Nadia Najafi

I Once Resented My Mom For Choosing Medical School Over Me

Today, she's my inspiration

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When I learned I would have to live without my mother for the next three years of my life, I was devastated. The pain I felt resembled the feeling of bleach burning down my throat. It was gut-wrenching.

At 9 years old, things were carefree and simple. My home life was static and my mind revolved around learning. I adored school from a very young age. The daily commute to elementary school was always an exciting one. While my mother sat in the driver's seat, I had the opportunity to read my favorite chapter books, such as Junie B. Jones and Harry Potter. Discovering what homemade meal my mother had packed for lunch was an equally joyous part of my school day, as was reading the notes and reminders lovingly scribbled on the back of napkins that she always took the time to write for me.

One day, however, all of this — the peaceful drives, thoughtful notes, and presence of my mother — was taken away from me. At nearly 40 years of age, my mother had been accepted into a medical school residency and was scheduled to move to New York in two months. I was in shock.

Nadia Najafi

This news was overwhelmingly gratifying for my mother. She had immigrated to the United States 20 years earlier to escape the oppression caused by the Iranian Revolution. She left everything she had behind, including her license to practice as a certified physician. So when she received the news of her admission, my entire family was overcome with joy and pride. But I couldn’t help feeling betrayed and anxious for the future. My mother had never previously left my side and the thought of having to grow up without her made me feel hopeless and distraught. Though she tried to comfort and assure me that the next three years would fly by, a numbing feeling of pain failed to subside.

Soon enough, she packed her bags and was on her way, leaving everything behind to pursue her dreams. In her absence, I began to lose interest in school. Video games and movies offered a virtual reality into which I could escape, which replaced my passion for reading. Events like Mother’s Day and Bring Your Parents to School Day reopened old wounds and left me in a constant state of isolation from many of my peers, which in turn caused me to sink further into a black hole of technology. My home life also deteriorated. As my father attempted to make my favorite spaghetti dish, a spotted apron tied around his waist, I could only think of seeing him silently crying in his bedroom hours earlier. The memory left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Nadia Najafi

When my mother finally returned, I felt resentful toward her, as though she had purposefully put me through three years of misery. But when she opened up to me about her journey, a diploma in hand and a vibrant smile on her face, I began to understand the significance of her departure. She told me about the challenges she had faced as a woman nearly 15 years older than her peers and how she worked tirelessly to accomplish her goals.

This new perspective instilled a deep sense of determination within me — one that has remained ever since. Her experience motivated me to work twice as hard to accomplish my own goals. I not only embrace my current struggles but also welcome future ones. While I once considered her departure an awful sacrifice that only brought sorrow, I now understand it was an incredible opportunity worth enduring hardships for, and one that personally transformed my lost interest in school into a tenacity to succeed.