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Daring to Be Different

Posted Ana-Maria Temple, MD on 9/12/2016 |


I am proud of my life.  I have a successful career and a wonderful family. It's a good life. Getting here wasn't a piece of cake, however. There is a backstory that exemplifies my favorite mantra: You can start late, be different, be uncertain, and still succeed.

I started out as a regular kid growing up in Communist Romania. The days were filled with laughter, games, homework, and various shenanigans. I was just like everyone else. In 1984, my parents immigrated to the United States for its freedom and opportunities and because I was insistent on becoming a doctor. The path to medical school in communist Romania was far from certain.  

Upon arriving in the US, I was faced with a country and a culture I knew nothing about. I did not speak the language, had no friends, and didn't own many material things. On the first day of middle school I got my schedule, which I stared at without comprehension. Nothing made sense. I only knew and understood "thank you" and "please." 

Making friends is tough when the language is a barrier. Add middle school kids with their insecurities and need to fit in, and the result is a kid in search of an identity, language, and friends. Despite all this, I had to make it work. I would take notes letter by letter since no words the teacher said or wrote on the board made sense. At home, my dad would translate the English words I had written in my notebooks into Romanian. Needless to say, homework took hours. Within six months, I was making straight A's.

Good grades and my rise to the top of 6th grade academically did not get me many friends. In the beginning, I was an unknown entity in the school and now I suddenly got noticed as the nerdy kid who wore the same clothes every week. The bullying became very real. Over time, I made a few great friends who accepted me with my accent and my weirdness. On the other side of the spectrum, my younger sister transitioned beautifully into the American culture. I was starting to think that I had arrived in the US too late.

Being different in a world that celebrates sameness takes courage. Being different is not a weakness and at times, it becomes a necessity. I hated high school. My self-doubt, insecurity, and anxiety worsened. The lack of control over my high school social life led me to launch a battle against food and my body, a war against The GPA, and fearless competition on the sports field. Unfortunately, my struggle with gaining control over food thoughts and my body image turned into a seven year illness.  

Amidst these insecurities and angst, I maintained a determination to make medical school a reality and I found the incentive needed to achieve admission to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

During the uncertain college years, I started believing in myself and in my abilities. I forgave my short comings. I found my voice and I found my place in the world. I reconstructed an IMPOSSIBLE self-image, to I’M POSSIBLE. Medical school was my dream since I was five years old, and in 1995, I achieved it.

Fast forward to today, 32 years since arriving to the US, I still live by my mantra: You can start late, be different, be uncertain, and still succeed. Eleven years into my pediatric practice, I am no longer scared of what others think and I believe in myself. I will make a difference. Practicing medicine in the technology era takes courage to face uncertainty, perseverance to learn the unknown, and openness to take risks and be different. Aside from my clinical practice, I teach nutrition to 3rd grade students to inspire a change of habits. Moreover, I blog and post on various social media platforms. Learning this unknown and uncertain venue is not easy, but I am catching on slowly. It’s never too late to learn new tricks, and nothing is ever learned in one day. 

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