The past is never where you think you left it
March 12, 2015 § 4 Comments
I’ve mentioned before that I prefer to write blog posts when I find myself in a reflective mood, one in which the words simply flow through my fingers without any obstacle of forethought or manipulation. I find that the time between these moments is growing ever so slightly despite my best efforts to stop and appreciate where I am and how far I’ve come. This idea brought me to consider that maybe it’s not just that reflection begets writing, but also that writing begets reflection.
This post is going to be quite the reflective one. The reason? It is March, my “month of change” if you will. I received a notification from WordPress (the company that hosts this blog) wishing me Happy Anniversary with them. It’s officially been three years since I started this blog and six since I moved to Norway in hopes of somehow, someday, becoming a doctor.
In honor of the time that has passed between the person I was when I left Los Angeles and the person I am now, a 3rd year medical student in Budapest, I want to share some excerpts from Marches passed.
March 2009 – 21 year-old Bianca living on the island of Tjøme off the coast of Southern Norway with Aunt Vibeke. Next to no money and almost no plan. Just a hope that things would find a way of working themselves out.
When the plane sank through the clouds during our descent, my heart began racing madly. For the last three months I have put my full focus on getting to this point and now that I am here I almost feel purposeless. At one point, it even crossed my mind that I should just turn around and go home. I am so out of my element here; I know I have the necessary skills to survive and support myself back in the U.S., but I feel like none of those skills are of use to me here. Literally everything is different and it really confirms the feeling I have of this move as a blank slate. However, underneath all the immediate worry and anxiety lies that deep excitement and yearn for a challenge. I know this is going to be difficult and I set out with my future in mind. All the necessary quotes fuel my confidence: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Reach for the moon, if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time.” Life really is too short to wonder what things could be like, or to look back at the chances you had to change the course of your existence and didn’t.
I miss having friends and meaningless conversations with random people I meet throughout the day. I miss knowing where I am and how to get where I want to go. I miss my family and knowing what they are doing. But in the end, this is where I am supposed to be. I just heard word from my old roommate that the house I was living in in LA is being foreclosed and now they all have to find a new place to live by the end of the month. As soon as I heard the news I was consumed by thoughts of how I would have had to manage everything if I was still there. When you move on to a new chapter in your life and see the chapter you left sort of collapsing behind you, you can’t help but feel a deep sense of relief and purpose – and confirmation. I’m still scared, still lonely, and still have a sense of restlessness, but this is the right path for me. There is a quote that I love, from a kid’s movie nonetheless, about the importance of living your life. I’ve read this quote over and over again at times when I needed to believe that these huge changes would be the best ones I ever make.
“When King Lear dies in Act 5, you know what Shakespeare has written? He’s written ‘He dies”. That’s all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is: He dies. It took Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with ‘he dies.”? And yet, every time I read those two words I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know its only natural to be sad, and not because of the words ‘he dies’ but because of the life we saw prior to the words. I’ve lived all 5 of my acts, and I’m not asking you to be happy that I must go, I am only asking you that you turn the page, continue reading, and let the next story begin. And if anyone ever asks what became of me, you relate my life, in all its wonder, and end it with a simple and modest ‘he died’.”
I want my life to have this same sense of wonder and glory. This is how I know that I am taking the right step. If we don’t push ourselves, we will never truly know the greatness we are capable of.
I’ve been asked a lot about my choice to move here. I usually respond with something along the lines of school and the general experience, whatever jumps into my head at that moment. I have a small notebook where I write down everything that makes me laugh, quotes that inspire me and thoughts that I have. I find that, depending on the point in my life, I am drawn to different quotes in this book. As I read through it on the bus ride home today, I came across one with quite an alluring point. It follows in the category of the “why not?” response when inquired about my move.
“For believe me! The secret to harvesting the greatest abundance and the greatest enjoyment from existence is this: Live dangerously! Build you cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Be robbers and conquerers… you knowing ones! The time will soon be past when you could be content to live hidden in the forest like timid deer.”
We inherently suffer the fear of the unknown, the fear of change. Why not conquer this fear and throw ourselves out there? The worst thing that could happen is that the stories of our lives would be worth telling.
March 2012 – Med school finally became tangible. At a meeting with a school counselor in Oslo, I learned that there was an entrance exam in two weeks time and that I was eligible to apply.
Entrance exam 1
After I was finished he said, “I am going to change my mind about you. At first, I thought I would recommend that you come back in June and try again. But now, I see that you know much more than I first thought. Like your brother, I can tell that the intelligence is there. But you must review. You must review a lot. You cannot begin medical school without knowing these things. There will be no time to review the basics once you start.” He then proceeded to make some changes on my form and marked the top with an asterisk. “I will fight for you”, he told me, “But it will be hard to prove because your scores are not so good. But I will tell them that you know more and that you will review. I cannot guarantee anything. But I will tell them.”
Only four days later, on Thursday the 8th of March, we all got our acceptance letters to University of Pecs Medical School.
Christian’s 22nd Birthday
I spent all day today reading Complications and making my brother a cake for his birthday tomorrow. He is turning 22 and in lieu of recent events, I feel it is only fitting to have a medical themed cake – so I made an animal cell! I had a lot of fun doing it, though I didn’t plan for it to take all day. Hope he likes it when we wake him up tomorrow.
First round of acceptance letters
Skjalg and I just received our letters from Szeged. This was originally our first choice, but after finding out that it is not on California’s list of accredited universities, we decided against it. Skjalg got in and I got accepted to their “preparatory course”. It shouldn’t matter much since we have already decided against the school, but it still made me a little nervous. Skjalg asked me, “What are we going to do if I get into Semmelweis this round and you don’t?”
March 2013 – Second semester of first year
On conquering exam anxiety
So after listening to this a couple times, I came to a conclusion, which I immediately shared with Skjalg:
“The test is simply an evaluation of how I have been studying so far. If I pass, that’s great. I can keep on doing what I am doing and possibly make some further improvements. If I fail, yes, it will suck. However, I will be forced then to review the material more thoroughly, to learn it better and really understand it. In all honestly, I benefit either way. One way is just a little more challenging.”
It’s amazing how much mental power you have over your perception of a situation. Accepting that failure was an option and thinking of the good that could come out of it, rather than focusing on the bad, put me in control. Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” applies, not only to other people, but to yourself as well.
Mindfulness: 1 ; Defeatism: 0.
An entire post about reflection
March 2014 – Second semester of second year. Posts are less about reflection, more about midterms and studying. Although, there is one that chronicles a morning I spent enjoying the city.
Appreciating the city
Upcoming anatomy midterm
We’ve been covering anatomy superficially these past weeks and after Thursday’s physiology tests, we were ready to go hardcore anatomy. Between Friday afternoon and early Monday morning, we studied for a total of 37 hours. For this exam, Skjalg, Jannie and I decided to go through the material together. It made for a fun weekend, albeit slightly stressful. We presented topics on the giant white board, made up funny ways to remember things and peppered each other with spontaneous quizzes. In my post-midterm bliss (aka pure exhaustion) it’s hard for me to recall the horrible anxiety that slowly took root over the weekend. For that, I’m thankful.
March 2015 – the present
You’ll have to tag along to find out…
Quote by Katherine Anne Porter