Stop Letting Delayed Gratification Steal Your Joy

By Maseray S. Kamara

“At first it was a whisper. Then, it was a nudge. Now it is a holler, and I just want my eardrums to rest. What are you being called to do?”
— Maseray S. Kamara

I couldn't wait to get into college. Next, I couldn't wait to start medical school. But, last year, when I found myself eagerly counting down the months to graduation, I was disgusted with myself.

Why was I always waiting to arrive at a destination? Had I unknowingly signed up for a never-ending, achievement journey? Upon reflecting, I realized that by inaction, I had accepted this lifestyle. I had become content in the cycle of delayed gratification which says success is obtained by hyper-focusing on a goal; it says you must stifle all other interests that may distract you from reaching the finish line. Delayed gratification promises that one day you will achieve what you desired, and all that you sacrificed will be worth it.

Initially, I happily accepted this concept. I focused on becoming a physician to merge my innate knack for science and math with my commitment to serve medically underserved and disadvantaged populations. I willingly suppressed many of my other interests and focused on achieving this goal.

My schedule was demanding. I had meetings to attend and deadlines to meet. I had patients to see, exams to study for, data to analyze, and clinical skills to practice. But, I soon realized I could not go a day without thinking about writing.

My cathartic journal entries and reflective writing assignments for my medical humanism course brought me genuine happiness. A new passion was recognized: I want to share my story, as well as the underrepresented stories of others. I want my words to empower individuals and inspire analysis of our society. And, while medical training is fulfilling, I should not ignore other avenues towards fulfillment in its singular pursuit.

So, I decided to go for it. Forget waiting to become an accomplished physician to write about my experiences and connect with people through prose. I decided to actively work towards my dream of writing for public consumption. And, I am living a happier and more fulfilling life because of it.  

The truth is we are multifaceted creatures with various dreams, aspirations, and talents, and we should not limit ourselves to pursuing a single joy. We must accept the interests and passions that manifest during our individual journeys. Then, and only then, can we live the most vibrant versions of our impactful stories.

And, so I ask you, you ambitious and ceiling shattering individual, what passions are you pushing aside to achieve your primary goal? And further, how can you pursue those passions to create the joy filled life that you deserve?

Maseray S. Kamara is a 4th year medical student, AMA Journal of Ethics’ Issue Editor, and In-training Magazine contributor. Follow her journey on Instagram @maserayskamara.

Alana Brown