December 13, 2012 by drandmrso
Greetings, friends! In the tradition of families nationwide, and potentially around the world–who knows ?–Dr. and I would like to share a little summary of what’s going on in our lives right now. It’s been a while since we last chatted (see below for explanations), but good news is on the horizon: my new year’s resolution for 2013 is to write a blog entry at least twice a month. And floss more. But the latter has been a resolution for the last five years running and has yet to stay in effect past February.
2012 was a busy year for us. Intense, chaotic, and anxiety-ridden are also apt descriptions. In March, Dr. O finished out the residency match process. For those unfamiliar with how it works, medical students in their final year apply to residency programs in the fall. Then a few of those schools will invite them to come for an in-person interview in the winter. Dr. O went on 13 or 14 interviews across the country…all expenses out-of-pocket. Ouch. After the interviews, both the candidates and the schools create a list: candidates rank (from most to least) which program they want to go to, schools rank (from most to least) which candidates they want to come to their program. Then the lists get plugged into a third-party computer algorithm called The Match, and on a specified day and time across the country (in 2012 it was March 16), all of the medical students find out where they matched. Some schools have every student open their envelope at the same time, but at Dr. O’s med school it’s more of a Hogwarts Sorting Hat affair. Each student gets called up to the front of the room at random and puts a dollar in a big jar. Then the dean of the med school hands the student his/her envelope. With shaking hands and a sweaty brow, the student opens the envelope and reads out the name of the program into a microphone. Tears of joy or sorrow may ensue, but everyone in the auditorium, all of the other students, their significant others, and families, applauds either way. The vast majority of the students in Dr. O’s class were very happy with their placements. The last student to get called gets all of the dollars in the jar. We, unfortunately, did not get the jar, but we were quite thrilled anyway.
Miraculously, I made it home from a business trip after two canceled flights, a re-route, and a two-hour drive in a rental car, at 3:00am the night before the match. With Dr. O’s family present, and my family and many of our friends watching the live stream online, he happily announced that he had matched at his first-ranked program. His match meant moving to a smaller city, but one that wasn’t too far away and, in fact, was closer to my family. The news was a bittersweet moment for me. It meant leaving the job I had come to love…and also leaving behind all of the ridiculous travel associated with it. I was a healthcare software consultant, and in the period between January 1 and May 11 of this year, I traveled all but two weeks. Traveling for work is not glamorous. It involves a lot of waiting at airports, arriving at hotels at midnight the day before a big presentation, eating out for every meal, and catching up on email and other work at night in said hotel or on the weekends. Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoyed my job, and I had earned a couple of promotions and raises that signified I was good at it. But by the time The Match rolled around, I was glad to have a reason to leave all of the travel behind.
Well, not quite all travel. On May 20, Dr. O and I endeavored on our biggest adventure yet: touring Europe for the month between his graduation from medical school and the start of his residency. He graduated on Friday, May 18. That night, some (probably drunk) hooligan smashed two of his car windows. The jerk didn’t take anything, but none of the glass repair shops would be able to fix it until Monday…and our flight to Europe left Sunday night. Dr. O’s wonderful uncle agreed to keep Dr. O’s car in his garage while we were gone and even arranged to get the glass repaired. On the short ride from our gross, smelly apartment (locking the door for the last time was one of the highlights of the entire year) to Uncle M’s house, Dr. O had to drive slowly and carefully so the entire back windshield wouldn’t cave in and rain little nuggets of shatter-proof glass into our hiking backpacks, which held everything we’d need to get by for the next month.
We landed at Heathrow, took the Chunnel to Paris, and discovered a perfectly romantic, drizzly night welcoming us to France. While in Paris, we took two bike tours, picnicked at the Eiffel tower, shopped at tiny farmers’ markets and little cheese stores, and explored the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay. We both loved Paris: the consistent and charming architecture, the narrow streets and wide boulevards, the river, the trees, the people–who were all model-level gorgeous and made smoking look incredibly sexy.
From Paris we traveled through Germany, stopping in Rothenburg, a tiny, miraculously unchanged medieval castle village crawling with tourists, on our way to Munich. We took a decent beer tour to a few of the city’s storied beer gardens, led by a decidedly unwelcoming and unpatriotic ex-pat who had visited Germany in 1975 and simply decided to stay. We also took a wonderful day trip to Salzburg where we visited yet another fantastic beer garden. At one point during the trip we realized that we had not gone a day without alcohol since we’d left the States.
From Germany we took an incredibly beautiful train ride up into the Swiss Alps. Gimmelwald, Switzerland lived up to its reputation as a tiny, craggy, remote village nestled between cow pastures and rocky mountain faces. We stayed in the Hotel Mittaghorn, which is run by an 87-year-old man who cooks a big family style dinner for all the guests every night. On our second day, we hiked out from the lodge and up, up, up into the mountains. Even though it was June, there were still patches of snow and ice, and at some point we lost our way, the trail concealed under a mudslide from earlier in the spring. After hours spent slowly descending the side of the mountain toward an icy blue river deep in the valley below, we finally met up with the path, only to discover that it led directly across a stream bed covered in a mini-glacier. Dr. O made it across, but I ended up sliding for several yards down the slick surface, hoping that my feet would find traction and that the snow beneath me wouldn’t collapse into the stream. I finally grabbed hold of a bush on the far side of the stream bed and clambered up to the path, where Dr. O rushed to gather me into his arms. I can’t remember having ever been so scared, or so in love.
From Switzerland we headed south to Italy. Venice, our first stop, was spectacular. Although we only stayed for one night, our dinner was one of the most memorable of the trip: a truly local restaurant, where the only other patrons were members of a huge Italian family loudly enjoying the delicious meal. From Venice we traveled through Florence, where we marveled at David and gorged ourselves on gelato and took a pizza making class, and Sienna, which wasn’t all that great, to Rome. Dr. O loved touring the Coliseum, and I found the Roman Forum fascinating.
The train carried us north out of Rome to our true “honeymoon” part of the trip: the Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean. Five picturesque villages connected by hiking trails, tucked into hills otherwise covered in olive groves and vineyards. We ate, drank, and swam in the ocean. We unwound. It was heavenly.
After five days lounging on the beach, we jetted to London, our last stop on the grand tour. We explored London with gusto, having been rejuvenated in Italy (wine and salt water: all you need). We took biking and walking tours, sat in on a session of the House of Commons in parliament (we accidentally tried to take a pocket knife inside…and were informed that we could have been arrested on the spot for harboring that clearly fatal weapon), hit the highlights of the British museum, did our best to push through to Platform 9 and 3/4, and had a fantastic meal at an Indian restaurant. Our last stop in London, and of our whole trip, was to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where we stood in the groundlings section, arms literally resting on the stage, and saw a majestic and funny performance of Henry V.
Is anyone still reading this? Oh, you are? Great! As I’m writing I realize this is turning into more of a Christmas novella than a letter. I will move forward with brevity.
We returned to the U.S. on a Wednesday, closed on our first house in our new city on Friday, and Dr. O started residency on Monday. My job, those first couple weeks, was to get the house in order: unpack boxes, organize the basement and garage. But pretty soon all of the dishes were on the shelves and all the clothes were hanging in the closets. And I got bored. I told myself that I should enjoy the summer off, start looking for jobs in the fall. Take advantage of the fact that Dr. O was now receiving a paycheck. Despite telling myself all of this, I worried. We had effectively cut our income in half, and I felt a pang of guilt every time I ran to Target or the grocery store, counting the pennies and questioning every single purchase as if it were my last dollar. It didn’t help that I didn’t know anyone my age in our new hometown. My days and, often, with Dr. O quickly accumulating the fabled residency hours, my nights, were lonely. And by the time my birthday rolled around in mid-September, I was depressed.
I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to go to the gym, even though for the first time in years I had a schedule that allowed it. I didn’t want to finish any of the projects I had started around the house (ahem…refinishing chairs). I definitely didn’t want to write a post for this blog, because what would I write about? It felt exactly like sliding down that icy slope in the Alps: I kept hoping my feet would find traction, but they never did.
It got to the point where I would only get out of bed to feed the cats in the morning, then crawl back in until my alarm went off an hour before Dr. O was due home. I’d shower, and put on something cute, and make a decent meal. And when he’d ask me what I did that day I would try to ignore the scream that was dying to come out: I didn’t do anything today because I’m worthless! Now, Dr. O’s specialty is not psychiatry, but he’s an astute man, and a wonderful husband, and he knew something was wrong. Finally, after a particularly teary admission that I hadn’t left the house in two days, he did exactly what I needed someone to do: he let me vent. He listened to me complain about how I hated the fact that I had gone from the breadwinner to housewife; from successfully managing complex projects to successfully managing to not make a single new friend; from promotions to not getting any responses on the dozen job applications I had placed. After my loud, wet, snot-covered rage was through, I felt something new. I had reached the bottom, and my husband was there to wrap me in his arms and tell me that I wasn’t crazy for feeling the way I felt. He pulled me off the ice.
On the very day, during the very hour, when I finally met with a psychologist to talk about how depressed I had become, I got a voicemail message asking me to set up a time for a phone interview for a new job. I had laid bare my soul in that office–the first time in my life that I had ever had that type of appointment–and my eyes were puffy when I shuffled back out to my car. I listened to the message on my phone and smiled: everything was going to be alright.
That very same day (because why wouldn’t it be?) I stumbled across an article about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), an annual challenge to all would-be novelists to write 50,000 words in November. I immediately signed up: finally, I thought, something to pull me out of my writing slump. Within the next couple of weeks, I had interviewed for two jobs, received offers for both, accepted the better offer, and started writing a novel. And I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and soon enough I found that I was confident in myself again. At the end of November I had two exciting reasons to get up every day: going to work and learning my new job, and achieving a life-long goal of writing a book. On November 29 I crossed the 50,000 word threshold and felt completely, utterly blissful.
Which is how I feel now, writing this tome chronicling the year gone by. It was a rough one, but it was so good in so many, many ways. I love this life, and I am blessed to lead it.
Dr. O and I wish you and yours a very blissful Christmas and a happy New Year.