Letting Go

15 Nov

For the first time in probably eighteen years I didn’t tell you Happy Birthday.

You might think I forgot, being so busy in medical school. More likely, you didn’t think anything about it at all.

But I need someone to know: I didn’t forget.


…In related news, I recently threw out a Coach clutch given to me by my first boyfriend seven years ago.



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.


23 Oct

“Please don’t blame your inability to separate sex and our friendship on me. I’m perfectly capable and plenty practiced in the art of this separation. It’s fine if you decide you don’t want to do both: but if you can’t handle this, it’s not because I want a relationship out of it. It’s not because you think I’m going to become too emotionally involved. You’re not looking out for my best interests. Take responsibility; this … well. It’s on you.”


18 Oct

You use words like ‘retraction’ in conversation.

You know better than to believe in God, but more, you’re not afraid to voice that. You have strong opinions on medicine, on our classes and professors that I respect. You feel bad borrowing money from anybody. You brought me a superhero icepop to boost my mood.

You work hard in our classes. You miss your dog. You told me about the advisor you were so close to, why you want to be a doctor, your relationship with your brothers. You worked as a camp counselor with kids, dressed up like Captain America to amuse them. You chose physics as a major because you thought it was easy.

You’re brilliant, but not an obnoxious brilliant; a confident, quiet brilliant I adore.

You’re sexy as hell in your scrubs.

You text me smileys when you don’t know how to respond to something crazy I’ve said. You also reply with smileys when I can tell you’re smiling, which makes me smile when it comes through. When holding my breath, cautiously texting you that my bed smelled like you, you replied that your shirt smelled like me. Smiley.

You grabbed my hand to pull me to you in the bar, to dance, in front of your brother and friends. You were drunk, your hair was plastered down in your face. You were adorable. You took a drag on a cigarette. You told me how your parents would disown you had they found out.

There was the night you felt bad, I think, about being so drunk, or maybe about letting me walk home alone; you came over the next day, just to lay next to me. You like country music. You had pierced your ears. You think I’m crazy when I bite your neck, but baby, you’ll see. That will come with time.

You play with the ends of my hair when we’re lying in bed. Run your hands over my back, up to my exposed shoulder blades. Your foot touches mine when you want a kiss.  You called me your best friend, and you were willing to stop hooking up to preserve that.

Willing, maybe, but not able. You make me feel sexy.  We sat in the same row on the plane from New York; we made eye contact on several occasions. On the rickety plane from Trinidad and Tobago, you humored me as I made you continually check that the propellers were still working. At the airport, you exchanged my money while I watched your bags. You’ve said goodnight to me every night since we’ve gotten here.

Really, did I even stand a chance?

18 Oct


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.”



17 Oct

You’ve reached an especially new low when your ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend comes to you for advice on how to get back together with him … just two months after your break-up, just days after he e-mails you begging to be taken back.

Or maybe the new low is pumping her for the information you’re too proud to ask him yourself — how’s he holding up? How’s his mother, how’s work? Who’s he fucking?

Or … maybe … the new low is hoping they get back together – since she’s so obviouslybeneath you, since over pillowtalk you’ve heard about all her gory faults and flaws such that you think they deserve each other; crazy is, after all, as crazy does. Maybe it’s because you think they deserve each other because you know he wasn’t good enough for you; for feeling better over what he has settled for; for being a complete and utter post-break-up passive-aggressive bitch about the whole thing.

Do we have to nit-pick, really, over where exactly we’ve hit a new low? Because if we’re playing that game, we can talk about how you broke up with him 10 days into being apart, 10 days after promising to give it a shot to make it work, even though you knew, leaving for the airport, that it was not going to work out. We can talk about unabashedly befriending … flirting with! … the many boys who would be sure to make him angry. Talk about being too chicken to break up with him to his face … talk about how you baited him into snapping, so that you’d feel just a little bit less guilty about the break-up. Fuck it, I guess — while we’re here, let’s do it. Get it all out there. Back up, at least, to what I meant to talk about initially…

How they deserve each other. Do I really believe that? I don’t know. I don’t know her well enough to make that call. I suppose I don’t even know him well enough, in that context, to make that call, either. Yes, we dated for a year. Does that mean I know him? I certainly don’t know who he used to be; these stories she’s told me, in her quest to get him back, are not about the same man that I dated for a year.

I am not so arrogant to believe that I changed him. I am also under no disillusion that our relationship was on equal footing — that’s an unfortunate fact. As sweet as he was, as much as I honestly cared about him, I did not love him. I could not love him. We had very little in common, and, inevitably, while I helped show the best in him, he in no way did the same. I did not grow in the same ways that he did — I was, therefore, not invested in our relationship as he was. I was not dependent on it. I did not need it. And, from the vast (cultural? .. bookish? .. fantastical?) background I’ve been so lucky to accumulate in my education, I knew better than to be content with static relationships. I am not content with a love I am not challenged by.

Is it fair to take away the love he was so challenged by?

When I was in college, as part of my orientation program, my fearless boss and mentor used to say, Some people we accept onto the orientation staff for the good of the freshman — because they’ll be a bubbly, enthusiastic leader, a great facilitator, and a natural choice for the face of this university. Other people, we choose, to help them grow. We give some OLs the opportunity to arise to the challenge, to grow into themselves. To branch out, to make a friend basis.

Sometimes, in a relationship, you’re the one growing. sometimes you’re the one being leaned on. What obligations do you have to those you care about?  To allow them to keep growing? What obligations, then, to yourself do you have to find someone you can mutually grow with?