‘I am a doc, a foreign cuisine and corona happened!’ As the title says, it is a diary of junior doctor working in the UK during the pandemic. —I dedicate this diary to all those people out there who have been affected by COVID in many ways. Whether we accept or deny, we are now a part of history. This will be our narrative, these will the exact words that someday I’ll read to my grandchildren. I don’t know if my memories will be this fresh. So in caution, I have put them both on voice and on papers. -I dedicate these pages to all my Asian colleagues and colleagues overseas whose dream is to study medicine or work in the UK. I bring to you the truth of hardships and fruition of working in the NHS. Especially as a foreign doctor. I hope in my tales you will find some solace should you come to a state where everything feels overwhelming. Remember you are not the only one. I also hope you learn from my experiences the circumstances you need to avoid and the opportunities you need to pursue in your work/ career path here. – I dedicate these paragraphs to anyone struggling with alien feeling and identity crisis. Trust me, it will get better. At the end everything that matters is, ‘you’. You don’t have to belong to any group. ‘Be You’. You choose You. – To those ladies transitioning from 20s to 30s you are baes. Queens of the thrones. Don't lose your sparks! – I devote these words also to my patients whose stories, quirks and individualities inspires me, pushes me to be better and appreciate life as a whole everyday. – And finally, 'I am but the branch and a leaf of the same root’. I commit all all these words to my parents and the Gurkhas I grew up. Your stories gives me my voice and I aim to keep your legacies alive. I'm more than happy for you to burrow my stories for your children/grandchildren and add your own twist, should you feel you didn't have one to build; without grandparents, parents, or siblings of you own. Although I believe you perhaps have more… I had a dream. And for some strange reasons, I believe it was my calling.
My heart bleeds out watching footages of what is happening in Iran right now. Watching news of thousands of women, men and children brutally murdered in their fights for basic human rights of gender equality. #MahsaAmini (hashtag) is now circulating all over the internet with people from all over the world voicing their solidarity for the ongoing revolution. The wake of the movement that now floods the mountains & deserts , every nooks and corners of Iran began with death of a young woman named ‘Mahsa Amini’, allegedly whilst in custody of morality police who enforce a ‘dress code’ of wearing a veil; having found her hijab did not cover enough of her hair! Can you believe it?
Here I was discussing about rights of women to abortion a few posts earlier. Forget about rights of abortion. There are 2 persons involved in making of the embryo. If the product in your womb is a contribution of emotionally immature sexist bigot, even in today’s day and age, you are destined to lose that fight. You no longer have autonomy of control to what happens to your womb anymore in some countries. According to The New York times published on 08/11/22, at least 13 states have now banned the law of the constitutional rights to abortion in US… As women, we have lost so much control to our basic rights that even hair? Like letting down your hair down and not keeping it covered is a crime? That you could be sentenced to death for it? What can be so atrocious and sexually promiscuous about one’s hair? How can a woman be indecent on just showing it? I don’t understand.
I have grown up in belief that hair is a woman’s ornament. My grandmother used to say, ‘thick black and long hair, that is all you need to feel beautiful.’ A fresh flower in her hair bun at least every other day, is my memory of her face. ‘Do not ever cut it’, she used to tell me.‘You can trim it but do not cut it’. She wasn’t happy when my mom cut off my curls of rough rusty blackish brown hair when I was little, in a hope to grow it black. ‘Hair is woman’s ornament’ she said ‘you have taken that away from her’. Is it that all Iranian women now need to shave their heads and walk bald to make sure that their beautiful lushes don’t fall off on a show from their hijabs? What’s the next step. Do not keep your nails as well? One should be given a choice at least. Hair is a part of woman’s beauty. Compelling it to be forcefully hidden, I feel, is an ultimate dominance upon women kind. Does Iranian law have these restriction for men as well? Not just scalp, but beard and moustache included? In western world, hair industry is multi million business!
I donot think what is now happening in Iran is getting enough international coverage. I feel it is at these times our social celebrities like desperate house wives of wherever and kardashians, that the world looks up at as goddesses of feminine energy should step up. Step up their games, with their thousands of the followers to get the attention it deserves. Would really help instead of catty dramas 😅🙄 World now needs these women of influence and power. To stand at the platform to speak for women who have no voice.
It seems like a never ending circle. I don’t know how the world comes around to it again and again. You need your other half to complete your family, a part of circle of your life. A woman gave you birth. I am sorry if you never received a nurturing woman’s love as a mother, a sister or a wife. Had you have it, you would have understood their pain. And now your taking it out against every woman out there, driving terror and acting on madness. I am a spiritualist, not a religious person per se. But I know there is a name in every book of faith and religion for a beings like that, that is restless, in rage and lustful in bloods & vengeance against humanity; they are called ‘demons’. And there is a special place for them I am told, in the place of justice that sees right from wrong, a wolf from the sheeps and I hope, I pray for all the lives lost in these revolutions, for peace of their souls; that you rot in there, that you burn in never ending fire of eternal flame and you feel in each fibre in your body the pain you have inflicted to those you have depraved of love, family and even basic minimal rights of freedom a human born in this earth is entitled to.
After more than 70 years of reign on the throne, Elizabethan era has now come to an end with demise of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96, on September 8th 2022. Her successor Prince Charles has been crowned the new monarch with the title King Charles III as the head figure of the United kingdom and 14 other common wealth countries.
King Charles III has been stated to be the oldest king to ascend the throne in British history, which reflects well on late Queen’s good health, enthusiasm and dedication to her duties of the crown. 10 days of mourning period was announced for the nations to grieve their loss and bid their farewells. In good words. In words where her subjects sang of the pride and elegance she held herself with, of the smiles she brought in each of their homes supporting and encouraging them to stand for unity, with a face of a mother in soft spoken & polite voice but never faltering addresses to the world representing her people and the crown; as a force to be reckoned with.
‘She did well’, my mom said. And I nodded my head. In some ways, for us, she is a loss not only of a monarch of the lands but of a figure ‘the women in us’ look up to. In a world where we know how little our lives as women can make an impact and is valued, she stood like a burning flame of a mythical bird phoenix. Had their been a male heir on line of descent, she would have never succeeded the throne either at the time. She embraced her role. Needless to say, did it very well.
Prince Charles III does seem to have a big shoe to fill in with his royal image. Especially with his history with late Princess Diana and Prince Andrew still on public image as sex offender. ‘That happened under her rule. Can she have done something more?’, my friend is not so impressed of the hymns being sung . ‘I don’t know,’ is my answer. ‘Not every criminals are born to felons. Sometimes despite nurturing homes, despite royal status’. There is a big public scrutiny over every royal family members of the link. On that note, I am impressed by District court of New York. ‘No one should be above the law. ‘
‘Why are you in the kitchen? You are going to burn it down’. My mom used to say every time she saw me in our kitchen. To be fair in her part, I am someone who even burns tea. As in I’ll put something in stove, half an hour down the line, there is no sight of me and the vapour has evaporated, the residues of tea has stained yet another pot and I am on scrub duty for another half an hour.‘You have other things to do’, she would say. Always.
To this day I don’t know how to cook properly. I swear, until now when I go home, my sister packs me food of 3-4 days worth and sometimes, even takes days off or clears her schedule to grind in the kitchen for me. Hey! I can cook some things. But they just wouldn’t have me in the kitchen and, it has sort of become a tradition now to ‘scare’ me away as soon as I am spotted. Like they do to crows in my country when one spots in veranda as a bad omen.
‘You don’t need to learn this’, mom often said watching me paying attention to how she knits. ‘These are for people who don’t have work’. Used to watch grandma make mats out of maize corn covers. Imagine how cool it would have been, had I learnt. ‘Shoo shoo’ mom would flap her hands about motioning me to go away.
‘A woman’s life is very hard. You need to be able to stand up for yourself, go out in the world and make yourself a name & money. Go study. I am sure you have lot to do’- Mom
‘For you to be a successful my dear’ said one of my aunts. ‘Either you have to be a very beautiful or a very smart girl. Nothing in the middle would work. Anything average, you have to commit to average life of marriage & family. Days goes by and aspirations too then. To rise from it, you have to hustle everyday from now.’
Dad supported moms decisions. Coming from the environment they were raised where girls worked mostly on fields and were spoken for, for their first cousins by the age of 12 or 13. Their support was enormous. They prioritised our educations. ‘Anything that is best’, he used to say. One can never underestimate an image of a father in a patriarchal society. Having a husband, a presence of masculine energy in the household; name alone despite physical absentee offers a big emotional security to a woman and her family to plough through their days. This is a society where identity of a man grounds her & her children’s into a box that labels ‘socially acceptable.’ And this was a harsh reality both my dad and mom ensured ‘me and my sister’ knew from the very beginning.
‘When you seek husbands remember -A character of a man comes from virtues he was taught & from the environment he was raised at. Same is with girls. There is a saying in our village, a poor man’s daughter looks good by her face.A wealthy man’s daughter is good by her name. Choose the right man.’
It is confusing at times. The emphasis Mom seems to be putting now, on our success to be determined by the husband we’d land for ourselves when they raised us since we were kids as though we were boys, being reminded on multiple occasions our femininity makes us weak and we had to fight to be strong & independent to defend our lives and our rights as a human, as a wife and a mother someday. Shouldn’t our value be determined by what we have achieved so far than our partner’s social status? I am a little disappointed.
‘Nobody chooses a wrong partner because they want to. Mistakes happen. Divorce is okay. Single mom can raise children as well and do it right. You raised us almost by yourself you should know’. I speak gently trying to slowly ease her biggest fear that we might become single mothers and a ridicule target of society. ‘A house needs a man’s roof, protection & decision. I am not saying a woman is not capable but …’, Mom says.
Being raised under roof of strong men and women, I will not argue gender roles. A child needs both. By nature, we simply don’t have amenities to stand up to being both dad and mom in one. However, my mom comes from days when women endured a lot, including domestic violence and abuse from their partners because they were financially dependent on their husbands, had no means to get away and were forced to persist in loveless marriage by society. As strong headed as she is, she does have a unconscious bias having seen it as a norm that to an extent it is still normal and it is acceptable. Why?
‘Commitment speaks of your values, establishes you as a person of your word. That means something’. She says.
‘Ofcourse. And won’t we be lucky then. But there is a word called toxic relationship’.
In many parts of world including where I was raised, women are underprivileged solely because of the gender bias. A dowry is higher for a daughter who has more education and a job than those without. I would not be able to afford a husband in those communities. What good is relationship and partnership when it is signed before its birth with money?
‘It’s not easy. A woman’s life. And they will never let you have it easy either. So you should be your biggest ally. Only accept help when you need to. No shame in asking others for help. But a favour received is favour owed. Always hold your head high. If you have your reasons, if you are right, you hold your grounds no matter what.’
I do hope I have inherited some of my mother’s strengths and pray, none of her peculiarities. I do hope I also find a partner who supports & respects my decisions and stands for our ground together even though it meant turning down /fighting against the privilege he was blessed with. In my eyes, that would be a biggest sacrifice. I watch my dad cook and clean and it warms my heart. His friends would tease him saying ‘here you are being a house wife again’, but he never let it go to his head. I won’t say, he is an ideal of what every woman should expect but a quality in a person, who is thoughtful enough to say, ‘I can share the work and this is both our job’ is something everyone of us, every woman wants. There is a word called ‘conformity’ I came across in psychology. It is tendency of an individual to try to fit in the society. Not necessarily a bad thing, we are after all social animals. But I feel this nature drives a majority of men to believe that they are inherently superior beings to the other sex, authority and violence is therefore acceptable; and women to believe, they are condemned to this treatment.
Anyways, steering back to role of Queen in my life… In some ways, I have always been thankful to my dad’s recruitment into the army under her reign ; with her face in every coins they held in their hands. These weren’t silver coins alas that they traded for freshly pressed razor sharp bank notes in a bamboo woven trays. But, these were keys. To every locked door my mom closed down because of her insecurities. These were keys to her confidence in a new era where her daughters would indeed work shoulder to shoulder with men and be accepted not just for how they look or how much handy they were with household chores but for their skills & talents. Their heels here would never be sorely cracked or the palms be dry and roughened working on fields/labouring in factories trying to put food on table for the young. These were the keys she was always praying for, to the world of the Queen where she saw no daughters will ever be caged of their dreams and of the opportunities they wished they had. No, it wasn’t perfect. Oh the world is so far from being perfect for her daughters, but at least here she had strong hope. ‘My daughters will some day work in an office with people on fancy white shirts, they will have enough money to pay their own bills & buy their own houses. They will walk down the halls, down the roads with their heads held in pride while the world looks at them with respect, ‘look those are Mrs … daughters’, they will say. And they will be married to these men with most beautiful souls who will always keep them happy. ‘
So, my mom just recently returned from Nepal. She had flew off to the country as soon as the borders were open to travelling following COVID shut down and managed to secure herself a long awaited vacation by herself in peace without dad and us constantly nagging her in the background. As a souvenir she had brought us some waiwai noodles that we absolutely love and 4 gutted water frogs with their half open mouths and outstretched hands & legs that were completely sun roasted with their skin melted to their skeletons. She appeared very smug as she showed it to us holding them by legs almost as one would hold hot dog on a stick and passed it to me. I will be honest, they did appear crispier than a pork jerky but still had quite raw expressions of horrifying moment of death they were preserved at. Not realising in her moment of triumph that we have never seen this, she looked at us in disbelief and said ‘its hard to get these!’.
I had always wanted to try frog legs ever since I saw it in one of the episodes on ‘Travel and living’ channel. Apparently it is one of the French delicacies and is quite popular too as street foods in Asia like in Vietnam. YouTube bloggers who had it for first time compare it to being close to chicken but more juicy and delicious. Unfortunately this memory of mom showcasing her mummified frogs might have put me off from attempting to have that experience. I am pretty sure she was the hunter herself. Mom is opportunistic. Four is just too less of a number for her to buy. Makes me wonder, what kind of other adventures did she have in the village. She promises, they will never end up on our meals. I doubt so. There seems to be one for each one of us. I wouldn’t trust her words. It took me a couple of weeks to find out she has been filling my water bottles with snail water drinks. Apparently some one told her, ‘it is very healthy for gut’. She is the woman who was trying to buy 1 litre bottle of rhino pee from the Zoo determined to bribe the keepers having heard ‘it is being sold’ and ‘it has great health benefits’.
I remember once, coming home and finding grandma standing on our veranda also sun roasting one of the biggest slugs I ever seen in my life. It was pierced in so many directions with tooth picks, god bless, because she couldn’t find bigger skewers… Doesn’t surprise me, my mom is this way. Although it would be great not to have frogs, snail water as drinking water or rhino pee on a soup but hey what can one do right? But again if one of the chefs from lets say one of the high end French restaurants served me ‘would I say No?’. I don’t know.
No. I haven’t had slugs. I have had snails- as a cuisine. And honestly that was great. Hadn’t tried sea foods before until I came to the UK as Nepal is a landlocked country and, some other things. On that note, you never ask for a ‘beef momo’, you ask for ‘buff momo’ in Nepal. ‘Buff’ as in ‘Buffalo meat’ is quite commonly consumed. Please don’t ever ask for cow meat there.
We were laughing one day talking about these experiences about my mom’s weird habit with my close friend when her mom too admitted to her that when her and her sister were little and suffered from constipation, she would go to the old palace ruins to pick up slugs in Nepal. That would later be dried and their powder mixed into their soups. ‘It worked‘, she said. I guess it is not just my mom then, looking for home remedies. Similar to that story, one of my patients in her 80’s recently told me, when she was young and suffered from terrible constipation her mom would tear a cotton cloth, put a soap in it, soak it in the water and give her an enema. ‘It worked’, she said too.
I don’t know what works and what doesn’t to be honest. We can’t go on researching every myths they have out there, can we? Have you heard of all the things people have been doing for home remedy of COVID past years? My uncle and aunt apparently turmeric drinks were great to get rid of the virus. Listening to their story coming from Mom, I am not sure whether their COVID symptoms was severe diarrhoea or it was the concentrated turmeric drink they were taking for their symptoms that was making them go back and forth? Honey drink, tea and hot drinks I can understand. They have soothing effect on sore throat and help expectorate cough. Advised the same to my siblings when they had COVID and I could literally hear my mom roll her eyes in its bony vaults over the phone all the way from Nepal. ‘You don’t know what you are talking about’ she remarked. I wonder if it is a shared problem with every doctor’s in the world or just mine, my family members never seem to take my medical advice. If they did, mom wouldn’t be carrying dead frogs across the oceans in her luggage right?
Anyways, ‘People are drinking alcohol to fight with COVID. It is an antiseptic. So… ‘ A small glass of whiskey everyday on a supposedly based medical recommendation? I know where she is going with it. ‘There are herbal sprays and powders that you put in nose that gets rid of COVID even when you are just starting to develop symptoms’. ‘I don’t want you stuffing anything in your nose again Mom’, I tell her off appearing stern, reminding her of the time when I came back home to find her puffed with a swollen face- nose, mouth and eyelids salivating from one end of her mouth. There was a herbal product called ‘Nos’ in Nepal, I don’t know if it is still circulating around. Both my mom and aunt trialled it to help with their sinusitis problems. You take a sniff of it (reminded me of cocaine addicts they showed on TVs when they did it) and after some time, you start having excess nasal drainage. I don’t know what happened after few days, I swear she looked like the frozen sun-roasted toad she is showing me now.
I feel for people who are now suffering from long COVID symptoms who are desperate to try anything including and not limited to complementary medicines. A lot of our modern day antibiotics and treatment are a discovery or at least in part a derivative of these ancient practices. They have proven benefits in many cases however I would advise caution with any use. I read there are extensive frauds going on trying to sell a miracle cure for COVID, scamming thousands of people. One needs to be really careful in today’s day and age. My dad was at the bank while on the phone with a scammer about to transfer money!! From our last conversation about COVID medications, monoclonal antibodies called Ronapreve (casirivimab & imdevimab combination) has been now removed from treatment guidelines since it was found to be less effective against omicron variant which remains the dominant variant today with its BA.5 variant leading in numbers and some BA.4 variant cropping here and there. Paxlovid has been introduced a while ago which is a combination of Nirmatrelvir & Ritonavir in oral formulation. And I read, both Molnupiravir and Paxlovid are both being studied now under RECOVERY trial. Similarly stem cell therapies is other avenue that is being looked into.
I have now come out of training and do only part time shifts now and then to keep afloat on my rent and expenses. So I have to be honest, I have not and will no longer be keeping track of COVID while on my ‘career break’. I haven’t yet travelled. Thanks to my poor judgement on expenses on romantic and life decisions. Hahaha. Finally got myself a ticket. ‘Is covid still going around in Nepal?’ I asked her as soon as I got the confirmation email. ‘No one is scared of Corona anymore. Its Dengue in Kathmandu all over now. Make sure you are fully clothed top to bottom and carry insect repellents’.
So, on my last visit, my dad said to me ‘when you go back to Nepal, would you give a call or have a chat with our neighbour’s son who is also a doctor. I met his father and we had a talk. I said, I will let you know. You also know him. I think he was a few years senior to you.’
‘No, I don’t’. I replied, cautiously and also a bit surprised because it has been quite a while since any of my parents wanted me to meet someone. I did drop a hint some months earlier when I was with my ex that I might be dating someone outside our nationality and/or race. Mom wasn’t so keen to listen more after that but Dad sounded quite open minded at the time. ‘As long as this person is hard working, trust worthy and is a family person’, he had said. And oh boy was I glad at the time, cause honestly he ticked all the boxes.
‘Why don’t you give him a call?‘ I said to my sister, who is 2 years younger than me. Currently in a relationship with her long-term boyfriend of 6 years, also Nepalese. ‘Dad said you’, she replied ‘and you are older’. ‘But you keep asking me to fix you with doctors, here is your chance’, I insisted. ‘Whoever it is, I have said my daughter will keep in touch’. My dad answered putting a pause to our conversation. ‘He comes from a good family’. He said.
My sister looked at me and winked suggesting one of us should probably take the chance. Of course at this point we are not too serious to actually be invested on it, but unlike other times when we would absolutely be deterred by the conversation of finding a husband, this time we are not. Dad seems to have taken it as a positive hint and was quite glad he brought up the topic at right time when both of us were in the room. Sort of like, he was giving us the opportunity to speak up now if we were seeing anyone as potential partner. She was quite. My sister and boyfriend both haven’t introduced themselves to each other’s family and it is difficult to explain ‘but there are certain things’, that might make them both fail on their parent’s checklist, only a Nepalese would understand. And of course I was quite myself. A little relieved I suppose that my parents don’t know nothing about my previous relationship. Otherwise they would be hammering me constantly on talking about details and questioning on my decisions.
I didn’t take the name. But I did say to myself, ‘why not? No harm in talking right?’. Who knows, I might land in Nepal today and get married the next week. They say ‘marriage is in written in hands. When it happens, it happens.’ One of my best friends recently got engaged after just knowing the guy for few months. ‘You know how it is, we are from same culture and tradition. We understand each other, we know our expectations, our values match and we had a connection’, she said. I understand. I completely understand, now more than ever. Although I did comment ‘I still think it was too soon.‘ One of my friends who was brought up in UK but had a Turkish ancestry said, ‘I value my family and family life. I have so many cousins and extended family. It would be nice if she could be a part of it as well. If she was from other nationality with different beliefs, she would feel displaced at home.’
Problem is, it is like finding a needle in haystack, searching for someone who is your absolute fit. I will say, I did look into dating sites hoping to find an Asian match but there were more European faces than Asians! And ones that did have inclusively Asian population looked far too strict with their beliefs and criteria. And also sort of felt like, if you did start to speak to a person, you should absolutely be committed to the relationship. Be ready with a garland on your hand because soon you are going to be Missus from Miss… I don’t know why it gave me a little chills, I should be fine with that right? Because so far my dating history has been, ‘Go to a date and Woah! committed! My dating app doesn’t even last a week. Here 3 years for you, yeah am fine with ongoing 4 months with you.’
‘Don’t pick the first bag you see when you go shopping!‘ Mom says. Either I am being very lucky finding what I exactly want right away or I got problems.
‘Of course he wants me. He has been with so many girls. And now he knows, I’m a good girl and I make a good wife. But I feel like, I jumped too fast in this relation. I haven’t dated other people. I don’t know and I don’t think I’ll ever know if there is other person somewhere meant to be for me’. My friend vented her insecurity. ‘I don’t want to make a wrong decision. But its too late. Don’t jump in a committed relationship girl. I am telling you from experience’.
It seems like we are all worried about ‘making wrong decisions now days than deciding on our feelings. Would you blame us? ‘Everyone is traumatised at our age’, my other friend commented. ‘Something in their past, something from their previous relationship. I don’t know. Honestly I’d rather be alone. I am a modern woman yes but I also have traditional values. I want a man to be still a man, to make me feel protected, provide for me, be strong so that I feel feminine at least sometimes. I like being a woman. But the way it is going looking at my dates, they want me either to be their mother. I should have more or stable salary for them so they can take rest or not even work & support them financially. I am expected to cook and clean after I come back from my shifts while they sit on sofa and enjoy TV. On top of being a wife. Listening to them vent out constantly 24/7, support their mental health issues. Look pretty, keep the romance alive when they don’t even try. And that is if they even want kids. The idea of responsibility just knocks them out. And in case if they do, there’d be one more big baby I’d have to take care of. It’s all about them. What about us? Honestly all I need is a sperm donor. Even if I am in a relationship, he’d free to go out and have fun. It’d be just for a name sake.’
I suppose the conversation did take a little dark turn after sometime. Although I did kind of started laughing remembering Southpark Season 20 where Eric Cartman has this theory about ‘men being used to milk semen and write jokes in mars’ by women. Watch it. It’s very funny and that’s quite a dark sense of humor but looking at how situation is going on, I do agree most men and women, at least our age seem to be carrying out a lot frustration against each other.
We all got issues and we all got responsibilities. How much of your issues am I willing to make mine, depends on how much I am going to vest my energy on you? And how much will you vest on me? Of course one end is always shorter but to what extent? I look back sometimes and remember 2:00am calls walking at night from work to home. He was sleepy but he always wanted me to make a call. I suppose his end was always shorter but I did try too from my end. I did take 4 hours trains walking from stations to stations alone by myself after work hours, putting alarms in between so I don’t doze off and miss stations.
I guess what we all are looking for, is that right person our heart and soul truly wants to hold on to. And a reciprocation of effort. That men and women now days and our age, honestly are too scared to put. Without reciprocation, it only becomes an energy draining process.
There is a very good video circulating now in Instagram from Teal Swan where she says, ‘For people who have a hard time with boundaries and for people who call themselves empaths its actually the same childhood experience. It’s that in childhood you’ve got an unpredictable adult. And that, unpredictable adult whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, presents enough of a risk to you that you have to be hyper attuned. Because every move they make or don’t make , has some implication for yourself. So what a lot of people don’t like learning about emapths is that because of this traumatic type of childhood experience they learn how to pay hyperattention or hyper attune to anything in room that is not ok. That’s why you are never gonna meet somebody who’s got this thing who’s like ‘you know, I just love being around people, because I feel amazing,’. Cause they’re gonna walk in room and instead of attuning to person who is happy, they are gonna attune to the person who’s got the issue. Because that’s where the risk is. In case you wanna know why empaths always feel like crap. That’s why’.
I wonder if my choice are subconsciously skewed as well. Maybe I too have an empath personality that makes me attuned to looking at faces with stories. One forgets survival often comes with traumas. When I had first joined a dating app, I started chatting with this lovely guy who after a couple of days, called me crying, barely breathing saying he felt very depressed and he didn’t know what he was going to do that day.
Wonder if the answer is, we don’t look for someone like us. We look for someone opposite in personality. Someone that balances us out in some ways. I was very happy in my relationship with my ex. Despite our issues. Till this niggling feeling came around whispering ‘Is he really the one?’ And of course later came the major things I could no longer over look. Normally I would make my decisions with my heart and my brain. I have always been very cautious person all my life. But 4 months ago when I went on a date, I went by with an impulse. I did really feel maybe I did meet my match. ‘Take a chance’, I said to myself. Now I wonder whether it was the empath in me and I question whether I was really ready to be in a new relationship.
‘He will use you and leave you the second he is back up on his feet’, my friend warns me.
I absolutely adore this person. This person, I am dating. He is so smart, I can’t even understand half the things he says. He has been through so much, but he is still trying to do his best. He is strong, is a fighter, dreamer but he is lost at a difficult place. I am trying to be here for him as much as I can. But when he calls me from the pub at 02:00am from some place out of my reach talking about how he hates his life, sending me one or two words message only now and then between few hours, keeping me awake and anxious for his safety; I don’t know. I worry, I hope he doesn’t drive but when I hear women giggling on the background; honestly I don’t know. ‘Leave him’, I recall my friends say. For some reason, they all disapprove of him but the empath in me is reluctant to let go. A voice in me takes his side and says, ‘they don’t understand what he is going through, you know it well’. But when he tells me, ‘you had a very sheltered life didn’t you?’. I am speechless. I don’t deny it, I did. But he doesn’t talk to me because he doesn’t think I’ll understand. He is bitter, for some reason bitter to me.
In some ways I am a little worried now of my choices. What if I am predisposed without second doubt to pick up on certain personalities of people all steps of my life? I’d rather be alone. To protect my emotional health. To avoid emotional rifts coming my way, everyday. As one of patients said ‘All my friends got married. Some of them settled. I did not want to settle. Life is too short‘. I am scared. Scared shit! Apologies for the language. But how long do you stay scared for. At some point, you got to take a chance. For now, its a gamble. May be this is beginning of our love story or a start to another. Who knows? 😉 At least one thing is certain, I will no longer wait on things to happen waiting for my boyfriend/ partner to make his way on our plans. I will no longer look back and miss on the days I couldn’t attend the parties, the night outs, or the movie times. I will never miss out on ‘me’ time anymore because I am no longer a kind of person who invests too much on relationships. NO. I will keep living my life and keep my focus on life goals, if our plans align ‘you are welcome’. If not; Ciao, Adios!
Question is NOT ‘are you right for me?’. Question is, ‘Are YOU right for me?’
So August is here. Most of us had have our end of year evaluations and managed to pass out with flying colours. I did gloriously too with a little help of ‘Covid derogations’ application. Which basically means, some of the tick boxes I did not achieve this year did not not hold me back from progressing to next year because it was assumed that part of the training was affected by the pandemic. Example getting a certain number of clinics for the given year. Since a majority portion of our outpatient appointments are still functioning as only essential slots to avoid face to face contacts which would mean less learning opportunities for us.
Some have managed to find hospital accommodations to live in by now, some of the junior docs are still probably looking for mates to share a flat or the house. Hopefully still not living B&B to B&B or couch surfing at friend’s dragging a massive plastic bag of clothes living a hobo life. Lets see; a PJ, a blanket, a towel and 2-3 days of work uniforms? Sounds about right. Lets lump it all aside in one corner, everything in place just a few fumble away in a plastic bag. When you finish a row of night shifts at one hospital on the 2nd of August and are expected to work the same day for the next placement in an entirely new setup in a different hospital on the 2nd; you will be doing that too. But, worry not my friends. Soon you’ll have days when you will be sitting on a fancy restaurant on a fancy outfit having a fancy meal on your hard earned pay check.
ARCP as in ‘the end of year evaluation’ of trainees usually happens on last weeks of June or first few weeks of July. Nothing really to worry about if one is keeping in track with their portfolio and ticking checks left and right on number of cases, procedures, feedbacks and so on. But can be quite a struggle if you are not determined enough to sit down and work on it between or after shifts or have a dedicated few hours at least once a week just allocated to it. In a way for doctors in training in UK, we breathe our life in and out around our ‘portfolios.’ It is evidence to show career progression and without proof on it to back the competency levels, no one will pass the year.
‘Portfolio’ is quite a work. From my experience, more when you are new to the hospital environment; especially when you are new to the training system. It really helps if you are an extrovert and have great people skills but that does not mean introverts won’t get anything done. It will take you a little longer time to catch up on pace but you’ll get there. This year alone, we needed 12 people to sign us off in a category called ‘Multisource feedback MSF’ which is sort of like a character statement where our colleagues would be asked to comment on us on our communication skills, attitude, team player role, reliability/punctuality and leadership. These feedbacks will be from combination of people from different job roles apart from the doctors like nurses, pharmacist, health care assistants, physiotherapists, patient flow coordinators etc. We needed 4 multi consultant (MCRs) report on our performances, 4 ACATs (acute care assessment tool) where we present 5 cases each to our on-call consultants for our evaluations and additionally, 4 CBD(case based discussion) or minicexs-where we again discuss history, examination and management of each individual cases we saw in depth. On a rough estimate, by the end of year, those were at least 9-10 consultants we were following around in and out of our rotations to get our sign offs. The number maybe even more, if you are unable to get the same consultant to sign you off on multiple forms.
Undoubtedly it is going to be a tough year if you are under a sore eye of even one consultant, especially in a small DGH (District General Hospital). Trainees talk, trainers too. You’d be surprised how much of chitchats and dramas flows from floor to floor between meals, between clinics and between ward rounds. A whisper about a medical student here and it has reached a consultant’s ear on the other building top floor by the day’s end. Be careful of what you say and especially as a foreign trainee with thick accent ‘be careful of how you say it’. Control your pitch. Do some humming exercise if you have to. Control your flow of your speech, aim to articulate as distinctly as possible. Count seconds between words if you have to. And if its the pronunciation that comes out as naturally harsh expression not because you mean it but that is how you speak in your natural mother tongue language; for example if the words you are speaking is a throat sound which may not be as softer tone as from chest vocalisation almost a whisper like British people are used to… follow it with a big smile. Trust me watching that smile, adds a whole different meaning to the sentence you just spoke than listening over phone or without your facial expression on equation. There are other cultural aspects too to approaching a conversation that you will eventually learn as a foreign grad. For example it took me quite a bit time, to set the loudness of my voice to adjust to a conversation. Naturally I have a soft voice. In my culture, you always address your seniors with lower or softer voice. Being loud is considered a sign of disrespect. Now that in UK’s setting, may be perceived as lack of confidence. Children here are encouraged to speak up from a young age, there is levelling of hierarchy to encourage good learning environment. Confidence is about expressing thoughts, being heard and getting a feedback in some form suggesting given view was acknowledged. In setting I was raised and taught on, its unidirectional flow, almost always. I remember, during my initial days in the job in UK, I was being constantly asked to be louder when I was presenting or handing over. I often felt a little frustrated. It felt as though it was disrespect to me because I am being asked again and again to repeat myself. But looking retrospectively, I can see where the problem is. And as I tried to adapt, I started going the other end, practicing to be louder which I didn’t realise with my accent was posing another problem. I was starting to sound rude to people when all I was trying honest to god was to just dial my tone to right decibels. ‘Smile.’ Trust me, it works great as non verbal communication method to support gaps where you might be lacking. Although, I do have to let you know my high school teacher once said to us, ‘as girls/women one has to be very careful of how openly one smile at others. It might send a wrong message’.
It does makes a big difference to have a right environment setup where trainees are supported well with their requirements without hustling day and night for a sign off and where the trainers/ consultants are approachable & encouraged to help trainees meet their competencies as part of an educational process.
Some seniors readily agree. Mostly the ones, who themselves have just come out of the system and are well aware how tedious it is to get these little checks. Some will out out rightly reject you and want you to prove yourself more before they can make a comment, which is fair. Only problem is, in ever changing and busy world of NHS, consultants are barely on same shift on 2 days in a row. The case you saw last with them they may not be able to recall next time (probably after 2-3 weeks) in which instance they may ask you to repeat the same process again. Also need to be aware, if they were only visiting/locum consultants you may miss an opportunity for sign off as visiting consultants are not responsible for your training.
I cannot stress enough how important ‘People skills’ are in our profession whether with patients, with colleagues or with seniors. Especially in a profession like surgery where everything you are trying to be is almost a copy of complete persona of your supervising surgeon- the posture, the movements of hands, the precision of scalp incision, the steps of procedurals technique, the suturing skills etc etc and, everything you will grasp is a perfected skillset handed down after years and years of practice. And although it is not 17th century unlike when The Chameberlen family hid their discovery of forceps for 5 generations within themselves and devoid the world of marvels of their important discovery; having just an average level of rapport skills will prove to be unfair disadvantage. Remember world of Medicine is still a learning environment. You are a teacher and you are a student.
One has to make sure, they get a good educational supervisor allocated for the given year. Luckily for me, I found out on time that I could request the deanery to reallocate me the same supervisor I had last year. A supervisor’s job role is a big responsibility in a sense that the allocated consultant will be the mentor/the guardian for the given trainee’s entire year. He/She will have a big role guiding the trainee through their career development keeping a close eye on their portfolio while advising and supporting them on both personal and professional levels. My supervisor has gone out and beyond to help me this year and I am really grateful.
I have handed my job responsibilities, signed off my outcome sheet for this year and now, am sitting on a chair on a bright afternoon day at 1:30pm on a weekday having morning tea. The black week has come and gone and the consultants seem to be feeling more settled in trusting the new doctors with their job roles.
As most of were leaving current hospital placement to other, we delivered some cards to our seniors thanking for their support. ‘It is hard to see you guys leave every year.’ Our consultant said. ‘You only start remembering the names by midyear and by the end of year most of you would move away. You get attached. Then you have to do the same thing again with new trainees. Year by year’.
Anyways, for me ‘August is done’. No more portfolios, no more on-calls and night shift for few months. No more exams, courses and seminars. I have been picking agency shifts to pay my rent and stay afloat as and when I can and that is all. The freedom of picking your own time to work? Nothing beats the feeling! I am really glad that HEE have now taken more steps to provide opportunities to trainees to take career breaks and get into part training programs. A couple of my colleagues have also recently applied to go 80%, 60%. Training is UK is really long compared to anywhere else in the world. Going part time will add extra years. But I suppose most of are at that phase in life where we all feel, as long as their is some progression it is alright.
As I may have explained before, one no longer needs to fill those extensive forms to prove one falls in the certain quota to be accepted for the breaks or part time programs. It’s a great start. Both for trainees and NHS. In past years trainees have been leaving NHS left and right to work in private sectors or to work outside in different countries. Australia used to be most popular destination. Now my colleagues are leaving for New Zealand, USA, some of them are even going to middle east. A couple of them are thinking of changing career paths. So, yeah, for both of us, it is a good start.
As for me, with all this time in my hand now, I need to crack on slowly with my little list of things to do in life. Sort out the clutters slowly, clear my diaries to make room for more plans. Finally, finally I feel like I am ready to embrace my 30s. 20s went so fast. Its like that 2 years of COVID most of us were not ready to accept that we had lost it in one click of a finger. Time equates to memories, I think. When you look back and can’t remember much of what you did those years, you don’t seem to be able to track it. I suppose, I now understand what they mean when they say ‘its not about how long you live, its about you live it.’
I stumbled across a video ‘what hoarders are actually like’ in youtube featuring talk with Dr Jenny Yip (psychologist). On questioning what is difference between someone who is a hoarder and someone who has lot of stuff or someone who collects. She answered, ‘person who hoards they have problem discarding items, with accumulating items and also figuring out where to place items. So house tends to be disorganised and there is no category for where things are supposed to be placed’. ‘A person who has clutter, you might have too many things , you might get to cleaning the place up except its just cluttered this moment.’ ‘Collector is actually collecting items of value to most people. They are usually placed in organized category and could even be displayed’. She emphasized, that the statistics of people actually recognising problem themselves was very low and in most cases would seek help only because their family members were concerned. As the interviewer summarises, the take away message I took from that talk was learning ‘the fundamental problem is at decision making ability’ in the beginning of this cascade.
Dr Randy Frost videos posted by ‘International OCD foundation’ are a must watch for people who really want to understand the key elements and more in depth about this problem. In his talks, he dissects the diagnostic criteria (DSM -5 manual) to a very simple layman term so that everyone are able to understand what it is. The criteria itself as laid by DSM defines hoarding disorder as :
A. presumed difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.
B. This difficulty is due to both a perceived need to save the items and distress at the thought of discarding them.
C. The difficulty in discarding possessions results in accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas and substantially compromises their intended use; if living areas are uncluttered, it is only because of the interventions of the third parties.
D. Hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
E. Hoarding is not attributable to another medical condition.
F. Hoarding is not better explained by symptoms of another mental disorder.
Honestly, I did not know these things about this disorder as well as I know now, despite being in a medical career. Of course at some point in medical school the word had popped up and I too am blown away by these shocking videos, where the minute the door was opened avalanche of piles and piles of ‘stuffs’ flooded out.
The part of the definition that might actually save me today from this sinking feeling is learning that with hoarding disorder there is ‘compromise of areas of their intended use’. I did lose my living room but I still had a bedroom though right? These instances of going into a spree of over shopping, accumulating and not getting rid of anything for me seems to be happening in a pulsatile movement. Looking back now, I do recognise small waves of similar behaviour. Why do I own 6 bags of same design just different colours?
Life works in very strange ways. I have a met a friend of a friend now; this amazing person who is a high achieving professional but a clinically diagnosed hoarder. She is same age as me, a lovely person to speak to, very helpful and kind. Every time I see her, she is always sat on a chair next to communal kitchen – on her weekends, leave days and on nights as a permanent lodger. It looks uncomfortable, there is no bed in the kitchen or a sofa to lie on. But she is always there. Sat up on a wooden chair, nodding off to sleep or scrolling her phone. There are bags and bags outside the door of her own room. ‘She can’t go in because there are too many things inside hers. There is no space’, My friend commented; assembling all the empty bottles of wine in the kitchen and putting it neatly in her shopping bags. ‘She collects these empty bottles. There are so many of these here everywhere’.
‘Hoarding’ to a degree is a feeling of paralysis -because it is a visual manifestation ‘as I have quoted before’ of someone’s emotional health. You can’t unhide it. It creates anxiety, you feel frustrated, you acquire things or clutch on to things to counteract that feeling. And the cycle goes on and on, until eventually one caves and lets go. There is no hole one can dig to hide all that, one needs a professional help. Someone to guide through the problem and tackle it. And someone to sit down with and take their time going through it, bit by bit. To actually discuss what seems reasonable to go in the garbage bin and what can stay. Seeing as I see now, watching through someone else’s eyes ‘those empty bottles of wine appears to be a trash’. Like Joey would say to ‘my things’ sometimes.
I had written down in notes of what I felt at the time during that phase, why I think I felt like that; to gain a little perspective on what might be driving this bizarre behaviour. It was important for me in order to recognize and correct it myself before I lost sight of all other crucial things in my life.
I feel so much in control now.
I know exactly what and how much of stuff I have in my room. Putting half of my stuffs away and moving out of my old apartment was definitely a good idea. I am less distracted now-no more opening/looking and rearranging boxes anymore. I feel more fulfilled- I have been able to use my things to its maximum purpose. Finally opening the gift sets I was given a while ago and appreciating it! There are no more 3-4 opened lotion bottles or face creams. Everything is one at a time. In fact my mantra to life now is, ‘Take a deep breath. One step at a time.’ And it applies to all- for my stuffs and the big goals in my life. I have more time in my hands than I had before. Because I am not wasting any of it and my energy searching, organising and cleaning up after the chaos I used to create in the living room. I am reading more because its taking me less than 5seconds to pick a book to read now. I only have 5-6 of them in the cabinet. Medical books were hardest to give up. Used to carry them place to place moving every 2-3 years. But now everything is in the internet, so I let them go too. I’ll just google ‘plus’ it is more updated than those 8-9 year old books.
Like Matt Paxton described how he has come to appreciate core belief of minimalism stating ‘having less stuff leaves room for more experiences’. I too have come to respect its values. Minimalism now is flourishing concept. I don’t know how practical it is to me, honestly I never see myself being minimalist but ‘I feel free’. I feel like after a long time I am finally becoming a whole again both in flesh and soul. I don’t know if it is because I had some time off with my leaves or the idea of going on a career break soon and do travelling, see friends and families or just an effect of removing myself from that space ‘with too much stuff’. OR a combination of all. I feel free! And it is good. I’m going out more. I no longer feel I have to push myself to be out. Its a lovely summer here in England to be up and about! Why not?
Don’t get me wrong, a part of me firmly believes, a good storage unit would have solved all my problems. Having strict parents who don’t share same taste as me for clothing, accessories, books etc meant I couldn’t leave most of my stuffs at theirs. It would all get thrown away. Bless my older brother’s heart, he still readily agrees to hide anything I give him. Hahaha. But also a the same time let me be honest, it was getting out of hand. When you start feeling home at a place, you start accumulating things. A couple of plates today, a flower pot tomorrow, a furniture here and there then behold! Its getting crowded.
I still don’t know what made me slip. COVID isolation? Or something else that I haven’t recognised yet?
I am not a hoarder. I know that now. Although ‘yes’ I do feel I perhaps fall somewhere around the spectrum if there is any. I remember having this wave of anxiety wash over that one time, when a patient of mine showed me a photo of his kitchen at home. There was no space to sit or even cook on the stove. ‘Look how beautiful she is’, he said pointing to his wife’s picture, utterly sad to be living apart from her, that she had this condition he did not understand and he could not help her with. For some reason, I saw myself in her shoes.
Stuffs do hold us back. There are always going to be things that are valuable to us. But we should stop putting those values on things that are perishable, expires and takes too much space. You are important. Your personal space is important. Your relationships are important. Rest, everything is replaceable. Don’t make ‘stuffs’ bigger than you. Lets not make ‘stuffs’ bigger than us.
I developed into this habit of over acquiring things during the pandemic. Over few months, it got out of control. And as I confessed before, the boxes kept growing till I had no space on the lounge to even sit. A double two seated sofa I had was underneath a heap of clothes somewhere and I was so embarrassed about my situation I didn’t dare to invite anyone into my apartment. I told myself I just needed some days off to clear it up, neatly arrange and tuck them away. But when I did have leaves, I wouldn’t. I didn’t have energy to and, every time I opened that door, this feeling of anxiety would rush in me. It was sad because it was a visible manifestation of how fragmented I felt inside me, at the same time how tethered I was to this black hole… And the worst part is, I couldn’t hide it. Anyone walking through that door would have seen how miserable I was.
The problem was ‘spending over the limit’. I needed the cheque to come in by the end of month so I could pay my bills and buy my meals. Second problem was, ‘on things that I necessarily didn’t need’. Why was I buying 6+6 bottles of wine on tesco offer when I rarely even drink for social reasons? And stacks of beers? I hate beer. I mean, the taste of it. My reasoning at the time was, ‘well mom likes her drink and I would love her to try out everything there is. And its always better to stash some at home in case of family dinners.’ My uncles & aunts love their drinks too. With culture and traditions they were accustomed to back at home and in the service. You can’t blame them.
But then, it wasn’t just that, ‘boots’ and ‘superdrug’, in fact all the shops out there makes it much cheaper for us to buy 3 things at a time than 1. You underestimate how easy it is to get carried away. I assumed it was financially smart which in my context it was. I use my products, whatever it is- mascaras/ lipsticks/ body showers/ lotions everyday. They finish quick. I don’t always have weekends off to go and grab stuffs. I like the idea of having extra that way I never run out.
The habit of it, buying in bundles of 3’s and 4’s extended gradually to other parts of my shopping cart. Like clothes. If I found a comfortable dress/shirt I really liked, I bought at least 2 or 3 of it at the same time. It was like my brain was constantly telling me ‘get 3 of them, you don’t know if you’ll get this good deal on this price of this quality again?’. Some kind of uneasiness was surfacing then I suppose that wasn’t just satisfied with acquiring just one. Its stupid, how I was allowing my thought process to work. ‘What if it tears out or I wear it out and its not there anymore when I want to wear it someday. Or what if the trend of it just goes away and they stop producing it. I don’t want to not have it then’. Who thinks that far? But at the end of the day, to me, my purchases were always justifiable. I was buying my comfort and saving myself from future stress of having to replace it with exact another piece. I wasn’t even just buying for myself, I was shopping also for my siblings without even querying them once if they needed it.
‘Food’. I like preparing my meals for a week. I want to have home cooked lunch and dinners. Canteen and restaurant meals are great but it doesn’t feel right sleeping without a few spoon full of home cooked rice, daal and curry. Think of it like bread for some people. They have to have at least one loaf of it at some point during the day. When I do cook, I cook the whole batch of all the dishes whatever I can make at the same time. So for any reason if I do miss that cooking slot, all of it goes to waste. And I absolutely hate seeing that happen. So could I have made my life easier and save all that by doing shopping trips every now and then? I could. But this is where the reasonings starts sounding absurd now. It seems the catch is for me, overbuying stuff in one go. The small rush of it I feel with it, gives me a sense of control. Then there is, comfort of easy availability at times when I need it and the most important one ‘avoiding any situation that would make me step out of the main door’.
I started to realize I have lost my edge when I couldn’t reason why, I don’t throw away out of date products, donate clothes I do not wear or sell things I do not use. When Joey said ‘that shit only cost like 30 quid, throw it away. I will buy you a new one’, pointing at my sofa underneath the pile. I lost it completely that day. It is not the money. Why would I pay hundreds of quid a year to store crap that I bought only for 30 quid? Its attachment. And it was difficult to explain to him when he behaved like that, eventually I started to completely avoid the topic. ‘I am attached to it. It was my first sofa in my own space where I slept on for many days.‘ He kept repeating and re-repeating ‘I will buy this, I will buy you that. Better ones’.
There is a time in people’s life when you realise in the moment that you have ability to love people wholeheartedly even when you are breaking down. But when you are struggling to love yourself, sparing even a little more can take its toll. You can pretend everything is fine, but 50% of the relationship is ‘you’. Its never going to be fine, without you ‘being fine’.
Do you feel that sometimes even people close to our heart under evaluate the expectations they have for us in their minds? ‘Appearing perfect, behaving perfect, always bringing on the A game, being decisive, in control of the situation’. Do you feel this projection of idealist personality has somehow crept its way, expanded slowly from the hospital doors, from our patients, from our professional settings to our homes and personal relationships? That you are not allowed to have doubts anymore, question anymore or ask for reassurance anymore. ‘You are a doctor‘, they comment. In what context though? It is starting to sound like a blanket remark for everything.
‘You are a doctor. You’ll be fine’.
I thought it was only an impulsive problem. That I was having difficult time just calibrating. That I would soon learn to control. Online markets, high street markets. There are thousands of men and women shopping beyond limits everyday. Its a craze of materialistic world. Instant peak in endorphins, a short lived high. A moment of burst we all are looking for in our tedious routines.
Growing up, my memories of house is cupboards full of food. Cartoon and cartoon of noodles and juice in the room to snack on, whenever we wanted. But somedays, nothing. There would be people and children all around for a year and somedays no one. I don’t know if queuing with plates for food and hoping to get a piece of chicken even at our own home like in school, is a one of my good memories or bad one. When the count of head gets to double digits, you just learn to give in quick. None of us were fussy eaters. We couldn’t be. There were only 2 stoves to prepare food and they were always occupied. Wasn’t like Mom couldn’t afford it, just had too many people to share with. ‘Free lodging. Free food.’ Who would one pass that opportunity in Kathmandu? She had our house open to whole village. 8-9 cousins waiting admission on schools. Uncles/ Aunts and friends -waiting on official paperwork/ visas/ commuting for flights from the city, long-term medical treatments and all sorts of reasons. She could never say ‘No’. Met some of my loveliest cousins those days. Other than that well not worth my effort wrecking my brain recalling faces. But I will tell you, food never tasted that better.
Thing is, Mom used to do her shopping all at once. With supplies constantly running out, you can’t keep going to shops everyday. Food, may be more often but not others. She had a wise habit of stocking everything. Soap bars, shampoos, toothbrush, notebooks, pen/pencils everything; which of course was very useful when we needed them. Once a local shop opened a few steps away, she gradually stopped that habit. But I wonder if I picked up on it at some point where she left. And suddenly with COVID and the stress it brought with work and personal life; what used to be a smart choice I learnt from her ended up being pathological.
Nothing ever got to waste those days with Mom. I waste things. That is where I guess another part of my struggle is. Because actually inside me, I have a deep rooted need to utilise stuff. . Whatever things it might be, even though they no longer have any value. Example, my brother likes his beer when he hangs out with his friends. Because he shows up often without prior warning when I might be at work, I had bought 2 cases of beer . 2 boxes of 20 pack stella. He left shortly after, deployed to other place. So I was stuck with his beer that I don’t drink. I threw 1 case away which I admit was pretty difficult to. They cost me and the bottles were unopened! So boy was I glad, when I found articles on ‘uses of expired beers’ on the internet — apparently it reduces hair fall and has a conditioning effect. So I stored rest of 12 bottles pack with me. Over months threw them a bottle by bottle, because they were taking too much space. I still got 6 of them on my rack now. They expired 7 months ago! A voice in me says, ‘one of these days, we will do a beer hair mask so we need it. Also it will be a new experience’. But when? I have had enough weekends off in these months and I still haven’t done it. It is just a part of behaviour I am displaying isn’t it?
There is very good Ted talk video ‘The unintended result of our attachment to personal belongings’ by Matt Paxton. He says ‘memories attached to our stuff put us right back in a really happy place’. I like it when he says ‘I am going through their memories’. ‘They are looking for their happiness and self worth in stuff’ he explains. ‘It actually holds them back from living. Most of my clients have lost their jobs, they’ve lost their spouses, they’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost everything in hopes that they would get it’.
I am not there yet, but having an insight that I do possibly fall in a spectrum where definitions are in muddy waters makes me self conscious. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
This behaviour disorder or a problem ‘whatever you want to call it’ has indeed cost me a lot. Not just the money I spent but my peace, undoubtedly my relationship and my confidence. So I can empathise with these patients. Listening to the experts on these fields and patient’s stories , I cannot deny the shocking relief I felt, knowing how relatable their feelings were to me. ‘But with dead cats under the piles of papers?’ No… No…NO…
I am 5’2, been told- of small frame but I’m quite sturdy and stocky. ‘Thick’, as Joey used to say it. Similar built to my other Nepalese ethnic origin sisters, as in shorty with wide hips and bow legs. My knees don’t meet and my legs only come together at my ankles. Not a great shape to be on tight jeans pants but I still love to wear them.
‘When galla lined us on a row for selection he looked at the legs first. At how much gap there was between the legs, the more they bowed better they were. Sign of strength, strong genes’. My father once said to me when I was young. ‘Or of nutritional deficiency’, I had commented. At which my mom frowned, saying ‘Nonsense. We had you pumping on vitamin pills and syrups all the time. You are healthy. And don’t wear those tight jeans, they make your legs look like those of football players’.
‘We grew up in village. We didn’t know what was the right diet for the children, what nutritional needs they had. We gave them whatever we thought was good. It might be true you know.’ My father reflected on my statement looking at Mom’s direction and reminiscing his days of being a young father of two on his teens.
I almost puked at the word ‘right diet’. At the memory of mom making us drink hemp seed oil with milk on a 400ml cup. 1/3rd of the cup was just oil floating on top. We had to drink it on one attempt pinching our nose because it tasted horrible. And we had to because mom did not take no for an answer especially if she believed it was indeed very good for our health. Hemp seed craze only lasted for a month, thank god for that, otherwise I am pretty sure we’d have died young with heart attacks. I’m told the seed oil cost fortunes at that time.
‘We were short because we carried heavy loads in the village. They didn’t have to carry any. It might just be how they are’. My mother disagreed, strongly, on my dad’s suggestion.
‘But my brother was really tall and your mother and uncles were really tall.’ ‘He was so tall,’ dad started laughing, focusing his attention to me now. ‘That one time, when we had to take him to hospital in a taxi we had very hard time fitting him in. His legs were dangling out of the door!’
My friend Suj feels, it is all to do with the loads we carried on our backpacks as students everyday. ‘8 books for 8 classes a day with 2 notebooks for each, a diary, lunch box and a water bottle. That’s a lot to carry,’ she reasoned. ‘But that still doesn’t explain why younger generation of my cousins who are still carrying same weight backpack are climbing like vines to the sky while we just got stuck here halfway.’
As you can read, we talk about all sort of things. There is never a time to run out of topics with us. Between me and my parents, friends and my siblings. People say, I talk less! Wait till I am with right bunch. I could just say ‘remember that time’ and they would go like ‘Oh I member’.
I am very close with my siblings. Lot of memories together. One advantage of having strict mom whose idea of protecting was often locking us in our flat, we became best of pals with each other. Four. A good number to divide in two teams for every games. Cards, ludo games, and especially carrom board. Were so good at it, the adults would ask us to join them if they had a missing person in their team. Even on days we’d fight, we would make up right away. None of us could stay mad at each other for a long time. There was nowhere to go but to confront our feelings. To this day, I cannot stay mad at them longer than few hours.
I remember, our TV used to be locked inside a giant glass cupboard. There was only specific times and weekend days when we were allowed to watch our programmes uninterruptedly. ‘I will let you guys watch the TV when you guys are done with homework’, mom would say but then she’d be gone for hours and we’d miss our favourite shows on cartoon network and animax. So one day my oldest brother decided that he needed to learn how to pick the lock. And bravo he did! When the door to that glass cupboard went click, all four of us were hysterical. One of my best memories in life. Taking turns to stay guard hourly so that the others would be warned as soon as Mom showed by the the red house on corner in the neighbourhood, was fun. Took her about 5 mins from that point to reach our flat on third floor with multiple grilles and locks. By the time she showed up, we’d have hyperventilated our adrenaline and be sipping on colas as if nothing happened. Although, I do have a feeling, Mom caught up on us after a year. She started doing this routine where she would touch the top of TV with palm of her hands as soon as returned.
Having siblings of similar age, who understand you inside and out is amazing. ‘Nothing like blood’, as they say. I never had to work hard to build relationships outside my comfort zone because I had them. Not like, I did not try to. But, I realised after being miserable on my own for a while, I would rather be with one genuine person I can relate to. Than a group of giggling girls who back bite the second one leaves or boys who are all about being macho, proving they are tough and doing so very stupid things. At home, I had these 3 genuine people of my own. Fell down the bike and avulsed her scalp and my little sister did not speak a word about being on a ride with me. Held my little brother upside down because he spit on my face to teach him some manners, that little brat did not even report a single word to mom when she came home. And where do I even begin with my oldest brother, no matter what trouble I got into, he always had my back. No questions asked.
Loyalty and trust doesn’t come automatically I suppose, when I look at my parent’s relationships with their siblings. My father did not attend his brother’s funeral. ‘I couldn’t get leave‘, he said. But you could see, he had been broken so many times by him, he was long gone from his heart. My mother called me a few days ago, crying over some thing her sister had done again. She never learns. But, I suppose it hurts more when family betrays you.
‘You won’t be like us, would you?’, they ask. ‘No’. I reply. It would never come to that. Our binding faith on each other comes from years of investments on each other. All these little things we went through and the memories of it we carry. My parents and their siblings never had these opportunities. As soon as they learned to walk, they went separate ways. ‘Lesson is never trust anyone. Especially not your friends’ Dad says. ‘Tighten your own purse strings, that way you won’t ever have a reason to blame. And, never show your weakness to anyone. People have fangs underneath their armpits ‘ Mom adds.
But, everyone needs someone to trust to. One never realises the impact of having right people in lives, until one is on a shithole and they need help. Being an adult living on your own, you have to factor a possibility, life can suddenly change. You don’t always have your health to count to nor the job security. Today living in a five star hotel, tomorrow you may become homeless. Who do you have to go to? Find that friend. Find that family. There are four people chipping in for my expenses when I can’t meet my months end. They are not rich. A little over 1 grand, 2 grand at maximum sometimes in a month and even none on their pay check. But seeing 50 from one, 100 from others and even 20 for god’s sake! Makes me so happy. There is no better sanity pill in the world than soothing words from the right person/from the right people saying, ‘Don’t worry, I am here for you’.
A friend of mine said to me, ‘I am alone. Its just me’. At the time, I didn’t grasp the feelings behind those words. ‘I am alone too’, I thought. But he wasn’t implying a literal sense to his statement. Knowing him now, I now know he meant ‘he had no one to fall back to’. It felt lonely to put myself in his shoes then.
Parents, siblings and best friends. No money will ever be enough to buy those relationships. Some of us were blessed from the start, some of us- didn’t have that beginning. Especially past teens, relationships are hard to establish. Because by then, as young adults we exactly know what our personality is, what kind of people we are comfortable with. By then we will have set our borders and constructed our high walls, everyone else will automatically shunned out. If you ask randomly now, majority of people will say they met their best friends or their long term friends when they were little, in school or some kind of camps. But there are people out there who didnot have that chance, children out there who won’t have that chance. One fails to see the invisible reach the safety and security of family has to offer outside homes. In school playgrounds or even while venturing out in the world. The confidence to approach strangers, open themselves up to them. Yet is not the lack of effort I feel, it is fear of disappointment that it will only be temporary.
Which is true in many cases. So, if you have opportunity to invest on genuine people you should. It is an investment because it takes time, effort and commitment. Trust and loyalty is not granted even in blood. It is hard to love a human. It is. After you have seen the things they do, hear the crimes and sins they have committed. What obligation does anyone have to accept that stranger that may very much become a bad decision or a liability some day? But everyone needs someone. They do. 2 individuals coming together in good faith makes families, whether they have romantic afflictions or not. That is when pillars of strong foundations are laid. Relationships thrives and blossoms in that footing. Finding diamonds takes work. Many times it is an empty chase. Of course it would be. You know how precious they are? But if you do find one, it will all be worth the wait. Remember, never be too disappointed. ‘Only a diamond cuts out a diamond.’
The Guardian on 25th June posts on its headline ‘Covid cases on the rise across UK as Newer variants dominate’. COVID is back again. Not that it ever left, but the numbers are big enough to get attention and to deepen our furrows in an anticipation of what it might result to. Like a bad juju. I don’t even allow myself to entertain the thought of going back to lockdown anymore.
It seems to be driven by BA.4 and BA.5 variants of omicron. The cases are mix. They might be quadruple, triple, double, single vaccinated or none at all. Still not as unwell as they were in first wave. Hence the behaviour of general public, ‘not a damn given’. Which is kind of good. Last thing we need is panic driven public in our road to slow steady recovery.
Not surprisingly The Guardian mentions ‘levels are highest in London and among those aged 25-34′. Work and social life isn’t it? Both my brother and sister have tested positive this week too. After all this time since COVID began for the first time. I know many people who have had now by 3-4 times already. My brother is fine, sister is down with terrible flu symptoms; is slowly recovering.
But, moving on from COVID, my attention this time is more focused on page 12th and the 13th of paper. As soon as I saw the headlines, it felt as though someone had slapped me across my face. ‘Biden warns of lives in danger as supreme court overturns Roe V Wade’, ‘Blood in their hands’ Doctors hit out at abortion decision.
There is a lot to follow in the news. For those who are having difficult time to grasp the head end or the tail end of it, I will just copy past a few lines I have been reading through from the same pages.
‘The US supreme court has overturned the landmark the Roe V Wade case, which granted women in the US the right to terminate a pregnancy.’
‘The court decided there is no constitutional right to abortion in a case called Dobbs V Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In reaching that decision the conservative-majority court overturned Roe V Wade, from 1973′.
‘As a result states will ban or severely restrict abortion.’
‘Twenty six states are expected to do so immediately, or as soon as practicable. This will make abortion illegal across most of the south and Midwest’.
Every women worldwide must have felt that. The slap, I mean. A force across her soft cheek by a sturdy rough hand with a brute force, aimed precisely to cover most of her face and with no doubt with an aim to disfigure her beautiful features. Including the queen.
It comes as shock even to us as health professionals. How a country like USA that is always on the lime light; a country of dreamers, forward thinkers, world leaders and entrepreneurs; that is an image of pinnacle of social acceptance, equality, diversity and freedom to the rest of the world, can make a decision like that. Like the British prime minister Boris Johnson says, ‘a big step backwards’.
In the UK , ‘abortion act 1967’ allows medical termination of pregnancy less than 24 weeks if continuation of pregnancy possess risk of injury to physical or mental health of pregnant woman or any existing children of her family, continuation would involve risk to her life and, there is a serious risk that if the child were to born it would suffer from such physical and mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped. Beyond 24 week, there are only limited and specific circumstances justifying it.
None of my male colleagues seem to welcome the idea either. So I am guessing the problem is not with gender bias or hatred of some form for opposite sexes. Yet why does it feel like the punishment was only to us? ‘Has anyone thought about teenage boys not ready to become fathers yet?‘ like my colleague rightly asks.
I hope women advocating for pro-life have strong reasons to stand their grounds because losing this battle is losing basic rights of freedom for all womenkind. Standing at this pivotal time, celebrating victory while marching a movement that will imprison and incarcerate us, our daughters and granddaughter and generations to come; let us pray that they have enough will to forgive themselves when the consequences of it, if not directly but eventually will find its way to them. Those eyes that are too full of self righteousness at present time, that refuses to see the tears and hear screams of underprivileged girls and women, while sitting behind white picket fences while enchanting lord’s name 20 times a day; feels traitorous to look at now.
A decision like that, made by a country like USA has a big impact in the world. It indeed has ripple effect. I cannot even imagine what dreadful events it will trigger in a cascade now, in countries where society is religiously and culturally male dominated. Where parents sell their daughters like goods to pay off debts, where marrying off your daughter is good riddance but with a big cost in the form of dowry to her husband, where women can’t drive, can’t pray in the same hall as men, where women have no right to decision who they can marry or can refuse, where rapes are happening everyday accepted culturally and religiously, and even if they are not; where women don’t have a voice, can’t stand their trial because society won’t let them- without hanging themselves down the ceiling motionless, cold and frozen before her perpetrator. Could be stranger, could be a friend, could be a father. Who cares. With decisions like this, they are the end results. These victims will never be able to run, never be able to ask for help again. As sad as it is, then, it wouldn’t be wrong to say, dogs are better treated than humans even in USA. Classed as second class citizens, women no longer have their basic right to their own body and to their own wombs. Somebody please reassure me that, there will still be access to contraception right?
Are we even allowed to chose our own mates then? That is one big question. Like some villages in Nepal, girls will be openly kidnapped, the acts will be romanticized by men, by society; they will raped openly on the streets. Men and boys will fight amongst themselves to decide who gets to force himself on her first to plant his seed. They know, she will bear him children. Abortion is illegal, what choice will she have. At least justice is done there with blood for vengeance if the intention was not to marry the woman?
What about mothers with babies with severe birth anomalies? No mother should be forced to watch their new-borns struggle for life whether it is just for few mins, hours, days or months. Definitely not to adulthood, completely helpless and dependent on her to sustain breath, suffering every moment of it, hating themselves and her for bringing them to the world in their cruel faith. What about those with still births?
Such a primitive mindset. You’d think with so much scientific developments, technologies, increased literacy rates – world would only move forward. No. Like my friend says agreeing to Boris. ‘We are going back’. ‘Back to no abortions, back to wars and back to plaques’. What is next, will every boys and men who have sired a certain number of children be nipped off?
Its outrageous how a group of bad politicians and their decisions can outstrip humans of their basic right of autonomy of their own bodies. How many among those decisionmakers were ones with uterus and fallopian tubes? If there were any, I am sure they would have considered that there will be rise in crime rates, consequently in girls seeking abortions in black markets, in dingy rooms with unsterilized equipment risking their lives. That mothers will once again grieve at birth of their daughters. And our tomorrows will be on hands of a generation who we’d have failed to protect from physical abuse, emotional abuse and life long neglect from their own mothers right? Is it so hard to see, what the result of their action will lead to? This is not just opinion we are talking about. We are talking about enforcing laws and affecting lives.
PS- Its a 100th post. I had set out that day– with an aim that I’ll stop once I post my 100th. One of those things i had to do from my ’things to do’. I had drafted when I was going through a little difficult time during COVID. And here it is! Any extra I write from here onwards will be a bonus work for myself. I congratulate myself for commitment. Thank you for being a part of this journey. 😁
My friend dm’d me some time ago with a message, ‘found an accommodation for £35 a day in Manchester’. And asked me whether this was right and if it could get any cheaper than that. I was actually quite surprised to see an advertisement even out at that price. From my previous experiences with many bed and breakfasts before and hotel stays for courses/conferences, exams and interviews; I hadn’t yet found anything cheaper than 50 quid in a decent place. And this was Manchester we were talking about.
I looked into the site. Website looked genuine by itself to be honest, but one of the pictures used for the advertisement had a naked mannequin lying on the sofa in the sitting hall which was kind of strange. We use those kinds in our hospitals for simulation teachings. They cost thousands of bucks to be honest. Wasn’t really sure what it was doing in a regular accommodation and the purpose of its display on the site. Whether they wanted to show that the stay was medical profession friendly, whether it didn’t occur to them at all that it looked like an eye sore sticking out of picture compared to the rest of interiors or it was possibly… there is no way of putting it out in a less vulgar way ‘a blow up doll’. So may be they were advertising some kind of kinky place? Haha. Who knows. Checked on google for reviews couldn’t find any, so advised my friend against the stay.
He then gave me a list of set dates and requested me to look for accommodation for his wife and her female friend. A 3 month tenancy is difficult to find. Most landlords want a tenancy contract of 6 months, as far as I know here in the UK. Understandably, as a landlord you want to be assured of a continuous source of income for a fixed period and not have to deal with the hassle of refurbishing/ repainting the walls and redoing the carpets for next movers just after a few months. One would be mental to pour money down the drain if they are paying to stay in a hotel that long. Best way to get that length of stay is either in university buildings if you are a student or a hostel right? Staying in hostels could still be cheaper even than 35£ I assume, depends on how many individuals you’d be sharing the space and the bunk beds with; but it comes with its own range of problems. For candidates preparing for medical exams, its not exactly ideal.
I had to consider that they might struggle to pay the rent if it was anything beyond £40 per day. When I first came to the UK, I lived in a shocked state for a period, converting all the zeros we had in Nepalese rupee to single digit or double digit in pound value. With 160 rupees you can survive a day in Nepal and for some people it is hard day labour pay! Watching it disappear into a single coin of a pound is scary. None of my friends in Nepal would ever believe me that I’m paying 1,60,000 Nepalese rupees to live on my own in a one bedroom flat per month. Nope. If I start converting the value of the cheapest burger in McDonald to Nepalese rupees I will starve to death. I will never eat anything.
Doctors have good salary in Nepal compared to general population and they make a good living. Private works are bountiful, amount of hours you put in equates to amount of money back. A directly proportional relationship, because tax is minimal. But since the conversion rate to pounds is high, it equates to almost nothing in the UK. Both my friend and his wife are doctors and from upper middle class families. In Nepal, they have a decent lifestyle. So, without offending them, I was trying to figure out a way to give them an idea that living cost even for a few months with Nepalese money is going drill a hole in their bank accounts.
My sister once told me when she was new to the UK, she entered a local shop to buy a pack of gums. Came out of the shop, sweaty and quite perplexed after looking at the price tag on its little pack. ‘Hell No! 50 pounds!‘, she answered still in shock, when one of her friends queried why she had returned empty handed. ‘50p is not 50 Pound!‘, he then had to explain, breaking down the value of each currency into rupee equivalent so she’d understand. A pack has 5 gums in Nepal depending on which you buy. My favourite one come in many flavours, banana is my top choice. And it only costs like 5 rupee which is not even equal to one penny!
I wrote a message to him saying a bus fare in London for one travel will cost £1.55 which equals to Rupee 240 in Nepal. Just so that, he has a rough idea about how much money he would need to afford for rent and other expenses especially with travel in mind. The academy his wife and friend were coming to join for studies could only afford limited stay for weeks, rest of 2months they’d have to look.
Finding rent for friend is hard. Trust me, finding rent for a friend’s wife and her friend is even harder. Especially , if you have never spoken to friend’s wife or her friend before. Of course it would have been better if they could find other similar people to live with from the academy and rented a house together which I did suggest. Because prospect of finding spare rooms for 2 women, who are used to certain lifestyle, in a country with very contrasting social dynamic than they were used to, is going to be a headache. And there is that trap of course where ‘a favour for a friend is a favour, a favour for an extended friend becomes a complaint’.
There have been stories about new foreign doctors having to sleep in parks, walking along the town strolling their suitcases hopelessly from hotel to hotel door in COVID times, when all the hospitality services were suddenly forced to shut down. It will never come down to that with me around, but a little planning guys before hand for your own shakes would be good.
I live an hour away from Manchester where they’d be staying. It is going to cost me 70 quid for train travel alone ‘one way’. Had it been in Nepal, my mom would have said ‘what is the fuss? Go get your friend. It is only 1 hour away and have them stay here!’. One- I don’t drive Mom. Second, I cannot travel back and forth with that money, I could leave them that money so they can stay in B & B in Manchester for the night. Because, travelling back and forth is going to cost all of us fortunes especially if they have to attend lecture everyday! And third, I work so many hours, if my guest can cater for herself that is fine, but 2 guests, with one master door key is a nightmare. I do not want to land lord’s mobile again. And, and we know what happened to my cousin? His friend stayed with him rent free for so long while he was doing him a favour and one day just walked out with all his bank cards!
‘This is a country where a man does not pay for lunch, children don’t pay for their parents in restaurants and people who invite guests don’t pay for their guests in party. In Nepal, we are generous’. She makes a disappointed face.
‘But, look how expensive everything is here! If I pay for my 3 friends lunch, even if they eat only 20£ that is 60£ add mine it is 80£. And you know, for that 80£ how hard I had to work? For an entire day? I was on a train at 06:00 clock in the morning, I was back at home at 01:00am! And 20£ was just train fare’.
‘Yes I know. I know. It is like the systems were built in this country to divide friends and relationships. To break families into nuclear so that you earn more tax out of each household. I mean who kicks out children off their home at 18? Because they are getting expensive to feed? You should look after your brothers and sister. And they should look after you too. You were not raised like that. You will always have each other. I didn’t have anyone.’
‘I know. I know’. I just nod along her comment when she is like that. Remembers some things about her past and makes odd statements which apparently are supposed to be her words of wisdom for me. While I scroll past comments of strange people requesting money for charity, colleagues and acquaintances I have never sat down with to have coffee before asking for random favours, junior medical students querying about plab exams and visa requirements in UK. Mom is finally off her phone after chatting with her relative and is now inquiring, if we can make some donation to a local school in her village again.
A part of me is like ‘Stop. You grew us up with 11 children in our house. None of whom are grateful to you now. Not to you that is fine, but not even to us. When it was us, who had to share a quality of our lives and major portion of it to them. When there was never enough to eat for us because you were hoarding the whole village in one roof.’
But I cannot. She had some ambitions she ventured out to do but never really quite got there. She dwells on things she couldn’t do, couldn’t achieve and missed opportunities on.
There is no limit to how much people will take away, if you never learn to tighten your grip and force yourself to stop. Mom was always a people pleaser. Never could say no to her friends and relatives. She was crossed, didn’t speak to me the whole day, when I gave only her half of my first stipend. My first stipend! The other time, when I did give her full 2 months stipend money she donated it to that local school in her village. Like honestly, she starved us, her children, many times (money context ;)). I never had pocket money to spend off on anything when I was growing up. But she never could say ‘No’, if anyone asked for help. Sat down late nights crying, unable to pay our private school bills because they wouldn’t return her money on time. Her own sister had swindled her off all her inheritance and her husbands by extension while her children were studying in private schools under our roof; and now had just booked a flight to Nepal because they had swiped all the house’s rent too. But she is thinking of some charity?
It’s funny. She thinks I am about to reach some success point. And keeps asking me, when I am about to earn ‘loads of money?’. Hahaha! ‘You need to buy yourself a house’. she says. ‘It is a good investment. Paying rent all your life is not good’.
How do I explain to my mom and her relatives that despite earning 4,80,000 Nepalese rupee a month, I’m not saving any. Every one back in the country believes I am living rich fancy lifestyle now that I’m earning in pounds. They expect that I donate generously without request, offer help in any forms, fill in my granny’s shoes after my moms, keep the family name. Stop right there. Yup. I am her daughter and my father’s daughter. But I was raised differently. I learned, I can say ‘No’. I owed no one, I had no obligation to please anybody. I am where I am, of effort I have put in. Of support from my family. Only people I will be generous will be to my family and only handful of my friends, by choice. I am not being selfish. I am just being fair. It would be great if people liked me for what I am, I am a good person, I will be a good fellow but, if there is one thing I am not trying to be is ‘people pleaser’.
In my bank account— after about 1000 for rent and utilities, 800 for mortgage, £10 for Tesco phone bill, £20 for BMA membership, £7 for Apple subscription, £45 for hobby subscription, £9 for insurance, £60 for monthly food shopping, £79 for a Pastest exam subscription, £448 for exam, 70£ for travel. I had about 400£ to spare. I go out and there 100£ is easily gone. A little shopping on clothes- another 100£. My time and effort costs me a lot. Especially with the lifestyle we have as medic.
Unless one is used to lifestyle here particularly ours it is quite difficult to make them understand. Like why wouldn’t I visit my friend’s wife on Manchester? It is one request for that friend but for me it is a handful of requests I am juggling with. Will people ever learn to be grateful for effort I am investing on? A couple of hundreds here and there. I am genuinely hoping I don’t become my mom. ‘Money is like dust’ my dad quotes often, ‘it is important to know the value but it is not everything’. I try live by that principle. It is a thin line though isn’t it? I watch him counting pennies closely, one by one, out from his little purse every time we go to shop for milk together. It is difficult, isn’t it? To learn ‘never to be too selfish, at the same time never to be too kind’. I am learning all that experience by experience too. Be careful when you extend your hand friend that they don’t grip your arm and drag you down. Kind people get hurt the most.
I am a daughter of farmers by lineage. From a remote village where people used to hide behind the trees, bushes, houses when they saw strangers approach. ‘3 days walk from a town’ as my mother said when I was in my teens. ‘It is important for you to know your ancestry’. ‘You work hard, we will provide as much as we can’ said my father signing in the loan documents. ‘You didn’t have a choice, you had to be something better’, said my sister. ‘She is studying’, I remember my little brother saying when he came around the room to play rolling his eyes out. ‘Don’t worry. It’s all fine’, my older brother assured me over the phone as he was loading the trucks struggling with his ill-fitting shoes that he hated, trying to meet our monthly bills.
Education gives so many things. To a lot of us, a ticket out to different ways of life as well, as I have quoted before. Thousands of young people from my country immigrate today to other countries, mainly the US and the UK chasing the golden geese, hunting for the golden egg.
Here I am too. In a world completely different to what my father & mother told me in their tales. Where the skyscrapers look as though they are almost touching the sky throwing long shadows on the cities underneath with blinding bright lights all around. And hey, no one has even tried to steal the bulbs! Where trains come and leave on the clock, day and night and what a surprise! Noone has taken an opportunity to grope my bum. Where, people are just rising from their beds while others are going to sleep. The computers are blinking continuously, phones are ringing from clients overseas and the atm machines are waiting every corner ready to be cashed out.
Don’t know if there is a phrase similar to saying ‘Living an American dream’, otherwise I would have quoted ‘living a British dream’. Here, there is never a limit to the word ‘enough’ when you see how much more you can have, knowing there are people out there in the world who have nothing.
‘This is a land of plentiful opportunities,’ my uncle says all the time. There is no denying that truth having seen the other end. Naturally the expectations from them of their children are high. When you yourselves have achieved extraordinarily from the hills of Nepal to London in the UK. You set no bars for them.
Friday afternoon bank holiday. I am looking through my text messages scrolling one by one; an intimate moment of one of my girls with her partner, lost and navigating in some part of the forest of another, pictures of a little one following a complicated pregnancy of a new mom and seems like that one is still struggling to even get off from bed even crippling with depression. As I follow the texts trail of all my close friends, my history search bar continues to record ‘do and don’ts of a new relationship’.
Nobody prepares you for this stuff though.
Even if you have adult carers at home. Of Course it is a safety net to be rescued by your superheroes – your parents, your godparents; but sometimes in life you need mentors. And for many reasons, that role may not be something they can fulfil.
Being an adult is hard. It is hard to live a life. To be responsible, keep track of ten different bills, hold a job, 8.30 to 5 pm and 12.30 hours odd shifts and relationships. Constant hustling. Of course, if being Peter Pan was a choice, I would have taken that. They would have taken that too. Never to grow old, no fucks given. But it isn’t. So they take the responsibility. And might still be doing hit and trial methods with you in your thirties, trying to navigate parenthood, simultaneously their own adulthood slowly gearing towards ageing life…
Got to wake up, wash up and dress up. What do you think, I should say to a 20 year old homeless patient threatening to go back and binge on alcohol if he cannot have an arrangement of constant roof on his head for free? An arrangement of a free flat? Grow up and work? The entitlement some people believe they have is unbelievable . Grow up. ‘Life is not easy. It is not. Don’t try to make it that way. Life’s not fair. Never was. It isn’t now. And it won’t ever be. Donot fall into the trap. The entitlement trap. Of feeling like you are a victim’, as Matthew McConaughey says. Noone is coming. I don’t know when he is going to realize that.
I respect go-getters. Who have found their self worth. Pushed through it all and made something out of whatever they were born with, thrown with, handed with or helped with. They struggled. They made mistakes. But they learnt from it. And most importantly, they never gave up.
A fine wine. A fine wine for a fine evening served by a fine gentleman of a different nationality as well in one of the richest cities of the world. Surrounded by humongous buildings with small cubicles. Inside small boxes staring at the tv, exercising, reading and just going on about their lives; feels like I’m living ‘The Truman show’ now. A few tables down further are middle aged women, possibly 10 years older than us, well dressed, matched with their branded bags, jewelleries and watches. Well behaved, softly spoken, a few smiles, hardly changing their expressions. And suddenly my excitement for evening has left.
My ultimate plan was to be financially independent somehow, so I work as a doctor not because I am depending on my cheque to pay rent but I wish to. Without being grilled to overwork, exhausting myself but overworking myself because I want to and I have that freedom to choose.
‘All these efforts poured in building my career and here I am contemplating about living a subpar life?’, I thought to myself. ‘If you left the training now and worked agency shifts, you could easily make a comfortable living now. You could easily book tickets to Hawaii and take your fam there next year!’.
I have learnt a vital truth about myself this year. ‘I am a person who lives in stories’. I can go a few days on fine wines but I cannot go more than a week without embracing that zest of life I actively seek for. I am now starting to rethink my pursuit of success. What is success for me? It is scary to think, life and dreams can be limited inside cubicles and eventually our spirits are just going to be sucked out dry by glitters, TVs, magazines and materials.
I was staring at him that other day. Trying to pinpoint the exact reasons why I had a strong attraction for a man I had only just met. Of course he is charming. My friends think, ‘we are doctors, we feel we have to save everyone’. Red flag. Red flag. Red flag. Every next road. ‘Be careful’, they have advised. ‘Watch the netflix show, watch the youtube videos’.
He is that canvas you know, that I probably was searching for, for a long time. His face has a story, his hands have stories, he is a person of story. And my inclination to hunt for each chapter is probably driving me. Grey, white, purple, yellow, black. One loops to another and another. It’s like the nib of the pen will flow out with ink smudging the papers if you don’t write it fast enough. Some people are like that. They carry that in their soul. Like my parents do.
I often forget how capable a person like that, who perhaps has been through a lot in life and hurt often in the past, is of hurting themselves and others. Not intentionally but reflexively. As they anticipate it based on their previous experiences and thereafter after a certain threshold, their reaction to every stimulus is a multiplication. In a place where a simple ‘no’ may have sufficed, there is a then loud apostrophe behind sentences or an outburst of aggression. Not everyone is capable of accepting a person like that whole heartedly. We live in an impatient world. Especially not the ones, who may have had similar experiences with their anticipation of the unknown. As they dread the eventuality that they are certain is an outcome. The outcome? For sure, it will be colossal and as beautiful as it is to watch, it will be as heart-breaking to see them break each other into nothing. But, the human soul is a beautiful thing you see. Can be as blank as white, never known fear and grief, you want to protect them. Can be an abstract representation of every colours whatever there is, you may never know what they have seen and been through or are thinking, you still want to protect them. I try to be a positive person. Maybe these are not red flags but an opportunity to work on things together. Nothing in life comes wrapped in a bouquet does it? But again, if it did would I have wanted it? One of the important lessons my life, my parent’s life has taught me is, go for it. Whatever you like. If it doesn’t work, at least you have given your best, hold your head high then and walk away. No regrets.
‘I want to give my kids everything so that they don’t go through what I had to’.
‘Me too’. I said. Of Course our context of the statement is entirely different, like our reasonings to agree with each other.
Life is random. Unpredictable. Would be great if you could focus on this issue at hand, solve it and carry to next. But there are tens of puzzles coming from every direction. Like the randomness of these thoughts I am writing. Reflection on my evening, on my relationship, on my choices… Would my dad have ever guessed when he was sitting in a middle of nowhere, making fire under a stone, trying to heat a piece of roti to keep his hunger at bay that his daughter will be drinking champagne watching down from the rooftop into people’s cubicles and wandering about life as well?
A hard day today can be tomorrow’s sweet memory, something to laugh about or a milestone to compare the next rows of worse days. Life is in people. Life is in memories. Life is chase, pursuit, hustle, maybe in late night thoughts and decisions. Life is on the go. Life for me, seems to be in the stories.
Tell your stories to your children, will you? Trust me, there is always a lesson to take away. Even on a chance there is none, there will still be a memory- of struggling to sit still listening to you while you babble boringly for an hour. It’s a time you have chosen to give to them.
My mother once told me, she woke up with python slithering around her body in middle of night. The way she described it, it was very vivid. She has always been an extremely talented story teller. So is my father, but only when mom shares her platform which she can be quite reluctant to. Because, they never seem to agree on some recalls of their memories; like the description of size of the fish my mom’s uncle caught. 😅
‘Don’t forget to wish your friend birthday today’, my ex Rhyri used to text me, to remind me to wish my friend, not his, my friend, on her special day. How out of ordinary was that?
I was never good at it. I mean with remembering dates. The number of times I have forgotten important dates for events, occasions and celebrations of families and friends surrounding me is insane. It is kind of remarkable how I have still managed to cling on to them despite all that though. They have been forgiving.
I remember that one particular day like it was just yesterday, when I really felt the pain Joey had in his eyes as he waited for minutes and more so, for me to guess a 3rd time to tell for certain what his birth date was. We had been through this many times in the past. Surely I must have cared enough to memorise. Especially since it was also our anniversary date. Here is the thing; on back of my mind there are hundreds of random things queued up to just jump out and scream surprise. I have excellent memory for most ridiculous things that I cannot seem to erase away even if I tried to, but these, the most important details I need to have ready on tip of my tongue to shoot like a bullet and with 100% accuracy, for reasons that still baffles me, I could never register.
‘Don’t do that. Hang up on the phone abruptly. It doesn’t have to be awkward’. Rhyri’s voice is still crystal clear in my head.
It took me 3 years of good practice to reply promptly every time my phone blinked then and over time to be the first one to message. To learn reciprocity of caring and commitment values. To appreciate importance of good communication. To understand that when one is mad at one’s person for any reason, one just doesn’t shut the phone down and disappear for 3 days. He had tracked every one of my friends and managed to pin down my location that time. Who does that in today’s day and age? Especially past our 20s. We have lost that patience to accept dramas and tantrum fits. We now expect perfection from our partners. Constantly pressed for our times outside working clocks we only value absolute fits to the checklist, the creme de la creme. So please, if you have that somebody willing to accept you for your flaws and put that effort on you, treat them well. Value them. I will tell you, they are very rare. Those moments are rare too. The days when you loved whole heartedly without any hesitation, were loved back without any boundaries, when the world was less cruel and no-one knew what heartbreak was.
Stepping on my thirties, I realise most of us now come to the door with baggages of our own. I, now, understand what Ted was talking about in ‘how i met your mother’. Our minds are mature and more open but our hearts are still a bit reluctant. It might scoot over the border for a time testing the field, anxiously, to be certain it is safe; but at the signal of one wrong thing, the siren goes off. It is then like stepping in the minefield. We are out of there so fast, you’ll never know we were even there on the first place.
‘If we ever break up. The next guy better be very thankful to me because he has no idea how much of work I had to put on you’, Rhyri used to say. It has been so long we have separated our ways, thankfully though we have still managed to stay friends. He chose some other parts of the world, I chose UK. He had responsibilities and I had mine. Of course we said things, did some things to hurt each other but we forgave and we moved on. We accepted our eventualities, honesty and respected each-others decisions.
The saddest part about walking away from a couple relationship for me, is losing that amazing friend you found in your partner. You can even cope with losing the romantic aspects- flowers, sex and dates, but its losing a friend that is the most difficult part. A friend you shared your happy days with, sad days with, confided your fears with, dreamt a future together with. For me, I am what I am today of my associations with them, of my environment that they were major part of and of the energies, the investments, time, love, care, patience and so much more they have given to me. As an introvert personality type, you can imagine how precious my circle of friendship is for me. I can count them on my fingers but for each one of them my loyalty is absolute.
I don’t understand why do I have to walk away from that friendship to start something new? Is there a possibility that this newness can be something entirely separate and beautiful beginning on its own? Why does everything have to disappear now that we no longer have those romantic commitments with them?
‘If you had what I had, may be you’d understand.’ I monologue in my head, listening to him and listening to my friends. Its not about the counts, the numbers of partners one has had that the men and the women these days parade as though they were their victories. Body over bodies, soul over souls and to still walk alone as though you are hunting lives to feel a little bit alive yourself? That does-not appeal to me. You should have seen us, we were trumpeter swans, mates for life, living in our own secluded world, alive, perpetual in a loop, lost to each other in that time frame. That is what I want.
‘No‘, I said. ‘I cannot cut them off my life’.
‘You are hoarding people like you are hoarding things. You need to let go off things that you no longer need’. One of my best friends said sitting next to me, explaining to me, why she thought what my current date was asking, was reasonable.
‘But you don’t know. He doesn’t know, how important they are in my life’. I protested.
‘But they are gone. And now he should be the most important part in your life. Look’. She put her hand on her chest and slowly spoke, ‘you still keep them here, but they don’t have to know, no one has to know. You keep them there and move on. If you don’t let them go, you’ll never move on’.
There is some hurt, some sourness, some crude exchange of glances, gestures and words when couples breakup. Sometimes the agony lasts for days, sometimes months, occasionally years. Various reasons to part different ways. But ex’s are not necessarily bad people and just because we broke up doesn’t necessarily mean, it was a bad relationship or a traumatic one. I feel the word breakup is unnecessarily demonised. We learn from each moments and each people we come across with. Often in life, we have to let go off amazing people whom had we met in different time and space, we would have never let go. People discover themselves in relationships. To be able to give someone a priority over your own, is an amazing thing. That is the most selfish and unselfish thing one can do for oneself at the same time. I wish I could explain the reason why I said that, but it is.
My opinion might be different from someone else’s or everyone. But that was my experience. I would be lying if I say, I didn’t appreciate and live every moment of it, with them. Even the rough days. So, I am adamant to keep them in my life. Yes there is a question if one is unable to unhinge friendship from previous romantic afflictions, but we are all adults. That is where trust and loyalty comes. Keeping them in life doesn’t mean I’ll see them everyday or cheat on my partner. ‘Would you please look at yourself? Why would I ever do anything stupid to lose you?’. I just don’t want to be 70 or 80 and be wondering whatever happened to them, like they were some strangers I never gave a damn about.
If I ever chose to completely cut off ties with them for any reason. I hope they know that I fought to keep them in my life. And I hope, they would too. I hope, if the conversation ever popped up even after decades about our relationship, they have some good words to say. Because, if for any reason my world ended tomorrow and I was to die without having a chance to say goodbyes, I would want them to come to my funeral and bid me farewell. I would want them to hold my hands one last time. Goodbyes are only words. It won’t mean a thing unless I am down on my last breath. It won’t ever mean a thing.
A friendship in a relationship is a best thing to have. Look for that, search for that. I hope, when stars align we’ll all find love, all that and more we are looking in our one partner. Like trumpeter swans, we will be mates for life then.
Beautiful, precious and together. Oh’ even the thought of it makes me smile. Trust me, at the end, it would be all worth it.