Oct 28, 2013

Always grateful

I'll put it simply: today is not an easy day.  But something tells me you know.  Call it intuition, call it optimism, call it whatever...all I know is that it makes me smile.

Remember how we smiled?
Last night, I tried sleeping and ended up thinking instead.  If I could have crawled into your bed like I used to when I was a kid, I would have done just that.  When I couldn't sleep, I used to tiptoe down the hall into your room and snuggle in tight.  Your breathing was always soft, pulsing, steady, sure.  In the hollow of your neck, I often discovered the scent of lavender talcum powder…and that was enough.  I rested.  No one ever had to tell me I was a lucky girl.  So for a little while last night, I curled around my pillow to see if it might feel like summertime.  All I felt was a headache.

Lingering in memories isn't always a fruitful endeavor, I know.  But I also know that some of your best teaching moments were ones I only recognized in retrospect.  Remember the summer S and I took tennis lessons?  On the first morning, I heard the auto rumble in, bright and early, and I was wearing shorts that were...well, they were on the shorter side.  As we came downstairs, you said nothing, but I could see your discomfort.  “Everyone wears these at home,” I explained, but to no avail.  At the time, it was with a begrudging sort of sigh that I shuffled upstairs to change.  Now, I concede the point: maybe it was a little too much leg.  I'll admit that teenage Sonika wanted to be a little rebellious.  You, on the other hand, wanted to keep her safe from neighborhood ruffians and such.  Touché.

So it was with an odd mix of sadness and amusement that I left my bed last night and headed for the kitchen.  One mug of Swiss Miss later, I did drift off...for a few hours, anyway.  And this morning, I'm up trying to clear some space in my head before today's lectures fill it up again.

Because it’s been a year.  A year?  How?  The details seem too fresh to be a year old.  I was so far from home.  I remember how my breath caught when I saw that e-mail with no text, just a subject line: “CALL HOME NOW”.  I remember my roommate setting 2 pieces of Dove dark chocolate and green tea near my arm.  She was doing her best, and I was weeping at the dining room table.  I remember trying to pretend, through the haze: this isn't real...someone's just playing a mean trick on me.  I remember feeling too nauseous to eat, and writing instead...scrambling to catch the memories, lest they slip away somehow.

In the beginning, one thing I heard quite often from people was, "You'll be okay in the end."  This used to offend me; I worried that “being okay” might imply that I loved you less.  Man, how things have changed...

the obligatory first-day-of-school photo
For one thing, I've settled into med school at this point.  I mean, I know you know this, but I want to show you.  I want to show you my apartment, the lecture hall, the gross anatomy lab, the library table where I study - even the elevator I ride every morning.  (Yes, I remember how much I troubled you to exercise.  And yes, I always intend to take the stairs…but at 7 am?  Let’s be realistic here.)

And I want to show you all this because it brings me joy.  It's a joy we know - the kind that's perfect in all of its mundanity.  I stay up later than I should, flipping through flashcards and drinking too much coffee.  I have dissection instructors who make me want to be the best student they've ever seen.

And it's not all about work, either.  I've made some friends here, too - friends with sincere, genuine hearts.

There are a few others besides these two.  If you ask me, they're all pretty swell.
See?  I'm still a lucky girl.  And although this new life keeps me tired, it also keeps me challenged...and humbled...and grateful.  Always grateful.

There’s more to tell, of course.  (Won't there always be more?)  But for now, I want you to know that I’ve learned something important in this past year.  It's the kind of thing that outranks arterial anastomoses, nitrogen metabolism, and even clinical skills sessions.  (I know...what on earth could outrank clinical skills, right?)

I've learned about risk.

In all honesty, there was a time when happiness felt like a risk.  It was a natural, human, perfectly normal reaction.  But something has shifted, especially in the past few months.  I've learned that it’s acceptable – more honest, even – to risk holding grief and joy in one heart, at the same time.  As someone wisely pointed out to me a few days ago (albeit in a different context), if you don't risk, how can you ever move forward?

Don't misunderstand, now.  Today is not an easy day.  When you left, it broke my heart.  I wish we could sit by your window again, tea and Marie biscuits on the kitchen table, and talk about boys.  You had a way of making me feel like the most important person in the world.  So for as long as it takes, I'll light a candle for you.  That flame reminds me of how you always said I'd be amazing - that if I could take care of patients the way I tried to take care of you, I'd be amazing for sure.

But I’m okay, you know.  In fact, I’m better than okay - I'm happy.  Life isn’t perfect, but that’s no reason to stop until it might be.  I'll try not to cry today, because this isn't goodbye.  I love you as fiercely as I always have.  So keep watching me, please...stay with me.  For you, I'll be amazing.

your Sonam

Dec 30, 2012

The last post

Some of you have only had time to pop in here occasionally.  And some of you have been walking with me since August.  Still others among you fall somewhere in-between.  But no matter where you land on this spectrum, I'm grateful to you.  Thank you.

When I began this blog, I did so with modest expectations and an admittedly chirpy intro.  (For goodness' sake, I used footnotes.)

As the months passed, I was continually surprised by how many of you were following me.  As I had expected, this space became a helpful place for me to process all that I was experiencing, especially after the end of October.  (Also, I scrapped the footnotes.)

Today, I write in an attempt to close this chapter with some grace.  A few friends in Galway have actually asked if I plan to continue the blog, because - imagine this - they like my writing.  have toyed with the idea.  It might be a good way, after all, to keep them in the loop.  And writing is one of the best ways that I process.

The penultimate post

Since I've come home, life - in all of its to-do lists, color-coded schedules, and long-term agendas - has rushed forward to meet me.  In the spring, I'll need to start apartment-hunting.  On June 16, I'll graduate from college.  Two months later, I'll receive my white coat.

But I'll come to those bridges soon enough.  For now, a narrower focus will suffice.

Tomorrow marks two weeks since I arrived.  Two weeks.  And a week from then, I'll be moving back to Schenectady.  This is hard to believe.

Dec 19, 2012

Homebound, Part III: finally.

On the plane, just after I finished the second post in this series
Hi, friends.  Here's the last part of the story for you...

The rest of the flight went surprisingly smoothly...and I will admit that when I felt the wheels hit the ground, I bounced in my seat like a small child.  "I'm home!" I squealed to my seatmate, a graying old codger who surveyed my glee with obvious amusement.

In hindsight, perhaps having my camera out at Customs and Border Control wasn't the wisest decision...but hey, I was excited.

Dec 18, 2012

Because quiet time is precious

There is a little boy curling into my side, breathing soft and slow.  I wonder if he's dreaming of Spiderman.  Spiderman's his latest hero, you know.  How I've missed this...

I'm home...and it's good.  So good.

Homebound, Part II: ready or not...

Hi, friends.  I'm sorry that I've been AWOL for a little while.  Being home has proved to be a greater shock than I anticipated.  I'm going to need some time to process...but in the meantime, here's some reading material.

The plane out of Shannon was tiny - it looked like a baby bush plane.  As I toted my bag across the airstrip, I thought, that thing's really too small to be carrying anyone anywhere.

There's the airport from my window.  And it's hardly visible because of the glare, but directly below those letters is the arrivals corridor where I remember standing in August.
Despite my apprehension, the hour sped by and I soon found myself in Manchester...or, to be more specific, at baggage claims in Manchester.  My bag's checked all the way through, though.  Where am I supposed to go?

Dec 16, 2012

Homebound, Part I: camping out in Shannon

It felt a little strange to turn in my apartment key.
My bedroom for the past four months, stripped bare.
I spent my last few hours in the apartment writing some letters...
...but had to put that on hold when my friends came round to pick me up.
This is a quiet airport, friends.  It's literally me, three security guards, and the lanky guy napping at the departures desk.

Dec 15, 2012

To my Galway family

I love these two...but they're a little camera-shy.
To my dear Galway family:

Oh, gosh...I'm crying already :P

Business first: I'm leaving for Shannon around 6 pm tonight with M and R, and will hang out there until my first flight (to Manchester) leaves at 7 am tomorrow. I'll have two hours there and then it's 8 more to JFK...so if all goes well, I'll be in New York by 1:40 pm on Sunday (6:40 pm Galway time).

Now that that's out of the way...look, you all know by now that I like to write. And usually, I can find words. But in this case, words really aren't enough. Still, let me try...

Dec 14, 2012

Because my family's the bestest family

A few hours ago, I said goodbye to two friends who have become family.  Wow.  I thought I'd never have a reason to want to return to Galway...and then I met these two.  I'm going to miss them more than they know.

And then there's the whole community-family to which they introduced me.  Check this out: upon hearing that I needed a ride to the bus station, two (other) friends offered to drive me...all the way to Shannon.  Now, my flight leaves at 7 am...which means that they've offered to leave here at 2:30 am to get there by 4 am.  And then they're going to drive all the way back.  This, friends, is friendship, service, love...and it's crazy, but it's also true.