Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ten Years

I have always been told that in order to go forward, one must examine the past. Inspired by the beautiful post over at Hope Dies Last, I thought that I too would begin the new year by reflecting on how I’ve changed over the past 10 years.

I rang in 2000 huddled with my friends around Lake Ontario in frigid weather watching fireworks and waiting for the big y2K shut down. I was on top of the world and free from every restriction because my family was in another country and I was almost finished with high school. I was whoever I wanted to be. I didn’t belong to anyone. That year I partied way too hard, spent too many nights out late and devoured every piece of literature I could get my hands on. Afterall, I would be a Pulitzer prize winning writer. I was half-heartedly trying to catch the eye of that special someone but wasn’t particularly disappointed when I lost interest after a while. I still kept partying though.

In 2001 I started my first year of university. I was overwhelmed and excited by all that had to be learned. I made lots of new friends, lost a lot of old ones, then couldn’t keep in touch with the new ones. Being overwhelmed by my parents’ concern for my future, I spent half the year locked up in the library. Unfortunately, it was the wrong half of the year I spent in the library. I completely fucked up my first year.

2002 was the year I had to convince my parents that I was never going to become a doctor. The ‘future’ was amorphous and frightening and I had no intention to discuss my lack of direction with anyone, let alone my father. I also had to convince my mother that I will probably never be the traditional south Asian woman she wanted me to be. I was a product of Canada and I had no ties to back home. I had no idea what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be. I was ready to quit school. I felt extraordinarily lonely. I spent a lot of time crying in the middle of the night.

In many ways 2003 was the spring of this decade. I found my niche in university, I found courses and professors that inspired me. I made friends that saw me through thick and thin. The humidity of the summer slowed time enough to let me focus on what I wanted to with my life. My hopes were high and my expectations higher. And I lived up to them.

I kept fighting with my parents in 2004. It was the last time I saw my grandfather before he passed away. I felt like shit for most of the year. I was working towards a masters degree I had no interest in pursuing. I fervently wished that time would slow down. I wished I picked a better major, a different school, a different life. I felt lost, directionless and purposeless once more. It’s also when I started to give nursing some serious consideration. I also took up a lot of bad habits – I gained a lot of weight.

I was supposed to graduate in 2005. Instead I took up a part time job, dropped a few courses and told my supervisor that I would not be applying to the master’s stream. One of my friends got married. I went to her wedding reception feeling like an immature child. She was my mother’s dream come true. A well educated lady in a beautiful sari on her wedding day who wanted to start her own family. I was happy for her, yet I resented her because she had the wisdom to realize that one’s background is a very large sphere of influence in life. Ties to one’s background and to one’s family are never really neatly severed.

2006 was a year of beginnings and endings. I graduated with my first degree in biology and two social science streams. Did I mention I was a tad indecisive? I said goodbye to some really good friends as they moved abroad and started their own lives. My sister and I spent our summer bitching about the poverty that seems to go hand in hand with being a student yet still managed to have a lot of fun as always. I started the accelerated nursing program. It slowly dawned on me how much responsibility I would have to shoulder. I wanted to quit. I got involved with a not so nice guy.

I didn’t quit nursing school in 2007. I trucked through some horrendous clinical placements. I put up with crappy preceptors. I learned to quickly recognize and bow to the healthcare hierarchy. My dad was convinced that I would change my mind and hand in applications for the master’s in biology program. It never happened. My sister put up with me rambling about drugs, pathophysiology and the cruelty of having to write so many papers. I lost a whole lot of weight – mostly through healthy means but there were some unhappy days that involved starving, a whole lot of caffeine and a few instances of binging and purging. I was strong, I was focused. I was determined. I felt weird when people started to ask how I lost so much weight and how much better I looked. I made incredible friends in nursing school (here’s looking at you G and J).

I graduated from nursing school and got hired in the ER in 2008 on a probationary basis. A part of me couldn’t believe that someone would be stupid enough to hire me right out of school and in an ER of all places. Mostly though, I was elated and incredibly thankful that someone was willing to give me a chance. I was going to be an EMERGENCY NURSE. I felt as if I had finally conquered a step towards truly growing up. Though I was at the bottom of the ladder, patients still looked to me for answers and guidance. I was scared shitless and the magnitude of responsibility felt overwhelming. I started blogging a lot more. My uncle sent me a text in the middle of a shift telling me that my grandfather had died of lymphoma. I spent my lunch crying in the bathroom. To my everlasting regret, I never made the trip back home to see him one last time and tell him how much he meant to me. I wish he could have seen me as a nurse.

I became a full-fledged staff nurse in early 2009. My learning increased exponentially by attending the school of hard (health care) knocks. I put a few extra letters next to my credentials in my CV. I’m amazed at how much I know and overwhelmed by how much I have yet to learn. I started to teach again, albeit as a nurse rather than tutoring kids in science and math. Despite my endless bitching (in this blog and to my wonderful sister), I remained incredibly thankful for having a job in which I can actually make a difference to someone sometime. My parents and I stopped fighting as much – we’re all too old for it now. My circadian rhythm has been effectively degraded into a cacophony of noise.


shrtstormtrooper said...

Are you my long lost sister? Because our past ten years look scarily similar...

Old MD Girl said...

This is such an awesome post. Mind if I steal your idea for my own blog? I'll link you OF COURSE.

It's funny how so much can change over 10 years. I'm glad you seem to have found yourself.

Maha said...

Of course you can steal it for your blog! After all, I stole (err... was inspired) by another blogger!

An Open Heart said...

This is a beautiful post, the writing is fantastic! Eloquent and succinct.

It's amazing what can transpire in a decade.


Grumpy, M.D. said...

It sounds like you are where you should be. And that's always good.

Maybe your parents think being a nurse is a step down from being a doctor, and that's wrong.

We are all on the same team. Nurses, pharmacists, doctors, CNA, HUC, all trying to make a difference to someone sometime.

Happy 2010, Maha. It's been a pleasure meeting you this past year.

Glee said...

I raise my glass (of water) to you, my friend. I respect, admire, love you forever. Props.

Anonymous said...

Another glass raised to you! Here's to another decade of laughter, tears, and everlasting joy. Hugs!

StorytellERdoc said...

Good for you buddy! I thought your post was awesome and very heartfelt. Thanks for sharing the path you took to get you where you are now! Thanks for sharing.

Doctor D said...

Fascinating to get to know you better, Maha.

Too bad they don't give Pulitzer Prizes for medbloggers! If there were I'm sure you would be a candidate.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Maha

Great to see the life behind the blog. I really appreciate it.

Katharine said...

ok this is out of nowhere!, but I found your blog a couple of weeks ago & wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed reading it. I'm starting the accelerated nursing program in Calgary next week, with basically no idea what I'm getting into, & it's awesome to read about what you've been through & how you feel about it. hopefully in a few years I'll be in an ER as well. thanks for your stories, they're much appreciated. :)

Natrice said...

it has been a pleasure to find your blog, keep writing, people like you are what we need in health care, not to mention the touch of wishes..nat

Anonymous said...

Sooner or later, you learn that you're the one who has to live with your final decsion regarding major life choices, no matter what your family and friends tell you.

Here's to being happy with yours!

Anonymous said...

2010 will be the year of Thai noodles and cake. It will be the year where you gain 300 pounds and you are featured on the Dr. Oz special of Nusres-who-let-themselves-go because-their-sisters-make-too many-delicious-meals. You may lose your dignity in 2010, but not your job, so no need to worry, this blog will be safe.


Your sister

(ps, I too am full of noodly goodness right now)

mhac said...

I've been reading a few medical oriented blogs (including Grumpy's) to get a bit of insight and entertainment from good spirits in the medical industry, since my fiance is a clinical pharm tech who's looking to get into RN (she's already got a degree in biology). In my opinion, you have the best writing prose I've seen so far ('Lights' was wonderful, but bittersweet), and it's eyeopening to get the perspective of a nurse in the trenches.

However, I've discovered an eerie string of coincidences with the stories in your blog. If it wasn't for the fact that you're in Canada and already completed your RN cert, I'd swear my fiance was writing this (she happens to be Thai :p).

Thanks for sharing small windows into your life. Good luck and keep the great stories coming!


midwest woman said...

How and why we get to where we are is indeed fascinating. Thanks for allowing us a window into yours. Your writing has evolved beautifully over the year. RN/ author perhaps?

Anonymous said...

I had a hunch background is Asian. My husband is old country Asian--doesn't know in which culture he's raising his sons, I'm afraid. Me, not Asian and in healthcare, I hope I've passed on some of the 'feel' of healthcare realism and professionalism to the kids. Unfortunately, high I.Q., dedication to perfectionism in advanced skills, unrealistic strive for top of the list academic excellence, etc. has been stressed all the kids' lives. So far the response has been 'strung out' schizoaffectedness, denial, depression, alcoholism, nearly autistic flip-outs, and escapism. I never wanted to see my kids so utterly confused about their place in the world (USA). I suspect their Dad did not either. As mother, am reluctant to think about having a life-threatening illness to have the kids come to their senses. Maybe, babbling for a week or so and checking into a mental institution might help.

Maha said...

Thanks so much for the nice comments everyone! :)