Once a doctor, now a student, Kayoko’s story of a new beginningMaiko Tanabe – The Aquinian
Kayoko Yoshimoto sat alone in front, listening intently to the lecture and taking notes while other students sat with their friends or in the back.
She first came to St. Thomas University last September. She was a new international student from Japan. She wasn’t different from other students, except she was a 53-year-old new student and was a physician in Japan.
It is now her second year at STU.
She now majors in gerontology and psychology. She decided to quit her job as a doctor and come here to study for herself. She lives by herself. She studies for herself. She is finally able to live her life for no one but herself.
Yoshimoto had been a physician for 27 years in Japan. As a doctor, she had to face a lot of death. Seeing her patients pass away made her think about a meaning of life and of death.
“We can’t escape from death. We have to confront that period of time one way or the other,” Yoshimoto said. “Successful life would become nothing if we face or deal with that period in a miserable way. As a doctor, I wanted to make that period happier for my patients.”
When she was a doctor, she worked around the clock, devoting herself to her patients and her hospital. She had no life for herself. Her duty as a doctor came first. Taking care of herself was always at the bottom of her list.
“At one point, I worked more than 80 hours a week and I had only Sundays off. But even on Sundays, I had to go and check on the hospitalized patients,” she said. “It was becoming like a torture. I felt I was shortening my life. I felt I was treating my patients by sacrificing my life and myself.”
Yoshimoto couldn’t be with her parents when they passed away because she was working.
“I felt guilty that I couldn’t take care of them,” said Yoshimoto. “I had to work. I had no time. I was too busy taking care of other people.”
She said the guilt was always in her mind and made her stop and think for herself for the first time in years.
“I always compromised what I wanted to do for what I had to do as a doctor,” Yoshimoto said. “My duty as a doctor always came first. My work became my whole life and I was like a machine. But one day, I realized I have done nothing for myself.”
She quit her job two years ago when she developed a health problem because of pressure and stress from work.
Now, she is in Canada, doing what she had been dreaming of and enjoying every second of her new life. She even enjoys struggling with assignments, with a dream in her mind.
“I’m interested in life, aging and death,” said Yoshimoto. “We can’t escape from those things and sometimes we suffer before death. Without overcoming the suffering, we can’t find a meaning of life. So I want to help people find the meaning and make them happy.”
She also said she wants to change the situation of elderly people.
“As a doctor, I saw a lot of patients and their struggles between how they wished to be treated and how they were actually treated in reality. I just want to fill the gap even a little to comfort their fear of death.”
“Also, people need affection and sympathy from other people to live, but when they get older they have less opportunity to get them from others. So I want to improve the situation to the point where aging is acceptable, or rather enjoyable.”
Yoshimoto said as she grew older, she gained self-confidence and now finds happiness in simple things.
“I’m not interested in having luxury. I don’t have to compete with others to gain self-confidence. When I was young, I had to compete to get a good job and to be more confident,” she said. “But now, just having enough time to do what I want to do or being able to study makes me happy. It’s that simple.”
But she had been going through a lot of things to be the person she is today, and marriage is one of them.
In Japan, it is untraditional for women not to marry, and Yoshimoto used to have a hard time because she was single, she said.
“I wanted to have family but it didn’t happen,” said Yoshimoto. “In Japan, women who are not married at a certain age tend to be looked down. Women are evaluated as a female, not as a human being. I had to deal with people looking at me that way. It was a really tough period, but it made me stronger and independent.”
As her second year as a student has begun, her journey to start over her life takes a new turn.
“I made more friends than I thought I would last year. I don’t think I could have survived my first year at STU without them,” said Yoshimoto. “I now have friends who treat me as their family. They give me affection and also make me feel I’m needed. I’m happy with my new life.”
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