If Life Gives Me A Chance….

11 November 2018

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,

Life is but an empty dream!—

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

A Psalm of life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ( 1807–1882)

I first read this poem in an English exam. Afterwards, I was thinking about it the entire day. I kept reciting it for days till I knew the first few lines by heart; I was 15 years old then. My friends asked me why it meant so much to me, why was this poem so different from all the other quotes I loved to collect? That got me thinking.
It was freer than most poems I read, it blended into the rhyme scheme without a conscious effort, it conveyed more than just what it said, and one had to read between the lines. But still, this was nothing new, most poems did just this. Why was this so different?
I love to write poems myself, and felt I had a critical take on poems because I could actually “put on” the poet’s shoes. Longfellow wrote predominantly lyric poems which are known for their musicality and often presented stories of mythology and legend. I felt this poem deviated from his usual music-oriented touch. It was refreshingly open and so true! I was tired of the pessimism and complaints I heard all around me. This poem helped me get a grip in my life when I was faltering under the relentless pressure that all students face when they try to juggle academics, sports, hobbies and a score of other activities in their senior school years. And how it animated my writing! It inspired me to write with feeling and ironically helped me find my love for free-verse. If I told anyone that a Longfellow poem helped me establish that I felt most comfortable in free-verse, they would probably laugh, but it was the truth. There is an insane freedom in free-verse and I wrote nearly 25 poems in 5 days which was quite a number for me.
From then on. it continually served as a reminder for one of the basic missions of my life: keep moving forward. No matter what happens, we need to act so that tomorrow finds us further along the road to our dreams than we are today.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow

Find us farther than to-day.

I began to weigh my options after that. What did I really want to be? It was an uncertain time. This poem taught me not to procrastinate in life especially when you are in charge of it. Many people may not believe in destiny but secretly, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I have always been ambitious but this got me thinking about the actual heights I wanted to climb. This was when I realized why I wanted to be a doctor and why I wanted to be an oncologist.
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time;

I wanted to leave my footprints behind. I wanted to change people’s lives; I wanted to be the reason for positive change. Being a doctor I could do a lot ,but just that prospect was not enough for me any longer, somehow I felt there was more to do; much more to the choice of where I could invest my talents.
Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

While preparing for the my tenth grade boards I gradually fell into research mode, I learnt how much I loved finding things for myself and how research was the missing piece in my puzzle. What I loved to do was to explore. Whether it was writing a new article or finding the right topic for my science project I happily took to research as my preparation method of choice. I learnt how patiently forming a theory theorizing and cautiously speculating could lead to long term conclusions. Now I know. This is what I want to be, this is what I want to do.

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

I want to live life to the fullest; to experience what I haven’t, feel what I can only imagine. The soul wasn’t born to die in vain, it was born to sail through the skies, travel far and wide, touch the farthest horizons.

Life may not be what you expected,
Nor is it always pleasant,
But somewhere somehow we’ll find a way to survive;
‘Cause you are special and you will shine:
We’ll create new heights together
Just put your hand in mine.

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