Span of One Day

At 4 AM yesterday, I went off to babysit a child who was about to become a big brother. At 7 AM, his father sent me pictures of the latest addition to our population. Although the delivery itself had some complications requiring a C-section, the outcome was a healthy baby boy. My charge and I spent the rest of the day looking at pictures of his new sibling and celebrating the day of his birth.

At 6 PM the same day, I headed to the ED to start another 8 hour shift. Not even thirty minutes into the shift, we had two full arrests come in by paramedics. The physician whom I was scribing for took the 97 year old who was in respiratory distress. The other ER physician took the 4 year old pediatric cardiac arrest. As far as I know, our 97 year old is still thriving, albeit in critical condition in the ICU. The 4 year old, who was running in the park just an hour before, was pronounced dead shortly after her arrival. There are a lot of terrible sounds in the world. But the sound of a mother screaming out her daughter’s name is bone-chilling. It is a wonder how anyone – physician, nurse, respiratory technician, EMT – can continue on with their jobs after losing such a battle.

January 29th marks a witnessed birth and death. Life works in strange ways, doesn’t it?

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Pause.

Two days ago, I felt both my breath and heart pause as I noticed the subject line of one of my emails. At first glance, I thought that the email, announcing a Facebook message, was simply spam and my mouse hovered over the delete button. But curiosity set in, and before I could stop myself, I opened this message that was sent at 2 AM and was completely thrown off balance.

I have been in love once before. It was hard, fast, and all-consuming. And whenever I told someone, they would shrug it off as a petty crush and nothing more. But I felt something – I knew something was there and the pull between us was indescribable. It wasn’t some big secret either, everyone and anyone could sense our chemistry. But we both came from strict households and therefore neither of us could ever dream of pursuing an interest. But the thing is, and it has been dawning on me more and more after reading this message, we may have been the best of friends, but I certainly wasn’t treated with due respect. And I think my love for him was what masked this unacceptable behavior.

He was intelligent, quirky, quick-witted, and had a thirst for knowledge that I found enthralling. I have always been clever, but in his presence, I pushed myself even further both academically and socially, tapping into potential I did not realize I had. He was the first person I spoke to when I woke up and the last person I said good night to before I went to bed. There was never a dull moment between us because there was always something to discuss, something to debate on. But with the wit, came the subtle insults. Crass speech that I didn’t particularly care for, but despite my protests, he would use regardless. Back then, I was the type of girl who didn’t utter a single term of profanity – so I understood that not everyone would abide by my moral standards. But it wasn’t just the speech, it was the words that were thrown at me. I had never cried over someone until he walked into my life. Words – hurtful, despicable language – cloaked in jargon so sesquipedalian, that I felt both insignificant and moronic simultaneously.

We were not in a relationship. We were not lovers, nor were we anything but close friends. But under that shield of “friendship”, I was in love with him, and so I took in what I could, without any reprimands and without walking away. All this time, all these years, I didn’t see it for what it was. I’m not sure – maybe because in my head, I associated it with solid relationships? Familial, martial – relationships of that sort. But in actuality, abuse – verbal, physical, emotional, mental – can happen between anyone and at any time. Certainly between friends, most certainly between close friends.

I fell in love with him, and for seven years of my life, I went through a roller coaster of emotions. As if I was looking through a window, I witnessed my demeanor shift and change and watched as my thoughts grew darker with every interaction.  I tried to move on from him as quickly as possibly. I tried to cut ties, and when that failed, I tried to become friends again. That chemistry between us, that never died, but now looking back, neither did his behavior toward me. My thoughts were discounted and my gender was used against me more often that not – I was patronized for the beliefs I held. Sure, there was some support – some words of encouragement, but just around the corner was another belittling statement.

Last year, with the end of school, I finally was able to let go. Gone were any feelings of love and respect. Gone were the feelings of pain and seeking revenge. I simply let go, and I’ve had such a happy year where I’ve grown so much.

Fast forward to Wednesday. His message was a six paragraph long apology detailing his sorrow for acting the way he did toward me. I’ve probably read this message over 50 times in the past 48 hours, agonizing over whether I should respond or not, and if so, how? My entire life, my “busy and exciting life that I am blessed with” as he so elegantly put it, was put on pause. My thoughts were naught by his words and figuring out what the underlying meaning was. Because you see, not only was this an apology to me – it was an apology to the entire female race. Someone he was familiar with had became a sexual predator and victimized mutual friends of theirs and he was suddenly hit with the realization that his misogynistic behavior contributed to this scenario. So this six paragraph long message is also a declaration of how he will stand up for women in this fight against sexual violence. And all of that, which, don’t get me wrong, is great and everything, had me utterly confused on why I was being associated with abuse given I have never been the recipient.

But it finally hit me. It hit me just moments ago. There is no ulterior motive to his actions. From what I can gather, there was no malice laced in his words. He just happened to arrive at a conclusion that I should have seen long ago. The friendship we had – as fated as it seem to be – was toxic. He never laid a hand on me, but his words were weapons enough to bring me down and force me into my own shell. Even his lack of communication, times when he would suddenly withdraw and leave me with cryptic sayings, was in a way, a form of abuse. He would leave and then come back, play with the strings that made up me and eventually, led to my unraveling.

As someone who believes in rehabilitation and second chances, I am content that he has seen the error of his ways and is trying to take steps towards becoming a better man. But I won’t be replying to his apology. There is no reason to – I’ve put the past behind me and his message only affirms my actions. I will never be the same person I was before I met him – that I know. But I will also never, ever put myself in a similar situation, and for that, I thank him.

– A.

Vingt-trois

In a few hours, I turn 23 years old. Well, more than a few hours if you count that I was actually born around 3:30 PM on the 11th. But whatever, in a few hours, it’ll be my birthday once again. And then seven hours later, I’ll be taking my Anatomy final.

I've also started watching Grey's Anatomy.
I’ve also started watching Grey’s Anatomy if you couldn’t tell.

So you can either chalk it up to pre-birthday excitement or pre-final jitters, but I decided that it was time to add another post to this blog. It has been unusually quiet, but definitely not due to negligence. On the contrary, I’m on WordPress every day, going through my Reader, keeping up on my fellow bloggers and trying to find some inspiration.

AMCAS/AACOMAS officially opened up a week ago and I am still not satisfied with my personal statement. I’m sure that’s something every pre-med student faces – trying to find the words to sum up their desire/need to be a doctor. But as I have mentioned before, my path leading up to where I am today has been long – full of U-turns, lefts, rights, and stops. How do you sum up that at this instance in time, at age 22.997, you know for a fact that this is what you want more than anything else in the world. That at age 5 you wanted it. At age 14 you wanted it. At age 18, you began to just consider it. At age 20, you were looking into other options. And at age 22, you decided to just let your dream go. How can someone’s mind change so quickly in a span of a year? In a few years? I feel like if I wrote down these actual thoughts in my PS, someone might just say, “hey, we don’t think you want it enough”. That’s a huge fear of mine, because seeing it on paper, it does seem sort of ludicrous.

But enough about of my fears – as I move forward, become another year older tomorrow, I feel like I am another year wiser. It’s not just something people throw in with “Happy Birthday”. I feel like I really have faced myself this year and come out with some pretty solid life lessons. Not to say that I didn’t make any mistakes this past year – I made plenty. And I’m sure 23 will be no different. So rather than huge festivities or grand gestures – instead of resolutions or hard-set goals – here’s to hoping that this next year of life will provide me with even more lessons. Because every life lesson is just another indicator that I am really, truly living life.

T-4 hours,

A.

 

Unpredictable Until the End

Nearly a month ago, I had booked my one-way ticket to New York and was ecstatic at the possibility of a new life. Fast forward to today and not only am I still in sunny California, but I am in fact, not attending graduate school for the time being. Many may question this decision – in fact, many may assume that I simply “chickened out” or was all talk. But I can assure you, up until last night, my bag was packed and I was still enrolled in my classes at Columbia. And yet, this past week has been filled with so many events – “omens” you might say – that influenced my decision to stay. So I guess you could say that while it was decided last-minute, it was in no way a “last-minute decision”.

As I wrote in my previous post, an unexpected situation arose with the apartment. Months before, I thought I had secured an apartment and well-known apartment mates who would be understanding, communicative, and all above, kind – given that we were all Resident Assistants, I more so expected this than hoped for it. However, as the date for my arrival drew closer, certain unattractive characteristics began to unveil themselves. I could list out all of them here, but what would be the point? To reiterate, I am known to be a people-pleaser. What I hate more than anything else, is disappointing people. So to drop out of my apartment as quickly as I did must be supported by some legitimate reasons. Which I would be more than happy to discuss in person. Until then, let’s just say these misgivings grew to the point where I felt absolutely unsettled about the big move.

This past week, I felt as if I was burdened down with something I couldn’t quite pinpoint. As I continued to attempt to salvage the apartment situation, I began to think of alternative options. One possibility was to simply find a new apartment. Another possibility was – to the satisfaction of my mother – stay at home and instead, focus on my goal from elementary school. When I came into UCLA and immersed myself in the science curriculum, I was immediately discouraged. I began to doubt myself and my chances of getting into medical school and in fear of failure, I began to contemplate alternative career paths. Of course, those who were closest to me, such as my best friends and family, could not wrap their minds around this change in occupation. However, I had the support of those who did not know me quite as well and who believed that college was a time for change. So I readily morphed into someone who was never sure of what she wanted to be from the beginning. I ignored deadlines, the MCAT, and anything else that should have been done in preparation for medical school during my undergraduate career.

Fast forward to the end of senior year and I finally realized that I squandered away an opportunity on fear alone. So while I had decided to go to graduate school in Columbia for my Masters degree, I promised myself I would still take some steps towards becoming a doctor, whether that would be preparing and signing up for the MCAT or taking additional science courses on top of the courses necessary for my degree. I think that’s something many people have to understand – yes, it was Columbia. Yes, I had a set future. Yes, I could have gone on to pursue a PhD degree. However, this was my back-up plan. As much as I enjoyed Developmental Psychology in college, I really couldn’t see my life’s career being built around it.  Fear, rejection, the thought of not being where I wanted to be by the age of thirty – these thoughts and expectations are what fueled me to go the practical route and have a back-up plan rather than taking the plunge and fighting for what I love.

Of course, I considered the fact that this could be me, making up excuses once again for the condition known as “cold feet”. Could it be that my nerves are just getting to me? Maybe I am meant to go to New York. I know my mother is against it. I know my relatives in Sri Lanka are against it  – with the daily texts from my uncle and what not. So maybe their insecurities are what I’m currently feeling? But then, I spoke to my best friend, Siobhan, and reasoned everything out. And the next day, my best friends – JPAACKS – took  me out for a farewell lunch. And when I told them that I was considering deferring Columbia and just staying here to pursue my medical dream, they were absolutely ecstatic for me – happy that I was the “old” Anantha once more. And that’s when I knew for sure. If the people I love, see this as a viable option, then perhaps I am doing the right thing after all.

I told everyone that these are my “selfish years” – my only opportunity to go off to New York and discover more about myself. But being selfish means doing what I want. And after four years of throwing myself into school, volunteering, work, and research, I’m taking a break. A break from a schedule and doing some self-improvement in the comfort of my own home. Many of my fellow graduates cringe at the thought of going back to the nest. But let’s face it – I will have more opportunities in life to travel and explore. But the years are numbered when it comes to spending time with my family. How many more Halloweens will I have to actively participate in candy handouts with my family? How many more Christmases and Hindu holidays? I took this all for granted back in high school, but I do not intend to take these days for granted during my “one-year break”.

This year is still dedicated to me. I’ll be writing in my blog, working on ideas for a novel, exploring nearby cities and traveling, and hitting the gym with my best friends. But I’ll also be working towards my long-term goal of being a doctor. It’s going to be hard work – I know it. But I know whole-heartedly that this is what I want. And regardless of the number of years it takes, I’m going to get there. So with that, I have a new countdown – in five months’ time, I’ll be conquering the MCAT.

Until then,

A.

Urges

Once we stop giggling at the word “urges”, let’s talk about how I am fighting a constant battle. I’ve made a pact to move on. I’ll admit, I’m taking the easy way out on this one and not confronting the issue head-on, but that doesn’t mean life has been a piece of cake. Every time I’m on, all I want to do is make one ‘click’ and see what’s gone down during this timespan. But I know that if I give in, just once, then I’m back to square 1. Yes, I might still think about it every time I’m on, but if I stay strong and keep moving forward, perhaps one day, I’ll let go of it completely. Until then . . .

Connecting the dots

I know what I want out of life. I don’t know exactly what’s in store for me, school/profession-wise. But I know that there are certain events that need to take place so that when I look back on my life, I have no regrets. Some events are as trivial as posting a YouTube video, while others include residing in New York for 6+ months. So it’s not that I don’t have ambition or dreams. I do. I just need to figure out how to achieve all of this. I need to find ways, with any means necessary (while of course preserving my dignity) to get to that next step. I have all the dots, now I need to connect them.

My Outlet

I technically do have an ‘outlet’ that I write my innermost thoughts in. Not daily . . not even monthly. But more or less, if one were to read it, he or she would have a pretty good understanding of the happenings of my life. And it didn’t seem like a big deal then, but I can say that I have written down my feelings and what not for the past four years. And it’s pretty mind-blowing, opening a document my fifteen-year-old self wrote and reading what I was currently mulling over at the time. I don’t know how long I’ll keep writing in this random Word document, but it’s good to know that there is something out there that will remind me to never make the same mistake twice.

A.