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Apr 5, 2019 8:05:00 AM
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Have you ever wanted to be a superhero? To be able to use your eyes to fix things, fly around or cool equipment to battle? When I was growing up, boys wanted to be Superman or Batman. Girls probably idolized the same as the boys, because there weren’t that many female superheroes when I was growing up. But, then again, male superheroes were cooler. Nowadays, Wonder Woman or the most recent, Captain Marvel are popular. You idolize them, and would do anything to be their shadow. You mimic their actions, dress like them, and eventually try to change yourself to be a mini version of them. 

Question Marks

I asked my eight-year-old niece, “What superhero do you want to be?” She answered, “I want to be my own superhero, but to have special powers to read minds.” I further asked her, “Why that power?” She answered, “So I can know what that person is thinking, if they are thinking bad things, I can help them”. At such a young age, she had empathy so she can help others. At that age, I wasn’t wondering what superhero I wanted to be. I grew up living in a one-bedroom apartment with both my parents and six other family members. All of us sleeping on the living room floor was the best early childhood memory I have.

My four cousins and two half-brothers were all 20 years older than I was; they did the coolest things. I thought they were training me to be a superhero. I grew up a tomboy and wanted to be just like them. I got to experience using a soda can and a fishing line to catch buckets full of bass. They taught me Muy Thai/kickboxing moves so no one could pick on me, because I was small for my age. I learned how to jump kick as high as I could, and how to punch hard and quick!

How many bodies we can fit in a small Chevy sedan going to the city? This was before car seats and passenger restrictions were enforced in the early ’80s and ’90s. I always told them to stick me in the trunk, but they wouldn’t...I wonder why?!… My parents came with nothing, but gave everything of what little they had. They are my real superheroes. Holding down 2-3 jobs per parent, chauffeuring my siblings and me to and from their jobs and ESL (English as a Second Language) evening classes at community colleges. My mom was constantly making sure everyone had home cooked meals for every meal, and nursing them back to health when they weren’t used to the below zero temperature vs 90 degree plus Cambodian weather. My father was stern, strict and humble encouraging each one of them to have jobs, dressing them appropriately, teaching them how to drive and well-manners of ‘please and thank yous’ living in the United States. 

Eventually, a superhero needs to retire. I had the opportunity to care for my superheroes when they could no longer take care of others. My mom, not as fast or agile as before physically, but her mind and tongue are still sharp. Sharp enough to stop anyone in their tracks if they cross her, just like a ninja in the night! My father, now at peace, but still watching over both my mom and me from heaven, probably making sure I don’t get into any more mischief.

I learned to not compare myself to others, for we are each on our own journey. I won’t be able to have mind reading superpowers, but my path at NUHS has allowed me to be ready to help others. Next trimester, I start seeing patients in the clinic. I will always remember my siblings' influences and my parents’ teaching and hard work; but I am my own superhero and have my own superpowers. There's no exact plan of what my future practice will be, but I will be ready to take on the next challenge when it arises!  





Posted by Rina Sem

Rina Sem is a student at the Lombard, Illinois campus studying in the Master of Science-Oriental Medicine program. Though working in the medical field for 10 years, she is keeping the promise she made to her father to complete her master’s degree. Rina is a first-generation American of Cambodian heritage, and passionate about her studies in the field of complementary and alternative medicine.