Sunday, October 18, 2009

round here, something radiates

I'm going to do something uncharacteristic and write about something that has nothing to do with med school. I know, I know, hold your applause, please. It's sort of appropriate, given that this blog turned 5 without me noticing it. That's how time passes for me these days. But what has been on my mind since yesterday goes back to all of the things I used to think about when I first started writing here. Love, longing, place, person, time.

Maybe that's why I've liked blogging all of these years, because here is a place that nothing needs to make sense or to fit. I can be the square peg that I have always been here and some of you actually, shockingly, don't mind. The world, the blogosphere especially, is riddled with misfits perhaps.

All of this, of course, started to turn over in my head because of a song. This song might not be your speed. It's super-subdued, as almost every song Sam Beam writes is. And I should warn you that there's a twang. It's a little bit country. Don't be scared. Or maybe do. I don't like this Iron & Wine song because I am a hipster. I am the least hipster-ish person on earth these days, trust me. This song reminds me of home.

And it's an odd thing to write because I don't really feel like I have a home. It reminds me of the home that I rarely write about, because it's so much in the past, so long gone. It doesn't even exist. Really, it's gone- the broseph and I used to race into the forest behind our house after school or every day of the summer. All the other kids from the neighborhood did the same, and we would spend our days and afternoons there, building forts, digging up salamanders, venturing deeper into the woods until our childhood internal alarms warned us we had gone too far. It was our own little world and we lived in it every day until dusk, when our neighbor Michael's mother would ring a loud cow bell, and all of us scattered back home to our very, very different lives. And that place is not just gone because I'm no longer a child, or because I no longer live in EBF, or because times have changed such that a bunch of 5 to 7-year olds wandering around the woods is no longer kosher. The forest was cut down years ago so that a new housing development could be built instead. Trees no longer hold any mystery; you can see the house behind them clearly now.

Still, this song evokes all those memories for me. Memories so idyllic that I wonder if they came from someone else's childhood. There were all the bad things you can imagine about living in the middle of nowhere and being brown, but it didn't wholly define my experience of living in EBF. There was also strawberry picking in June, shelling peas on a porch, jumping into piles of autumn leaves, building snowmen. And later there was what this song really reminds me of. Being a teenager in EBF was the oddest thing of all- on the one hand, to have MTV at your disposal on the one hand, and, on the other, to have lazy afternoons on a lake or quiet mornings sitting on a dark shore watching the waves crash against the rocks. To discover Morrissey and Public Enemy on the one hand, and to listen to an acoustic guitar at a picnic or around a campfire on the other. And to add to all that inherent strangeness, I was aware that I was one more layer of different. You grow up in a place like EBF and everything there seeks to root you down in the place; in its very nature, in every tree, leaf, and sky, it seeks to bind you. And yet, I was always also aware that I wasn't quite so captive- and I wasn't sure whether to be happy or sad about it.

I've met a lot of people now, and I know that I am not the only Indian kid who grew up in the middle of nowhere. It's not a singular experience. Still, it twists my brain, especially since I did flee so far. I gravitated towards cities desperately. I wanted to be near a pulse and a beat, and I wanted to be in a place where there was nothing I needed to explain. And I have rather loved that. Some of the times I have felt most at peace in the world, I was simply walking down the street in Manhattan or San Francisco.

Then again, it's fall. And in the fall, I always think of EBF, its country roads, and the fiery leaves lighting up all the trees.

It's not that I want to go back. That's the thing about the past, I suppose. I don't want to relive it, and I don't even really miss it. But it is there, that history, in my very bones. I'll always be that girl who has Resurrection Fern and M.I.A on her iPod, and is equally enamored of both. It feels good to get older, because you get so much more accustomed to all the eccentricities. You stop trying to avoid contradiction, or rather you become forgiving of contradictions, because you realize they only seem so from a certain angle. It no longer strikes me as strange, to dream of both the Mission and the Flume. And better yet, as you age- you stop caring if others find it strange.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Would you prefer the easy way? No, well okay then, don't cry.

October arrived abruptly. The past month was a blur anyway, but October came and it went from the scorching heat of summer to the cool wind of fall overnight. Do I make it sound like a bad thing? That's not my intention. When the chill came, when I had to shut the ceiling fan off to fend off the shivers, I knew everything was going to be alright. Not just because I can turn on my oven. Not just because it means I've survived by far my worst month of medical school. No, not just all of those things.

But all the same, whatever the reason, there's a pizza in the oven. There are people, even in the horrible morass of medical school (and I can now call it a morass with complete certainty, having seen the ugliness that is prevalent among medical students up close and personal now), who have lent a hand. I thought, for a time, that I was taking advantage of them. Maybe I am a bit, but I am grateful for them, and that has to count for something, I like to think.

I suppose I was set free recently when an attending told me that I should be more of a show-off, play the game. It was strangely liberating, because, while it was a criticism, it was one of those moments that defines you in life. A line is placed in front of you. You can cross it and it may get you some short-term gain. But you have to live with what is on the other side. And I realized, I am willing to pay the consequences of staying on my side, of staying fundamentally me.

I've realized that a lot of people in school think I am young because I appear to be quite malleable. Which I am. But the thing is, that's because I know I have plenty of flaws. And I really and truly love many aspects of medicine. I want to be good at it. So I tend to take criticism seriously and adapt accordingly.

But not this kind of criticism. And it feels, oddly enough, good to know that there are some parts of me that are not amorphous. Some parts of me are set in stone. I could change them, but I could not live with the change.

I was reminded of all of this, tangentially, because I had recently purchased Amelie on DVD for sanity prophylaxis, and was watching it today. For some reason, I was thinking of seeing it in the theater. I had been living in New Jersey at the time, and we had to drive 40 minutes to get to a theater that was playing the movie. Not only was it well worth the trek, but as I sat there, soaking in this perfect, perfect film, I remember thinking that I didn't ever want to lose the part of myself that, even while living in multiplex suburbia, was compelled to seek out such little treasures.

Elsewhere, I can handle. Not fitting in, no problem. But I don't want to be a stranger to myself. And now that I know that, I somehow know everything will be fine.