I’ve spent the past couple of weeks working at a wildlife hospital. It was a fairly long drive to make, but everyday I would park my car amongst the trees and step out to the faint smell of bushfire in the air, and that made it all worthwhile. This was a not-for-profit wildlife rehabilitation center that was run entirely by volunteers. I would admit any injured wildlife that was brought in, assess them and treat them to the best of my abilities, and refer to a private veterinary hospital if it was a case I could not handle, or if the patient required further diagnostic work-up (radiographs etc), or surgery. As there was no on-site vet, the onus of making decisions regarding treatment plans and euthanasia considerations often fell on me. This was both good and bad because it forced me to be more decisive and to have more confidence in the clinical decisions I made, but also meant a lot of sleepless nights worrying about possible misdiagnoses, and that I wasn’t really learning as much as I could have because there would be no senior vet there to correct me if I were wrong. I spent some days in the lab looking at faecal samples with a microbiologist, and others rushing around the hospital administering treatments and euthanising patients with very poor prognoses. All in all I think I learnt a fair bit, and feel like I have made a minor but practical contribution towards wildlife and conservation. It was also really good for me mentally, I think, to take a step back from my usual high-stress environment and re-connect with the side of medicine that I love.
I’ve been spending all my free time (and also time I probably could not afford) hiking, camping, star gazing and climbing over the past few weeks. I have learnt to not let a lack of company stop me from doing the things I love, and to care less about what people might think of me – because chances are they probably don’t think of me at all. I’ve been taking myself out for hikes and stopping my car to watch beautiful sunsets. I’ve been pushing my comfort zones and forcing myself into situations that require me to socialise with new people. And I think I am getting better at it – or getting better at not hating it. It is back to the daily grind of rotations and exams and I am as behind on sleep as I am with my studies. My muscles are sore, my finger tips are bleeding, my shoes are caked with dirt but my heart is a bit more full than it was before.
I am grateful for novel experiences. I am thankful for friendships old and new.
Gods grace and abundance is so evident in my life- that when I am at my lowest I feel His love wash over me. I am not worthy but He shows me otherwise. When I am at my weakest, I know I can find strength. And it is only through His strength that I can succeed.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
I have come to accept that the older you get the harder it becomes to form genuine bonds with people and forge meaningful relationships. I don’t think I am bad with people. I work as a math and stats tutor in my university, my entire job revolves around speaking in front of a lecture hall full of students and bonding with them weekly during class. It can’t be that I am inherently shy if I’m never worried about speaking up. And it can’t be that I simply don’t know how to talk to people because I do think I do quite well with the past 4 semesters of students I have worked with- all of whom started out as strangers.
So why then, do I feel extremely confident in certain groups but not others- say, the friends of my boyfriend. I have always come up with the reasoning that we are just too different people. My entire life during the semester revolves around working and studying (because how can it not when vet school is so intense). Failing is not on the cards for me because my school fees are $47,000 yearly and I literally (not just figuratively) don’t think I could afford to repeat a year. For them it is different, they have half the hours of classes I do and a quarter of the fees to pay, and can invest their time in the more fun side of life: parties, lots of hanging out and the occasional narcotic. We are very different people because I have never smoked or gotten drunk or been in a club, and those are their weekly rituals.
But surely it cannot just be because we lead different lifestyles, like I mentioned, I never have a problem with talking to my students, and all of them are doing different courses and lead different lives from me. I find myself having a hard time deciding if I am an introvert or an extrovert; if I suck at forging friendships or just don’t try hard enough anymore. Mostly I find myself asking if there is a difference and if it even matters at all anymore.
I think I have come to realise that there isn’t a cookie cut label you can tag yourself with. I don’t think I was an extroverted kid that grew to become an introverted adult. I think it is just that as adults we have had 20 odd years or more to forge our own ideas and perceptions of what makes an individual fun or interesting and worthy of the effort it takes to form a friendship. Time matters more and more the older you get and you don’t want to waste your time trying to bond with people you don’t think you really enjoy hanging out with, or will actually successfully form a bond with. I think I do take quite liberal chances with people, and I try never to let the fear of awkwardness get in the way of establishing or re-establishing bonds. If a stranger or a forgotten friend sent me a Facebook message I am always one to reply. But first and foremost there must be a mutual interest, I think. And that is what is lacking; a friendship can only be formed when both parties think the other is worth the time. And that is shaped mostly by our thoughts and what we perceive to be fun, successful or interesting. So maybe the very simple reason I find it easy to befriend strangers in certain scenarios and hard in others is that we are too different. It is nobody’s fault. And I should stop beating myself up about it.
I have been overwhelmed with love at a point at which I felt I had none. To every single one of you who have texted me, stayed on the phone for hours with me, or even deposited truck-full of chocolates and rainbow socks at my house, thank you. I’ve had people tell me that their heart broke with mine, and I’ve had family who stayed up all night because they were sick with worry about me. I had friends I hadn’t talked to for up to 5 years contact me again, out of the blue. I even had my brother tell me he wished he could take my place in all I’m going through. Thank you. If something had to be arise out of the pain and emptiness, it would be this. Not a sudden deposition of love, but a realisation that I am surrounded by people who want only to prop me up when I can’t myself stand: of all that I had but never saw. It is only when your own light is extinguished that you see the many other lights of varying distances from you, that are there to guide you.
I do feel lonely, but I know I am not alone. I will get through this because I must. As Walt Whitman said: “These are the days that must happen to you.” I know not the reasoning for this, but I know there is a reason, and for now, that is enough. That God has your back, that will always be enough. What lasts, lasts. And what breaks, breaks. Perhaps in months or years we will both be in love again. And perhaps it would be with each other, and perhaps not. For so long I thought the greatest fear in love would be losing the love from the person who holds your heart. But now I know that the deepest fear and dread is that we never stop loving them.
I feel an unexplainable joy today, so much joy I can’t contain it. I think I had been depressed for a bit the past week- I allowed myself to be so overwhelmed with the stresses of school and mundane matters that I ended up breaking down into tears whenever I comprehended the thought of school. Which is strange, because school has been great, I have good friends and interesting lectures. Thank you, Liam for being there; you are my rock. I need to rely less on myself and trust God in these matters, that has hitherto never let me down.
SO I shall tell you about some of the happier stuff that have been happening. I landed in Perth at 1am on Valentines day and walk out of the airport terminal to find the most wonderful boy waiting, rose in hand. He put us on a boat and off to Rottnest we went where I got to meet Quokkas for the very first time! And, you can only see them on this particular island, so I was very taken away by it. I was, sadly, quite unwell, and couldn’t really snorkel, swim or bike much- as had been intended. But it was still a very lovely day
Upon coming back to mainland Perth, I started running a raging fever that tormented me for a few days but I soon got nursed back to health (You will not believe how difficult it is to get a doctor here!) We got assigned a greyhound cadaver per group in school (Courtesy of the dog racing industry: thousands of greyhounds get put down every year as by-product of our sick pleasures- Please don’t support it.) We named our cadaver Freddie, who will be with us for the next 7 weeks of weekly dissection or so. I also got to meet and palpate a live greyhound, and I am in love- I now want a Border Collie AND a Greyhound in future. I have many hours of school (quite above the average!) and 3 labs a week. It is draining but rewarding. I have yet to get back to climbing, but have since associated myself with a wild tumbleweed, hugged a tree, nursed my sick boyfriend (who fell victim to stomach flu right after I got better!) and buried my friends in the sand. I have also gotten stung from the knee down by jellyfish and had to go to a fish and chip shop to spray myself down with vinegar (discreetly) much to the distress of Liam who I bet secretly yearns for the opportunity to pee on me.
I have been making new friends, I finally met Evelyn who is very lovely and easy to get along with. I have been getting to know my classmates better (though there still is an unfortunate segregation between the Asians and the locals- which I hope we soon get past!) Tomorrow we are going crabbing and I will meet some people I have only befriended and been associating with through text, so I’m looking forward to that. Also, I’ve a new house mate and we get along quite well. So thankful for that too.
I am still super far behind on my studies, but I think I need to count my blessings more because it is very nice to be alive.