Sunday, September 27, 2009

I took the money, I spiked your drink

It occurs to me that I never really write much about graduate school. It somehow seems fitting to write about it now, all these years later, though still, I don't find it possible to say much about the experience in detail. It wasn't a good time in my life.

Like other dark times in my life, I find myself occasionally looking back on the chapters and thinking it quite something that I made it out of there in nearly one piece. But not entirely in tact. That would be giving myself too much credit. I've realized now that I have a very specific reaction to this kind of unhappiness- it's evolved in some ways, but in other ways it hasn't evolved at all.

The weird pattern I've noticed recently is that every time I fall into one of these downward spirals, some poor soul emerges as collateral damage. And every time, in some ways, it has gotten worse. In high school, it did not matter, everything was a jumble, who knew what motivated us back then, and we were too young to take anything very seriously. In college, it was easy to think of it as a shared blunder, but there remain pangs of guilt that come over me when I think of two people who put up with a whole lot of me being morose and glum in the hopes that it was the start of something much more meaningful than it was ever intended it to be.

In grad school, it felt indisputable. There were rationalizations that could be made in college- it wasn't entirely my fault, I could tell myself without feeling like I was fooling myself. I was out of excuses in grad school. I was just in a horrible place in my life, and as a result, I sought after anything that made me feel less miserable. A part of me knew I was giving the wrong impression, knew I did not reciprocate, and yet, I went along with it all because I was so numb. That's what happens when you feel that awful, I suppose- you cease to care about inflicting that sort of misery on anyone else.

But it's short-lived, and there's a reason that I don't write anything much about grad school. I'm not impressed with myself, I'm quite the opposite. No one, no one at all, not even those who were there at the time, knows just how unimpressive my behavior was, and maybe no one ever will.

This is an interesting test, the business of the present tense. I'm not nearly as low as I was in graduate school, not even close. But I'm raw and unsteady the way that I was back then. And a victim has emerged to offer himself up. I've been trying my best to avoid the temptation, because I know where this is leading, I know what this is all based upon, and it's not real, not to me. I'm older now, I understand more. I'm less interested in the idea of a temporary fix, because I know about the decades of regret that follow. It's not like they're persistent, not constant. But every once in a while, I'll be reminded, and I'll be sorry all over again. I can do without adding another something to wash up among those waves.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I'm just trying to get myself some gravity

There's a whole story behind these, but it's unlikely to be interesting to anyone else, so let's just call it my pathetic form of rebellion against the system:

sweet disposition

And allow me to say a few words about caramel: it requires your undivided attention. You cannot turn your back on it for a minute, or it will punish you by turning into a burnt bitter mess. You have to concentrate on it. And also, much like some of my favorite work when I was working in the lab, you have to orchestrate a few steps together in parallel. And just as in the lab, I get a great deal of satisfaction from the abracadabra transformation, from the I made this tangibility of it all.

I wish these would keep well enough to be mailed. I would just send them off to all you all. Instead they'll likely wind up in the hands of the very people who are currently making me miserable and causing me to have nightmares. On a tangent, I wake up infuriated when I've had dreams related to that sort of stuff. It's as though you never got a break from it all, because your subconscious decided to stew over it all through the night.

It probably did not help matters that I went out to dinner last night. The double-edged sword in med school at the moment is that the outside world is completely out of your grasp, but you desperately want to cling to something outside of the hospital. The double-edged part of that is that the only people available to you, then, are your fellow inmates. I have mixed feelings about it all. On the one hand, I suppose it's nice to commiserate. On the other, it never really gets you anywhere, and then you've really just remained in your little bubble anyway. So all you've really done is conjured up an illusion of "getting out" when really you've gone nowhere.

And then of course, there is the distinct possibility that I have no idea what I'm talking about. I've noticed lately that I'm so tired that I have stopped making sense. What a great and safe way to learn about medicine.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

so lead us there

It's not all rainbows and sunshine in California, it must be said. Moreso now, maybe moreso now than ever. On the surface, it's bright and people are smiling, but it's a thin veneer. Everything's on layaway, the ground beneath your feet is moving, the hills are on fire, and that smile doesn't fade despite all the other things that fade- friends, family, jobs, whatever. You want to shake those people with the painted-on smiles and yell "Feel something, already!"

All those things could be said about this place, I suppose, but there are plenty of times that I let all of that slide. I tend to scrutinize it the way you do with anything you love- you find faults in love when you are feeling rotten. And thus, this song came to mind. I suppose I don't love California as a whole but all the same- I'm wasting time being homesick for the East Coast because it's more convenient than dwelling on the fact that I am rather profoundly unhappy right now.

And then comes the trickier part, which is why I have avoided fixating on the topic or writing about it either. This cannot be fixed. It's something I simply have to withstand. I just have to tough out a bad spell that will last for a long while. It's a difficult thing to swallow, that reality. The delayed gratification thing didn't feel like delayed gratification to me before now.

But you know. California has the San Francisco fog. California has the chateaus in Sonoma. California has Yosemite Falls. California has the beautiful 1. California has the beautiful Coronado sunset. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems, and this too shall pass, and all of that jazz. It might sound trite, but it also often happens to be true.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

there isn't much that I feel I need

Oh, if you would please, have a look at this video of Grizzly Bear's Two Weeks. Not only is it a rather beautifully made video, but then you can hear the song that's rattled about in my head for the past, well, two weeks.

I've nothing to write about school at the moment. It's been lovely of late, and tiring, and it keeps me away from a lot I yearn to do and from people I yearn to speak with or write to, but I brought it on myself, and I don't think I'd change much if I could, so what is there to write really?

Since so much discourse has become polarized, I feel increasingly like the misfit that I undoubtedly am. Which is fine, as I've become accustomed to being an oddball, especially in the conformist world that is medicine. But that is why I rely so heavily on music at times, because somewhere in some song is a friend who gets it.

A roundabout way to say that I like this song. The original version bemoans, I only want a proper house, but then qualifies it with I don't mean to seem like I care about material things like social status. I just love that. It's not contradictory is the thing. With everything being so all or nothing, so extreme, the subtleties are lost. It's got to be true, I have to believe. You can want stability without being wholly complacent, without blindly following the current. And is it really necessary to be ambitious for ambition's sake? This, I find, is an important question to ask yourself in the academic setting again, again, oh, and then, once more with feeling.

And then came along this cover by Taken By Trees, which, to me, distills it down even more. Playful, simple, a tiny bit nonsensical, and of course, the island feeling of the music doesn't hurt either. Who needs lemonade and porch swings if you have this song, I wonder.