014 // ending the year

This school year comes to a close in two weeks, and it is a bit difficult to believe that I’m 62% done with my program. In the last year I have taken thirty classes, covering finance, evaluation, epidemiology, biostatistics, investments, economics, maternal health, global health, population dynamics, environmental health, and negotiations (to name a few). I can’t even begin to fathom how long it would take me to calculate the number of pages I’ve written, or assignments I’ve completed. Hours spent studying, appointments with professors or TAs, and group projects all fall into the same bucket of interesting-statistics-that-I-just-don’t-have-time-to-determine.

It’s been a crazy year. There were times I thought of quitting, but the notion of the loans I’d have to pay back stopped me. There were days I questioned why I was doing this, but friends helped me remember that I am very interested in public health. In general, I’m so incredibly happy to be here and doing this. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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Time spent: 9 minutes

013 // tales of the knee

 

A few weeks ago I had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and torn ACL. They stitched the meniscus back together and did a complete ACL reconstruction. Since they say I won’t be running for a few more months, I’ve focused on celebrating the little things, like…

…my first full day without pain killers (3 days post-op. Huge mistake, in case you were wondering).

…my first full days back at school (also 3 days post-op. Also a huge mistake).

…my second full day without pain killers (6 days post-op. Not a mistake).

…my second full day back at school (9 days post-op).

…fitting into non-stretchy pants (10 days post-op).

…achieving a 90-degree bend (11 days post-op).

…deciding that non-stretchy pants were ridiculous and not worth it yet (14 days post-op).

…ditching the crutches for good (17 days post-op).

…walking to school without crutches (19 days post-op).

Now, to be honest, I still can’t touch my toes with my legs straight. And I mentally curse like a sailor every time I have to try to put on socks, pants, underpants, or shoes (which gets worse if I happen to put any of those things on in the wrong order). But there is light at the end of the year-long tunnel of no running, and I can tell you that it is a warm, welcoming light. Just please, don’t let the tunnel get any longer.

Time spent: 17 minutes

012 // the day i gave up

It sounds so weird to say that. No one likes to view themselves as a quitter. No likes to believe it of themselves. Sometimes I don’t believe it is who I am, but then life rears it’s ugly head and I feel like I’m living a lie.

I had never actively sought love or companionship until moving here. But for the last 8 months or so, I have. If I spent the majority of my day online, then how could I ever hope to meet someone in person? So I signed up on a dating site. There were hundreds of profile views, and hundreds of messages. There were plenty of first dates, and quite a few second dates. Fewer third dates, but three or four guys with whom I went on more than three dates. Dinners, breakfasts, lunches. Picnics, walks around parks during the day, walks around campuses at night. Hikes. Museums. Harbors. Ice cream.

But last week I got fed up. I got stood up, twice, by two different guys. The first left me standing on a street corner, in Baltimore, at night, in the freezing cold (literally freezing – 20 degrees fahrenheit). The second was psycho – I failed to respond to a text message within thirty minutes on the day we were supposed to meet, and he freaked out. Called me indecent. Told me I was inconsiderate and selfish. Tried to make me feel guilty for not messaging him back, tried to convince me that it was my fault that we weren’t going to meet, even though I was at the agreed upon location at the agreed upon time. Tried to convince me that he deserved a second chance because it was my fault we weren’t going to meet.

A friend who is also a trained therapist pointed out that one of the boys (because I cannot call individuals who treat women so poorly men) was displaying the traits of a sexual predator while the other was being manipulative and controlling. They were both negative situations, and potentially dangerous ones for me. And it suddenly became too much.

I am not willing to risk my education, health, or sanity.

So yesterday I quit. I deleted that online profile and decided to stop actively seeking. For now I am alone. Alone in a new city. Alone in seeking my new future. Alone. But not altogether lonely.

Yesterday I quit looking for companionship and wanted to crumble, and my friends were right there for me. One of them listened to me while I cried, another pointed out that my choices were the healthy and safe ones, a third agreed to get drunk with me at 3:30p if that was what I wanted to do, the fourth picked me up from the train station with flowers and a phone charger for my dead battery, and then there was dinner with a group of classmates. Yesterday I quit and decided to accept being alone. And alone I am, but not by any stretch am I lonely. The friends I have made in the past and the friendships I continue to develop in the present are likely to be around long into the future. Alone I may be, but incredibly lucky as well.

 

Time spent: 23 minutes

011 // today it starts

Today is when I start making changes.

I slept for eight hours last night. Yes, I went to bed too late, and no, I did not wake up as early as I would have liked. But I slept eight hours and I woke up before my alarm went off.

I stayed in bed, slowly, leisurely stretching everything.

I laid my outfit for the day upon my bed and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. I ate a breakfast of oatmeal with peanut butter and milk, all enjoyed with two mugs of delicious green tea from France. My outfit is jeans and a bulky red sweater that feels like a cloud is hugging me.

It was not a morning full of hustle and bustle, nor was it an overly productive morning. But it was a meal, it was not harried, and I arrived at class on time and ready to pay attention. And sometimes that’s all I need to get the day started on the right foot.

I’m hoping for more of these mornings.

Time spent: 4 minutes

010 // stress & dissatisfaction

Recently a friend moved back to the US from Europe for his job. As a huge part of this transition, his job duties change so drastically that he is spending 6 months going to school full-time to learn the new responsibilities, and he does not know where he will be located after the six months are up. So in the span of two months, he had a trans-Atlantic move, family health problems, major shift in lifestyle, uncertainty in the future, and the added stressors that come with school (including daily quizzes and weekly exams). And, just for kicks, he also gets neurotic me in the bargain – ecstatic that he is back and easily accessible for communication, but too clingy and reliant on venting as a primary form of stress-relief to be any kind of friend to him.

We talked yesterday. He has a glass of red wine and 2-3 tiny squares of dark chocolate once a week on the most stressful days. He sleeps 6-7 hours a night, which is just enough sleep for him. He is able to focus his time and not get distracted. He is not stressing about the family health issues or the uncertain future, primarily because he knows that it won’t help him.

He makes it look so easy.

In the last nine months I sustained a major injury, quit my job, moved across the country, took out large amounts of loans to finance my education, moved in with roommates after living by myself, and started school. I’ve been here for nearly six months now, and I can’t figure it out. I don’t have time management down, nor have I figured out how to study and focus. I don’t remember to eat more than one meal a day (and even that is typically an afterthought or requires someone reminding me to eat). I can’t remember the last time I exercised (that’s a lie, I totally can – it was last week), and my clothes no longer fit the way they have for the last decade.

I cry three or four times a week. The stress builds up, and I don’t know what to do with it. I can’t run, due to the injury, nor can I bike or go on long walks. I can’t play the piano or clarinet, nor do I have the money or time to invest in baking. My typical stress relievers are inaccessible, so I cry. I get emotional, and I blow up. I vent to everyone who looks at me, I cry at the drop of a pin.

I hate to admit it, but I’m jealous. I’m so jealous. The friend makes it look so easy. My classmates make it look so easy. My roommates make it look so easy. And I feel like I’m drowning. Like I’m never going to come up for air, because I don’t know which way is up.

I try to joke it off. I try to tell people that I’m fine, or that I’m emotionally stunted. I joke that someday I’ll learn to filter out the crazy. I try to remember what happiness feels like, and joy. Relaxation and ease. But it’s hard. Those memories are so short, and come so infrequently. They are consumed by lists of readings that I haven’t had a chance to look over, or the assignments that are late. The concerns of when I last cut my finger nails or brushed my teeth (this morning! I swear – I did it twice because I couldn’t remember). The wondering why my stomach or head hurts (because I haven’t had anything to eat since lunch yesterday, or drink in two days), or why I feel weak and irritable (probably because I’m not eating, drinking, or sleeping).

I miss having someone around who knew me well enough to understand how I handle stress, and who cared enough about me to take care of me when I forgot to. It’s been so long since anyone like that was in my life that I find myself wondering if it ever existed, or what it was like.

Was that ever in my life? Will it be in my future?

time spent: 19 minutes

009 //the last few days

Life is crazy as a grad student, and maybe even more so when you are working to complete two degrees in the same number of years. It is an undertaking full of midterms, finals, group projects, and the never-ending studying.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in it and lose sight of the big picture. If I’m being honest, it has been so long since I saw the end goal that I can’t even remember what it looks like. Which is probably something to which everyone I’ve talked to in the last six weeks can attest.

But I digress.

One thing that has kept me (relatively) sane is joining the gym. Yes, there were gyms I had access to for free. The medical institute here has a gym with a weight room, a cardio room, and a group fitness room. But they emptied the pool in September. My main educational building has a gym with four treadmills, two bikes, and some weight machines, but no pool. So I joined the gym (with some financial assistance, I admit). And it has been an amazing thing.

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Lately I’ve been swimming again. It still hurts my knee, but it hurts far less than the alternatives of running or biking do. And at a point where I feel constantly stressed and don’t know how to handle it, I’ll take what I can get.

Even if it is just twenty minutes in a pool.

Time spent: 11 minutes

008 // an east coast fall

The autumns of my childhood were notably different from the one I’m experiencing this year. Fall, back then, was rife with warmer weather, tank tops with jeans and flip flops, moaning about the lack of warmth that necessitated a light sweatshirt, and dreaming of the days when it would no longer be oh-so-cold at 62 degrees fahrenheit.

Today it is mid-November and I find myself on the other side of the country, wondering what younger me was thinking. It was 39 degrees fahrenheit when I woke up yesterday morning, and I nearly cried when there were no clean tights to wear under my jeans for the day. My morning consisted of a swim at the local indoor pool, because outdoor pools get drained in September around here, and then spending two hours at REI trying to get waterproof insulated boots and a down parka. There may have also been another trip to Nordstrom’s Rack to acquire more tights because having only four pairs is no longer acceptable.

But while the layers of clothing requisite for autumn this year are a bit of an ordeal, there are other parts of this new season that are so remarkably worth the hassle. There are colorful trees and a falling of leaves. Cold breezes that leave the air feeling fresh, even in the middle of the city. Wool socks to keep toes warm throughout the day. Down comforters to wrap up in at night. This autumn is being characterized not by the lack of warmth, but by the ability to curl up on the couch with a book, a mug of tea, and some fuzzy socks. There are scarves everywhere I turn, and cute hats that I wish looked even half as cute upon my noggin. Gloves, mittens, raincoats, umbrellas.

Oh, and tights.

Time spent: 9.3 minutes