Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Ache




Time is a fickle thing. 

For years, it seemed like time was never moving fast enough, I was always waiting to grow up, to finish school, to start life.  I remember specifically during the first year of medical school thinking how terribly long four years seemed.

And now that it’s coming to an end, I feel as though there isn’t enough time left.  I’ve already begun to feel nostalgia for this place and these people. I already miss it.  It’s as though just because there is an end in sight, my heart has decided to hold on tighter.  It is protesting the upcoming pain by feeling it even sooner.  Pretty stupid plan, eh heart?

Earlier in this year, a friend and I were parting ways for a couple of months and we didn’t get a chance to hang out before leaving for away rotations.  Half-kidding, I said to him, “you didn’t even say goodbye.”

He replied with “that’s a ridiculous thing to say”.

I replied with “I’m a ridiculous person.”

He agreed.

But here’s the thing: I’m not a ridiculous person.  I don’t apologize for feeling nostalgic and for dreading the day that I am going to say goodbye to all of the people in my med school class, because over the past four years I have come to know them and appreciate them and treasure them.

There are people in school that I don’t get along with - some who make me uncomfortable simply by their presence.  Oddly enough, I will be genuinely sad to see many of them for the last time too.  They may not like me or vice versa, but they have still played a role in this incredible journey and have been a part of the big picture. 

It’s more than that though… I’m not really sure how to explain it. It’s just that… they are people.  I might have engendered confusion when I used I implied that I don’t like them… because I do.  Even if I don’t.  There are people who make me crazy, make me angry, make me cry or make me uncomfortable… but they are people. 

People aren’t straightforward – everyone has things about them that are inherently likeable or even loveable.  The nervous smile after a compliment.  The things that only they find funny.  The things they are passionate about. The way their voice softens when they talk to someone they really care about. The way their face lights up when they tell a joke that makes the whole room laugh.  The concern in their voice when they talk about a patient. 

These are the things I fall in love with.  I notice these things and for some reason it endears that person to my heart.  Even if they are completely mean to me.  I can’t help it.

It doesn’t take much insight to realize that if this is how I feel about the people I don’t like, how much more intense must my feelings be for the friends that I love. 

The friends that I have now mean the world to me.  They are far more than just the people I happened to suffer through anatomy and organ systems with… They are who I look forward to telling when my mom does something silly, or who I know can make me laugh when it has been a long week and I just want to have some fun.  They are funny and smart and compassionate.  They are there when I feel like things couldn’t suck more.  They are courageous and brave and just everything that I wish I could be.

They are the only possible reason why Toledo feels like home.

I love them so dearly.

I realize that I have used the word love quite a bit.  And for the record, no, I’m not using it lightly.  I develop very real and intense feelings for the people in my life.  I hope that it is part of what makes me a worthwhile friend.  I do what I can to show these people I care (where appropriate) and tell them as often as I can how much they mean to me. 

Seriously, if anyone intercepted a text-message conversation between me and my best friend (and they happened to luck out that it was one of our sane moments and not a discussion of exoskeletons, glitter, arson- hypothetical… obviously! or eyebrows) they would think that we were actually in love with each other because I tell her so often how amazing she is and how lucky I am to have her… this is getting off point.

So where were we…

I don’t make apologies for the intense attachments I form, even when people may not have the same level of feeling for me.  I would rather feel too strongly for the people that I have than not have anyone that I care about.

When I stop and I think about each of these people – all their quirks and idiosyncrasies, what they mean to me, and how much they have changed me…I know I am so lucky to have them.  I wouldn’t trade this understanding for anything, but I do dread where it leads.

In just a few short months I am saying goodbye to many of these people.  I said goodbye to several when last year’s class graduated and moved on and I know the ache all too well. Caring so deeply for so many people leaves me open to a lot of pain. 

It’s going to hurt.  A lot.

I know that it has to happen, because everyone that I know now is going to go forward and do great things with their lives.  From the people I know now, there will someday be famous surgeons, world class sports medicine doctors, great neurologists, passionate pediatricians… I have no doubt because I know how awesome they are.  The world will be a better place because of them, so I know that we have to say goodbye and it has to hurt. 

But the point is, it’s not going to hurt because I’m ridiculous or because I feel too much, but simply because I have had the joy of getting to know some truly wonderful people over the past four years.  They are imprinted in my mind and, practical or not, in my heart. 

It’s going to hurt like hell.

It’s going to hurt because it mattered. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Talk and Passion and a Flight of Ideas

My internet is out. 

Thus, I have decided to write.

The more astute among my multitude of readers are now inquiring but if the internet was out… how did she post a blog?  

I have no magical answer.  If , in fact, you are reading this and you are not inside my head, then at some point the wi-fi gods have smiled down on me in favor.  And, basking in their favor, I must have chosen not to be distracted by pinterest, facebook, or the actual work I am supposed to be doing. No, I must have chosen to press on with this post instead.  I must have chosen to focus on sharing the directionless humming that is inside my head.  I chose that because it quiets the roar.

I don’t know if this is something everyone experiences, but it is far easier for me to know how I feel once I see it written down.  Maybe I am too easily distractible to track the thoughts in my own head.  Not that I jump from topic to topic purely due to lack of focus.  It’s more that once a new thought bubbles into clarity, I become so focused on it, that I can no longer trace where it came from without significant and intentional effort. 

This isn’t necessarily problematic, but it is alarming to suddenly have very strong feelings about something and have no clues as to their origin.

So I write.

I write for me.

I write when I have no point… much as I am doing right now. 

The funny thing is, when I sit down to write… I always have a point.  I don’t necessarily start with one, but by the time I’m ready to aggressively click on that miniature floppy disk and make my thoughts permanent or public or both, I have always gotten myself somewhere.

For a long time, I have kept the main point bottled up.  There have been lots of minor things drawing attention, and those were enough to keep me focused enough to be distracted. But tonight for some reason, it is forcing its way out. 

I have changed.  I grew up in a strict bible-believing family where God was good and bad was bad and in my tiny mind, that was as complicated as it needed to be.  I don’t know when it happened, but I know now that it has always been way more complicated than that.  I don’t want to get into theology as it serves as yet another wave crashing at the side of an already rickety ship – threatening to divert my trajectory far off course.  I don’t disbelieve that now… Simply put: good people do bad things, bad people do good things and there is a hell of a lot of time and energy wasted beating yourself up when you decide your standards will be defined by someone else. 

I think I have probably sufficiently alarmed the readers who know me. 

Those who don’t probably see absolutely nothing wrong with what I just said.  Isn’t that a fascinating paradox?

If the world is this complicated and life is so short… why waste time being unhappy? Two years ago, if you had told me that my parents would one day be fine with me having multiple piercings (including one on my face!) and tattoos, I wouldn’t have believed it.   Even when I first got my first tattoo, I was scared.  But when I finally summoned the courage to show them, I was more surprised than they were.  My parents were both calm and interested and asked what the tattoo meant to me.  There was no fighting, no yelling. 

In the end, I felt shaken for having misjudged them so horribly.  I don’t know why I did.  They taught me everything that I know and I was fine with my tattoo… so why shouldn’t they be?

I had the same fear, possibly amplified, when I showed them my nose piercing. I knew they wouldn’t like that… but I did, so I did it for me.  My mom threatened to sneak into my room at night and suck it out of my face with a magnet.  My dad asked how much it had cost.  My aunt said she liked it.  My uncle said he could have done the same thing for free in the garage with his nail gun. And so another hurdle in family relations was cleared.

In each of these instances, I learned that my parents may disagree with me, but I had yet to find the unforgivable offense. 

I don’t know why I expected that these minor discrepancies between my desires and theirs would outweigh their love for me.  I know that if I had children, it certainly wouldn’t. 

I love my family so much, I would hate to let them down in any way.  I want them to be proud of me… in everything that I do.

But, this desire to make them happy in every aspect of my life often butts heads with my own desires for life. 

For example, I know that my parents believe that true love lasts a lifetime. 

How could they not believe that? They met at work in their 20’s, were clearly perfect for each other and have been best friends as long as they have been married.  They understand each other’s work, finish each other’s sentences and laugh at each other’s terrible puns.  My dad cooks every meal, every day of the year… and my mom cleans up each and every time.

They make it look easy.

As far as I know, neither of them has ever questioned if they have made the right choices, because why should they? Everything seems to work out like they wanted. 

At least I think it did…

That’s not a question I grew up thinking parents needed to be asked.  It was obvious they were happy together and with us.

It never occurred to me to ask if they thought they could have been happier. 

Not even necessarily with each other… but could they have been happier with a different daughter? One who didn’t get bored and decide she wanted to go to India, or join the army or get married.

I guess this is the crux of my point, but I didn’t realize it until this moment…

I wonder if the people in my life would be happier if I lived my life like everyone else and if I made choices by weighing the consequences and using logic to consider the outcomes.  If I wasn’t who I am.

I have realized with careful reflection over the past several years that many of my major life choices have been made out of the desire to have something to look forward to.

I was feeling bored in my junior year of college, so I joined the army.  I knew there was shock value and that it would be fun to tell people for awhile, but I don’t think I stopped to consider the grand implications of the decision I was making.  Certainly there were other factors: monetary gain and my relationship would benefit in the long run. But in moments of pure honesty, I know that these aren’t the reasons that I made my decision.  It was the change.  It was because this new modification would radically alter my life path.  I wanted change. I wanted radical. 

If this is a hard concept for you to grasp, imagine that your life only exists to you as newspaper headlines.  In that case, the bigger and more startling the decision, the more you feel a part of your own life. 

Unfortunately, I think I operate with the same mindset for proposals.  I have been proposed to on three separate occasions, by three separate individuals. 

I said yes all three times.

I didn’t stop to think once.

I don’t mean to destroy people with my havoc.  I’m still just trying to find things to be excited about.  I know I have hurt people in this process, which makes me resistant to change now. 

Resistant to change is not the best way to describe my current state.  Because, confession time: I booked a plane ticket to Africa about a week ago for much the same reason I made these other choices.  (And anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I have had at least 8 different hair colors in the past 12 months).

I resist changes to my change. 

It’s all I can do I guess. Once I have made a decision, no matter how ill thought out, I figure I owe it to the people involved and the people around me to stick it out. 

I have recently been accused of “shooting from the hip a lot” – this same accuser pointed out to me that  it doesn’t always seem to work out how I would hope. 

And that’s true… excitement fades, happiness dwindles and I’m left looking for the next big rush to fill whatever void I have.

I assumed that by refusing to renege on these changes, I was sparing everyone the pain of dealing with my wreckage.  I fancy myself a hurricane… as long as I move in a straight path, one direction, the debris is limited. 

Perhaps I was sparing myself a little too.  No one would have to know that I knew that I made these decisions lightly.  No one would have to know that I was unhappy with these life choices. No one would have to know that my life hasn’t turned out how I wanted it to. 

No one would have to know that, when it comes down to it, I’m all talk. 

Talk and passion and a flight of ideas.

Nothing substantial really.

This modality of thought is outdated.  Because I have decided that I do care about myself, my life, my opinions. In the grand scheme of things, the person who will have to live with my wreckage the most is absolutely and one hundred percent me. 

The fact that I have made several important decisions lightly over the years doesn’t mean that they were the right ones.  They just happened to work out in a semi-normal fashion. 

If I had decided to cut my leg off years ago… I don’t really know why I would do that, but who needs logic in hypothetical situations?  If I had done that, no one would be telling me now “Don’t get a prosthetic, you’ve chosen not to walk!”

Point: just because I make impulse decisions, that doesn’t mean I deal with them to the fullest extent until the end of time. 

Life is simply the sum of the choices you make: the good, the bad, the indifferent.   Until life is over, we have the freedom to make and correct and remake and change and alter and start over and mess up as many times as we want.

I am not all talk.  The things that I feel and want are real and valid and certainly a good enough reason to change my life if I see fit.  Not wanting to rock the boat is not reason enough to settle for a life that is less than the one I want.  

I’m starting over.

There is no passion to be found playing small - in living a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.                         - Nelson Mandela 

If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.                                                                                      - John Irving    A Prayer for Owen Meany