I am from Alabama. I am a hunter and Distinguished Expert marksman. I am a woman.
Thinking of these characteristics, perhaps it’s even more surprising to know that I enjoy classical music. Well, that's an understatement. If so inclined, I could play Beethoven’s thunderous, emotional Sonata Pathetique or Chopin's delicate Prelude in G-major. If handed a violin, I would play the passionate intro of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings; I could throw a frenzied bluegrass fiddle tune or syrupy jazz line into the air with equal passion and pleasure.
Although my identities are quite contradictory, I’ve discovered several parallels between playing classical music and hunting. And although one probably won't find a professional flutist clad in camouflage on “open season” weekend, I’m privileged to have experienced both activities, discovering my passion for each of them.
When I received my first violin, I became absorbed in perfecting my skills, spending hours trying to eliminate the “squeaks” that would often interrupt the pieces I tried to play. As I progressed, I aimed to perfect my accuracy with shifts between hand positions or complicated scales. This love has continued to the present; I continue to learn about various types of instruments and their histories, as well as the master composers and the music they wrote.
However, music is not my only obsession. When I was little, I began to spend more time in the woods, allowing my connection to and love of nature and hunting to grow exponentially. I -- yet again – have pushed myself to excel, spending hours at the shooting range and learning about various aspects of the hunt. Every facet of my hunts, from scent elimination and camouflage to the study of animal behavioral patterns, has become equally as precise and perfected.
As a hunter, I must master the tools, just like playing music. The first time I picked up a rifle, I was fascinated by its sleek aesthetics and the seductively smooth mechanical cooperation between its moving parts. With each round I fired, my fascination grew deeper. Since I received my own rifle, I’ve been obsessed with firing it, adjusting it, and cleaning it, removing every speck of residual gunpowder out of the matte-black barrel and off of the chrome action. I constantly investigate the physics behind firearms. I fire more powerful guns as I become able. I research the histories of various types of rifles, shotguns, and pistols. It truly is a love affair with this mechanical technology. However, for me, hunting is also an intense, heavenly connection with God’s natural world, although it is a surprising and stark contrast to the man-produced machinery of firearms.
While hunting and playing music require different types of preparation, they are actually extremely similar. Apart from mastering the respective tools, the final tests – either concerts or hunts – all can be incredibly rewarding, but are immensely high-risk. Regardless of the extent of preparation, one missed note or dissonant chord can mar an entire concert; one erroneous noise or missed shot will spook an animal, ruining an entire hunt. However, it is perhaps this immediate risk of failure that causes my passion for each activity.
But this risk is not limited to the actual hunts or concerts. Wherever I hunt, I’m usually the only woman there. This isn’t an accident. Hunting is a rough, dirty, difficult, physical, and often grotesque activity; that’s why it appeals almost exclusively to men. It especially contrasts to the sometimes feminine delicacy of orchestral music. However, there is no reason I should have to submit to societal gender constructs. If doing what I love breaks the gender binary and what society tells me is my place, or what I should and shouldn’t do, so be it. I’m proud to be probably the only high school girl that likes to listen to Beethoven and Prokofiev while she hunts. So what?
One might question what hunting and music and guns and violins have to do with individuality, originality, or worldly and Godly purpose. The answer is that when dealing with my goals, or problems I see in the world, the individuality I have developed from hunting, musicianship, and every other aspect of my life and identity I have assumed has led me to refuse to listen to what others tell me is right and wrong, or what I am capable or incapable of accomplishing or changing. Allow me to use personal experience to illustrate.
I still hear her screams of pain. I still see her young face contorting as she writhes on the table, her swollen stomach protruding under the hospital blanket. “She’s only fifteen,” the OB/GYN sighs under her escalating cries. A nurse shuffles in and reports that she has tested positively for cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. More screams. The anesthetist pushes a clear liquid into the port of her IV. The writhing slowly stops, the screams abate. The only sounds are the beeps of the various monitors and mechanical pumps of the ventilator. We all take a sigh of relief. After a brief pause that feels like hours, the doctor picks up his tools. “We can’t keep her like this all day. Let’s get to work.”
I have always been interested in medicine. It was the miraculously normal birth of this girl’s son, however, that truly showed me what I want to accomplish in my life. As I witnessed the needless and easily avoidable pain that the young girl and her son experienced, my interest in medicine fused with both my insatiable passion for service and my love of Christ. I want to use my education to teach others about caring for their own health before these crises happen, and I know that it is my purpose to witness to them as I do it.
Because of a lack of resources, prejudice, status, education level, or physical location, many people often cannot receive the healthcare that they need. Additionally, they can experience severe discomfort even when receiving the most basic care. I seek to provide healthcare services in an educated, non-discriminatory environment in which patients will feel comfortable with their healthcare providers. For Matthew tells us, in chapter 25:40, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” The reason many of these people cannot access the healthcare they need -- whether it is a homeless man living in New York, a child born with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, or a 16 year old girl born into an affluent family in America – is that they have been denied, rejected, and outcast by society in one way or another. However, I reject this social view – I seek to serve the King by persevering in what I know is right, although many have told me or told them that they have done wrong. To accomplish this, I am starting out by studying Public Health at Tulane University to attain a global perspective on the interaction between medicine and society. It is that fifteen year old girl and her son who motivate me to use my education to its full potential, and it will be an incredible opportunity to witness my faith to the people I serve. It is the least of these that push me to look past what the world says is dirty, wrong, or dangerous. I live originally by rejecting what is commonly viewed as impossible or undesirable, pursuing my own individuality, and using the talents and gifts God has given me, and lifting up those who cry out.