Sunday, November 30, 2008

On Telenovelas and In Between Episodes

I never watch telenovelas but I have some friends who do. These Mexican soap opera fanatics spend evenings in front of the television waiting for their Hispanic heroes. Who could blame them? The men are really handsome and sexy (yeah right, to me they look very gay, screaming almost). But name these leading men Sergio, Jose Luis, or Fernando Jose and I can almost forgive their too obvious crotches and too artificially sculpted bodies. (Sorry but I do have a crazy fascination for Hispanic names, haha! My first born, if I’ll ever have one will be named… ooops, oversharing…)

And the women, oohlahlah! Sultry blonde hair, 23-inch waistlines, stupid-looking faces who appear to be ready to jump into bed any minute of the day. I guess every imperfect Filipina wants to be like them. And sometimes I do look at myself in the mirror and say ugh! I want that Thalia body too! But of course, that’s ridiculous. A rather too predictable and juvenile self-esteem problem that I’ve managed to kick off as I grew older.

I’ve watched several episodes of the original Marimar before and it wasn’t difficult understanding why Filipinos have a fascination for them. Except for the very irritating discordance of the shape of the character’s mouths and the words that come out, I do find these TV shows intriguing though somewhat too tacky for my taste. Nevertheless, because I enjoy testing the limits of my own disgust, I would have watched these telenovelas if I had regular access to television and the patience to wait as each episode unravels.

Perhaps all of us subconsciously dream to be a leading lady in a telenovela. In these stories, there’s always the long-suffering woman, the unfairly accused wife, the deviously schemed seduction that miraculously leads to a failed pregnancy, the rich husband who unfairly and prematurely judges a staged scene, the poor girl who falls in love with the rich haciendero and then the haciendero turns out to be the pauper and the poor girl is a heiress who rescues him in the end. And here’s the catch. Most of the time, the popular telenovelas always has someone who develops amnesia. There's always someone who forgets and the loss of memory redeems everyone. And of course, the best part that everybody loves is this: there’s always a happily ever after.

Very Filipino. Perhaps that’s why Filipinos dig them. We love them. We hope our lives can be like a Mexican telenovela. We hope that despite the twists and turns of our boring everyday existence, we get a load of drama, good or bad that leaves us stunned at the end of the day.

I hate telenovelas. I hate waiting for the next part of the story. I hate surprises that almost always end up breaking my heart. I never had the patience to stay calm, sit through the lull of a long commercial break, and wait for the next episode to unravel. The part that I hate the most is when I cry. Even these darn cheesy, tasteless telenovelas bring rivers to my eyes. Too predictable. But it makes me cry just the same.

All of sudden, here I am. Ironically, Jean who absolutely hates telenovelas got dragged to a telenovela that is my own life. I don’t know the title, I don’t know the characters, I don’t know the plot. But it absolutely has all the elements of a classic Mexican telenovela that I enumerated above. All except the amnesia part.

Again, I hate waiting for the next episode. I’m fidgeting in my seat, my heart is in atrial fibrillation in rapid ventricular response, my mouth is dry. What’s going on? Who are the characters? Where is everyone? What happened? What happens next?

I hate this telenovela. I hate all these commercial breaks. I most especially hate the fact that a happy ending will most likely not happen at all. I also hate it that while waiting for that happy ending that will never come, I can't even cry, which is so unlikely because I usually cry over the most tacky stories.

I hate this telenovela. But there is something I am absolutely sure of: the part of the girl who gets amnesia belongs to me. And I will be willing, far too willing, to play it.

When the Caged Bird Refuses to Fly

Last day of November. This is also my last duty as senior house officer. Tomorrow starts a new month. Tomorrow, starts my countdown to a different life, the life that I've forgotten about - the life outside PGH. Put a bird in a cage for so long. It will not fly out of the cage even if you leave the door open. The door of my cage is open now. I'm afraid to fly out. The world out there is so big, so unfamiliar. It's terrifying to be out of the cage and I don't know if I can still fly.

Starting December 16, I'll practically be a bum. And as of today, 15 days before that fated morning, I still don't have the slightest idea what choice I'll end up making. I have submitted my application for Cardiology fellowship, but I have to admit it was more of a second choice, a comfortable safety net just in case the best choice fails to work out. The greatest problem is this: I don't know my best choice.

I had thought one year of administrative work that is chief residency would buy me time to make up my mind and know my exact place in the world. I didn't know chief residency would actually muddle up things. Now, there are so many wonderful options all laid out on a silver platter, very well arranged, each offering a promise of an exotic out-of-this world experience. The chance to do something and change the world is right there. The only difference is how, and as what.

Being a believer of process instead of product, I'm having a very difficult time making up my mind. Throughout my term as chief resident, I only have one guiding principle: whatever is right. My residents can attest to this. Whenever there are disposition problems or conflicts with other departments, I've always asked them, "What do you think is the right thing to do?" And so far, that principle has guided me well.

This time, everything seems right. It's time to choose what's best. And oh boy, choosing what's best is far more difficult.

I've been obsessively probing my Subconscious lately. I realized that I'm afraid of that big, terrifying, unknown world that is so full of adventures and surprises both good and bad. I've lived in the comforts of my cage for so long. I don't think I'm ready to spread my wings and explore the world yet. But what if it's not the big wild world outside that is freaking me out? What if it's actually the thought that if I fly away and Destiny finally comes looking for me in my cage, I'm no longer there?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Inspite of, despite of, because of...

This blog has become so somber lately. Too serious. Too drab. Let me just post a few happy pictures. Finally, I've reached my last 20 days in the chairman's office. Woohoo!

Chief residency was so out-of-character. It was a crazy choice to even take the challenge. But so far, this has been the greatest decision I've made in my young life. It has been a fantastic year. There are so many people to thank. So many joys to share.

Rummage Sale 2008. Can anyone guess who owned this shirt? Wahaha! Anyone willing to bid against me? To the first year residents, thank you for all the efforts. With residents like you, who needs a chief resident? I'm so proud of you guys!=)

With my incoming kids. Uhmm, no, you will be Dexter's na. But I know we chose you well. Walang iwanan ha! Thank you for making me part of your own journey to be great internists! It's an honor. Sigh! I miss my batch. Can't believe it's been 4 years since my 1st teambuilding...

With my super gwapo kids. I had to make this crazy request to have this picture taken with them. Feeling showbiz. Thank you again.=)

My beloved staff who endured my disorganized behaviour and lavished me with galunggong and sukang pinakurat. I am grateful for everyday in the office.=)

Lately I just sit around the office and breathe. Wow. This life is good. And it certainly is getting better.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

when heroes fall

Despite my relatively advanced age and my not-so-sweet encounters with reality, I still insist that superheroes exist. I believe that some people have certain special gifts - they can fly, do magic, unleash the powers of the mind, make a tremendous difference in the world. I think everyone, in one way or another, has his own super hero. He may not exactly be someone wearing a mask or a cape, or a sword-wielding chap who recites strange magic spells and instantly levitates, or a knight-in-shining armor on a shining white horse ready to save the day. Our own heroes wear ordinary clothes: slippers, shorts, an old shirt, a backpack, jeans, Chuck Taylors, geeky glasses, a stethoscope, a pen. But to us adoring fans, they are heroes more glamorous than those we see on TV. We simply look up to them and we are amazed at every move they make.

I've been a believer of heroes since I was a child. So far, I've never been disappointed. They may be unaware of it but my heroes have made me do wonderful things. They've influenced me to make important choices, guided me through the crossroads of my life. Their own lives, their simple presence, some seemingly insignificant lines that they've spoken (see entry on Serendipitous Lines) have made me do things in my life that I never thought I would be able to accomplish in my lifetime. My heroes are heroes because they made me better.

What happens when a super hero falls from grace? And you witness the fall with your own two eyes. What happens if SuperMan falters in the sky and just helplessly plummets to the ground? What if you took off SpiderMan's mask and realize he's just your geeky neighbor, Peter Parker? What if, just what if, you find out that Batman, in all his mystery and glamour, suffers from substance abuse and chronic depression? What if the great Hulk, in all his bulk and strength, snores and frequently farts in his sleep?

What if your superhero falls from the sky during your most optimistic moment? What if he drops to the ground right there in front of you, with a tattered cape and spirit, helpless?

You can do two things. The easiest option is to simply walk away, fuming mad and disappointed. The second is to help him up, even if it breaks your heart.

My choice is easy. I choose to stick around. After all, heroes do fall. And I like my Achilles better with his vulnerable heels.

This weekend, one of my favorite superheroes stooped down to give me this heart-wrenching message, "Jean, nothing you do will ever disappoint me." Coming from someone I truly look up to, those words practically saved me.

So today, I'm paying these same words forward.

To my beloved caped crusaders who have fallen or who might fall, don't worry. Nothing you do or fail to do will ever disappoint me.

Monday, November 24, 2008


This part of my life is called "Awwww!"

I've been a believer of persistence, the power of the steady, insistent prayer. I was told in the past that God could actually change His mind. Remember that line in the Bible when you just have to ask and ask until He gives you what you asked for? Because the Bible said that when His children asks Him for bread, He never gives them a serpent.

Recently I was made to realize several hard truths. Yes, God will not give you a serpent. But sometimes, He won't give you bread either. He simply says "No". Not only that. Sometimes, God even slams the door right in your face. And oh boy, your face gets so swollen you can't even cry. He could have said "No" and I could have taken it with grace and just walk away. A black and white, all bold, "No" would have been enough. Or a gentle closing of the door. But He slams the door real hard. He can be rude sometimes. And He leaves you right there in the middle of the street, dazed.

Whew! Wow!


I need to get that faith back.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Learning from Emily

It's 5PM. The office is quiet. Everyone has gone home. Everyone, except me - always the first to arrive, the last to leave. I hear shuffling of feet from the Senior Residents' Office above me, a murmur of voices, then raucous laughter. Reminds me of who we were one year ago. Now, I do not know. There is no callroom to go home to. No one to gripe with. One must learn to keep one's thoughts bottled in. One must cry alone if it's necessary to do so. These days, tears are not a sign of weakness, but more of an offering, a gift of honesty toward one's self.

I find myself in the office rather often these days. At 10 PM, sometimes I'm still here, toying with my computer, twirling around my swivel chair like a little child. I just gaze and stare at the piles of paper on my desk. I never even attempt to gather the courage and energy to discard whatever is useless. I just stare and stare until my stomach tells me it's time for my evening tea.

Today, while going through my usual habit of staring, my eyes were suddenly fixed on a certain book. It was a hard-bound copy of a collection of poems by Emily Dickinson. I've loved this book. I adore this poet and her works. I opened the book and was surprised I've actually made some notes on some poems. I had several post-its stuck on the pages, with my comments (evidence of my somewhat geeky personality).

Emily Dickinson was a recluse. She spent most of her life in a room on the second floor of her father's house. She wrote almost two thousand poems. She rarely descended from her little room, because she claimed, "To live is so startling". She lived until the young age of fifty-five.

This short and secluded life, however, is not mirrored by her writings. Her poems are full of feeling, full of life, as if she has lived and relished every emotion that a human being can be capable of feeling in a huge and exciting universe. Emily lived and died a recluse. But I could not help but wonder: Before she decided to renounce life as ordinary people knew it, did anything happen to Emily?

Here are some of my theories that I derived from a few of my favorite lines:

1. Did she hope, then suddenly lost everything she hoped for?
Except the heaven had come so near,
So seemed to choose my door,
The distance would not haunt me so;
I had not hoped before.

But just to hear the grace depart
I never thought to see,
Afflicts me with a double loss;
'T is lost, and lost to me.

2. Did she suffer unspoken affection?
I hide myself within my flower,
That wearing on your breast,
You, unsuspecting, wear me too -
And angels know the rest.

I hide myself within my flower,
That, fading from your vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me
Almost a loneliness.

3. The agony of unrequited love?
Proud of my broken heart since thou didst break it,
Proud of the pain I did not feel till thee,
Proud of my night since thou with moons dost slake it,
Not to partake thy passion, my humility.

I'm also a spinster who has virtually exiled herself in a room, not a physical one, but a psychological room I rarely come down from. What now? Hey, Emily? Why?

I realize I don't want to be Emily Dickinson. I can borrow her lines but not her life. "To live is so startling." Yes, I agree with her. But that's exactly the same reason why it is glorious to be alive!

I closed the book, placed it back on the shelf. Then, something fell. It was a folded piece of paper from long ago. Lines from another poet. From a guy named AE Houseman. I don't remember writing them down. The lines may have stirred my soul then. Perhaps, long ago, during my teenage years. Here goes:

He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?
He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand and tore my heart in sunder
And went with half my life about my ways.

Oh yeah. I understand. Emily, perhaps you went about your ways with half your life. The world will remember your pain and will always end up applauding your story. But as for me, I'm getting my full measure of life, even if I have to go on limping.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

One last word on post-travel blues...

It's been exactly one week since that warm, windless night in Apo Island. I can still remember the sound silence made, that steady, eerie droning at my eardrums. The droning that had a strange rhythmic quality, much like a heart beating, that it was difficult to tell if the sound was merely silence or the systoles and diastoles of my own heart. The moon was round and bright, but not full. It had a pale yellow hue, casting a faint silvery light on the still Dumaguete waters. The sky was cloudy, shyly revealing telltale traces of a brewing storm. The gentle timidity of darkness only afforded us a few stars, but they were enough to make the night beautiful.

The light the moon cast over the waters was breathtaking. Right in front of us was a company of dancers all dressed in silver, partying on the water, dazzling us with an enchanting number. A performance that was magical, made more charming because of its evanescence. Much like the flickering lights in the city, but with an added beauty from the harmony of the moon, the water, the breeze, the stars and everything that was there and that was not. By midnight, the ocean in front of us became a gigantic stage lit up by a huge spotlight from heaven. That was my moment. That singular point in time when everything in the universe just seemed to conspire to please me. At that time, I would have jumped off the porch, ran into the ocean, kicked off my shoes and walked on water.

I should have.

But I'm still here. I'm back in the office. After exactly one week, I am thinking back on that evening wondering why life goes on this way. It's an exhausting, endless journey of disappointments and joys, beauty and ugliness, passion and emptiness. I think that if all of us will scrutinize our lives closely, examining every tiny detail, we will realize that the most part of it is dull, empty, useless, even painful, worthy of forgetting. Life, after all, becomes a long, sad, chore that we should perhaps get over with as soon as we can.

But then there are moments. Moments when we become most hopeful, when we suddenly rediscover that the world is beautiful. Sometimes these moments last for hours. Sometimes, they last long enough for us to say a prayer of thanksgiving. But sometimes, like many of mine, they are transient, lasting only for one single breath. One breath when you become a witness of a miracle, a revelation of time itself. That one breath when the ephemeral greets the eternal, when the surreal meets reality, when the present crosses over to become a memory.

Those moments make life worth all the trouble. Those moments make every journey worth the nastiest post-travel depression ever imaginable. This evening, I pace around my office, stroll around Ward 1 and Ward 3, walk around PGH. The moon is round and full and orange now. There are no stars. All I hear is the loud droning of vehicles and the occasional rattlings of the LRT. I'm far away from that moment in Apo Island. But I know this life that I have now is all worth it. Soon, I will be traveling once more. And until then, I know moments will come. I pray I'll be blessed enough to find them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Song of the Wanderer

I'm still depressed. Despite my resolve to get out of the dumps and build a refreshed outlook on the world out there, I am still in the gloom. My shoulders feel heavy and I look terrible, disheveled, unkempt. I move around dazed even if I spent the rest of the night sleeping. I barely manage to get through the day. In an attempt to organize my life, I made a checklist of things-to-do this morning and I painstakingly attempted to accomplish all of them. I still smile, make small talk, do my regular chief resident duties. I can still successfully dodge the urge to lose my temper on the most petty of concerns. In general, I think I'm still all right. I hope I'm still all right.

Yesterday, I went to my psychiatrist friend. I asked for a remedy for big-time post-travel depression. She told me there's no such clinical entity. It's just adjustment disorder. All I need is reassurance. No medications needed. Like a viral infection, it will spontaneously resolve. I hope she's right. After all, I'm just in Day 3. Things will get better soon.

Still deep into my illness, I did the unthinkable this morning: I left the hospital in the middle of a hectic day. Despite the mountains of paperwork to finish, I got out of the PGH compound and took a walk around Padre Faura and its neighboring streets.

Being a doctor who's guilty of self-medication, I got the best remedy for a crash-phase addict: another fix, or whatever is closest to it. I went to the nearest SEA Air office and got my roundtrip ticket to my ultimate destination: Basco. Sigh... Two months to go and I'll be flying again. And not only that, it's going to be another heaped-up, double-serving of my greatest addictions. Hehe. At least I have something to look forward to. Hmmm, I can almost breathe the Batanes breeze. Another set of moments to savor.

On my way back to the hospital, I was lured by this cozy bookstore in Padre Faura, La Solidaridad. I reminded myself to secure an adequate stash of books for my 18-day Ivatan sojourn so I ventured in. I got interested in a book by F. Sionil Jose (perhaps because of the title). It's called "Viajero". Hmmm, viajero. Wanderer. Drifter. That's me.

The opening poem caught my attention. It is something by Dr. Jose Rizal, translated by the great Nick Joaquin. Here goes...

Song of the Wanderer

Dry leaf flies at random
till it's seized by a wind from above:
so lives on earth the wanderer,
without north, without soul, without country or love!

Anxious, he seeks joy everywhere
and joy eludes him and flees,
a vain shadow that mocks his yearning
and for which he sails the seas.

Impelled by a hand invisible,
he shall wander from place to place;
memories shall keep him company -
of loved ones, of happier days.

A tomb perhaps in the desert,
a sweet refuge, he shall discover,
by his country and the world forgotten...
Rest quiet: the torment is over.

And they envy the hapless wanderer
as across the earth he persists!
Ah, they know not of the emptiness
in his soul, where no love exists.

I was never a Jose Rizal fan. Today, I am.

Waaahh!! I need a lobotomy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shaking Off the Blues

I realized that the best way to shake off the ultimate post-travel gloom and all its attendant difficulties is to find something that will occupy the better part of your time, something more important than your thoughts and all the false realities it deludes you to believe. Last night, I woke up with that Jerry-Maguire type of frenzy - cold sweat, words that flowed out ceaselessly, epiphanies you might call them. I shivered, I had alarming palpitations, I paced around my office like a mad man, I relentlessly argued with myself. Then I made up my mind.

I am not going home. Not yet. I am not turning my back on perfect opportunities to learn. I am not putting my backpack aside this early in my life. I am using my Lonely Planet as soon as another chance to wander comes along. I am not putting my life on hold because I'm scared I wouldn't like what it would offer me. I am not putting a ceiling on my growth just because I think I've already been given too much. I am not saying 'no' to more chances to be better.

I love to teach so I am teaching. I love my patients so I am making rounds. I love this hospital so I am going on duty again. I am going to hit my books and read and memorize and analyze again. I will learn, I will teach, I will suffer sleepless nights, I will endure humiliation. I am willing to go through it all over again.

The load on my neck is heavy. But I will not go home to sulk and forget. I will face every scary situation waiting for me, head on.

This was a surprise decision. It was a Jerry-Maguire thing. A manifesto that came in the middle of the night. Unnerving. Explosive. But with it came a sense of peace. Early this morning I talked to people, my mentors: Homer, Dr. Dans, Papa. Then the next move was all mine.

This morning I fixed all my documents. Then I submitted my application for post-residency fellowship. I am now all set and psyched up for three more years, if they take me in. Adult Cardiology.

It's time to fix some hearts. Literally this time.=)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Post-travel Blues

I'm supposed to write about Dumaguete.

But, sorry. I'm having a really bad case of post-travel blues. It's a literal post-travel depression plus another heaping of "post-travel depression", with allusion to a figure of speech that I sort of used before, so that makes it really really terrible. This is the worst case I've ever had.

Like a moth to a flame, why do I come back to this again and again? Why do we always go back to something even if we know it can hurt us? My papa used to say, "Jean, don't bother trying out a good thing if you know you can't have it for long." We used to argue about it a lot. Now, I couldn't agree more.

It's like a narcotic. You get a high then you crash. And every next shot would just be a futile attempt to mimic your first high. A useless attempt to regain that "thousand orgasms" (even the use of the phrase makes me weep! ugh!).

I'm supposed to write about Dumaguete. But I'm sorry. I just can't. Not yet. I'm having a terrible case of post-travel blues. And I don't even miss Apo Island. No, not one bit.

I'm giving my weary feet a rest this time. My back pack and my Lonely Planet would have to be shelved until I'm ready to travel again. For sure, it would take some time. A very long time perhaps.

Long ago, I found an oyster. In Apo Island, it opened up a bit. I got a peep. It's empty. No pearl. I left the island with an empty shell around my neck. Good enough souvenir. One day I'll have to throw it away. It's getting so heavy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pathologic Planning

I am a doctor - an internist to be exact. The thing with us doctors, internists in particular, is that we are naturally obsessive-compulsive. We love to make well-defined plans. Every course of action has to be carefully calculated, accurate, precise, with a vivid outcome already foreseen, and every possible problem taken into account. Being a recent convert to the preachings of evidence-based medicine, it's almost second nature for me to calculate risks, analyze cost versus benefit, quantify opportunity costs. In my mind are algorithms, practice guidelines, ready solutions to the possibilities of the occurence of the dreaded what-ifs.

I am also a traveller, albeit a new one, just taking her first few steps towards the realm of the unknown. I enjoy going around the most remote of places, talking to people I've never met, watching foreign lives unravel in front of me while I remain unnoticed, silently being part of conversations spoken in strange tongues I do not even understand. I read somewhere that while a tourist sees what he has come to see, the traveller sees what he sees. The way I understand this, one must completely erase all expectations, all preconceived notions, in order to see what is to be seen.

I am a doctor, an internist to be exact. And I, with all sincerity and dedication, intend to be a traveller. I struggle to find the middle ground between these two opposing natures - the internist who plans, and the traveller who absorbs every moment.

This struggle hasn't been an easy one. It was even hilarious. I remember last year, I brought some of my friends to my hometown in Digos. I had my plans ready one month before the trip. The itinerary was perfectly laid out. It was even on powerpoint, complete with pictures (yikes!). On the day of their arrival, too many misfortunes just seemed to happen. The car's windshield was shattered by a stone that appeared out of nowhere on the way to the airport, my camera suddenly just wouldn't work, and on our way to the foot of Mt. Apo, a steel shaft of our vehicle broke rendering it dangerous and almost useless that we had to hitch a ride in the middle of a wilderness. We ended up riding an open truck in pitch dark and just when we thought we were almost home we had to head back to a few hundred meters away from where we broke down and go down the mountain road all over again.

Oh boy, that was fun! It was a chance to rediscover old friends and further strengthen old bonds. Until now, I still remember Claire and Fe with a certain fondness and a strange nostalgia for that moment - sitting on a spare tire at the back of a truck that's used to deliver hogs on a chilly Mt. Apo evening, hungry but laughing and counting stars. In fact, that was probably the birth of our now growing semi-travel-club. Perhaps subconsciously, we wanted more of those adventures. And something tells me we're bound to have more of them in the years to come.

Tonight I'm again trying to repress the pathologic planner in me. In less than 24 hours, I'll be flying to Dumaguete with two of my greatest and most reliable travel buddies. One of them has just recently reminded me to bring my Lonely Planet and my Dumaguete map (yes, OC-OC Jean bought a map!). Sigh. Some people are blessed enough to resist the urge to plan. How can they be comfortable with no schedule in mind? We'll plan when we get there. Ugh!

I'm writing this blog entry as an attempt to fight off the urge to make an itinerary. I am not making a detailed schedule tonight. I will not make hotel bookings and even make arrangements for possible extra beds. I will not be contacting boatmen and haggle for lower prices. I am not searching the internet to choose the best restaurants to eat in. I will not even attempt to find out the schedule of Sunday mass and memorize the local emergency numbers.

We'll plan when we get there. Yeah right. We'll see. In Dumaguete, I will just breathe and enjoy the moment.

(But yes, I do have my beta-blockers ready.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


It’s an annoying preoccupation these days. I try to brush it off but it sticks to me like the base scent of an exotic perfume. There’s an endless ticking I hear in the clock of my mind. A bell is tolling somewhere, and my senses are heightened even if I refuse to listen to it. It’s almost numbing.

While every doctor at the end of residency training faces these dilemmas, I'm facing mine a year too late. Mine is a case of suspended animation. I had to spend an extra year within the comfortable embrace of this institution. And though I frequently complain of suffocation, now that I'm about to be set free, I'm having a terrible case of separation anxiety.

Cold feet. Intense trepidation. Pathologic apprehension about my next course of action. There will be a multitude of opportunities deliberately discarded for the pursuit of something uncertain . There will be bandits and robbers met along the way. There will be goodbyes to people I have travelled with for years. I leave them at the side of the road hoping that one day I find them again and things will be the same but I'm just sure things will change.

And the worst part is having to deal with all this alone. With no one else to ventilate to, no one to gripe with. Every one else has moved on.

I remember talking to a friend about another friend who had to move to another country on her own. I remember commenting about how brave she was, finding the guts to totally uproot herself and start a new life in a strange place. That time, I said "I can never do that." And my friend told me, "But you've been doing that all your life."

Perhaps this is just another one of those painful extirpations.

Yesterday I sent out letters to the sections of the department requesting for introductory lectures for my incoming first year residents. Last night I talked to Dexter, my successor, about the residents’ administrative posts. Today I spoke to Dr. Ernesto Domingo requesting him to be the commencement speaker during the coming PGH graduation. I also returned all my borrowed x-ray films to Radiology.

Few hours ago, Dr. Dans asked me, “When are you leaving?” Automatically, I answered, “In 43 days sir.”

I didn’t realize I had been counting.