Student challenges himself to stretch from insecurity to self-confidence
At eighteen years old Dominic Jordan Salon was at a crossroad in his life. His vision of who and what he wanted to be was in direct conflict with his reality. He had always imagined a life in the medical field, and he was equally drawn to the military. But the life he was living as a college engineering student was headed in the opposite direction. His very shy, reclusive nature made change difficult and didn’t support his ambitious dreams.
“Every day I would wake up, go to school, go home, do homework all night; repeat,” says Dominic. “I didn’t do anything more than what I knew, and I wasn’t getting anywhere.”
Food was both his refuge and an effective distraction. “Food was my go-to for all the stress I was going through at the time, and I would eat to make myself feel better.” Eventually, the reality of his life caught up with him. “I looked in the mirror one day and told myself, ‘Man, this sucks.’” He knew something had to change. But it is never easy to break deeply embedded habits.
“When I was younger, I was shy and didn’t want to go out of my comfort zone; I liked doing what was comfortable for me,” says Dominic. “If people talked to me, I sometimes wouldn’t even answer. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing or get made fun of. I didn’t go outside my boundaries.” His self-confidence was nearly non-existent.
Dominic did some research and found that the Navy reserve offered a Hospital Corpsman program. Two things attracted him to this path. “For me it’s always been the feeling of being able to help others and make a difference in their lives,” he says of his interest in the medical field. That he could have his ideal career through the military made this choice even stronger. Because his family came from the Philippines, Dominic always felt a debt of gratitude to the United States. “I was lucky to have my life in America, and joining the military was my way of giving back to this country for all the opportunities it had given my family.”
But those internal voices of insecurity were insistent. He took small steps. “I put the military recruiting office in my GPS and would literally look at the door, give myself reasons not to go in and then go home,” says Dominic. “I was in a battle with myself. Part of me wanted to get my ass in the recruiting office and the other part said, ‘Don’t do it.’”
The day came when he entered that door. “In my shy voice I said I wanted to join the military. They said, ‘Say that again; I can’t hear you!’” Dominic repeated his statement. They sized him up and gave him a directive. “Go home, lose some weight then come back.”
Weighing in at 230 pounds, he needed to get down to 170 to make the cut. It took Dominic only 4-5 months to lose over 50 lbs. “You’d be surprised how much weight you can lose if you’re really motivated.” He successfully enlisted in the Navy reserve and took a direction that touched every part of his life.
Boot camp gave him a strong sense of ‘brotherhood’, while it taught him that putting yourself into uncomfortable situations is one of the best ways to develop mental strength. “They stress you out on purpose so that you learn to function under pressure,” says Dominic.
But it was the medical training that was the perfect match for him. “I absolutely fell in love with the medical school,” he says. Extended training in field medicine and trauma taught Dominic to perform emergency medical treatment while under fire. “It’s pressure on a whole different level,” he recalls.
Now on active reserve status, Dominic wanted to expand his medical training to include a clinical environment such as hospitals, medical facilities and doctors’ offices. SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting program on the Delano campus was the perfect complement to his past medical training and experience.
“I wanted to learn how to work in a clinical setting, work with patients who are elderly, middle age or children,” he says. Most military personnel are close in age, in better physical shape than the general population and suffer from stress-related conditions.
Dominic was surprised that he would also learn front office administration in his Medical Assisting program. “I thought the program was going to be pure back office, working with needles, drawing blood and giving injections. It was a pleasant surprise because I’m the kind of person who wants to always expand on my medical knowledge and, in the medical field, you always have to be learning.”
He has decided to demonstrate what he hopes his fellow classmates embody, as well. “After class and labs, I feel like I can stay and help students with things like their first time to poke someone with a needle. There were so many classmates so scared of needles, and I know the feeling of what it’s like to do something for the first time. If I could help someone get better at their skills, I want to help them get to that place.”
Dominic likes seeing that change of confidence that was such a big part of his own evolution. “The first time with a needle, poking someone and having blood squirt out is not something you see every day. I offer my arms and veins because I know how shaky you can be. But seeing them (students) get more confident, boosts my confidence, as well. And helping them succeed in the course makes me feel better.”
Dominic believes there are powerful lessons for all who puts themselves into uncomfortable situations, like the stresses and sacrifices of going back to school. “It’s something I learned in the military. Let yourself be uncomfortable. Not everything is going to be easy and you have to learn to adapt, learn to breathe with that discomfort. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Sometimes that is the price of a better life.
His envisioned career in the medical field comes closer to Dominic every day. “I’m in the clinical medical field in the week-days and a Hospital Corpsman in the military on the weekends, and that’s the dream that keeps me focused,” he says. “I am so close to what I envisioned a few years ago and seeing that plan play out.”
Dreams and plans evolve, as dreamers and planners reach ever higher. “My plan is to work as a Medical Assistant for a while, then, hopefully, pursue nursing or even become a doctor,” says Dominic. No one doubts his potential anymore.
“My family said that I’m a whole different person, more confident in myself and not the shy person I was,” says Dominic. “I’m more than willing to step out of my comfort zone and do more with myself.”
Now 21-years old, it is difficult for Dominic to relate to that college freshman who felt locked into a life and career he didn’t want. But that sedentary, robotic, nearly invisible guy who used to occupy his sense of self has been painstakingly replaced by his new identity: confident, deliberate and on the front lines to help others recover or get where they dream of going.
And, if he can serve as a ‘before and after’ example of what courage and determination can achieve, he’s good with that, too.
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