{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.

{time and relative dimension in unversity}

The thing no one tells you about summer is that you have to go back. Everyone always talks about exams being over, being free until the next semester, getting a job, school friends going away. But no one really mentions that you have to go back home, or what happens when you do.

Being in university is like stepping into a TARDIS and getting a glimpse of your own future. It’s time and relative dimension in a space that is beyond what you’ve come to know in high school and college. It is, for most of us, the chance to stretch your wings and see just how far you can fly from that nest. You learn much more than what they tell you in the didactic halls of academia, and you adjust to living on your own, with an entirely new set of people. You do this for a whole year, alone, independent and then you go back home. It’s like telling a bird that’s just learnt to fly that he has to stay in the nest for a couple of months just because. The impotence is frustrating.

As a commuting student, I’ve been in the nest all along, but I’ve still had the opportunity to fly whenever I wanted. With the onset of summer, I’ve been trapped here, mostly because it feels like there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do. After acclimatizing to the constant rush and nonstop motion of the school year, summer feels like the most insidious of doldrums.

University, no life, changes you. Makes you grow, makes you regress, makes you abandon old ways in favour of new ones (if you’re doing it right). And coming back home is like taking two steps forward and one step back – there’s still net forward motion, but how long is it gonna take you to get there? You’re back in your old neighbourhood with old friends slipping into old habits that you’ve grown out of now. You don’t want to regress, you want your college friends back, you want that feeling of independence and calling your own shots, you think you’ve lost it.

But you haven’t. That feeling is still there, waiting for you to pick it up and dust it off. You’re still independent, you can still call your own shots. You didn’t become independent because you went to university. You went to university because you were independent enough. There’s a reason they don’t let five-year olds in that place, you know.

While summer might feel like the doldrums of university life, they’re really not. Think of them as a self-serve gas station. You’re just filling up to take on the next year of independence and life-changing experiences.

Mornings After

That's pretty close to what I'm seeing right now.

Last night I slept over with my university boarding friends so we could have our first all night drink-up to celebrate surviving our first year of medical school. Complete with Mortal Combat badassery, inebriated displays of affection and lots and lots of crawling (and falling, come to think of it), it was a night well spent. I have also found the one drink I can stand to imbibe over and over and over – can anyone say Stinger?

I’m not posting about last night’s drunken revelry, though. Today’s post is about this morning, and how waking up to the sound of waves crashing on a beach and the sight of a beauty-infused dawn has got to be the best feeling in the world. My boyfriend and best friends are still sound asleep, but I thought this was to pretty to pass up posting about. I can hear bird cries, see the horizon stretch for lazy miles, watch the early morning workers – fishermen and joggers – already up and about. If the security guard wasn’t so impossible to deal with, I’d be over at the beach right now, sinking my toes into the first fresh waves. But life can’t be perfect, right? And sometimes all we’re required to do is look but not touch.

Year of the Hatchling

It appears my nocturnal habits need revising if all I can think of to do with this bout of insomnia is to write not one, but two blog updates. Caffeine, you are a cruel mistress.

Since I’m up, I may as well catalogue the fun bits of school year 2010/2011 o/c The Year I Didn’t Die (Surprisingly). My jokes seem to sour with the lateness of the hour. As does my rhyming. I wonder how hilarious this will be when I read it in the morning (which it is by the way – almost three. Goddamit, coffee). If I had to name it properly, I think I would call this the Year I Stepped Out of my Comfort Zone. Hatchling was a word I’d thought up some weeks ago. As in “Hatchling: A Robyn Spreads Her Wings”. I’m copyrighting that. . . as soon as I figure out how. 2010/2011: Year of the Hatchling. I like it. Has a ring. By the by, typing like this is going to give me Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (median nerve compression, median nerve carries A and C fibres, CTS results in parasthesis and pain up to your elbow /geekery).

What I Learnt in the Year of the Hatchling…

1. I learnt to survive in a school where I had to make all new friends, networks, relationships. I had to get to know the teachers, and let them get to know me. I had to establish a persona I wanted to maintain. As it turned out, that last was secondary to all the other roles I had to assume; I was so focused on being myself that somewhere along the way that persona established itself.

2. I entered (and placed) in my first (and hopefully last) pageant. I placed second. This is a Big Deal. I have an aversion for public displays and pretty much fought the entire concept every step of the way. Why stick with it? “Wha nuh kill, fatten”. And it certainly fattened, er, strengthened my character. I’m still mildly amazed (and this isn’t narcissism, just a humble dumbfoundedness) at how beautiful I looked on coronation night. I was glowing (mostly because I never even expected to be in the top five, much less second). That experience taught me to seriously value myself, never underestimate or put myself down because sometimes (most times) other people see something great in you that you don’t.

3. I made friends, great friends. I always hear that college friends will be your friends for life and honestly, I’ve never put much stock in it. My best friend is still my best friend from high school, and I understand that relationships and people change, but that doesn’t mean I was closed off to making new ones. My strategy is simple: sit and wait. You’ll figure out soon enough who you want to be friends with, without jumping the gun too early. And it worked. The friends I have now, I can relate to (as we say so often here) “on a different level”, which is absolutely fabulous when it comes to sanity management and crisis aversion.

4. I fell in love. I can hear the snorts of derision and cynicism already. No wait, that’s my own mind. It seems like every girl goes away to university and “falls in love”. . . with a jerk. Not always but usually. Like there’s something intrinsic to the female psyche that makes us interpret all the noxious stimuli as being “perfect”. Well, I’m different. (Snorts, derisive or otherwise, are actually quite rude, you know). I’m well acquainted with the theory of personal fable, and the probability that at the end of the day, I’m not all that different from every other pathetic sap out there who’s desperate to be loved.

Being in love (or whatever it is my neuronal cells are telling me this is) has taught me acceptance. To accept myself as I see me, with my perceived flaws and graces (and there are graces). To accept that he sees me so much better than I see myself (not an insignificant feat – I’m blessed with more than my fair share of vanity). To accept him as he is, because who he is loves who I am, and why would I want that to be any different?

5. I proved to myself that I can do this. And that’s really all school has ever been about for me: a constant battle of wills between my brain and the prescribed curricula. I was pushed into the sciences “because I can do it”, pushed into medicine “because it would be such a waste of my talents to do Literature”. It was rather effortless pushing, because I love a constant mental challenge, but I still have bouts of yearning for a Literature degree. I still see myself becoming editor-in-chief of a publishing house. I still see myself writing. And yet here I am, biting my nails in anticipation of this semester’s grades, still awake at three in the morning studying for a Neuroscience final, wondering with no little curiousity what lies ahead for me in the next five years.

Because what I’ve learnt from this uphill struggle is that I am in possession of three inalienable instruments: inner strength, insatiable curiosity, and an amazing support group.

What else does a hatchling need to survive?

They Don’t Mess with my Homegirls (I got that Butter Knife and Vaseline)

Tonight I got the chance to exercise my inner sociopath when a jerk-face thought he could step all over one of my friends. While I may be a mild-mannered (dare I say, nerdy) med student, my alter-ego likes to spring forth on occasion with teeth and claws ready for the attack. It especially loves idiots who take liberties with people I am close to (there is no sincerer love than the love of food).

There are no sincerer idiots than those who lack insight. It is not so much what this particular idiot did as who he was. He was a push-over and subject to the whim of his friends, to the point of completely offending and disrespecting my homegirl. He was, to put it plainly, a dick-knocker (courtesy of The Bloggess).

After entertaining mildly vicious thoughts (hara kiri and castration came easily to mind – that butter knife & vaseline are another story), and cheering myself up for the imminent take-down we (the unofficial Legal Team) marched over to the asshat’s dormitory and confronted him. The phrase “all bark and no bite” springs readily to mind to describe the actual confrontation. I may have been all spitfire and pitchfork-toting venom before the actual face-off, but in confronting the douche my ill-intent crumpled like a wet paper bag in the face of his “don’t-kick-me” puppy dog look. Pity, how I loathe thee.

But we are taught to spare the rod. So all I did was tell him off good and proper for his abominable behaviour, made him apologize and generally looked as superior and intimidating as possible with all 5′ 4″ of me (actually quite intimidating and superior).

He was easy though; my claws need sharpening.