I moved to Germany more than 2 years back, a new bride and madly in love. Despite all the frills, I was more than excited to be coming to the country where my profession originated.
I am a Homoeopathic doctor from India with a Masters in my field and an honour-roll student at that. (Yes, Homoeopathy was discovered in Leipzig, Germany and not in India!)
I had big plans! I was going to make it big. And fast. Or not.
In no uncertain terms, Germany informed me, that not only could I forget about keeping my title but that I had to re-qualify. In German. You know how they say life is too short to learn German? Well, here I was, trying to re-do my university degrees in a foreign language! I thought about not even beginning to attempt. It seemed like I had Mount Everest before me and needed to climb it in roller skates! Impossible!
Not one to shy away from challenges; I jumped headlong into learning German. The more progress I made, the more frustrated I got at all the ridiculous grammar rules! There were days when I wanted to pack my bags and go back home. Luckily, sense and the husband prevailed; with the promise that if it takes too much of a toll; we would move back to India. I fought a demon’s battle within; not wanting this alternative because it would mean I failed.
Failing is something I was allergic to. I remember being mad at my Basketball coach in school when he told me “Nicola, you need to lose a few matches so you know what losing feels like.” (We were reigning champions almost throughout my term on the team.) I thought he had lost his mind! In hindsight I know what a wisdom filled statement that was. Sir, if you’re reading this, let me say, I failed and now I know.
I spent years of my student life being detested by friends and colleagues alike for being “a nerd, smart-ass, scholar”.Well, I never failed an exam. Kinder-garden to University. So although I didn’t then, I now understand their sentiments. Life is unfair. But I have stopped apologizing for my talents. However cocky that sounds.
So back to my roller-coaster journey in Germany. I finally broke through the language test barriers and got a C 1- which is one level below native speaker. Then came the bigger more relevant exam- qualifying as a registered Homoeopath. Being a medical doctor was out of the question unless I went back to University. After already having romanced university for eight and a half years in India; I said NO. So I began preparing for the “Heilpraktikerprüfung” which is an exam taken by all practitioners of alternative medicine.
All this while, I wanted to earn my bread and butter; so as an added challenge; I was working at Homoeopaths Without Borders, Germany in an administrative post. I’ve lost count of how often I felt undervalued while answering phone calls, writing letters and doing mundane office work. When someone so kindly pointed out- “Did you go to medical school to end up sealing envelopes?”; rage and humiliation filled me! I wanted to tear him to pieces! But again, not one to give up, I plodded on. I also continued to run my practice in Goa with a great team. (www.gergo.net for more)
In March 2017 I answered the written exam- which is conducted only twice a year- and failed. I was so struck by disappointment, shame, pain and anger; that I came a hair’s breath close to giving up. It took tons of courage to go back to the exam-preparatory class I attended and explain that I had failed.
I had another chance in October and I took it. This time fighting fainting spells from being pregnant and emotional wreckage from losing my dear father in August. That was truly rock bottom for me. As they say, the only good thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only way out, is up.
And up I went.
I cleared the written exam! Hooray! Half was accomplished and now I had to clear the oral exam. If I didn’t; I would have to start again with the written exam- which if you remember, happens only twice a year.
So after studying with a vengeance for the last 3 months, (I couldn’t bear to entertain failure again) I went in today for my do-or-die moment. I was potentially looking at moving back to India.
It was 2 degrees this morning and I was sweating. My voice trembled as the examiner took me back down memory lane to university exam times and quizzed me on Anatomy, Physiology, Emergencies and then the most tricky part- laws and regulations. Indian medical laws are sketchy at best and were never part of an exam syllabus!
20 minutes through and I was asked to step outside while the two men decided my fate.
I waddled outside, taking my 36 week belly with me (not that I had a choice), and wondering if I made it.
I’m on top of the world and success tastes so sweet!
Failing was painful. But necessary. I have found a friend in Failure. No, I do not like it any better than before, but I have new respect for it. I have learnt a lot more than if I had passed the first time – about myself, about persevering, about medicine and most of all about life. Hard work pays off and hitting rock bottom is not bad if you get up and go on.
So here I am, finally free of exams and bureaucracy; raring to start my career in Germany as a licensed Homoeopath! But not before first taking a well deserved break to bring my son into this world. He’s due in a just a few weeks. Cross your fingers for us!
Before an exam, a match or anything I undertook; my dad always said- “Kator re Bhaji!” (The Konkani equivalent of Break a Leg! For more on why this phrase is an important part of two histories- of hypnosis and of Goa, check here). I’m certain he’s celebrating in Valhalla with lame jokes and liquid spirits! This one is for you Dada!