Success isn’t determined by years in school.

Many years ago this is the conversation that I had with Adnan while watching a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, Adriana Lima walking down the runway.

Me: (with my USMLE book in my hands and a desolate look in my eyes): Adnan! How lucky is this girl? She probably never worked hard a day in her life and is now likely a millionaire. She gets paid for her looks. Meanwhile, I’ve been in school all my life and still have to work so hard to get into a training program.

Adnan: Why do you think she didn’t work hard to become the face of a highly successful lingerie brand?

Me: I mean of course she didn’t work hard. Look at her. Do you think she works hard? No lines on her face. No cellulite on her body. All she does all day is care for her skin and hair. That’s what she makes money of. I’m younger than her probably and I look much older because I’ve been in school all my life.

Adnan: But success and hard work haven’t got much to do with being in school all your life. You’ve been in school because you wanted to. She has been on a runway because she wanted to. Are you trying to say that she makes her money the easy way? Do you think she’s a millionaire all because of good looks and no hard work on her part?

Me: (spluttering): Don’t put words in my mouth. I didn’t say that. But she can’t be working harder than I am if all she does is look pretty. You can’t deny that a lot of her work is already done by nature for her. If I had a face like that I’d have made my first million by now too. I wouldn’t have had to be in school all my life.

Adnan: Sonia! You need to stop saying ” I spent all my life in school”. That makes you sound snotty and like you’re better than a woman who makes Victoria’s Secret billions of dollars every year. You’re not better than her because you’re a physician and she’s a model. She’s not better than you either. But if truth be told, she is never going to think that she’s better than you but you have a tendency to think you’re better than her like many kids who go to professional institutions. That includes me too. We don’t see it as a privilege that we went to school. We see it as some sort of “hard work” that we went to school. If you want to know my truth, I think we went to school because that’s where we expected to find our niche. She went to modeling because that was where she hoped to find her niche. And there are other factors too.

Me: But you can’t deny that I look way more haggard and old compared to her. And that’s all because I work so hard.

Adnan: I’m not denying it. And I’m not denying your hard work either. I know your struggles and I appreciate you immensely for how dedicated you are. But why does dedication and hard work have to be divided between her and you based on the years spent in school? Why do we have to divide them anyway? Modeling is a legitimate, multimillion dollar industry. Sure you can’t acknowledge it for what it is but it is very much a thriving business with a huge impact on economy. Why would you think that medicine is the only legitimate profession? Why, a patient of yours can counter your training just the way you challenged her years of honing her craft.

Me: (after a minute’s silence and being defiant): I’ve never heard of doctors being compared to models.

Adnan: (patiently): You haven’t heard it but that doesn’t mean that comparison can’t be drawn. People can draw that comparison and some stupid people probably do it around us too and predict success based on how many years someone spent in school. And some people might even be measuring smarts based on that. But that’s a very orthodox way of gauging success. Success doesn’t have just one form. It definitely doesn’t have just one expression.

Me: So her work is just as important as mine?

Adnan: Yes.

Me: Okay.

Adnan: Think about it. Economy is run by all of us. We are all important. We all need each other. And there’s a population amongst us which needs us to generate revenue because they can’t generate it. Make economy for everyone and help each other in making it. Endorse small businesses. Endorse large brands. Endorse your friend by using their business and referring their business. Use social media to promote a girl who has done an amazing campaign for a product. This will help her get places without having to resort to means against her discretion that are sometimes required in a patriarchal society. Don’t be a misogynistic patriarch. Support every woman who gets out so when your daughter goes out, you already have put a system in place. Don’t discount a model just because she’s not your brand of profession. Broaden the horizon for all women to grow. And for men too. And children too. Make kids see the strength of a stable economy. If you criticize people for their professions then you can’t support the economy.

Me: (a little mellowed out): I hadn’t thought of it like that.

Adnan: (in his self-important voice): I know you hadn’t. Consider yourself forgiven. 😂

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