheism is an empowering perspective. It makes every person matter and every action count. We are not fighting against destiny or prophecy, we are living lives that can change or affect change at any moment. Most importantly, we are living life now. It is the only opportunity we get and so, I want to make sure I enjoy it as much as possible. Life is not about hedonism but neither it is about nonsensical rules and limitations, about pressure and guilt or sacrifice. Often, believers struggle to see anything but darkness when they look at the atheist viewpoint. I want them to understand that it can be a place of discovery, joy, morality and light.
I love the planet and nature. I am often left awed by what the natural world can produce, by the magic it can weave. I feel love and compassion for my fellow man. We are all on this floating globe of rock together and we are all struggling to find our way. I appreciate every moment of my life because I realize it is both precious and impermanent. I laugh at the funny moments in life and celebrate at every opportunity because I know this is the only chance I get. I want my life to count. I want the world to be a better place for my having been on it. I want to take care of the world I am living in and the people I share it with because it is our responsibility – there is no one else to do it for us.
A worls without God can look dark at first, especially if you are walking away from the glaring neon of many of today’s churches. These churches provide answers, scripts and rules to live your life by. What they do not offer however, is freedom and truth. I can see why they bring comfort to many people and why leaving can be so terrifying. Allow time for your eyes to readjust…there really is light at the end of this tunnel.