orientation

Aug. 5th, 2012 07:10 pm
abigailnicole: (Default)


so hi, I'm in med school now! Don't ask me what's wrong with you. I don't know yet.

My first day is tomorrow. I've been studying.

It is very hard to transition from a life in New Orleans, with friends, free time, and a significant other to Lexington, Kentucky (recently named the most sedentary city in America!), living alone, knowing four people. I've spent a lot of time staying home and crying. But that's to be expected, right? With a difficult move! That's all behind me now! (It's not. But I won't have much time to sit around crying in bed after tomorrow.)

One thing I've noticed about myself, as I've sat through this past week of Orientation, is that being told the Institutional Norms and Expectations tends to make me dig in and want to ask "Why?" Let's call it my subversive streak. They've spent a lot of time this week trying to get us to think of ourselves as Professionals now, capital-P and all, and I'm trying to figure out exactly what that means. To me, to us, to our culture. Success IS culturally determined and decided. So how do you be a Successful Young Professional? Do you follow all the right rules? Are you good at your job? Are you courteous to the people around you? Are you respectful of authority?

This isn't something only I have been thinking about, either. There's been an archetype around for a long time of the Idiot Savant,the Brilliant Weirdo, this notion that if you're Good Enough, you can be forgiven things. "Genius is always allowed some leeway, once the hammer has been pried from its hands and the blood has been cleaned up," as Terry Pratchett says. Enter Sherlock Holmes, who's allowed a cocaine habit and shooting holes in his walls (or his modern equivalent House, antisocial and angry with a Vicodin addiction). If you want real life look at Fritz Haber, father of the process we still use to create nitrogen for fertilizer, who came up with gases used in trench warfare in WWI and whose wife and son killed themselves. Genius! There's a subversive element in it. If you're good enough, you get away with a lot. Duh. You knew that in high school, when you realized that if you made straight A's your parents didn't really care what you did with the rest of your time.

But that's not enough, right? If you're good and you want to do good, that's why you go to medical school. I have always been top of my class, high school valedictorian, National Merit Scholar, graduated college even summa cum laude. Because when you're smart you want to be good, you want to do Your Best, and if you can get straight A's in college then you will. I could, and I did.

I don't know if I believe in this system any more.

Medical school is hard. And there are grades. I can, objectively, be smarter or better than my fellow classmates. But I don't think that's helping anymore. Maybe doing research looks good on a resume, but is my resume the most important thing I'm worried about anymore? I hate doing research. (I worked in a very poorly-run lab for a year+.) There comes a point where, in a life-long academic career of competition over, for me, 20 years of school, you have to ask yourself what the endpoint of all the competition is. Do I really want to be an orthopedic surgeon? God, no. I just want to see patients, and help them, and be able to have my own life in the process.

So I think this subversive streak has to do with a journey of self-discovery. If I've spent my whole life doing My Best and Living Up To Expectations of others, then what are my expectations? I've never dyed my hair crazy colors. I've never gotten a tattoo. I conform to the Mainstream American Professional Young Girl. In appearance (height/weight/hair color/eye color/skin color), in attitude (I'm friendly and accommodating), in achievement. So is that what I am?

You want your children to read. I have read. You want your children to exercise. I exercise. You want your children to make straight A's, to eat healthily, to bike instead of drive, to go to college, to be savvy to social media but not attention-hogs, to do summer internships, to do research, to be clean and tidy and nice and accommodating. You want your children to succeed. I have succeeded. My friends, my peers, my class, we have all succeeded. Just the way you wanted us to. And every day I check my Facebook page for the average 15.5 minutes* and watch my friends search for jobs when there aren't any, complain about an American system that sets up expectations for its young people that If You Do This, Then You'll Get A Good Job and Be Happy, or at least can buy all the newest stuff, which is just like being happy, right? But we can't. We've done all the right things and now we can't Get A Good Job or really any kind of job. And I, new first-year medical student, have done the financially smart thing and borrowed almost $50,000 from the federal government to pay for the first of my four years of continuing education.

Why is it so hard for people to meet their basic needs and to live? We've been doing it for millions of years. Is the answer just that life is hard and then you die? Is this how it's always been?

I do not know.

I do not know if I am making the smart/right decision. We do not live in a society where healthcare is working. I'm not sure our medical education system is working. We are doing (as we have always done), the Best that We Can Do and I don't know if it's enough. I have looked out the windows on the interstate as I drove through the South from New Orleans to Kentucky, I have looked at the angry statuses my friends post on the internet, I have looked at the newspapers and the streets and the people and I have thought There must be a better way to live.

how do iron filings orient when there is no magnetic field? how are we, how am I, when there are no expectations to fulfill?

At nights here I stay home. On my subbversive streak I've been rereading Dhalgren, a book I feel privileged to have read once, a book I could spend the next four years reading and still not understand. "I've got a theory now--freedom. You know, here--" Loufer says to the Kid, "you're free. No laws: to break, or to follow. Do anything you want. Which does funny things to you. Very quickly, surprisingly quickly, you become-- [...] --exactly who you are."





---
*"That’s a full 15.5 minutes the average American spends on Facebook every single day."

12:01

Aug. 23rd, 2010 12:02 am
abigailnicole: (dreams)


When I was 14 my history teacher described a movie he had seen, unable to recall the name. "You would know it, Nicole," he said. It was requiem for a dream. I haven't seen it, but it is the type of movie I would see, in that whole classroom only I would have, but I still don't know why Muncy singled me out.

Last night before falling asleep I has the strangest sensation. In that half-dream state an old woman walked up to me as I knelt in the darkness. She placed her hand on my forehead and pushed me over. It was the sensation of falling that woke me, the kick, the moment when you lose all control.

I'm not sleeping well yet

All the words I want to say come rushing out in my sleep, I see so many images and gain no meaning from them. I imagine running into old friends I haven't seen in a while, hugging them in a crowded street. I see myself stranded in a bar in south america, pleading for a phone line, calling you, Amanda. I am lost, I am a stranger here, get me back home, I say, but the connection is broken before you reply.

Tonight I rode my bike home in the pouring rain, holding a hand to my face to shield my eyes. It was light when we left campus, a drizzle that thickened before we hit willow, left me soaked and squinting at traffic. When we got home Evian and I stripped down and jumped in the pool in our underwear, turned on the light to give the water that magic green cast, like some alien home. Between the purple-storm-light sky and the neon water it was magic, floating on our backs, watching a lightning storm, while our neighbor played loud big-band jazz. "I didn't know this was on my bucket list but I can cross it off now" I told Evian.

"I'm really glad I decided not to live alone," she said.

Later we watched Mad Men with Bailey, drank coffee, I baked cookies and we ate the leftover dough. After mad men it was star trek, with Evian in Faine's pink snuggie, the rain intermittent and keeping us calm. I am far from home but I watch the stories of my mother with my girlfriends, I am a stranger here myself but I have inherited furniture that has been loved, I may be soaking wet but I am not alone.

I am grateful for all of these things.
abigailnicole: (not envy)


in atlanta again. doing the lat night blog post thing from a different house. every time I spend the night in an unfamiliar place I want to write you all a post describing the experience, just in case it isn't repeated? I want to remember all the nights I spend in strange beds far from home.

today we drove through atlanta for two hours, in bumper to bumper traffic. in times like this the waiting is useless and there is no conversation and bad radio music. I think I alternately slept and listened to Repo, which set off a chain of events beginning with an insatiable urge to call Evian and sing: "I'M INFECTED---BY YOUR GENETICS!" into her voicemail (which I didn't do for fear she'd answer and there would be an awkward, 'I-wanted-your-voicemail' pause) and culminating in me listening to this soundtrack seven times. It...grows on you.

It's a love/hate movie, definitely, not something you can see and just say: "oh, okay, I appreciate this but not my thing" no. love/hate. and people either love it or hate it for the same reasons. I saw it and immediately said THIS COULD BE THE GREATEST MOVIE (about an organ repossession man and his daughter) THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN EVER. the qualifier is both necessary and unnecessary. It's really not the greatest movie ever. The plot is kind of hmm? the characters tyical, the concept a bit ridiculous. But the mere fact of its existence is so important, the fact that there are people out there who can write music like this and a story like this and the costumes! the settings! The mere fact that it exists, when it defies all the entertainment-weekly sanctioned laws of culture, is so, so, so important to me. It's not even close to Rocky Horror but yes, it is the same.

It comes down to alternative lifestyle. Let's get this straight: I am not...that. I didn't like liberal arts summer camp because it didn't make sense, the things they advocated and fought for so fervently, the people were fair-trade shoppers and vegan but their attitudes were still closeminded. I think I've said this before--they couldn't understand why anyone would ever have voted for Bush, which is just---foolish, I guess, I can't think of a better word. Why would you be that elitist in your thinking? You're cutting yourself off from experiencing all that diversity you're so big on. But at the same time I am not a right wing conservative anything, because that doesn't make sense either, for reasons all the people reading this blog already understand (as you are all liberals except JR). It is important, and on the whole I tend to think conservatism is the more prudent course of action when no solution readily presents itself. it's human nature: be cautious and proceed slowly, testing one variable at a time. this is all common sense stuff.

And there are certain traditions within that. I am big on personal responsibility. If you want to get married, get married, that's your choice and your decision, I don't really care. (this is...mostly my gay marriage stance, by the way. If you are gay and want to get married, fine, whatever. I understand that 'marriage' has a certain connotation associated with it, but if civil unions give you the same rights under a different name...? I know in many places they don't. But in both cases, we're arguing over....symbolic semantics. Marriage is a symbol, sure. But the symbol itself doesn't guarantee the relationship and having a guaranteed, long-lasting relationship between two consenting parties that is a healthy environment for both (or more) parties really is a marriage, regardless of what you want to call it or what the government says. really, less government control the better, and this is true for just about everything.) But I digress. damn, what was my original point.

anyway, my real, first original point was on the thought of the house.

If you read my delilah story--1522 St Joan Ave--then you know about the house idea, the Party house. Amanda started this story but it wasn't her idea. I have wanted to live in a giant house with all of my friends ever since I was eight years old. And I wrote that story as sort of a wish-fufillment for me, because I do want to live in a giant old house where it doesn't matter if Hannah draws pin-up girls on the bathroom walls or I write haikus across my ceiling. I have this idea that things don't have to be nice to be meaningful. Taking in cast-out things. Taking in an old abandoned house and making it beautiful by virtue of the love and effort you put into it, even if it's not conventional, even if it "degrades" it in society's eyes by lowering the property value or whatever. But LOVING it is important. RESPECT. I don't mind people sharing my house, my fridge, my dorm room---but I make the mistake of overestimating people, I assume that people respect their friends and their friends' property because I do. And that is why this wonderful house idea will not happen, not the way I want, not in the way I imagine it and in a way that's workable and will ever happen. Ideas differ. People...don't respect things. The pin-up girl in the bathroom would get a moustache scribbled on her, the haikus would be replaced by 'fuck's in true Holden Caufield fashion. And that, to have that dream of my...Utopian community, I suppose...ruined like that, by those kinds of people, is worse than never realizing that dream. Is it better to have a dream you know is impossible or try to realize it and have it ruined for you? It's why I'm letting the Delilah house live on in fiction only.

Houses are important to me. A house prompted this post, my uncle's house. House of Leaves, for that matter. Being at home in my own house makes me think about living space, about the arrangement of Objects in Space and color and how houses are just representations of things inside you. I like old houses with irregularly-sized doorframes and big locks and narrow stairs for the same reason I like getting hand-me down clothes: it is something old and already lived-in that someone else has loved and is used to being a home, used to being worn. It takes a bit of work but that's just a chance for you to put a piece of yourself in it, just like the people before you put a piece of themselves in it as well. This is human heritage and tradition being passed down via material objects.

that also could be why I journal and photograph and create so obsessively. my heritage passed on through material objects.

my journal for 2008 is almost done. I have 37 pages left in my notebook for this year. That is a lot of pages to fill in three days, but thirty-seven is my lucky number--it is my birthday, 03/07. and both numbers are fairly significant biblically speaking. also they are both prime, for that matter all three are prime. 3, 7, 37. If you would like to, I would like it if you have any quotes/poems/cartoons/things that you would suggest as a good 'end of 2008' finishing to this notebook.

then it's time to start anew on fresh pages with fresh pens. 2009, here we come.

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Nicole

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