The blight of success

Pardon me, I’m naive like that, but maybe I guess in this regard nearly everyone could be.
Just like a very beautiful lady might not understand all the fuss about her good looks; she after all has two eyes and one nose, one mouth and two ears just like everybody else, I seem to be the only one around me who thinks of myself as an ordinary young man who only happens to be a doctor.
This gap in perception is causing me all sorts of problems. Firstly, I live and work  in the community where I spent the most part of my late childhood and early adolescence. It doesn’t help much that my father also happens to be a relatively prominent member of this community.

After I came back from the bloodless wars of college education, my first assignment in the medical field was as a volunteer in Abuja- Nigeria’s capital city, very far away from the home where I am now. Although I didn’t explicitly choose this arrangement, I preferred living and working far from home, not because I did not miss my folks enough or had not stayed away long enough, but because I suspected that having to deal with things like this, might be a little too much pressure, too soon.

I returned home again, nearly a year after graduation, having satisfied all the requirements for proper documentation, hoping that somehow the furore would have run its course. Was I ever more wrong? Although I have spent another half year here, I still get the pleasantly surprised expressions and enthusiastic adulation that heralded my return nearly 2 years ago.

Schoolmates and playmates from only a few years ago now stand at a respectful distance and talk formally as if casual banter would be a desecration of the sacred healing arts. Older “uncles and aunties” now sometimes speak with uncharacteristic hesitation, as if in awe, other times with unbridled gravitas, as if to convince themselves that they are still older than me. Virtually nobody calls me by my given name anymore- to most people I am now “doc”, and those that dare to call my name ensure it is always preceded by “doctor”.

The net effect is that I feel restricted in my own skin. I am a doctor, true, but I am also just a young man who loves literature and the arts, who enjoys playing team sports, who likes to take walks and feel the wind in his face and who loves nothing more than to connect with the people around him. My success however, while it has made me more useful to the community and I feel privileged to be able to give back in my little way, has also disconnected me from her- the very place I grew up in.

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