Because it’s not enough that I have school in the summer…

…it has to be hard, too.

This sign is entirely too cheerful.

Medical school at the UWI, in all its omnipotent glory, has stuck us with six 3-credit courses for the duration of the 8-week summer period. So while my friends are prepping for beach trips instead of bi-weekly quizzes, I’m up to my ears in haematological reference ranges and obstretic complications, trying to explain for the umpteenth time that it’s not summer school, I simply have school in the summer. (There’s a big difference).

On one hand, we are steadily inching closer to our graduation in 2015 – as of June 18, 2012, we were officially 3rd years! – but on the other hand we are spending our summer studying vaginal discharge and biostatistics. There is no possible way I can interpret any part of this summer as pleasant. When people come back to school in September and ask me how my summer was I’m going to answer, “Fishy”. (Little BV humour there).

In the mean time, we’re dealing with lectures on every possible thing that can go wrong with having a parasite baby inside of you, and putting up with lecturers who say things like, “The best age to have children is 16.” Because it’s his duty to inform us that a 16 year old only takes two weeks to get her body back, but a forty year old takes two years, if she ever gets back in shape at all.

What being 16 and pregnant means in today’s world.

We are convinced with each subsequent class that the continuing survival of the human race is nothing short of miraculous, given the brutal torture physical stress women repeatedly subject themselves to and also the sheer magnitude of the odds stacked against Junior developing into a viable pregnancy.

(Secret: One of the things I love about medicine is how human physiology just never ceases to surprise and amaze me).

In addition to the wonders of human reproduction (she adds drily), we’re also subject to the twin horrors of epidemiology and biostatistics. Epidemiology is the nice twin. Biostatistics is like the twin who screams all the time after you fed him and changed him and stayed up all night trying to understand just what the hell he was trying to say to you earlier today in class. There is a reason all the lecturers start the classes by trying to convince us that the subject really isn’t that scary. Because it is.

Our course assignment is to prepare a biostatistics presentation based on a published research paper, which doesn’t sound so bad if you consider the fact that it’s assigned to groups of about sixteen. But if you factor in that no one out of the sixteen persons even understands what’s being asked of them so that the burden of fleshing confused, half-assed answers falls to one person then you pretty much have my day on Tuesday.


But as much as I bitch about the crazy workload and incomprehensible concepts, I’m actually kind of excited about it all. This is as good a way to spend the summer as any: I’m with friends and out of the house. And I at least get to drive by the beach every morning.


{19} The Summer I (almost) Dared

This was the last summer holiday of the rest of my life. In medical school, they don’t like to give you breaks. As a doctor, you rarely get the chance to take them. I guess medical school is the practice. I just wanted it to be worthwhile, my expectations weren’t high. I knew I’d need to make some money to take back to school, but beyond that my plans were sketchy. I had three and a half months looming ahead of me that I wasn’t overly enthused about and it started off rocky, at best.

Like I said, my expectations were so low as to be non-existent. Maybe I’d go to the beach a couple times, or the movies. Little indulgences I couldn’t partake of during the term. I’d have to get a job, but I didn’t know the first place to turn for that. My friends would be back in town, while the new friends I’d made at school would be out of town, gone back home to wherever. I had mixed feelings about that, the hanging out. Mostly I just wanted to lounge around at home, and that’s exactly what I did for the first two weeks.

So my summer unfolded subtly, like a map with cleverly hidden clues and treasures. It didn’t all come out at once, like you’d usually expect. There was no overt fanfare, no single blindingly amazing moments of awesome. There were instead times of heartbreaking serenity, an encompassing, soothing feeling that all was right with the world, accomplishments and personal growth. It was the kind of summer you can only appreciate in retrospect. Where nothing looks exceptional while it’s happening, but when you’ve driven past and look back you go: Oh, wow, that was absolutely wonderful.

I fell into a job serendipitously. My dad would say that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and I think that’s just what happened. It lasted until early August, and I got to work with some really cool people. I learnt a great deal from them, from our project (a research on Cervical Cancer) and the opportunity was priceless. It was an excellent experience. The week after that project ended, I signed up to do my school-required community service at the health centre in my community, which was another great experience. It’s amazing how much you can learn in forty hours in a dental clinic. It had it’s ups and downs, of course, but overall I loved the atmosphere, the dental technicians and their camaraderie.

It sounds like all I did with my last summer holiday ever was work, which was disappointing in a sense. I’d had a vague idea of excitement, a summer I’d remember forever. But I think this summer will be memorable for different reasons.

Like the fact that I got very little sleep (for a a very good reason). And passing all my first year exams. Being independent enough to go to Kingston on my own for a couple days to stay with a friend. Breaking out of my reclusive shell to find the fun in going out. Being grown up enough to make my own decisions. Writing a play. Getting more formal dance training. Fighting with my best friend. Dealing with a long-distance relationship. Speaking in public. Growing my hair in locks.

All new things. All faced with determination. Mostly exciting. Some terrifying. All steps towards becoming that person I want to be in the next twenty or so years. I feel almost like I lived a lifetime in the last three months. And I’ve emerged metamorphosed, inescapably altered for the better.

It’s the last week of summer and I’m already looking forward to school starting. Of course within a week, I’ll be begging for a holiday, but for now, at least, I’ve got purpose and a plan. This summer performed it most fundamental function: it renewed and re-energized me. The saw has been sharpened, and now it’s all bout moving upward and onward.


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.