The End Of Medical School or When One Door Closes, You Go Into A Worse One

October 16, 2014

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A few summers ago, I gave birth to a slippery, ornery baby and then immediately moved that baby and four-ish boxes of thrift store dinnerware to Hershey, Pennsylvania so my husband could start medical school.

I have talked about being married to a student before.

For the most part it is fine. I could tell you a bunch of stories about suppers going cold or putting babies to bed by myself, but most of us have similar married-with-kids battle scars and I don’t want to be boring. And really, navigating marriage and motherhood while one person is in medical school isn’t that bad. It’s like anything else: suffer, adapt, overcome, wine.

Today Austin has his first residency interview. Tomorrow he’ll have another, and for the next few weeks and months we will drive up and down the East Coast and put on our best faces so that we might be THE CHOSEN ONES. This is a step I should be excited about, but instead I feel uneasy and generally despondent at the end of what will most likely be the easiest and fondest step of the becoming a doctor experience.

To avoid the confusion exchanged at every single extended family gathering since 2009, I have provided this timeline for your convenience.

11 Easy Steps To Becoming El Doctoro

Step #1—> Attend undergrad and spend six years realizing you don’t want to do graphic design. ✓
Step #2—> Take MCAT ✓
Step #3—> Apply To Med School and have nervous diarrhea for six months waiting for interviews and acceptance letters ✓
Step #4—> Start med school, spend first year frantically studying and making flashcards ✓
Step #5—> Spend another year with flashcards, develop ulcers ✓
Step #6—> Begin third year of med school and spend a year coming home late. To keep things interesting, have another baby ✓
Step #7—> Finally make it to the last year of med school when it is acceptable to mill around while applying to residencies. Spend life savings on applications, testing, and interview wardrobe ✓
Step #8—> Graduate, move, spend one year working whenever eyelids are open
Step #9—> Four Years of Radiology residency
Step #10—> One year fellowship in Interventional Radiology
Step #11—> Turn 40 and get first paycheck big enough to starting paying $300,000+ loans

This March, Austin will participate in what’s called “match day,” a ludicrous ceremony where nervous med students sit in a dimly lit room together and simultaneously open letters dictating their future while local news hovers and spouses sob happy and/or sad tears.

Then he will graduate and begin the six year journey to becoming an interventional radiologist, which is just a fancy way of saying he’ll be studying for a very long time.

We may move, we may not. It is all up to interviews, test scores, and a magical computer that says this person goes here and that person goes there and it doesn’t matter what the wife wants. No matter what, we’ve made a wonderful life here and it’s always hard to let go.

I will be sure to keep you abreast of our next move. In the meantime, I’ll be instagramming charmingly filtered photographs of Baltimore to convince myself I wouldn’t be murdered there and writing multiple essays on the art of moving forward. Let us not forget the wise words of my friend Mary who said, “Home is where the heart is, but dear god don’t let us end up in Jersey.”

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Is God In The Basement? (And Other Questions)

October 15, 2014

A few years ago, I wrote a new-mom post worrying about the future spirituality (or lack thereof) of my kids. At the time it seemed important to “take a stance,” because that’s what you do when you have a first baby, but urgency quickly faded to apathy and our little family fell into a blank, agnostic rhythm.

For my husband, this is a non-issue. His emotional ties to a faith community have long been severed and replaced with a cheerful indifference for anything religious. He prefers to think of God as someone who is definitely there, but not necessarily a #blessings genie or someone influencing natural disasters and mono outbreaks.

I was fine with that avenue until our three-year-old son came home from his little Christian pre-school asking, “What is a God? Is he in the basement?”

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Sending our heathen toddler to a Christian preschool wasn’t overly intentional. The price was right, as was the walking distance and small town feel. I thought, “What’s the harm? Jesus is great! Let’s sing some songs!” I knew it would prompt some questions, I just wasn’t prepared for them to be so quick and specific. For example:

– What is a God?
– What is his real name?
– Is God in the basement?
– Does he swim in the ocean?
– Does he eat the fish?
– Are there lots of gods?
– Why is amen before lunch?
– Is heaven inside me too?

I was left stupefied by these questions. My mouth hanging open, faced with my own lack of spiritual depth and understanding.

This may sound like an intro to a fireside testimonial, but I assure you it is not. I’ve written quite a bit about the back and forth struggle of wanting to be part of a faith community while simultaneously being repulsed by the thought of fake smiling through another misogynistic pastor’s description of marriage.

The truth is, I think we were hoping our kids would eventually and semi-romantically “figure it out” themselves. You know, see the world, study some Hebrew, walk through the deserts and eventually land on some kind of educated and liberal sweet spot that allows for a lot of kindness toward mankind. Of course that is very hard to relay to a three-year-old who is wondering if there is a man named God literally hiding in the basement.

I almost didn’t write this post because this is not a “faith blog,” I am not a “faith writer,” and this topic can be polarizing. But from my experience, I am not alone in my struggle to introduce a faith perspective without forcing a religious agenda. Weeks after the initial onslaught of questions, I finally sat down with our son and explained what I knew about God. I said God is love, keeping us safe (I hope), and probably in the basement but not in a scary way. I said if he’s worried or sad or happy or bored, he can talk to God and that’s fine too.

This seemed to temporarily satisfy everyone.

Understandably, there are a lot of folks who would disagree with this approach, and that’s okay. Spirituality is a very personal and complex tomato that tends to bring out our deepest insecurities.

Here’s what I know for sure: God is love. God is light. If there’s anything we cling to, let it be grace. Grace for ourselves, grace for each other, grace for the pharisees crying hate in the name of Jesus because they probably had bad childhoods and anyways we’re just as guilty.

If I teach my children anything about faith, I hope it’s the understanding that we’re all capable of bringing great light and great darkness into this world. And it’s when we choose light that we choose God, and that’s always a good thing.

May we hold each other in the light.

May we try our best.

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