Excerpts from a conversation I had with a brilliant new friend:
“I used to get anxious a lot about patients dying and not knowing what to do in any given situation. but actually, it’s rare to be someone that knows everything, and it’s comforting to know even your seniors can be fallible too. Nihilism/ fatalism to some degree helps as well; though you never want bad things to happen to your patients.
Some say our own worst enemy is ourselves; but that demon is fuelled moreso by external commentary. Still, external commentary can only ever affect you by proxy, since ultimately it’s only ourselves that determine the gravity of our own psychology.”
Forgive yourself for the things you did not know before you learnt them.
I was having a conversation with someone the other day pertaining to politics and the role of religion in shaping one’s political opinion. I wondered aloud whether our differing theological views could contribute to any strife we might have in future, to which he replied “I don’t think so – I haven’t really seen it (Christianity) manifest in you”. Hearing that was like a slap to my face, after all the worst thing you could hear as a Christian is that you aren’t very Christ-like.
It took me a few minutes to process what he had meant by that, and I realised that to me, the manifestation of Christianity is love and patience and altruism learnt from being unconditionally loved by God. But what he had meant by that statement was that I was open-minded, tolerant of views different to my own and capable of reasonable debate. And it really saddened me to see what he thought Christianity was. Ignoring the sign-touting, hate-spewing extremists that plague every religion (after all, assholes will always exist regardless of what group you belong to), I think that there is a general defensiveness to modern day Christians. I think it is a brilliant thing that there is greater discussion, awareness and acceptance of more left-wing or radical ideas, even if I do not agree with them all. But I can see how this may feel threatening to the church. However, I don’t think being defensive will help anyone better understand Christ.
I don’t think it is our right to be offended when people reject Jesus. I often remind myself that a Muslim or a Hindu may believe in their faith as deeply as I do in mine. So who am I to tell them that they are wrong? I certainly wouldn’t appreciate them telling me what to believe in. I think it is important to bring people to Christ, but I think it is most important to do that through our actions; by quietly loving people, and being forgiving and gracious. I have a long way to go to become the kind of person I would like to be. But frankly, I think God doesn’t need defending to other people, I believe that the bible is the truth – my truth – and that God is perfect, and in His perfection, there is no need to defend or explain His word. We do not need to defend God against people, but we should represent him to people. Defensiveness stems from fear, not faith, and as Christians I think the only defensive front we need to take is to defend ourselves to God: to be able to justify our decisions and actions, and how we treat others and deal with situations in our lifetime. As John 3:17 says, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
I often say “I should have gone to med school instead”, but last weekend for the first time in my life I meant it. I’ve wanted to be a vet since I was 9 years old, and I gave up everything to chase that dream. It was the only thing I have ever wanted to do, despite the low wage, lack of recognition and high suicide rates. But final year has broken me.
I am absolutely drained, not simply of energy but also of passion and conviction. Hard as I try I cannot will myself to pick up my books and study for yet another exam. I’ve recently been contemplating the idea that it simply isn’t worth it. All that effort put in and abuse taken, and almost half a million dollars in university fees, for a lifetime of shitty pay and a lack of recognition. To get told you aren’t a real doctor; that you don’t save real lives. No one becomes a vet for the money. But given the work and effort we put into it all, the massive discrepancies with regards to income and social recongition for the human and veterinary medical profession does get to me.
I’ve calculated that I have been made to work 130 hours over the past 2 weeks on my equine rotation. I know that to register as a vet you need to know about all the different species, regardless of whether you intend to ever work with them in the future. But it is an unrealistic expectation for students to remember every bit of information they had learnt over the past 6 years – especially when they are worked to the bone during the day and have little time outside of work to revise the material. I struggle with equine medicine, having never grown up around horses and having little interest in the subject area, and I got put down everyday for it: told I wasn’t good enough; and that I would make a shitty doctor. On a rainy saturday night I was involved in a minor car accident. I was ok, but my tyre had blown out. I hadn’t a tyre iron with me, and after getting some help from a friend, realised that my spare wheel was flat too. I emailed my supervisors saying that I wasn’t able to make it in time for morning treatments on sunday due to my circumstances, and was met with the cold reply that I should have ubered into work regardless. I think that was the breaking point for me. I called my mom sobbing and spent the next week endlessly worrying that I would be failed because of circumstances that were beyond my control.
I promised myself that regardless of my position in the future – if I ever make it as a specialist surgeon – that I would remember what is was like to be me right at this moment, that I would always treat my peers with respect and compassion. That I wouldn’t allow the stress and pressure get to me in such a way that I became destructive to the dreams of others.
When people meet me they say “Wow you must really love animals to choose veterinary medicine”. But in truth it is because I don’t like people. A dog bites because it is fearful and a lion kills because it is hungry. But we have an ability to be unkind despite intelligent reasoning. It is unkindness without a cause.
Come to think of it, the things that have been getting to me lately have been due to the words and actions of people, rather than my work with the animals. My faith in people (and myself) is broken, but my yearning to help animals remains unchanged. So maybe I don’t actually mean it when I say I should have gone to med school instead. And maybe this isn’t a dream I should give up on just yet.
If there is order to this structured chaos it lies only in cathartic release.
I have been working 11 hours a day – and 3 weekends in a row. Next week I go on to emergency/ after-hours whereby I am expected to be on the floor from 10pm – 8am within the small animal hospital, or 4pm – 8am if I am on an equine shift. To say I am exhausted is an understatement. I have been fore-going sleep in order to maintain my social life as much as I am able. Last friday night some friends from church and I handed out dinner to the homeless on the streets then caught up over ice cream. And despite having to work in the morning over the weekend, I spent my afternoons reading at the beach and having wine and cheese and learning about sailing from some new friends. I am absolutely exhausted, and I probably look just as terrible. But things will be ok – I will take them as they come.
I haven’t really had time to read for leisure very much, or to write. So here are some sad lines from literature that touched my heart – even though I am not particularly sad at the moment. I think that whilst sadness shouldn’t be romanticised and placed on a pedestal, it is something that must be acknowledged and embraced. There are few emotions that we will feel as often, as deeply or as tangibly in this life, so surely learning to embrace it like an old friend would make our journey on this little blue dot just that much more meaningful.
“Tonight I can write the saddest lines. I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.”
– Pablo Neruda
“She vanished without a trace, swept away by the flow of time and it’s flood of people”
– Haruki Murakami
“It’s strange. I felt less lonely when I didn’t know you.”
– Jean Paul Sartre
“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on. I hope you never have to think about anything as much as I think about you.”
– Jonathan Safran Foer
“We’re each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark?”
– Ursula K. Le Guin
“Your only problem, perhaps, is that you scream without letting yourself cry.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
“I didn’t leave because I stopped loving you, I left because the longer I stayed the less I loved myself.” – Rupi Kaur
“I hid my deepest feelings so well I forgot where I placed them.” – Amy Tan
People often say that the saddest word is “almost”: the notion of things that might have been; of opportunities missed and words unsaid: of regret. But there are so many ways in which “almost” is happy: “He almost did not survive the night”, “I almost decided not to go to the party where I met you”, “I almost lost the courage to call.”
I therefore think the saddest phrase is “It should have been you”. It is heartbreaking no matter which context I put it in. Whether walking down the aisle with the wrong man, or a mother grieving the loss of the son she cared more for.
Sunrises are most bathed in glory
When taken in with another hand in yours
But my dear the sun will still tomorrow rise
Even if watched by only one set of eyes