2019 is gonna be MY year

How many of us have said that to ourselves?

“This is the year I get that degree/that promotion/that baby. This is the year I get my shit together.”

Well, guess what. They’re all your years. 2018 was your year, and so was 2017. And 2020 is going to be your year too. Because the years are your life, and getting that degree/promotion/baby isn’t the full stop at the end of the novel. It’s barely even a chapter break. 

This is a good thing.

This frees us from the limiting idea that we only get one year to do The Thing. It frees us up to realize that all those years that came before 2019 were necessary building blocks to get to whatever achievement you’ve set your eyes on. And all those years beyond 2019 are even more groundwork that you climb on to get to even more achievements.

Because the world doesn’t stop in 2019. The story of your life doesn’t end like a novel, with success, or a sunset horseback ride or a wedding. The story of your life keeps going, and isn’t that the exciting part? Turning the page after triumph or disaster and finding that the story hasn’t ended just yet. That you get to write more story, better story, sadder story, more brilliant and blinding story. That you get to continue learning and self-choosing, that one year does not cannot make or break you. 

I used to think time was against me. It just keeps going, keeps making me older (ugh), keeps dragging me through milestones that in hindsight are pretty silly (I should have been married/promoted/postgrad by now!). But the endless march of time is a gift. It drags us forward, through mistakes, through heartbreak, through painful immaturity. Time drags us (kicking and screaming usually) into knowledge and healing and wisdom.

It takes more than a year to build a life. And trying to cram success (whatever it looks like to you) into one calendar is about as useful as cramming the night before an exam. But we can choose not to do that. We can choose to look at life as a marathon, not a series of sprints. In this world of filters and customization and targeted ads we can choose the perspective that the journey, however long it takes, is just as important the destination. 

If 2019 is gonna be your year, let it be your year to hop off those crazy societal bandwagons and start walking your own beautiful, winding path. 

In The Thick of Thin Things

How can there be so much to say and so little at the same time? In the time I’ve been away I have lost a laptop, gained a year, put on a dance show, held down a job (in the loosest sense of the word), fought and made up, and finished a clerkship. It feels like so much has happened, but so much of it was little more than everyday detail.

Losing a laptop was the main reason for my absence. Or maybe I’m just hiding behind that excuse because I’m so utterly terrible at managing my time. It’s a toss-up, but I’m leaning towards poor time management because last night I finished off the last season of Doctor Who instead of studying for my exam next week. The trend continues.

My laptop screen just died, the kind of sudden unexpected and totally crippling death typical of myocardial infarctions or CVAs and since it was basically on life support to begin with I (very reluctantly) pulled the plug and ordered a brand new (smaller!) version of essentially the same laptop. Despite my admittedly sketchy history with Acer products I believe in sticking to the devils I know . The new laptop is super light but my fingers keep tripping over themselves. There isn’t enough room to swing a Kneazle on this keyboard.

While on hiatus I also celebrated my birthday, through various meanings of the word ‘celebrate’. The actual day was spent immersed in housework including the deliciously enviable task of baking brownies but also including the shudderingly* unenviable task of scrubbing my shower. The next day some of my friends threw a potluck with card games and wine. Despite not having acquired the taste I’m coming to the conclusion that wine makes everything better. On my third night of celebrations I went out with other friends to suffer through bad rum cream and snail pace service (thanks a lot, Mayfair Hotel).

Before all of that happened (much like my skills with time management, I am terrible at chronology) I slogged through my Obstetrics & Gynaecology clerkship, sprinting across the finish line like the hounds of hell were after me. Which they were. And by hounds of hell, I mean vaginas**. My biggest regret about the medical profession is the constant risk of exposure to other women’s lady parts. And that’s saying a lot.

It doesn’t sound like much to talk about it, but whilst I was in the middle of everything it felt like an awful lot was happening to me because I was so busy. But I was probably only busy because of the time management issues.

So we’ve come full circle.

*(Shudderingly is totally a word, spellcheck!)

**(Really, spellcheck, how is vaginas not a word? What do you think it is, vaginae? Holy crap, it is vaginae.)

Montego Bay is a city of

Montego Bay is a city of oldies but goodies. It is a testament to faded glory fallen on hard times, the ageing beauty who primps and prevaricates in an effort to conceal her wrinkles and rolls of fat. It is a city where close-ups reveal cover-ups, where everyone knows someone but no one really knows anyone at all. It is the city of unmet expectations, heartbreaking realizations and unending speculations. Here, dreams flourish and perish in the same breath. Here, the bar is set so low it crushes spirits; and the word on the street is: escape.

Escape poverty
Escape school
Escape prison
Escape your job
Escape your bills
Escape your baby father
Escape the rules
Escape the streets
Escape the country
Escape this life

Ours is a city of unsatisfactory repatriation, untimely remuneration and. . . occasional salvation. The motherless barrel child ran away from home and is now trying to sell you guineps at fifty dollars a bunch on the side of the road. The government clerk supplements his income with lists of phone numbers and a voice his own mother wouldn’t recognize. And every Sunday the churches on every street corner sound clash with the cars that drive by blaring dancehall tunes. The fashion segment is of course a contest between the skimpily clad too-young girls in the cars and the sedately dressed, mothball-smelling mostly retired congregation in the pews.

We are an endless line of failed attempts marching inexorably toward that graveyard of cities and towns, stripped of our dignity and left to wither.

Yet we are a city of sunlight-and-sparkling-water, with fathers who love their daughters and bosses who think to give brawta. Where our concerns are never as close as the coastline; where we can always afford to have a good time. Where morality overlaps like shore and sea. Montego Bay, ah, Montego Bay, times is hard.

But so are we.

Square One. Looks familiar.

This picture felt appropriate

We are back to the point where blog entries start getting irregular, then scarce then finally disappearing into an abyss of pointless posts and writer’s block. This is Not Good.

On the other hand, I’ve definitely been living it up for my Easter holiday. So much that my body still hasn’t realized that school is back in session and no, it can’t sleep in until 10 o’clock.

Things I have been up to
What a retired teen Jamaican gets up to in her spare time.

Reading excessive amounts of Neil Gaiman
Seriously, I finished his short story collection Smoke and Mirrors over the span of two days. And it only took me so long because my pesky textbooks kept getting in the way. No one inspires me to write like Gaiman does, and he always makes it looks so easy.

Not very much studying (but still more than normal)
I managed to catch up on quite a bit of Neuroscience (the 9 credit course on the human central nervous system that is half of the reason medical students are borderline suicidal this semester). All in preparation for a group study session that left me feeling that I hadn’t studied nearly enough yet. Why am I doing this again?

Going to Margaritaville
Don’t be fooled by all the laughing tourist pictures of people splashing around in the water and swapping bad jokes over great beer (Red Stripe represent). It’s way better than all of that. Moonlighting as Club Ville, Margaritaville is an upscale bar/restaurant with ridiculously overpriced food and a fantastically free water park that is more fun than you can possibly imagine. The slide is amazing. They even have life jackets for the swimming impaired, and the water isn’t very deep.

Long walks along the touristy Hip Strip for no reason whatsoever
Aside from the vicarious people watching opportunities the Hip Strip affords, it really is quite pretty to look at. Gorgeous vistas, inspiring sunsets and the $45M park make sure the Hip Strip is at least 97% of the reason Mobay is the tourist capital of Jamaica. And then the hordes of rural buses descend on the strip for the holidays and you appreciate the beauty even more (because they’re ruining it).

Wishing I was young again
The work was easier, the teachers were nicer and the holidays were longer. High school students and lower grades have this entire week off – it’s the end of a term. It’s horribly unfair for them to be mocking me from the comfort of their homes as I trudge to the bus at 7:30 every morning. Meanies.

Otherwise I’ve been eating far too little bun and cheese, visiting relatives (which is the heart and soul of Jamaican holidays), learning to drive (finally), and poking at dismembered brains (see study session above).

School meanwhile has escalated into full 9 hour days from 8-5, which means I’ll have far less time for blog writing. Unfortunately (and I can hear the collective groans of my devoted readership), I’ll be cutting posts down to once a week, on Tuesdays. It’ll be a distillation, like rum. Even better, like vodka. Yes. My blog will be vodka. Enjoy responsibly.


In transit III: to the little boy in the taxi

I can’t promise you there will never be any bullies in the world, and I can’t promise that the people who are supposed to look out for you will always do their job. I can’t promise you that counting to ten is the best way to control your anger. And I sure as hell won’t tell you that you gotta put up with people’s crap and bottle everything up inside of you.

Because sometimes fighting back feels damn good, and sometimes it hurts you a whole lot more than they did in the first place. So you gotta figure that one out on your own. But I will tell you and promise you and pray that talking to a stranger in the back of a taxi on your way home is the a step in healing the hurt that the world dumps on you. And I will hope against hope that you won’t break, no matter what they throw at you.

You are doing great so far, kid. Don’t stop now.


The stranger in the back of the taxi

For us, 30 is the new 20

And every tick of my tock, echoes like an angsty gunshot

A few months ago I read a Medscape article titled ‘Is Your Social Clock Ticking?’. I didn’t even know I had a social clock until that article. Now it feels like mine is counting down in seconds like bomb blasts.

I have never been a social person. Not introverted (not even close), just not excessively friendly. I don’t have Facebook or Twitter on an IV drip like most folks, and I really, really relish my alone time. But that article forced me to stop and look around at my peers. And what I saw gave me a jolt. People I was in class with in high school are married. They’re having kids. They have jobs. They’re married, for heaven’s sake. For them, the decade of their 20’s is all about establishing themselves as adults. And I know I’m talking about the segment that passed up or got passed over by tertiary education, but that’s still a good chunk of them. Enough to have me feeling (reluctantly) that some part of life is passing me by.

Because my 20’s are all about cobbling together a career, not starting a family. They are all about the hard work and not the pay off. The pay off will come much later, when I’m old enough to enjoy it (hopefully). Five or ten years from now when I’ve established my dreams *touch wood* and scratched up enough sanity to pass for an adult, I will be glad that I laid this foundation. So no, I don’t feel like I’m behind in life because I see people around me planting roots. These tedious and seldom-rewarding years are my roots, and I think they’re well worth it.


Which side of the coin are you on? Do you feel like you’re in the running with your peer group or behind the game?

Riding in cars with boys

We only wish we looked like this.

The most fun I ever had travelling for four hours, I had in a car with three guys on our way to Kingston. Allow me to add some context to that. My dance group wanted to see a performance at the UWI campus in Mona, and even though everyone was “interested in going”, the journey ended up being a Three’s Company role reversal. I didn’t honestly mind. I was just really excited to be seeing the first full-length ballet rendition of Annie Palmer.

I got dibs on the music, even though I didn’t ride shotgun, and from Trelawny to Kingston it was a non-stop party. We laughed, we sang, we shouted, we danced (some more vigorously than others). I earned the moniker ‘DJ Docta Bird’. And to this day I can’t think of anything more fun than speeding along an endless highway blasting Tina Turner’s Rolling and singing along at the top of your lungs.

We didn’t even mind (that much) when we arrived at intermission.

What was your most memorable road trip?


{28} I know I’m getting Older when…

..when I start actually thinking about getting older.

Just last Saturday when I was on break at dance class, I happened across the group of younger dancers hiding out in a spare room. They were occupied with play-doh and their own innocent world of magic, and when I entered everybody stopped talking. It was like a grown-up had walked in. When I asked them if I could see what they were up to, I got a resounding NO.

I remember the days when kids that age would have loved me. Would have loved playing with me and making up silly stories, and making me plaster on play-doh fingernails, too. Not so any more. It’s like I’ve crossed an invisible line into grown-up land. Like I’ve lost that aura of youth which is so obvious to little children. I am not one of ‘us’ anymore, I’m one of ‘them’.

But strangely, growing up isn’t as dramatically devastating as I expected it to be. Without fanfare, without recognition, I’ve passed quietly from the world of playmate into the realm of caretaker. Not a friend, but a mentor.

It’s a sobering thought, that I can’t stop this getting older business, that it’s happening even if I don’t want it to. But, even stranger, I’m not sure I want it to stop.

{27} Remember, Remember

There’s lots of things we think of when November rolls around, not just gunpowder, treason and plot. November means All Saints’ Day, Día de los Muertos (hat tips to anyone celebrating those lovely cultural days) Thanksgiving. And November means Christmas shopping.

All Saint’s Day and Día de los Muertos were observed yesterday on the first. I’ve always wanted to see a Día de los Muertos celebration; the idea of commemorating ancestral spirits holds a special kind of appeal for me.

That, and I really love dead people.

As a non-American, Thanksgiving is actually the last thing that comes to mind when I think about November. But it’s not foreign to my culture at all. In fact we Jamaicans tend to be hyped up on US culture (what with living under their thumb) and it’s mostly because of the expats and the tourists who pretty much live here. So when you walk into certain supermarkets in certain areas of town, Halloween tricks, Thanksgiving treats and Christmas toys are all up for sale.

In different sections of the store, of course.

November for us is really a transition month. In October we had (not Halloween!) Heroes’ Day, our local/cultural celebration. It’s like Founder’s Day in the States, only it’s a bank holiday as well. Then you’ve got Christmas in December. And we ex-colonies really love our Christmas holiday. So November is the month that gets relegated to things like clearance sales (so shops can stock up on overpriced Christmas gizmos), early Christmas carols (played by overeager radio stations) and a preponderance of Christmas cards (so you know exactly what to spend your paycheck on). It’s one big pre-Christmas jamboree.

November also marks the end of the hurricane season, so that's another reason to spend horrible amounts of money. (Read: celebrate)

And I must say I love the feel of Tropical Christmas in the air. The cooling breeze. The overstocked department stores filled with people spending more money than they have. The Christmas paadnas coming to fruition. The children who get to go crazy for two weeks before they get OD’d on worm medicine to go back to school.

Ah, good times.

full speed… um, which way’s ‘ahead’?

Blogging once a week in medical school is hard. Dancing three times a week in medical school is also hard. Having practical anatomy sessions in medical school is even harder.

I’m reminded of the joke where the blonde goes to the doctor and says ‘Doc, everywhere hurts. When I touch my arm it hurts, when I touch my knee it hurts, when I touch my head it hurts.’ The doctor says ‘I think I know what’s wrong: your finger’s broken’.

I think my medical school is broken.

Little things have a sneaky way of adding up to big things. It is so with organizing time. I do a bunch of little activities, say yes to practically everything because “it doesn’t sound that hard”. At the end of the day, I’m left with a dozen little things where I’m working my butt off everyday, as opposed to one big thing that I could spread out and deal with in bits and pieces.

I know I need to stop saying yes. Everyone tells you that. The problem is I don’t know how to say no. It isn’t in my vocabulary (unless we’re talking about studying, because that gets said no to a lot). My day usually goes like this:

Today I’m not going to pick up any more responsibilities. I will not pick up responsibilities. I will not –
Person #1: Hey Robyn, can you do an extra-curricular, unrelated to medicine and not at all easy job? It’s going to take all semester!
Me: Yeah, sure!

…Wait. Dammit.

I feel obligated to say yes, as if I owe them for asking me a favour.

Thank you for thinking I'm capable of doing this job. I'll just pretend that I am until it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

And when I do say no, I feel so guilty that I end up striking some kind of compromise that gives me the short end of the stick.

My last New Year’s resolution was to stop making promises I couldn’t keep. To make it easier on myself for next year, I’ll put a blanket ban on promises altogether. When someone asks for a favour I’ll say no first and then think about it.

Yeah, and starting tomorrow I’ll be eating an elephant.

Disgruntled pax.