Dave Wu, SPT ’23
As a DPT student trudging through the first semester of the program, I sometimes catch myself thinking, “What did you get yourself into this time, Dave?” But this isn’t the first time I found myself doing something so daunting: after all, at one point, I was foolish enough to join the United States Marine Corps. If I could distill just one life lesson from Marine life and transfer it to the civilian SDPT life it would be that life’s difficulty is tied up with its worth: that life is fulfilled when we have an obstacle to overcome, people to face it with, and people to do it for.
In the middle of a week chock full of practical exams, I was commiserating with a classmate, who commented that PT school must be so much easier for me having experienced military life. There was some truth to that statement in that I’m fortunate enough to have learned to handle stress pretty well, but PT school is still PT school: we learn the same material, take the same tests, and face the same pressures. We are all held to the same standard that doesn’t drop for anyone, not even for Marines (no military discounts here). But it is the intrinsic difficulty of a high standard that makes meeting it so meaningful and such a worthwhile pursuit.
As I rewind back to first day of Marine training, I’m reminded of the people who chose to train us and hold us accountable to the standard. As the drill instructors made their grand entrance with their famed belligerence, they made one message clear: they would push us to the limit, but they wouldn’t let us fail; and even after we’d given up on ourselves, they never would. Our “drill instructors” here at Pitt DPT put forth that same message, and they wouldn’t be here if they didn’t have the competence and the confidence to see us through. Sure, there may be a few who might like to watch us squirm and flounder for a bit, but at the end of the day, but none of our instructors would ever let us drown in this program. So, it’s easy to trust in a system of people who have not only proven their knowledge but who are also committed to our success.
Fast-forward as the training days pass, recruits reach a point when they get out of their own heads to see a platoon full of others who have all cast their lots together in the pursuit of a standard. Stripped of the more superficial aspects of individuality, each recruit is left revealing their true character (and the fact they’re barely keeping it together). In this DPT “platoon,” I look to the individuals left, right, front and back to see not the race, gender, creed, or upbringing that would divide us. Instead, the stress and strain has revealed “brothers and sisters in DPT” who embody the common struggles, passions, and ambitions to meet the standards of this program. It’s near impossible not to respect and grow closer to people who are in the trenches you, whom you lean on, and who lean on you.
If being a Marine weren’t so difficult, would it still instill the same kind of pride? If DPT school weren’t so difficult, would it still be worth pursuing? For me, if my endeavors didn’t challenge me and if I didn’t have people to share in the struggle and achievement, it simply wouldn’t mean as much. It’s personal adversity that provides me with motivation, and it’s the people I do it for and do it with that strikes me with inspiration. So, if the Marine Corps has taught me anything, it’d be to find something difficult that’s truly worth doing and then find some people to share it with. For all of us in the DPT program, I think we’ve got those boxes checked, but regardless of career choices, I hope that some part of this encourages and resonates with anyone who has read this to the end.
“The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.” — David Viscott