Sara Khan: Living A Generosity Driven Existence

Sara Khan was born in Pasadena, California and has lived there her whole life. She currently attends medical school at Albany Medical College in Albany, NY. She hopes to go back to California for residency. She is interested in surgery because according to her “there is so much technical craft to it and because no one surgery will ever be the same.” This story is part of “Muslims of America”, a photo series created by Carlos Khalil Guzman, a photographer and activist currently based in NYC.

I’ve wanted to be a doctor my entire life. Cheesy I know because I’m a Pakistani kid from a family of doctors, including my mom and sister. But basically I’ve always suffered at the sight of seeing another human being suffer and I’ve always felt so powerless to not be able to help that person on a very real level. I cannot wait to have the training to be able to fix a cleft lip, remove a cataract from someone’s eyes or reroute a person’s vasculature to bypass a clot. The fact that we have the technology to even DO these things is like, crazy. And I want to be able to do them. And yes, I definitely have a surgically oriented mind… but we’ll see where I end up. I want to do extensive relief work at some point in my life and open up a homeless shelter, somewhere, because homelessness and hunger are two social issues I’m VERY passionate about and extremely depressed by. I can’t imagine not having a place to live or food to eat. A roof and a meal are two things a person should never have to live without.

My sister is also a doctor about to start residency in June. She is 27 years old. I love her insanely. Things I like to do are: run half marathons, bake stuff, I’m trying to learn Arabic because I want to have a closer relationship with the Qur’an, I’m a total foodie, so I love going to new places and trying new things. I love love love reading books. I read Jonathan Brown’s Misquoting Muhammad (a book about hadiths and how we have our collection of hadiths we have today) and it was…amazing. I’m going to read Revelation ( a seerah of the prophet’s life) and I’m so excited. I like traveling, I like eating, I like sunshine, I like the beach. I like being with the people I love. I’m a tree hugger so I’m super into the whole recycling/farming/sustainable lifestyle sort of thing. I want to have a fully solar paneled house one day and compost all my food waste. Yes, all my friends (and family) think I’m weird… whatever.

My dad has shaped me more than anyone else. He thinks I don’t listen to what he tells me, but I do. I have years of advice he has given me tucked away that I use and will cherish for a lifetime. I love him for his kindness, humbleness and generosity. He has given me something that no other person in this world has: complete confidence in my capabilities as a human being, the motivation to make the world a better place and the resolve to never, ever give up. I am an exceedingly lucky daughter to have him as my dad and I’m indebted to him beyond words.

For most of my life, my religion, Islam, was something I passively accepted, rather than actively embraced. When I started to pray 5 times a day, my life changed completely. Prayer became as vital to my survival as food, air and water. My life now has focus, clarity and stability. Alhamdulilah. When I am truly alone, God’s love sustains me. I am forever grateful to the wonderful friends I made in college that brought me closer to God. May Allah always bless them.

I would most like to be remembered as someone that was generous and gave back to those around me. I don’t want a life of a glamour, but a real, honest, generosity and love-driven existence. A life lived for myself is not my kind of idea of a worthwhile life. Generosity comes in many forms: giving your time, giving your intellect, giving your skills and resources, giving your money, giving your love, giving your friendship. I seek a life that is rich in all forms of generosity.

One of the most important lessons I learned in my life is  to be your own best cheerleader, because the people closest to you that you seek for support and fulfillment will disappoint you the most. Sounds pessimistic, but it’s the single most recurring lesson I’ve learned in my life and continue to experience with frequency. If you are your own best motivator, you won’t need anyone else’s encouragement to make you pursue your dreams- you’ll just go out and get them. If you are your own best source of support, you won’t crumble when everything around you does and no one is nearby to help you get on your feet. Build a strong foundation from the inside out, and nothing will break you.

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