Thursday, December 27, 2012

Letter 641: Extremely Alive and Incredibly Afraid

For some strange and twisted reason, I kind of wish Christmas didn't have to come around so soon, because it meant my holidays are ending. After the new year, which is exactly 7 days after Christmas, I will be thrown back into the deep ends of work. I haven't seen my patients in close to 6 weeks, but my mind keeps wandering back to some of my regulars-- Are they well? Are they getting their monthly meds? Have they had another fall this time? The only thing close to clinical practice that I've encountered during the last 5 weeks were the persistent questions thrown at me over dinner in regards to grandma-in-law's rapidly enlarging belly. I usually keep a safe distance from treating family members, but the questions keep coming back like tidal waves bobbing against the shore-- Do you think it's a tumour? Why are my knees sore? Can you take a look at this rash?... 

It's not that I don't like work. I love what I do, helping people in little ways, be it chronic care or emergency management. But the new year would mean a whole new career pathway for me this time. I am both thrilled and intimidated by its prospect-- What if I don't like it as much as I thought I would? What if I suck at this job? What if I accidentally kill someone because in this new job of mine, accidental homicide is not a remote plausibility? 

I recently finished Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in the span of 4 hectic days packed with various social schedules. This says a lot about the book. If you haven't already read it (it was made into a movie in which Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock play a role, but I haven't had the chance to watch it), I'd highly recommend getting your hands on it. Once every so often, a work of incredible fiction finds its way into your heart. This is one of them. It is one of those books which, on completion, leaves behind a void in which you fill with a little sadness and a little yearning for more. There are certain things-- movies, literature, poetry, social gatherings-- that fill you with so much joy and energy and enlightenment that their conclusion digs a hole in your heart. Christmas this year feels like the completion of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I am lying in bed, 2 hours after the end of Boxing Day, in this city that is so full of inspiration and amusement and love. We spent Christmas day on the Melbourne Metro and the Yarra Trams (hooray for free public transport on Christmas Day!), exploring the bits of town that we don't usually get a chance to see on a normal working day. There are always new experiences to discover, new things to marvel at, and new people to befriend. Like this American from Utah whom we met on the train, who spoke Mandarin fluently despite only having learnt it for 2-3 months. Or the guy from Hong Kong who works at one of the finest izakaya bars this side of town that we keep going back at odd hours in the night for his yakitoris and conversations across the bar counter. Or the amiable saleslady at an electrical appliances store who called me "kiddo", and then covered her mouth with slight mortification when she found out about my occupation later on, and proceeded to laugh at the faux pas when she waved us off and said "You just made my day, kiddo!". We spent Boxing Day at a friend's place for her son's 2nd birthday. There were so many toys and bubbles and balloons that I kinda wish I was a kid again so I could ride in the plastic fire truck and hit out at the pinata in the shape of a dinosaur. We ate tuna sandwiches and chocolate pretzels and jelly. And cake, of course. And washed it down with good ol' lemonade and hearty conversations beside the colossal pile of birthday presents.

There is magic in kinship, and miracles in every corner. Bidding this city farewell again in a week's time is going to be hard.

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