Friday, June 17, 2016

Be brave with your life

I watched the movie Everest with my parents this weekend - which they spent a good half hour selecting from the redbox while I was waiting for them. To their credit, they did not know I was waiting for them in the parking lot given that I no longer live near home and hadn’t planned on visiting them soon.

It took them awhile to select a movie because in addition to finding a movie that met the rigorous standards of being appealing to my parents, it also had to be a *blu-ray*. My brother, ever the favorite child, surprised my dad with an early father’s day/ birthday / continue to love me more than my sister gift of a new blu-ray player.

My counter move to this ploy was to simply show up, unannounced and then expect them to feed and entertain me for a few days. Jimmy: 1. Katie: …enchiladas?

Anyways, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, its inspiring and terrifying and definitely worth watching. Initially when watching, I decided I wanted to climb Everest. By the end, I’ve decided to maybe set my sights on a smaller mountain. I suppose that was a bit of a spoiler alert, but come on, you knew that it was going to end badly… a movie of people walking up and walking down probably wouldn’t be that interesting. ALSO, it happened in the past and the 1996 Everest disaster was (I think?) a fairly publicized catastrophe. Similar to someone watching the Titanic for the first time… I don’t feel bad if I ruin it for you by sharing that the ship sank and I really want to know how you’ve made it your whole life without ever hearing the fate of the Titanic.

I digress.

Long story short: good movie, I’ve started reading the book, Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.

The author was present on that expedition due to an interest in climbing as well as talent as a writer. He was sent by the magazine to write a feature piece. No one anticipated how big the story would ultimately become. There was no initial intent to write a book. He explains in the introduction that this book served as a catharsis for him – he hoped, to get Everest out of his system. He doesn’t say if it worked.

What strikes me about this book so far is how honest he is about the characters in it. It is clear from his writing that he is a reporter. He shares the truth with unapologetic clarity. The characters in this story are not characters but actual people and described as such. He includes both flaws and idiosyncrasies that might be considered embarrassing to the people involved. The survivors are people he has shared a life-altering experience with, whether he considers them friends I will never know. Several of the people introduced early on ultimately die and yet he is still able to paint them accurately. The book does not read like an obituary where those passed are angelic, heroic people who simply had some bad luck. It is harshly honest.

Perhaps this resonates with me because I feel this is a skill I lack. Only recently have I begun to be more honest with the people in my life about what I want, about how I feel. Admittedly, its probably only recently that I started being honest with myself.

I have difficulty describing people with the same clarity as Krakauer because I want people to like me. It's not an overwhelming obsession where I cater to the desires of everyone around me, but rather buried deep inside me. I avoid confrontation. I gloss over flaws. I repress anger. Frustration. Sadness. It has occurred to me that I apologize for things I have no reason to be sorry for.

New goal: to write with honesty.

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” – Anne Lamot

I owe it to myself to describe things exactly as I see them, as I feel them - even, in some cases if that is not the way they actually are.

People especially need to be written in their full spectrum. Live is lived in shades of grey, not in black and white. Good people hurt feelings. Well-intentioned truths break hearts. Bad mistakes make good stories. There is beauty in the tragedy of life. It is messy, unfinished, broken and lovely all at once. It’s a field of wildflowers - untamed. It is magnificent despite the lack of direction – or perhaps, because of it.

Step one in this new process I suppose is to allow myself to feel and express whatever I want to actually feel. For instance, that I will no longer be a pediatrics resident after this year. By choice.

The story of that decision is a much longer monologue for a different day. It may be the wrong decision and it may be the best decision I have ever made. Either way, it is mine. Life is too short to be lived in a situation that inspires constant unhappiness. My path is not as straight as I once thought it was. It is okay though, I haven’t reached the end of my story yet. The only requirement of life is that you get from point A – birth, to point B- death. Everything in the middle, you get to decide.

I have a painting on my wall that reads “Be brave with your life”. It is quickly becoming my new mantra. Dropping out of residency feels akin to getting off the highway to exit the safety and comfort of the car and being walking through the forest. It is terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Is it brave? Who knows. Bravery and stupidity look the same initially – which one results depends on the consequences.

Here goes nothing.

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