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The Boys I Have Loved, pt 1

17 Jan

There are five boys I have loved.

I fell in love with Junior when I was thirteen.  Love, at thirteen, is not mature; it is not conservative or sensible or contained. The feelings I had for him were intensely impassioned, loud and public. They were shallow, I have come to realize, but in the moment they were all consuming. Every fiber of my small, underdeveloped thirteen-year-old body was in a constant state of obsession over Junior.

He first kissed me on March 27th. Well, I think so – he always disputed this. While I asserted our first kiss was outside his house as he got out of my best friend’s mom’s car, he maintains that it was in the stairwell the next day, when we were hiding and talking instead of working on our after-school projects.

I’m obviously right. I remember how fast my heart was beating when I got back into the car. I remember replaying that moment over and over in my head, not able to sleep that night. I remember the ridiculous smile I didn’t even realize was on my face for days. I remember dreaming of our lives growing old together: a child’s fantasy, to postulate beyond the realm of middle school. For years after our inevitable break-up, Junior would act as the gold standard for the boys in my life.

That was in eighth grade; the majority of that year was spent forcing my three best friends not only to obsess about him with me, but to force them to respectively obsess over his three best friends. Two of those were successful. One unrequited obsession may be ongoing. With that exception noted, that is what thirteen-year-old love is: learning kisses in the dark with a thread of saliva hanging between our mouths. Locking eyes across the room for over half of Social Studies. Running my hands down his back during games of keep away. Feeling electric as his knee touched mine under the table in our reading class.

It was world-rocking and heart-shattering and so perfectly innocent, as first loves are wont to be. Similarly, it came to a wrenching end not so long after it began.

 

But high school did begin, and this is where I fell in love with Des.

I will preface this with the disclaimer: my boss and mentor in my Leadership Program pronounced the pair of us the “worst-matched pair, probably in the history of ever.” After we graduated, there was a strong recommendation put in place that no two people date within the Leadership Program, due to ‘disruptions in the Leadership Process.’

I was lonely in high school, depressed leaving my best friends behind. I had known Des for many years, and it was so simple to fall into a relationship with him. It elevated my spirits and gave me something to concentrate on outside of my schoolwork. Gave me a best friend to talk to. Social status in a school I had previously been a hermit at. I loved him for these reasons.

For three years, it didn’t matter how horribly matched we were. What would matter, eventually, were the daily fights. Were being pushed against lockers and, worse, ignored when he was angry with me. The girls he kissed “at baseball practice…” they mattered. What should have mattered was our inability to compromise on anything.

I remember vividly, during 11th grade Health Class, being assigned a mechanical baby to take care of. Des and I were partners, and, at first, we had worked out a schedule to take care of the small robot. Duties involved changing the magnetic diaper; feeding the tiny magnetic mouth and burping the hard plastic back afterwards. Nothing too outlandish. Students were expected to adjust their sleep schedules (the babies went off religiously at 4:15 am) and work around school work (finding baby-sitters during test periods, for instance) during this week. Days 1-4 went swimmingly. It was the fourth night shift, which I had taken, that was particularly exhausting. On then the fifth day, having dragged myself and a screaming toy robot to the school and handing it to Des, I was headed off to my mentor’s office for a nap during my free hour.

I remember him saying, “Can’t you just take him this morning?” I had said no. Vehemently. “Come on, you have a free period.” Absolutely not. “Stop being a bitch. Just take him.” Anger, now, bubbling up next to exhaustion. This turned into a yelling match, outside of our homeroom at 8:15 in the morning; a small carrier with a metal robot sitting on the floor between us. Both assuming the other would give in, I stalked away from him and the carrier; he did the same in the other direction. Hours later, right before Health class, we walked towards the room at the same time. He appeared unsure. “Where’s…the baby?” It was his turn to take the damn thing. He knew it was. We walked in, eyes wide, to see the small child-thing sitting on the Health teacher’s desk.  It had been screaming it’s little robotic scream in the hallway for an hour before a fed-up principal brought it to the health teacher’s room.

It was the only assignment I failed in high school. Until only a couple of years ago, I was still violently opposed to having children.

Much like the robot child would have under our supervision for any longer, our relationship (and seventeen years of friendship) erupted in a fury of lies and jealousy and hurt and anger – a blackened, charred end of a very long, unstable relationship.

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Gunning

11 Nov

For me, medical school has become a fine line between learning the material I’m responsible for and gunning.

Scratch that. Medical school is a fine line between a lot of things. Between studying the amount necessary to do well and taking time enough to shower, eat, breathe. Between drinking enough coffee to stay awake and not too much to flush out your system in the middle of class. Between eating enough crappy fast food to stay alive, and not so much that your time spent skipping the gym is noticed. Between skyping home enough and your parents contemplating flying to grenada to ‘check up’ on your sanity.

But, among the other lines I’ve had to toe since arriving on this island, medical school has become a fine line between knowing the material I’m taught and gunning.

Gunning, for those unfamiliar, means to know every piece of information presented inside and out; to attend extra information sessions, to do background research on subjects in order to provide more well-rounded answers in class, to go beyond the scope of the already huge medical school burden and take on a few more facts to cram into that sponge-like brain.

This might sound titillating. Do not be fooled. Gunning is a derogatory term in the medical field; a ‘goody two shoes’ approach to medicine, a label slapped onto the students who are found crying in the lobby of the Anatomy Department because their 91 on a test with a 55 average is going to keep them from a 4.0.

Gunning is not pretty. And that, there, is the line between learning the material necessary – responsible – and being a gunner.

Which is tough, because growing up my parents were always the type to encourage me to be the absolute best. Go beyond what is expected of me. But the atmosphere changes, in medical school. I’ll call my parents back home, and they say the same things: just ignore everyone else! Be the best you can be! You can get a 288 on Step 1! … okay, mom. Go above and beyond, it will pay off!

But it’s different in medical school. Because, here, you need people to keep you sane. You need your friends. You need those mental health breaks; sharing a superhero ice pop on the cliff at the edge of campus on your birthday;  heading to the beach for a one-hour sailing session; walking to shawarma at midnight and accidentally having (six) too many beers with friends.

In medical school, these small moments with the people who understand the in-and-out daily torture and beration and soul-stealing-study-sessions are the instants that allow us to wake up the next morning and plow through another session.

When you’re in grammar school and obviously headed not only to college but beyond – to grad school, law school, medical school and the like – ironically, the ‘no child left behind’ act instituted formally in New Jersey but practiced informally in any learning environment is that you are missing a very important faction that is being left behind.

It’s the top faction. The kids who sit in the front of the class and goof off while their professors attentively correct the back of the classroom’s math problems. I remember consistently being handed worksheets for the grades above me – at first, I thought it was so that I would learn more, faster. Later, I realized they were just to keep us busy. We figured very little out on our own during that time, mostly how to appear to be doing worksheets while talking about the band, extra-curriculars, and that weekend’s soccer game.

Putting students in a position where the bottom faction is being pulled up to the top faction is JUST AS negligent as the top faction being left to their own devices. They are not pushed – an entire generation has been repressed, now, since the bottom tier is catered to. Is this fair? We push the bottom tier to their fullest potential, while allowing the top to settle at ‘mediocre’?

The mediocrity I used to ‘veg’ in seems especially apparent now, in medical school, where in two weeks I master more material than I glossed over in a semester during undergrad. The amount of ‘skating by’ that I was truly allowed seems criminal in retrospect. What would our capabilities be, had we always been so pushed?

But this is why gunning was acceptable in grade school. Through high school. Even in undergrad, especially among the students now in medical school – students who have been, for as long as any of us can remember, on top. Which is why, understandably, it seems like here, too, we should push above and beyond our peers; those around us. It’s easy to forget that we’re all in the same boat; but it’s important – for our very sanity – to remember that we’re all in this together. To remember that those little moments – watching the Yankees live stream for an hour lying next to a good friend — is what gets us from day to day.

Remember … nobody likes a gunner.

18 Oct

Respite

17 Oct

“You’re kissing me in the bottom of the 8th on your single opportunity to live stream the yankees this week? I feel so honored … I realize they’re down by three. Whatever. Give me my moment.”

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This is how to wear a stethoscope so that you’re not tagged as a newbie!

1 Oct

This is how to wear a stethoscope so that you're not tagged as a newbie!

yeah … because THIS is how they would realize I’m new come third year.

Incompetency

1 Oct

“You will feel like you do not belong. You will have moments when you question your choice to be here. You will feel incompetent. You will see, hear, and do things that will challenge yourself in this profession. Simply put, third year is hard. You will feel miserable. The year is a systematic destruction of the soul.

But in the end, you are rebuilt.”

                      – A resident reflects on the process of third year.                
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Cut Throat

1 Oct

When you’re ready to throw in the towel, just remember that there are a thousand students lined up who would be more than glad to step into your scrubs at any moment; who would chop off their left arms to be able to heal with the other. Or, even more likely, would chop off yours. Watch your back.