Friday, October 19, 2012

joyful girl

You. Guys. I cannot even deal.

Here, I'll just say it. It's my birthday today. And let me tell you, from a certain angle, there is no reason to get so excited about that. It's just another year. No special milestone. No particular excitement. Last year, I took a test on my birthday, no one in my program knew it was an unusual day for me until after the fact. I made a homemade pizza, experimented with maple syrup candy, contemplated a cake, and accidentally shattered a perfectly good bottle of iced tea. I was turned very much inward, and it was fine. I don't put too much thought into my birthday until the day arrives, and most of the time, I just take stock and shrug and carry on. No reason to get so depressed or so ecstatic one way or the other, in my opinion. Sometimes I might treat it a little like New Year's, and consider what I want to accomplish for the next year.

I didn't think last year's birthday was pathetic or anything. Really and truly. And I certainly didn't have any expectations about this year's birthday.

There was this thing I'd been considering this past year. You know, it's part of this whole I bought you that ring because I never was cool feeling- something about that changes as you get older. I've worked this past year on becoming a more authentic version of myself. That sounds incredibly precious, I know. But if anyone examines their youth, I am certain they can identify times when they made choices which were not entirely true to themselves- choices that were compromises, that compromised some essential part of themselves. And I think, in the year leading up to residency, when I had decided to make do in a place where I did not quite fit, I settled so much and made so many compromises- feebly justifying all of them in order to get right with the decisions- that at the end of that year, I didn't know entirely what I had wanted or what I had hoped or anything much at all.

But the one thing, this insistent voice in my head, all of that year, that demanded to be heard was the nagging feeling that I should pay close attention to where I was choosing to do my residency and to pick the right program, the one that fit me best, the one where I would be happiest. It's funny, because it's that decision which ultimately did reveal how shallow and unimportant some of my relationships were that year. These so-called friends came at me and criticized my choices because it did not suit their perception of what was best for me. And I'd given in on so much by that point, but the nagging feeling, the persistent voice demanded I make the right choice for myself.

And it worked, don't you know. Internship was so hard, but also so rewarding. I grew closer to my fellow residents than I ever did to a single person with whom I attended medical school. I found my people, at a time when I had concluded the very notion of 'my people' was an utter myth. I really enjoyed working with these people, I really appreciated every moment I spent with them. I baked and baked and baked, fueled by all those good feelings.

None of these residents made me compromise who I am. They got to know me, dealt with all my crazy quirks, schooled me when I needed schooling, listened to my whining, whined to me. We were all true to each other. They put up with my bad days. They put up with my need to be inclusive; they might have even liked me for it.

So. Today is my birthday. I was barraged with messages all morning. My pager went off in the morning, and when I called back, three residents were on the other end of the line, calling just to wish me a happy birthday. Random residents walked into the work-room hugging me. I don't like fanfare. I don't like productions. I don't like a lot of fuss or attention. But I have also learned in the past few years that sometimes celebrations are not about you- they're about your friends, and giving them a chance to let them express what you mean to them. My friend MG is about to pick me up, and we are headed to get a GG&T before a ridiculously large gathering for dinner. It astounds me- how last year's birthday and this year's birthday can reside in the same person's experience. Even though I have to admit that this outpouring of affection is extremely touching, I'm not ungrateful enough to be down in the dumps if next year should revert to a quiet night alone. As my friend CS told me yesterday, half joking, half serious- "congratulations, you survived another year." And when you strip everything else away, there's the bare truth, and really the only correct emotion is a big crashing wave of gratitude. So today- consider me crushed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

one more time with feeling

My schedule has gone erratic again, filled with the new joy of 30-hour shifts. Fun times. Actually, they really are in some ways. It won't mean much to you if you don't work in the medical field, but I actually much prefer working a 30 hour shift than a 16 hour one. Sure, you lose sense of what time it is, what day it is, when you're supposed to be sleeping, personal hygiene. But you do get a chance to breathe in the hospital, to really think about the overall plan for your patients and how best to treat them, because you're actually around the entire day watching their clinical course.

Anyway. The down side is that all I do is work, bake, drink random alcoholic beverages (I'm loathe to admit I've been branching out from my usual GG&Ts, and recently went so far as to drink something called a Lion's Tail-- worst part is that I actually liked it!), and do laundry. Not exactly an exciting existence, definitely not one that merits much in the way of documentation.

I'm working at the VA right now though, and that place always makes my blood pressure sky rocket. Not because the vets are super-conservative and occasionally borderline racist and oftentimes borderline perverted-- none of those things ultimately bother me because the vets are possibly my favorite patient population out there. No, what drives me crazy is that no one else seems to be interested in their health besides the residents. Getting anything done there requires cutting through 15 layers of red tape, and usually involves losing your temper, and even then, things barely get done. Ultrasounds don't get done on the weekend. It tends to drive me crazy. One of the senior residents last year told me that the VA is where residents go "to develop sass"- and let me say, for the record, the sass is now in full effect.

But the up side of sass is that it in turn breeds rage, which in turn breeds baking. People are starting to catch on to my deal, and my friend CC, who knows how frustrated I've been with both the VA and a particularly lackadaisical intern, decided to innocently send me a link to a recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls yesterday, knowing full well that I would take the bait on my day off. Yeast-based baked products are not usually things I tackle on a work day because you never know exactly how long things will take to rise and fall. I had to be patient with these rolls because the recipe called for a type of yeast I couldn't be bothered to go out and buy.

Sometimes I get bored with my own baking. Cupcakes, cookies, blah blah blah. I think I've optimized and I can make what I make and I won't ever be able to improve from there. I've still yet to figure out how to make macarons properly, and it feels like a losing proposition. But on the other hand, I was reminded that I tried to make pumpkin cinnamon rolls several years ago and it was a complete failure. They turned out the weight and density of hockey pucks, and I remember being really angry that I wasted not time, but so much flour. That's not cheap! But that was a while back. This time, the result was a bit different:

They may not look like much but they are gooey and soft and light. And the cream cheese icing on top will get rid of any shortcomings they might have. So it was a good reminder that it's worth giving things a second, third, fourth, fifteenth try.

And maybe I can use the muffins at the VA this weekend to bribe someone into drawing a blood count on my patients.