Dear Past Eugene,
Reading your message gave me more strength than I had anticipated. The past few weeks have been challenging in ways I could not have predicted. I recall reading the letter about two weeks ago, after an anxious morning and a feeling of overall dread. It had been quite some time since my last brush with anxiety and panic.
In its wake, I thought, who should I call, who could take this load from me? I decided to open the time capsule and listen to myself from a year ago, rather than speak to someone now. Reading my own advice served a potent medicine to my frayed nerves.
You mention the practice of letter-writing and reaching out to people. I wish that I had kept this habit. I know that I have withdrawn from my friends. We attended Adam’s wedding this weekend, and while it was lovely to see college friends and understand the varying paths we have chosen, it also hurt to realize that I don’t keep in touch. Medical school can only take so much blame. Maybe this isolation was a root cause of the anxiety.
Now, a full year after writing the letter, life is far more different than I could have imagined. No two dogs, just a cat and an Andre. The mornings are cold and I’m reveling in the brisk showers. No longer grappling, but I do long for time on the mat. Finished Internal Medicine and more than halfway through Neuro/Psych. Surgery up next.
I miss the days in Florida. I try to spend my time in the Pennsylvania sun, but the days are short and getting shorter. I miss the simplicity of the classroom, even though I grumbled and griped all the way to Step One. I feel nostalgia for the small apartment, just our partner and some plants. And lots of passing cars.
I don’t miss living in Florida, except that our parents were close. Instead of the occasional trip to Jacksonville, we now have the monthly family video conference calls. These check-ins light up our parents. It’s nice to see our siblings.
Thank you for spending the time to write to me. These messages mean so much more than I could expect. Reading my own advice is good medicine. Now, to actually follow through.
Dear Future Eugene,
I hope life is treating you well. I hope that the fourth year blues have come and gone. Maybe they are still there. In which case, remember the greyhound that chose to pursue the rabbit. Maybe you are still on an acting internship, somewhere out west. Maybe you are back in Coopersburg, with your partner or Andre, or maybe alone.
I hope you are still passionate about Psychiatry. The medicine you want to practice, the vision that you have for the future, will challenge yourself and stir up feelings in those around you.
Remember that doe? The one you found by Muhlenburg on that cold, odd morning? Remember how many feathers you ruffled when folks heard that you planned to eat roadkill? You couldn’t convince them otherwise, their opinions and feelings locked in such a place that you cannot reach them through logic or reasoning. How many of these reactions have you encountered over the past year? How many people cannot understand what you want to accomplish? How much misunderstanding have you had to bear?
I hope that you have had a successful hunt. Between your first afternoon in a tree and the day of processing with Michael, you’ve put together the skills necessary to stalk, kill, and harvest an animal. Now, you need the confidence in yourself and the patience to await your turn. Perhaps you’ve found another roadkill, or two. Perhaps those around you will never truly align in your vision. In some ways, they shouldn’t.
Remember, you are working for a different world for your children, and their children. Not for yourself. You have long-ago committed to the difficult road, one filled with insecurity and disquietude. Turmoil and brawl. As long as you can still laugh and play with your partner, things will flow.
The path forward is not for you. It is for others.
Long Form Sundays
- On my love for the physical exam (or halfway through Neuro/Psych)
- On “Jim” (or a well-deserved death)
- On the chaos of life (or a stream of consciousness battle with writer’s block)