The One In Sydney

An Old Friend

I haven’t written in this space for two months now. This speaks to how consumed I am with my existence. Not how busy I am – that’s a different matter altogether – how consumed I am.

So, hello old friend. I have forgotten you as much as I have forgotten my quieter self.

I am in Melbourne today. I drove down from Gippsland in the morning. I ate my hot oatmeal as quietly as I could and scuttled out of the house at 6 am. The first thing I did was distinctly Melburnian (but it strikes me that this is distinct of all privileged city-folk), I chose the highest-rated hole-in-the-wall and lined up for 20 minutes to pay too much for breakfast.

It was seafood. I regret nothing.

I’ve spent the past two months in Camden. Uninterestingly, I contemplated my future further.

That’s why I’ve been quieter, though. Much is brewing but nothing is ready to be written. I’m no longer in the state where I think so much that I break down by the end of the day (or the middle of the day – it really depends). I feel like I’m sleepwalking through life. I’m pretending to know and pretending to care as the storm clouds gather.

In a more vet-ty vein, there have been a few interesting cases. Stuff that reminds me that I’m three-quarters a vet.

The headache inducing nature of medicine. A three-year-old male neutered Hungarian Vizsla who has had seizures for the past six months. He’s insured (thank God). He’s been on (high doses of) phenobarbitone and imeptoin and is now having cluster seizures pretty much every week. He’s not developed neutropaenia and thrombocytopaenia which can happen with phenobarbitone. Of course this has to occur in a dog with poorly controlled seizures. Of course.

The slapdash work of trying to save a calf as her mother lay dying with a broken hip and her teats half chewed by foxes and her right eye stolen by crows. There’s not much to write here. I wasn’t very helpful. My only job was rubbing the calf and trying to get colostrum from the cow’s battered udder.

There are other things I probably should have recorded from Camden. But I remember nothing from Camden except fear.

Have I mentioned I’m in a library? In a stunning turn of events, I am at the library. Home wherever I go.

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The cat tells me that my only purpose is to feed her.

I’m inclined to agree.

Almost three weeks in to this rotation. Tasmania is lovely. Sleep is lovelier still. I have a rip in my jeans to show for my work and scars running down both arms to show my animal handling experience.

Darn baby bunnies. They’re antsy and wriggly and their nails are sharp.

I told a friend recently that I don’t care too much for being a vet – that I likely could be happier elsewhere. Or perhaps just as happy. I am human and, therefore, fickle.

She asked me why I chose it. It was said almost condescendingly. “How could you not have possibly known that you weren’t interested?” is what went unsaid.

(The condescension probably wasn’t intended. It was just felt. Because I wonder the same.)

Although I said it, I realise that to some extent, I don’t mean it. I like veterinary medicine. I like it very, very much. I used to say that I chose it over medicine because it involved dealing less with people but I take that back – I like that I deal with both animals and their people.

I just hate that life spans are so finite.

There’s a new drug on the market now. It means to extend the life of cats with end-stage kidney disease. But you stop it when the kidneys get really, really bad. And when you stop, I suppose you do just that – you give up, you stop.

I thought of human measures of life span. Actual years lived and disability-adjusted life years. It’s not so different from how we measure life span, I suppose, except that we vets tend to stop when the disability threatens. Humans carry on as if they can live forever.

It’s not a bad thing. It makes sense. Animals (and, I suppose, humans, too, to some degree) are only worth as much as the emotional value we assign. We’ll never know how much animals actually enjoy us, how much they enjoy the pats and cuddles we can’t resist giving. But we can make a guess. We feed them. We shelter them. We are gods with no certain purpose; we do not create, we only contain.

So, when the thirteen-year-old clinic cat looks at me, asking me for dinner – she only comes to me when she wants dinner – I give her dinner. Her actions imply that I have a singular purpose: to feed her.

And, in light of everything I am capable of doing for her, I agree.

Preoccupation

I’ve spent much time away. This is strange because there is no reason for me to be away except that I am.

I commenced my final year in December last year. The first of a series of rotations has come and gone. Then, the second. Now, the third.

I am happier. This is strange because nothing has really changed except that I am happier. I still know nothing, I still can predict nothing, I haven’t added or removed anything substantial to my life since 2012. Things have been added and things have been taken away – some with more force than others – yet there is a sure and steady knowledge building that tells me I am happier.

This is all relative, of course.

I talked to my sister the other day about this blog. How valuable it has been. It truly is ‘the one in Sydney’. This brief five years in a strip of goodness-how-long of my life span spent in this new place. The place itself is immaterial; it’s only a marker.

How funny it is that even as I am not in Sydney, I am in Sydney. Just as how I am not the same person, I am the same person.

You can probably tell that time has done nothing for my writing, either.

Time has, however, given me the ability to say “meh” with greater force. It doesn’t matter if I am clever (because I am not) or if I am different (because I am human – I am relatively the same as you because I am different from a Bonobo ape).

On that note, I am still reading. More slowly than usual. I drink slowly from a book and regurgitate its contents for months until I feel I am full. The regurgitation prevents me from ever feeling truly full.

That was quite a gross analogy. Maybe I am becoming more like a vet after all.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What does it matter to me if I constructed metaphors pleasing to the mind’s ear? I’ll probably write something else and wince all the same in future.

As you can expect, there isn’t much consequence to this post. It simply exists. To remind my future self that she is better than she was.

Good job, future self.

New Year Resolutions

Because it’s a thing and it needs to be documented.

1. Balance the quiet and the noise

I’ve become very good at being noisy. When the quiet is too threatening, I pick up my phone and fill my head with other people’s noise. The quiet becomes what do I do next? Who do I talk to next? The flip side is that the quiet becomes all the more terrifying when I try to fill it up and I fail.

In 2015, I had learned to turn off my phone and my internet connection and willingly embrace the quiet. It was a strange adventure in many ways: This is the 21st century! Why can I not reach you? What do you mean it’ll be more effective to leave post-it notes on your door?

Now I disappear for weeks at a time at will. If only to force myself to confront what really needs changing. I like it a lot. Too much, mayhaps. I’ve found that it has helped me understand people; just as I have made myself transparent, people have become more transparent. Maybe motives and feelings are easier to read when I’ve already spent all this time addressing my own.

However, I have pushed, perhaps, too far into the quiet. It’s time to find a balance. Maybe it’s also time to find a more productive quiet.

2. Write more

This one’s pretty simple. I’ve neglected it in 2015. I’ve written more poetry, sure, but that’s mostly for myself.

I’m attempting a more conventional blog where people can separate myself from my feelings. It’s an experiment I haven’t figured out yet. We’ll see how that goes.

Also, that book that has been simmering forever.

3. Understand

…what I want to be and where I want to be. Just a little more is fine.

In the last year, I have found that I am actually very happy just being friends with people for a period. I appear in their life when they need me and disappear when they do not. I’m a poor-weather friend of sorts. It’s just that I’ve come to the understanding that some people need certain things at certain times. If I know this, I should provide it. When they do not need it any longer, the service is no longer required. Some people only want several close friends when they’re happy again; I am happy to disappear when they have reached that state.

Plus, I have come to terms with the fact that I can tire many people out. Which is fine. I find some people tiresome, myself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas

Because Christmas and the impending new year deserves a post.

The depression has receded – hasn’t quite been replaced with Christmas cheer – and the anxiety has been dammed in.

But it’s strange. I have enough reasons to be sad. (I sometimes wonder if I have lost my ability to feel.) What does it mean when you’re simultaneously happy that the numbness isn’t sadness and confused because the numbness should be sadness?

I dispute my use of the word “enough”. When I was depressed, I didn’t need occasion to be depressed. All I had to do was lie down. (Does that sound pathetic? I am indifferent to being pathetic, now. Maybe I have come to terms with it.)

My dog is dead. My little girl is buried.

I just needed to say that somewhere.

Even if no one understands.

This post is patchwork. I haven’t made such a mess in a while.

I can’t write. I’m trying to address and express the emotions I know lie latent.

But I can’t. Not yet. I don’t know what this is.

I am sad but not depressed. I am scared but not anxious. Then, I am nothing and I am numb.

Christmas – full of cheer and consumerism – came and went like a calendar day. I suspect the New Year shall do the same. I want to paint my face and be someone else. I want to write a different self into existence.

I just want to be. I don’t feel as if I am.

I want to say I’ll come back and edit this; I know I’m being incoherent. But this post belongs here. It is an accurate representation.

Now, I shall be quiet.

Hendra Virus

The furor surrounding human vaccinations seems to have died down in the US. Excellent timing to throw my hat in the ring. Fewer voices except for the most invested – what could go wrong, right?

It helps that I’m a vet student. And I’m at that stage where I am forming my opinions based on what I am taught, the facts I am presented and have seen, and the stories I hear. I’m not yet so completely certain of fact that anecdotes do not sway me but I am not so green that every sob story does. Also, animals become vaccinated just as humans do but, since the chunk of humans who care about humans is significantly larger than the humans who care about animals, the spitting, hissing vitriol is far easier to wade through.

I am also a writer (but that depends on your definition) and am aware of how words colour your sentences; I know when your truth becomes a half-truth in the face of objectivity and I’m relatively immune to it.

TL;DR for those who don’t know what’s going on: Hendra virus is deadly to people (50%) and horses (70%) but it’s really too rare to tell how bad it is statistically. The pro-vaccination camp believes that the vaccination is very important in controlling the disease. The anti-vaccination camp believes that the vaccination is more dangerous than the disease. The anti-vaccination camp also believes that Big Pharma and the veterinary proponents of vaccination are only out to make money off of the fear. MPs are getting dragged in because veterinarians are refusing to see horses that haven’t been vaccinated.

It’s really way too complicated for a succint TL;DR.

RTL;DR: If you have a horse, it’s either you vaccinate or you do. And you probably have strong feelings about it.

Everything I will cite here will be something you can click through to for free. I don’t have much vested interest in this issue. It’s just…an interest, really. I don’t even want to become an equine vet. But I am a vet student, as I have mentioned and I will become a vet.

And I’m not looking to even draw a conclusion. Have you read my blog? I wish I could draw conclusions but am the sort who would happily sit on the fence forever. There is no judge here, just a slightly interested member of the jury.

Also, this blog post is not meant to be your go-to for information. It’ll hardly be exhaustive. I will put links at the bottom to government websites. If you don’t trust the government…I’ve got nothing. I am not going to recommend Facebook pages as a source of information.

Man, so many disclaimers.

So, here we go. Let’s review. Read the rest of this entry »

I had a draft, darn it. And now I don’t.

I’ve spent the past weeks devouring the remains of books I’ve left unfinished.

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Notice how they’re all from the library? I love the library.

The free hours I have also afforded me time to re-think my position on very many things. But, basically I spent all my free time thinking about myself. This should not surprise you; it certainly doesn’t surprise me.

I wrote the chunk above three days ago. Now I’m trying to push words out of my mind because it feels slightly paralysed. There is work to be done! Clinical rotations have started and I feel underprepared. I adore my supervisor, though. She loves teaching. There’s so much value in that.

Till next time. I’m swamped in the vaccination debate. This time for horses. Who knew there were pro-vaccination and anti-vaccination camps everywhere? Feh.

The Road Taken Yesterday

For future reference: this was written in a post-exam haze. I could measure my pulse rate by just closing my eyes; I wonder why my life is most evident when I feel the most dead – maybe all that’s left is my heart beating, lungs recoiling.

Four years ago I chose to come here. And, so, I have been in Sydney. Dig deep enough into my past and you’ll find a girl sure of herself, a girl lost in the waves, and a girl slowly recovering. She’s the same person, oddly, and I find it strange that I hold all these memories in my head. They don’t feel like they belong to me. But they do.

I’m glad I started this weird blog thing. It reminds me that time moves, that time can leave me behind.

It’s strange to look back and not cry anymore. It’s strange to believe that I am no longer in love – with myself or anyone else. It’s stranger still to make plans for the future.

I wonder what would have happened if I had persisted with my plan to go to the US. What would have happened if I stayed in that small town I grew up in? Would there have been a difference if I went to Melbourne instead of Sydney?

My room is half-packed as I think of this. On to the next year.

I want to say something interesting but, not being interesting in general, I’m only saying a casual hello. And a vet school update. For something that makes up almost 50% of my time, it makes up very little of my blog, doesn’t it?

Sometimes I want to rant about my university but you probably can guess which university it is, so I have to shelve that. It’s also sort of illegal for me to post any pictures from vet school online. Apparently animal welfare advocates may hate vets. (I thought we were on the same side, guys! Okay, fine, I’m not vegetarian – I’ve lost all credibility.)

I’m almost done with vet school now. It’s the last of my lectures this semester and I start rotations (if everything goes well) in a couple of weeks. Literally, fifth year starts in a couple of weeks.

That’s terrifying to me. I don’t know how ready I am for this.

Also, vet school is expensive. Can I say that again? Vet school is expensive. And so is being a vet.

The horrible thing about wanting to be a veterinarian, though? The emotional draw to the profession. It doesn’t matter how much work or how much money you spend; it’s meant to be worth it at the end. Okay, that’s not always a horrible thing. But, until you’re actually super sure you want something, how do you commit to something that will take 5 years of your life? (8 altogether in the US – how do you guys afford it?)

I was talking to my parents about their friend’s son’s journey. I think they were misled by an adviser. The last I’ve heard, he was in the US doing his undergraduate degree, hoping to get into vet school. Except that his mother seemed to be under the impression that it would take less than 8 years. And that US vet schools aren’t competitive beasts. Except vet school is a competitive beast.

Agencies dealing in higher education terrify me. They hold whole fairs in high schools drawing students into expensive programs. I mean, yes, it can be worth it. But doesn’t it worry anybody that they have a vested interest to get you into the schools they represent? That these schools pay them to promote to students?

(For background: I’m from Malaysia where this is the norm. It can be legitimate. And they do represent legitimate universities. Mixed amongst the less than legitimate. Well.)

Okay, I meant for this to be a casual hello. I have failed. But, seriously, if you’re looking into vet school or just university in general, do thorough research. On your own. University websites can be stupid but everything is there. Otherwise, e-mail the university. They have whole departments that are supposed to answer your questions.

Just don’t trust one source. Check accreditation. Think about where you want to be.

I sound naggy, don’t I? Feh.

Quick Rant

I saw this on Reddit today.

Sigh.

TL;DR. Bag is stolen with important medical records. She asks for help in English. She is Malay. She is torn down by the most unhelpful people.

I’ve written on the concept of jati diri before. How strange it is to look at this situation and think: these Malays have legitimate concerns. Need to prevent the whitewashing of their soul. I’ve written something of a sort for a school essay. We need to preserve our cultural identity by preserving our language, etc.

Which is fine but…ugh.

It’s too hot in Sydney today for this. Let me try dusting my Malay off. At least, then, it becomes a more cerebral exercise than an all out rant.

Saya faham. Identiti kamu sebagai orang Melayu terancam. Sudahlah orang Yahudi selalu berkomplot untuk menentang kamu, pengaruh Barat semakin kuat. Kamu terfikir tempat Bahasa Melayu boleh dikukuhkan apabila PPSMI dimansuhkan, tapi apa boleh buat? Semakin ramai orang cakap Bahasa Inggeris. Mereka tidak faham yang kamu memilih untuk cakap Bahasa Melayu sahaja. Kamu bukan tak pandai, kamu hanya membuat pilihan yang bijak untuk cakap dalam Bahasa Melayu secara eksklusif. Susahlah kehidupan ini: bahasa Inggeris tidak boleh dipakai (kan itu bahasa penjajah?) walaupun diperlukan di pekerjaan dan di sekolah. Namun, kamu tidak peduli, inilah cara untuk memelihara warisan kamu.

Never mind that I could probably write half that paragraph with borrowed English words. And, dang, my Malay is completely inauthentic. I’ve learned most of it at school while you’ll see that half of the comments are written in slang.

Now I kinda feel like improving my Malay. Such a strange turns of events.