On a beautiful fall weekend one year before the dreadful Pandemic, I flew to New York City to see my jazz icon, Pat Metheny. The last time I saw Metheny was onstage at the Bottom Line jazz club in NYC with his infamous group, PMG, during the late ‘80s.
I met my sister-friend, Steph, and we had a beautiful girl’s night out, listening to “grown folks” music, laughing, reminiscing about days of the past, and hopeful regarding days of the future.
The night ended much too soon, and the next day I prepared to return home.
“Lin, we can take a train and then a bus to La Guardia Airport, instead of paying all of that money for a cab. You down? The bus also stops at Columbia’s campus.”
My response was a no-brainer. The math made sense, and we would have an opportunity to visit our beloved alma mater, where we met over three decades ago as social work graduate students.
We descended the stairs of the New York City subway station and got off at the 116th Street stop. A flood of memories hit me as we reemerged into the light. The massive steps of Low Library. The Alumni Center. The infamous Butler Library, where I studied into the wee hours many mornings, determined to get accepted into medical school after I decided that I no longer wanted to be a social worker.
Steph and I walked down College Walk no longer as young, naïve students but mature alumni, eager to pass on our wisdom to the next generation.
I stepped into the bookstore to buy a tee-shirt while Steph waited at the bus stop on Broadway. As I exited, she beckoned me to come quickly and pointed to a young woman she had been talking to with excitement.
“Lin, she wants to go to med school!” A beautiful young woman who looked like Lupita Nyong’o smiled brightly and said hello.
“What language were you speaking to that guy that you gave directions to?” asked Steph.
For the next 15 minutes, we learned that our young friend’s name was Destiny. She graduated from Columbia in 2017 with a concentration in African American studies. She is fluent in modern Greek, traveled to eleven African countries (including Zambia and Swaziland), where she performed public health research.
Destiny’s narrative inspired me. We exchanged contact information, and for the next year, kept in touch. She took her MCAT exam and wrote a powerful personal essay. Despite the challenges from the Pandemic, in 2020, seven U.S. medical schools had the good sense to grant her admission, and she ultimately selected a great school in south Florida that will empower her to take care of patients that desperately need her skills.
What began as a weekend get-away to reconnect with one of my best friends ended with meeting Destiny. This young, intelligent woman will one day carry a title behind her name and practice medicine thoughtfully and skillfully, like many who came before her, including me.