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Monday, May 2, 2016

In a library

Upon entering
"You must be the first med student to discover that library" says the attending physician, who was driving me back "home" (er, the library) after a day in gynecology and the Planned Parenthood Clinic. She was referring to the Ferguson Public Library, a 20-minute walk away from the hospital in downtown Stamford, Connecticut--children's books on right, book club books straight ahead with presidential candidate biographies next to Brooklyn and Americanah, the book shop and Starbucks to the left--one of those places where light streams in and movement of the street and feet through windows mark the passage of time. "You like the comfy chairs?" she asks. "I like the idea of discovering something new...yesterday I read about how Hillary Clinton met Bill (in a library of all places, aptly enough!)...." and I trail off, unsure how she would take my idiosyncrasies.

Why must I go to this library, every day? It's true I haven't seen any other medical student frequenting this place. Yet every evening after 5:30 pm sign-outs, I shed off my scrubs into running gear underneath and steal to this secret portal beyond hospital walls--like Belle to the dandelion fields to escape her provincial town, or Mary Lennox to her secret garden, or The Little Princess to her dingy room which holds the imaginative richness of a palace--and am transported. Yesterday, I was at the Lake District, where Bill first proposed to Hillary (and she refused him); before that, Walt Whitman advised to focus on personality above all else; before that, a strong-headed Nigerian girl journeyed into womanhood and America. 

I tell her, "I need those breaks, those distractions."
"You have time for that"? she asks.
"Just a few minutes here and there, and during dinner..." 
"You're cute," she replies.

Cute. Not quite what I had in mind, nor the characteristic of a physician. I baffle myself. On my good days I believe have something valuable to add to a medicine with endless innovative potential for society; on my not-so-good days I feel like a misfit in a rigid field contained within itself. 

I found out this morning that this doctor had first studied journalism and wrote for a medical magazine--that is, until she realized she had to "make a living." I mentioned how I might take a year off medical school and also explore the world of writing, or something like that. She said, "just make sure you stay in clinic."

This need for beauty, for windows, for books, for writing, for runs, for morning quiet time, for music, for radio--these are needs that have become promises to myself, though I'm not sure what makes me see them as promises worth making. Maybe because these things are like the people I meet who have changed my ways of thinking, living, being--a way of meeting new characters and meeting myself.