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Embracing what scares you

Dr. Gupta's talk informed me I'm doing it right

The Spectrum

On Wednesday, Dr. Sanjay Gupta spent the evening telling the crowd at Alumni Arena stories about his experiences as a journalist and doctor.

One story in particular stuck with me.

When Diana Nyad was 29 years old, the long-distance swimmer failed in her attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida - 110 miles. Shortly after, she quit swimming.

More than 30 years later, she decided to try again. She failed her next three times. But in August last year, the 64-year-old became the first person to successfully swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage.

Gupta called her "inspiration personified." He had the opportunity to sit down with her right after Nyad's achievement. He was in awe and had to ask how she did it.

"You just find a way," Nyad responded. "It's going to be tough, but you got to dig deeper. And when you can't dig deeper, you just find a way."

I was blown away. Not so much because of her story - don't get me wrong, it's incredibly inspirational - but because of the way Gupta told his countless stories.

He was eloquent and steady. But there was something more. In every story he told, he seemed to have an emotional connection with those moments and the people in them. There was an honesty to him that you don't always see in television personalities.

I found Gupta's talk inspirational, and it reaffirmed my decision to pursue a career in journalism.

There is a reason you don't see that many South Asian journalists. It is an accepted part of South Asian culture to pursue medicine or a technical degree. So I might be a little biased in my admiration of Gupta.

Gupta and I have a lot in common. He is of South Asian descent. So am I. He didn't start his experience in journalism until later in his undergraduate career. So did I. In 2004, Gupta was named one of People magazine's "Sexiest Men Alive," and ... OK, so maybe that's where the similarities end.

But seeing someone from a similar place as me end up in the field of journalism - even if he is a doctor, too - was refreshing and inspiring.

During the question-and-answer portion of the evening, Gupta responded to a question posed by Vice President for University Life and Services Dennis Black, who moderated the session. He asked Gupta what advice he could give students who are looking to pursue a career like him.

"This idea that you already know probably, if you are a student, you know what makes you tick," Gupta said. "You know what makes your heart beat faster, what makes you catch that breath in your throat and all those things that really make you passionate about something. You have to run to those things and do it early."

It was almost as if he was speaking directly to me. I know exactly what makes me tick and what makes my heart race.

"We just arrive in these serendipitous places in our lives and sometimes it is a question of knowing what you want to do when you arrive there," Gupta said.

The Spectrum was one of those places in my life. I may have not known what I wanted when I started, but taking advantage of the opportunity to write for the publication was one of the best decisions I made in my college career.

During his lecture, Gupta offered the audience the best advice he had ever heard: "Do something every day that scares you."

I suppose the thing I do that scares me is journalism. Whether it was my future career or the approval of my parents, something was always in the back of my head telling me I was doing it wrong.

But after Gupta's talk, I might need to find something new to do that scares me every day.


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