As I write this, I’m in the passenger seat of my car that has thus far travelled approximately 2400 miles- across seven state lines, through the plains of Iowa and Nebraska, the evergreens of the Rockies, the incredible natural beauty of Utah, and the desert of Nevada. Ten minutes ago, we crossed the California state line and my dad now navigates the winding roads of the Sierra Nevada while tall pines surround us and seems to extend endlessly, all the while an upbeat Bollywood tune provides the perfect soundtrack to a homecoming that has been a surprisingly bittersweet one.
When I started medical school, I was wrought with anxiety about leaving a place that I had known as my home for as long as I could remember. However, earlier this week, during the first hour of our cross-country road trip, as the now-familiar roads and highways of southeastern Michigan became more and more distant, I was filled with a deep heartache that could only be attributed to leaving behind a home. Again.
In the last few months, I’ve had the ability to revel in what made medical school not only bearable, but also enjoyable- the people. We’ve somehow been celebrating for weeks on end, and at the risk of sounding like a trite Vitamin C lyric, my classmates and now fellow doctors (!) created something miraculous: we created a family of our own. I had the privilege of learning and growing with some of the most amazing people I’m sure I’ll ever meet.
A few weeks prior to Match Day, when it seemed that our entire lives depended entirely on what was inside a sealed, white envelope, a close friend shared with me a passage from Sylvia Plath’s “A Bell Jar” that I had almost completely forgotten-
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat, purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor…and beyond these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
While it seemed incredibly depressing at first, I realized that the situation Plath describes could actually be optimistic. Each fig that Plath saw was a wonderful option and while she could’t make the decision today, that didn’t mean she would never be able to make the decision. And maybe, the decision would be made by forces that were beyond her complete control. And if so, would that really be so bad? Perhaps it has been my incredible luck, but despite never imagining myself living in Michigan for a substantial amount of time, I can not imagine going through medical school any where else, and with any other group of people. While I won’t deny the agency I had in this decision and know that this experience didn’t simply fall into my lap like a fig, I also know that a large portion of the decisions that led me to this point and those that will follow were beyond any planning or prediction. And for that, I’m grateful.
The end of this blog post also marks the end of this blog. I had begun this as a way to catalog one of the most important chapters of my life. But it grew into something so much more; it became a time capsule of experiences, places, and people that I will always look back on with so much more than fondness- it will be accompanied by a feeling of being home. Again.