Road Crew

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hot Springs Addendum:
After 13 hot, dusty miles running around Hot Springs (excellent trail running, by the way), I was looking forward to one of their famous baths.  Unfortunately, I was also visiting on Easter Sunday so to my great disappointment, all the traditional baths were closed.  Fortunately, one of the bathhouses has been converted to a brewery so I enjoyed a different sort of sudsy treat. Still there was no way I was leaving Hot Springs without actually trying the Hot Springs.
I rolled out of bed early and ran to the top of one of their mountains just to feel like I earned it although after living with the wet bath in my trailer, I pretty much deserved it.  I was first in line for the experience.  I wish I could post photos of this experience which truly takes you back in time but they would be inappropriate.  I can say that a bath and hot towel wrap should be how all cold morning runs finish.


  

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I am finally moving into territory that is truly unfamiliar.  I have spent no time in the Ozarks or Appalachia.  Unfortunately my knowledge of them is pretty much limited to watching “Winter’s Bone”.   (Please feel free to offer book suggestions set in the region.)  What always bothered me about stories I hear from the Ozarks is the unusual dependence on squirrel for meat.  I imagined the scrawny rodents flitting through my yard at home.  By the time it was shot, I couldn’t imagine any meat being left.  Forget Africa.  These people must be starving!  It makes perfect sense now that I am here because the squirrels here are HUGE!  I am talking the Costco variety, extra large and a lot of them.  As I ran through the forest this morning, I was frightened several times by the sound of a large, wild beast moving through the underbrush making an immense racket only to find that it was a damn squirrel.  Let me just say, I don’t see them making the endangered species list any time soon unless they start dying of diabetes.
            I also did not know what to expect from Hot Springs.  As a national park right downtown, it has a very urban feel to it.  The architecture ranges from turn of the century to downright modern and lacks cohesion.  The trails are beautifully maintained and perfect for running but at no point was I out of earshot or sight of humanity.  It seems more like a large urban green space rather than a national park.  It grated against my perception of what a national park should be, preserved, remote and having a unique quality. Why had this become a national park?  Perhaps a late choice to preserve it before civilization intruded on it any further?
            In fact I was wrong.  This little park was set aside in the 1830s and received official park status in the 1920s. Its distinctive waters were considered to have healing properties for many years.  I have no doubt that a bath in 1890 before germ theory and proper hygiene probably did “cure” a few things.  Doctors began to prescribe a regimen of baths for people to treat an assortment of ales.  The hot springs were considered not just a natural phenomena but also a national health facility.  The government stepped in to make sure that access to the healing powers of the spa were available to all, even those that could not pay.

            Not surprisingly, with the advent of modern medicine the baths went into some decline.  They are now opened under the auspices of luxury and nostalgia. I hate to get political but it’s hard not to miss the history lesson.  At one point, this place was vital to the health of the nation and EVERYONE was to have access to it.  It is remarkable that nearly two centuries ago they were able to recognize the importance of healthcare for all no matter how questionable the methods may have been. Now much fighting and money is spent arguing who should have access to care and how much care they should get. Maybe medicine isn’t making so much progress after all.  My conclusion is that the health of the nation truly is and should be a national treasure.  Long live the Hot Springs!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

            In the real world, people think about becoming vegan.  They weigh the morality of eating meat.  They carefully consider the environmental impact of raising chickens, pigs and cows.  They are distressed about the cruel way animals are kept and then butchered.  They don’t want to deplete the world of too many resources for the next generation. They worry for their personal health.   They do it for their cholesterol, their blood sugar, for improved energy and glowing skin.  They consider recipes and make substitutions.  These are thoughtful, conscientious people.
            I accidentally became vegan. 
            Let me make clear that I have nothing against vegans or vegetarians.  At home, it was rare that I cooked meat.  My specialty is hearty salad or tofu stir-fry.  Meat confuses me.  There is such a fine line between the inedible not-yet-done-and-might-kill-you variety and the inedible way-too-done-and-dry-as-a-bone type.  I will confess to depending on some very traditional gender roles here.  I always had a man in my life to make fire and turn a steak for the times I needed to feel like a caveman and eat flesh.  Even now sitting 5 feet from a campfire pit, I am not sure I could actually get a fire going.  I mean, probably, given a lot of paper, very dry wood and enough matches but don’t trust your meal plan on it.
            While wondering the grocery store before leaving, I contemplated possible meals.  It was at that point, two days before leaving that I realized I was missing one essential item: a microwave. Any single person on earth can tell you the only thing they actually use to cook with is a microwave.  They were thoughtful enough to include two TVs in the teardrop as if I will be going camping with the goal of binge watching Netflix but given that the camper is basically fit for one person, you might think they would have considered the demographic needs a little more closely. 
            Meal planning was, thus complicated by lack of fire or microwave.  I was down to a small two burner propane stove which left me with boil or simmer. Determined to eat a balanced diet, I left Tucson with several meals planned and packed accordingly.  I also left with a few emergency rations of ramen and beans. 
            Too tired after driving all day and barely making it to camp before dark, I subsisted on dried peaches and almonds.  The next morning I ate a banana before hiking the trail and snacked on Gu blocks at the tope of Guadalupe Peak.  Lunch was a peanut butter and honey sandwich. Dinner consisted of a bag of chickpea and potato curry.  
Again the next day, I ate very little before hitting the trail as I do not run well with a full stomach.  I stuffed down another peanut butter and honey sandwich before descending into Carlsbad Cavern. Needless to say by dinner that night, I was ready for something more substantial. 
            Man and nature thwarted my plans. Every few minutes, gusts of wind would come through and rattle the trailer hard enough I was pretty sure I was simply going to tip over.  I sat in my trailer for a long time trying hard to believe that my 120 pounds would weigh down my 1800-pound trailer. Finally hunger drove me outside to cook.  The teardrop design is such that the kitchen is a tucked away under a flap that pops up in the back and provides a nominally covered space to cook.  This, however, provided absolutely no relief from the wind which whipped up sand and small ballistic rocks with it.
            Reaching in to remove hamburger from the fridge, I sense it was warmer than it should be.  In fact, the meat was barely cool.   It suddenly occurred to me that the whole time I had spent in the teardrop that afternoon, I had not heard the fridge turn on and off as I usually do to my great annoyance.  In fact, I had celebrated the relative silence not realizing my food was slowly rotting in its absence.  Instead of being run on propane like many campers, the fridge runs of the battery which runs down in a hurry.  The battery, I would learn too late, was too low to maintain the refrigerator.
            I worried about the yogurt which looked as though it has separated into various unappetizing layers. The cheese looked sweaty and limp.  I doubted the integrity of the hamburger but was determined to have a proper dinner.  Believing the gusts were dying down, I started cooking the meat and boiling water for the noodles.  It took about five minutes for a fierce gust to kick up again coating everything in sand and knocking most of it to the ground.
            Left with warm hamburger coated in dust, my resolve vanished. I put on a kettle of water to boil while I dumped the remains.  That night I finished of the dried peaches and almonds and then slurped down some noodles.  The conditions did not improve the next day.  Still down a fridge and without any new supplies, I ate black beans and a tortilla.  By the time I rolled into Galveston, I was ready to stab the cow myself.  
 


Meat, alcohol and ice cream. Crisis resolved.

Friday, March 25, 2016

I considered making the theme song to this Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” but it is much too sentimental.  I think Kane Brown’s “I used to love you sober” is probably a bit more accurate.

            “So what is it like to be back?” my friend asked me as we sat outside in the salty air.
            “Hard,” was my simplified answer, but what else would I say when returning to a place that was once home.
            Galveston, or Galvetraz as I call it, is a barrier island off the coast of Texas.  The island is an odd blend of Caribbean tropical and Tex-Mex.  It had a once glorious past that the old, rich families like to re-live.  The summers are always 90 degrees and 90% humidity.  The fall brings wave after wave of hurricanes that sends the residents fleeing like rats.  The streets empty in the winter when the tourists find other places to squat.  Most of the residents are associated with the University of Texas Medical Branch in some form or fashion. This was home for most of my 20s.
            On paper, my CV to be specific, I got my first job out of college at UTMB as a research assistant in a lab.  I later went to medical school there.  I graduated and moved on. It looks quite neat and professional.  Simple. The real story is a bit messier. 
            Galveston is where I went while I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I took classes in psychology.  I totaled a car that wasn’t mine.  I competed internationally as a triathlete.  I got a dog. I ran my first marathon which would set me on the path to run in the Olympic Trials.  I was poor.  I wanted to be an anthropologist but chickened out and went to medical school instead. I survived Hurricane Ike. I made friends but now mostly wonder what happen to them. I fell in love and broke up, twice.  I left Texas determined to never look back pretending that Hurricane Ray didn’t actually do any damage.
            Leaving Galveston also coincided with the start of residency in Tucson.  After three years of literally being lost in the desert, I emerged with a profound sense of loneliness as most of my friendships had withered.  I didn’t even spend the holidays with my family.  By the time I finished, the only thing I had was running and a job I didn’t like.  I ran a lot.
            Then I made a decision.  It was time to reconnect and seek forgiveness where needed.  I can’t change what happened but I could have done things better and people would not have been hurt. In retrospect, I can better appreciate my own insecurities that led to many of my choices.  It was compounded by my underappreciated wanderlust that has been present since I left home at 17 to spend a year in Spain.  Considering my present circumstances, a certain restlessness may be a life long affliction.
            Galveston was the first stop on the tour.  Most of the people I know there have left but I was uneasy being back in the place where it all started.  Perhaps the same insecurities still haunt me as I have been surprised and utterly relieved by the warm, enthusiastic greetings I have been met with through Galveston, Houston and on to Nashville.  Rarely have I felt so blessed to have a second chance.  Looking forward to many more reunions this trip.

                         




In the last two days I have been in the bowels of Carlsbad Caverns and on top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8749 feet.  My conclusion: I suddenly felt incredibly lame in my pursuit to see the national parks.  Here I am, a well educated white girl (Amy Cole will tell you I make a terrible white girl since I don’t drink green juice, I haven’t tried Kombucha and I don’t have a TV), running around the country in my cozy little camper, toilet included since I don’t care for communal bathing.  In the mean time, I am visiting places discovered by people with far inferior resources to say the least.  There is simply no way that I would descend into the cave with a rope latter and a headlamp. Just walking down and back up was a challenge with a paved pathway.  I couldn’t even bring myself to go on the guided tour given my claustrophobia!  In full disclosure, the elevator was broken so everyone had to take the 1.25m path in and out.  Admittedly, no small feat.  It was rather frightening to see people huffing and puffing going DOWN the trail.  I have no idea how some of them made it back up.  I tried to scoot by them as quickly as possible before they started clutching their chest. (Hey kids, granddad needs his stress test.  Let’s go to Carlsbad!). 
            Guadalupe Peak was no different.  Again I found myself on a rocky but well trodden path with no question about my destination, no trail finding or bush whacking required.  Who was the first to think getting to the summit was somehow important or interesting? It is ironic that my choice of audible book should be Into Thin Air about the tragedy of the Everest Climb in 1996.  There the threat of death became very real. My feat was  rendered even less remarkable.  Many people I passed on that peak were not athletically inclined and still hobbled to the top. While I, too, struggled with tired legs and burning calves, I can only imagine their discomfort. All of us in it for a brief glimpse of life from the top of the world, or at least Texas. Like I said, so many people tougher than I am.

            What I recognize in all the pioneers and explorers who were brave enough to be first is a sense of curiosity. It is easy to write them off as thrill seekers.  Yes, the danger to them was many fold greater than what I will face but the possibility of death isn’t what gets people out the door.  It is an insatiable need to know more and have the world make sense, even if just a small piece of it.  I have set out to do nothing extraordinary by taking my trip but I do hope to live life with a profound sense of curiosity and the courage to find the answers.
Should be read with Flo Rida's "My House" in the background...
    
        I have been on the road for a whopping 24 hours and the one thing I can say for sure is that I may be alone but I am never going to be alone.  RV living is the closest thing to living in a dorm that I have come to in the last 16 years. 
            I spent yesterday’s drive from Tucson, which took about 1.5h longer than I expected, stressing that there would be no space in the park.  Reservations were not permitted. To compound things, the sun was starting to set.  In my nightmare, I was wondering around West Texas in the dark, trying to find a campground.   Texas Chainsaw Massacre was playing in my head.
            Alas, I finally found the parking lot that serves at the RV park.  I was still trying to wiggle into my space when the first curious couples wonder over.  Yes, I acknowledge that I am a bit of a unique size and shape so the curiosity is inevitable; but I am still a little self conscious of my backing and hitching routine so having four “experts” watching had me feeling a little crowded.  In fact I would have been more comfortable just doing a striptease for them. 
            As repeated experience has now shown, they are not happy just seeing the outside.  A grand tour is expected and there are no inhibitions about inviting one’s self in to see.  This is when being obsessive compulsive about keeping things clean and organized pays off.  I felt pretty confident there was no underwear in eyesight. 
            Then we move onto the awkward hurdle of whether this belongs to my boyfriend or husband.  Once this very confusing fact is cleared up, advice is then freely dispensed: I need a solar panel and why haven’t I gotten one yet?  Charging the battery via the car is going to destroy my camper battery.  It is impossible to see all the national parks in a year.  Camping in Hot Springs is impossible unless you get there by noon.  I should travel with a dog. 

            I probably sound a little critical.  Truthfully these are perfect strangers making conversation about something that, in theory, we have in common.  This should be easy and natural.  We are temporary neighbors in the wilderness. Kumbaya!  But let’s not forget, peace offerings of food and chocolate are the start to every great relationship.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Two days to go and there is much to worry about.  Where to start? There is the brake line for the camper that should have been installed long ago.   There is the unfinished compartment for the sewer hoses that my friend is still fabricating.  I need to pack for temps ranging from steamy Texas to a blizzard in Wyoming.  So much to do but my real worry is that I am convinced I might starve.
            There are three things in life that make me grumpy: hungry, cold and tired.  Any one of the three I can usually muddle through but added together the misery grows exponentially and the chance of tears moves to 100%.  Let's just say that I have never had the misfortune of an eating disorder so I am usually pretty on top of the hungry part except with the unexpected happens and that is just what happened.
            A consequence of my decision to put off my trip for two weeks due to weather meant that I had three weeks to kill so I decided to pick up a few shifts for extra cash before hitting the road.  This put me on a small Indian reservation about 1.5 hours from town. This tribe, like many, is exceedingly poor.  It is grave ignorance that one must cross boarders to find “real” poverty.  In fact, America is rich with poverty.  The advantage of working in Sells is that you still get an international flare thanks to a boarder patrol stop on each trip out without ever leaving the red, white and blue.  Those that chose to work at the hospital become a tight knit, rag tag group because of the enormous personal sacrifices required to work in a remote area while treating the complex healthcare needs of the community. I feel like a bit of in interloper when working there.  I am not permanent staff and therefore do not suffer the long-term wear and tear of working there, but nor am I Indian or have any connection to the tribe.  It can be an awkward line to walk between being professional while also culturally sensitive. 
            I decided to use the opportunity to try out the camper since the hospital compound conveniently has RV hookups (housing is extremely limited on the reservation).  Each of my three trips out were planned to the very detail so that I went out with a two hangers of scrubs and a full fridge and I came home with a bag of laundry and empty Tupperware.  The safety of this plan lay in the fact the hospital was steps away with a working bathroom and a cafeteria.  What could go wrong?
            Things went very well the first two trips.  My confidence bolstered, I started testing my equipment.  First I tried out a device called the Sewer Solution.  I will leave it to your imagination but it is what it says it is.  I would call my first attempt using it YouTube worthy but fortunately there is no evidence. 
            My other bold move was to turn up the temp on my refrigerator all the way from 1 to 3 on a scale of 5.  Medium, right?  I was really trying for average! Unfortunately had the devastating consequence of freezing my Trader Joe’s salads, which make up a large percentage of my diet.  I was suddenly out two meals of my carefully measured calories.
            The third complication stemmed from the fact that I chose to work night shifts, a decision made in a moment of weakness. This meant that after working all night, I walked back to my camper, turned on the air conditioning and happily fell asleep.  Unfortunately, the AC didn’t work nearly as well as my refrigerator at keeping things cool.  Several hours later I was wide-awake and feeling like a potato wrapped in an aluminum camper baking in the Arizona sun.  Sleep was no longer an option and as long as my eyes were open, my stomach decided to wake up as well.  I suddenly had a new triad: hot, tired and hungry and it wasn’t pretty. I headed off the compound to find food since the cafeteria was closed.
            My friend, who has worked in Sells for nearly 20 years and once lived out there full time, encouraged me to visit the grocery store and nearby dining options so I had a better sense of the place. Unfortunately, the modern diet has not been kind to the Indian population.  They are plagued by obesity and diabetes and the many devastating complications of both, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and amputations among others.  In spite of this, many of the patients still came in with giant sodas and a bag of Cheetos.  The few restaurant options served only greasy hamburgers and fry bread. The only grocery store in the area is stocked with fried burritos, fried chicken and mac and cheese.  There is a wide selection of lard.  The donuts were sold out.  The veggies look wilted. It is hard to maintain a good diet when healthy options are in such short supply.  A can of black beans and half cooked rice made up my dinner that night before heading back into my shift.
            After another long night, I crawled back to the camper and fell into a drunk like sleep after two days with only 4 hours of sleep.  I agreed to be up in three hours to go for a run before heading back into town.  This poor decision was compounded by the fact that the temperature had risen to 80 degrees.  By the time I finished running and packed the camper, I was nauseated and dizzy from the heat. Still, anxious to get out of town, I drove to the gas station for water and maybe a Gatorade.  I stepped inside to the smell of greasy fry bread, which suddenly sounded decadent. I fixated on the 32oz icy cold soda the girl in front of me was filling.  I turned my back willing myself to find something that wouldn’t block off my arteries before I got home, but alas, my survival instincts kicked in.  Minutes later I was back on the road, a flakey empanada in one hand and a Root Beer in the other, feeling a lot more cheerful and finally just a little bit native.


Friday, March 11, 2016

I am sure that my father expected a few panicked phone calls from the road.  I am also sure that he was not expecting them from Phoenix Ikea parking lot.
I have an awesome dad.  I am lucky that my father has chosen to invest time and energy into his only daughter.  He trudges across the country and even half way around the world to watch me race.  He stands around in the heat, the cold, the snow, the rain and all else to support me.  It doesn't matter that when I was doing triathlons, he could not name all three sports if a gun were to his head.  It doesn't matter that he was driving all night until 3:30 AM or just getting up at 3:30AM, with the generous compensation of a cup of coffee, he made it happen.
I would like to think that the teardrop has taken us to a whole new level of our relationship.  Finally we have something in common to discuss: towing capacity, structural integrity and sewage.  As it turns out, only your father is willing to deal with your sewage both at 36 months old and 36 years old.  All the while we brainstorm ways to increase storage capacity and minimize risk of objects becoming ballistic missiles while in route to the next destination.
One of his first tasks was to teach me how to back the camper.  This is a complicated process that I have decided boils down to  turning the steering wheel in the exact opposite direction that you hope the trailer ends up, saying a hail Mary or two, pressing on the horn to alert near by strangers that they are in imminent danger of being run over by a miniature camper, closing your eyes and hitting the gas.
The first task was backing out of the driveway where I had abandoned the trailer in the night before in the dark, too tired to consider my first lesson.  The driveway is about 40 ft long.  It might as well have been 40 miles.  I know for a fact the neighbors were peaking out their windows what in god's name we needed to run over repeatedly as I pulled forward and back desperately trying to get the trailer to go any way but sideways.
In reality it took about an hour is a WIDE open parking lot to finally get the hang of it.  I turned to my father and beamed.
"Bet you didn't think that you would be giving driving lessons again 20 years later?"
"Of course," he tells me, "to my grandchildren!"
Well if I am not giving them grandchildren, I might as well multitask.
Releasing me onto the world, I have been learning to negotiate highways, byways and increasingly narrow ways.  I was proud to nail my reverse park job between two garbage cans and down a 75 foot drive.  While I still feel a shot of anxiety any time the option of anything but pull through parking presents itself, I was starting to feel pretty confident that I could worm my way out of most things.
Until Ikea.
Ikea is a phenomenon unto itself.  The store that prides itself on maximizing small spaces has to have one of the largest footprints of any modern store.  The irony.
Showing great discretion, I parked at the far end of the parking lot where there was exactly one other car many spaces away from mine.  If nothing else, I will get my 10,000 steps a day in with this thing if only to avoid any other interaction with another vehicle.  Unfortunately, after an hour of shopping, I came out to find my car cuddled up to a Mustang and a Civic.  In front of me, a minivan and truck have assumed position and in spite of my dwadling, no one appears to be coming to claim them.
I make a concerned effort to pull forward and make the sharp 90 degree turn but at 25ish feet long, there ain't nothing sharp happening.  Unfortunately, backing up has now become a blind turn into the Mustang.
I panicked.
Then I called dad.
Hyperventilating, I quickly explain the situation while cars drive by, slowing to look for a parking space and seeing the awkward angle of car and camper, quickly drive off.  This only adds to my embarrassment as it is so obvious that I am now pinned down in a GIANT Ikea parking lot.
Dad does his very best understanding dad routine, suggests just unhooking the camper and pushing it back and re-attaching.  Yes, yes.  This sounds wise.
I get out prepared to go through the routine and as I look at the hitch, it occurs to me that this process of unhitching, pushing and re-hitching will take much, much longer than I want now that it is starting to rain.  At that moment, yet another Mustang pulls up to my other side.  While at first I question the driver's wisdom as it seems that every other car has pulled clear of me, I decided that this would be the man most motivated to help me as his car is now also in the line of destruction.
Indeed, when I explain the situation, he hopped out of his car like it was on fire.  Guiding me 6 inches closer to the other Mustang in order to avoid his own Mustang I am sure was just a coincidence.  But I am proud to say that in one try, teardrop and Chief were lined back up and on their way.  Crisis resolved.
All I can say is thanks for a father who thinks that girl power includes learning to drive a stick and backing a trailer!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Feeling high on my plan to road trip the parks, I shared with my family who promptly and reliably expressed their doubt.  It's not that they aren't supportive, it's that I happen to be in a phase where I have a lot of "plans".    Every day was something new.  Back to school for my MBA.  Write a book.  Apply for a job in pharma.  Apply for a job with IHS.  Go back to fellowship.  Start a brewery. The options were plentiful.  So their doubt was not without reason.  But I think their biggest reason was simply that I hate camping and they saw a lot of camping in my future.
I have to admit.  The thought of sleeping in a tent on the ground for several months made my motivation wane.  My last camping experience was 17 years ago.  As a cross country skier, I was a rare specimen and a team needed a skier for a multisport race.  Being cheap college students, we camped the night before the race and I woke up in pouring rain soaking in a puddle.  I swore I would never camp again and I never have.
It presented something of a dilemma.  The cost and inconvenience of hotels seemed impractical.  The tent was just a little too practical.  Research ensued.  Well, maybe not research, but a lot of surfing on night shifts until it was love at first sight.

Just under 90 square feet, it has all the necessities and absolutely nothing else.  Most importantly, I have a dry bed to sleep on and a toilet that I didn't have to share with bears or humans.
There are only a few minor issues.  The first being that I know nothing about campers of any size.  The second is that I lacked a proper vehicle to tow it with.  Finally, it has no microwave.  I am cautiously optimistic that six months in a confined space will go flawlessly!

Monday, March 7, 2016

In April of 2015 at 3AM on a slow over night pediatric shift, I was miserable.  It was literally causing me pain to be awake.  The few patients that trickled in would have been as well off to just go directly to Walgreens, pick up some Tylenol and go back to bed.  In other words, staying up all night for febrile children and their cranky parents was not how I wanted to live out my career.  Over and over I was asked as I lamented the tragedies of my jobs to sympathetic ears, what would I rather do?  So in that moment, I knew that the only place I would rather be is running through a national park.  I immediately began sketching out a route across the US that would take me through each park.  If only I had the time and money...

Quitting one's job and hitting the road is likely the fantasy of blue collar workers everywhere.  Who doesn't want to give the middle finger salute to the Man? But the dream took over my life.  All the while I continued to interview for jobs, some that seemed like ideal jobs, but none that actually made me as happy or were nearly as interesting as seeing all the national parks, even if they were much more profitable.  So the goal is this: visit all the national parks by the time I am 40.  I have four years to check off the 42 that I have not seen.

First there is work to do: Downsize!

As it turns out, upgrading your life is a process of endless loss as well.  First I left financial security and all my cushy benefits.  I left my colleagues and an established reputation.  I am packing up my house.  When every single item in your life must be judged for it's worthiness to be saved or tossed, there is a lot of loss.  I cannot possibly take every jacket I own but I really, really want to. Do I want it so bad that it is worth paying to have it packed, moved, and stored for months?  Will I even still want it when I get it back?  And if I can live without it for so long, do I really need it at all?  I can't believe how much I hold onto because I worry someone will be offended if I give it away.

It is not just getting to the road.  It will be ongoing.  As I choose to step away from the normal routine of life, I put into storage my relationships, other goals, and my career.  It is an interesting choice for sure considering I am so unwilling to gamble that I have never bought a lottery ticket!
So I played ER doctor for a while:

Me: How can I help you today?

Patient: Well I think it started when I set my cat's tail on fire.  It was it just left this big burn patch when I tried to put it out with the carpet.  So now I am going to lose my rent deposit, too.  I have to move in 5 days since my rent check bounced. You know they hardly give you anything on social security. That cat gets up on the table but I had lit a candle.  That wasn't cheap.  Of course I took him to get looked at.  They say his fur will grow back eventually.  But I don't have any place to move since I won't get my deposit.

Me: Ma'am it says here you came for arm pain.

Patient: Well that has been there a long time.

Me: So let me start over.  How can I help you today?

I wish I could count the number of times I have said that.  Literally, what motivated you to sit around for hours in a room full of people with contagious diseases so that you could tell me a convoluted story about how you set your cat's tail on fire?  Or tell me about your abdominal pain that has been on going for 6 years and is closely followed by your PCP, GI specialist, and neuropath?  What can I add to your already complete work up?  I wish I could fix all that walked through that door but one thing was clear, every day I felt like a failure because I really couldn't offer the help that people needed.

At first I just fantasized.  Then I quit.

Yup, I quit in honor of my 36th birthday.  This is the year that something is suppose to happen.  I suppose that I could sit around and wait for it but I fully acknowledge that sometimes we have to give fate a little nudge. Things that happen this year will be the result of years of accumulated choices and I believe that the decisions I take now could launch me in completely different trajectories.

I watch my friends finish their degrees, get a good job, get married, buy a house and have a couple of kids.  They seem happy.  This seems so normal.  I do not begrudge them that they have managed to live such normal lives.  Sometimes I am even jealous, but I simply realize that somewhere I got off track.  It is like looking at a child's growth chart and suddenly discovering that they have fallen off the cure.  Normal just isn't working. I lack a job I am willing to settle into and be a good little comrade.  I lack a spouse to share the "joys" of home ownership.  I want nothing to do with offspring.  It is finally time to make this path my own, even if it isn't on trend.

Happy New Year!! While everyone else makes resolutions to commence on January 1st, I tend to delay mine a bit.  Sure I miss out on the great deals for gym memberships but who wants to go to the gym in January anyway? Too crowded with all those other Resolutioners.  Plus, who has really finished off all their holiday baking by January 1and is ready to start their diet? That means you have to throw out all that delicious sugar or cheat on that new fad diet where you are only allowed to eat mushrooms grown by virgins in the Transylvanian forest.  So, yes, it is February but it is my New Year.  I wait for my birthday on February 2, otherwise known as Groundhog's day, to scheme up some resolutions.  The bonus is that I only have to stick it out 26 more days to say that I made it a whole month!

This year I am 36, a benign year for most.  None of the fan fare of 18 or 21 or 40 or even 30 itself.  And it fell on a Tuesday.  How much more bland can one get?  I looked up it's symbolism and numerology.  I can't say it made me feel warm and fuzzy.  Apparently it represents the devil or Satan.  So now I am 6x6 years old.  Evil squared!  It's amazing we make it to 40.

Not knowing the apparent evilness of this year, I have long had an intuition that this would be an important year in my life.  In my early teens as an optimistic, type A, goal driven perfectionist, I imagined that at age 36 I would get married.  You see, I had the whole thing planned out.  Exactly how long I would be in college, a couple years in the Peace Corp, 4 years of med school, residency, fellowship, and then after I had chosen where I would practice and was settling into my career, my knight in shinning armor would happen to be sitting there, at the end of the rainbow with his pet unicorn, just waiting to whisk me down the aisle.  So 36 seemed like just about the right timing for all that.

As it turned out, some of that actually happened as one might expect from a type A, goal driven perfectionist.  I went to college, skipped the Peace Corp in favor or research, went to medical school and finished residency but that is kinda where it dries up.  At that point the optimist in me was in hibernation with no thoughts of waking back up.  My type A was getting fat and looking more like B every day.  My only goal was to survive my shift without killing anyone. That fellowship got the middle finger and I got a job.  I was 33.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

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