I heard a pen click and scribble as the forensic investigator hung up the telephone and marked off the name of a decedent’s relative. He pivoted his chair and studied me: the intern sitting in a swivel office chair at the desk next to him, my hands restlessly toying with latex gloves, damp from my sweaty palms. As I stared at the linoleum floor, potent images refused to waver from my mind. I had removed myself from the autopsy room. I needed some air so I could conceptualize the post-mortem condition, the basis of investigation in forensic pathology. Yes, I’m alright, I responded to his concern. You know, he said to me in a reassuring tone, you may be more cut out for this than you think. To process what we do here and why we do it takes sensitivity and intelligence. He saw something in me. The autopsy room and its ensuing investigations challenged me to create a new web of understanding—the work of forensic pathology is a vehicle of healing, a responsibility to our kind.
You might be more cut out for this than you think. His words still reverberate in my head. His words empower me because they articulate what I understand about myself. My strength of mind enables me to manipulate the way I think in order to accept and understand challenging work. In the year ahead, I will undoubtedly find myself in such a swivel chair with sweaty palms. But as in Debate my freshman year of high school, I will scoot to the edge of that chair and set in motion the relationship between vulnerability and self-discovery.
My path to Global Citizen Year consists of long stretches of discomfort: selecting a small, alternative high school different from the main school, speaking at our school’s Town Meeting to pitch my community service initiative, and relinquishing safeguards lingering in my Midwestern identity when a young Kichwa girl asked me to sing an American song. As I reflect on the conviction that collectively manifested itself there in the Coroner’s Office, or in our school’s common room, or in the choza where I sang to her, I reach a deeper understanding of my own unique identity, an American puree of cultures and traditions that have seasoned me with an eagerness for understanding beyond what is familiar. Thus, I embark on Global Citizen Year.