Day 1: arrival

Before it all even began, it was chaotic. I had my licensing exam in mid-November, and that experience itself needs its own post. I had my Artona photos taken on the 21st, then I had my graduation on the morning of the 24th. Then, I was on my way to the airport at midnight. I tried to sleep as much as I could on the plane, knowing that it was nighttime in the new time zone. I had already practiced staying up late to adjust to the time difference after my exams were over. I also timed my medications so that when I got to the Philippines, its effectiveness would work during their daytime. I was diligent to avoid having my headaches exacerbate overseas where I wouldn’t be able to just lay in bed with my mom there to ensure that I wouldn’t starve to death. I digress. So on the plane, I had small talk with the guy beside me, and hoped that he would stop talking so that I could get some sleep. I was also praying that the kid beside me wouldn’t be fussy. Well, you can’t have everything you want. So the kid only kicked me a few times, but did considerably well for his age. As for the guy…I didn’t even dare open my eyes as he would start a conversation once I was awake. After a long flight, I landed in Manila where I would spend my next 10 hours for the connecting flight to Iloilo.

I stepped out of the airport to go upstairs to domestic departures and was hit with the heat, like I stepped into a sauna. So I quickly retreated back into the air-conditioned airport to waste time. Of course, Wifi was limited to 2 hours, so my entertainment of conversing with my family was cut off. Meandering around the restaurants just got me hungry, so I ended up sitting by the window and watched countless planes land and takeoff. The nonstop overhead announcements also ensured that I wasn’t able to get any sleep. The last few hours I wasted by watching the Hospital Ship episodes that I had downloaded onto my phone. I guess part of me also wanted to prepare my dislike of gory/icky stuff for the hospital internship I was headed towards. Then finally I was boarded, and had the window seat for the short hour flight to my home for 2 weeks.

As with all flights, I loved the feeling at takeoff. When the plane lifts into the air, that floating feeling just brings me so much joy. With the window seat, I was able to also record the breathless scenery outside as we transitioned into the world above the clouds. The sunset made it all the more beautiful and at last, I descended into the night sky in Iloilo. After checking in with my family while waiting for my luggage, I went outside and was met with a bright smile and a wave from a staff member and stepped into the humid air that would become my home for the next 2 weeks. It was all dark as I gazed outside the window and listened to the staff tell me about the house and the students there. All the while, I just wanted to sleep with my limbs outstretched on a bed.

Walking into the room with 3 bunk beds with my two roommates, it felt strange. After doing a walk-around video to send to my parents of what would be my room, I was met with the coordinator who gave me handouts and information regarding my weeks to come. I then turned on the fan facing my bottom bunk, ducked under the mosquito net, and went to sleep, ready to wake up the next morning to tour the city of love, Iloilo.

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Like a typhoon passed by

My mind is a mess, my headaches are worse than usual, so let’s try to get these itching thoughts out of what happened this winter. During my first trip to Asia, first trip alone, and first trip with just me and my dad. Just like the typhoon that was approaching Central Philippines when I was about to depart, the days just passed like a storm, leaving a mess in its path, but gone as fast as it came. As I was alone for all these insane experiences except for the few days that my dad was with me, it’s left me an empty shell of memories that no one can empathize with. Not all of it was a mess, the first 3 weeks where I was in the Philippines was amazing, like I had stepped into another world. It was not only the first trip alone, but also the first time I had made a big decision on my own and acted upon it without my parents’ approval, against their wishes actually. But I knew that I would have to do that someday, and I just knew that I needed something like this, to find what I can do with my career outside of work. It was also a much-needed daddy-daughter alone time. As well, it was going to be my first and last time travelling for a while as I was determined to focus on work for the next few years/decade. Therefore, the 4 weeks that turned into 6 weeks were nonetheless literally the “time of my life”. As for the adjective to describe it…nothing really fits. Maybe it’ll make more sense as I write in detail what exactly happened those weeks, and what I experienced. And hopefully, blogging will get my thoughts sorted out, like it always does.

Detours

It sucks when you’re trying to get somewhere and there’s those orange cones glaring at you with “detour” all over the place. Traffic crawls and the turns seem endless to direct you away from your destination.

When I didn’t feel well over the weekend, I thought it was just a cold. I missed Monday of my second last week of practicum. Then Tuesday afternoon, things didn’t feel right. I couldn’t concentrate or read as my eyes kept jumping lines. I couldn’t think and my head felt weird. I went home for the afternoon and the lightheadedness wouldn’t go away. I laid down and felt lightheaded, I rested and woke up lightheaded. When I saw the doctor, my systolic blood pressure was 78mmHg. I ate more salt and drank more fluids than I ever did in a week and it didn’t get better. I’d hate sleeping because lying there while I felt like I was going to faint sucked. Being unable to make it go away likewise with my headaches. And as the days went by, I had to keep in contact with my preceptor and school. 5 days. That was the limit before I had to redo the whole practicum even with a medical reason. I felt so much pressure from my parents. And from myself. I really enjoyed the placement I was in and I was doing great there. On one side, I hoped so desperately for my parents to just tell me to stop and get better, that health was more important. But on the other side, I really didn’t want to disappoint them. Except I really couldn’t tone it down anymore. They didn’t seem to think it was that serious when I was unable to walk more than one foot-shuffle at a time. When I spent most of my time lying down because it felt so much worse when I was upright. So in the end, I missed more than 5 days and have to redo the 4 weeks next fall.

I won’t graduate this May like the other 200 people in my class will. I won’t stand a chance at the interviews they have during the school year. I won’t be able to take my licensing exam until next fall. I might even be the only graduate in my class next November. I don’t even know when to take my Artona photos. Or if I will be able to participate in what my classmates will take part in. There’s so much I can/will lose. Most of all, I’ll lose my pride. My “perfect” journey of graduating after 5 years of post-secondary as a professional and getting a job will be delayed. What are my parents going to tell others when they ask about my graduation. What if I can’t get a job because of this delay. All because of a medication side effect.

But since it’s Thanksgiving, let’s think about what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful that it was just a medication side effect and although I still have relatively low blood pressure, the lightheadedness resolved. I’m thankful that it’ll just be a few months of delay and that I can still graduate in 2017. I’m thankful that my parents ended up supporting that my health is most important above all else. I’m thankful that I’m able to do my next practicum without further delay this month. I’m thankful that I still have a chance to continue this journey. That it wasn’t a “stop” but just a “detour”. Detours might seem like a maze that never ends, but the destination can will still be reached. And that’s all that matters in the end.

Let’s start another new chapter

It’s only been a month or two but it feels like years have passed. So much has happened. I’ve experienced despair, love, frustration, happiness to the extremes. I don’t even know where to start this messy chapter. I’m just glad that it didn’t end there. And a new page is always waiting; the next chapter.

Finals came around and it was yet another stress-filled month of April. Thanks to the wake-up call from failing a final the term before, I prepared for everything much earlier. I made notes for everything in advance and was able to go through all the notes at least twice! *applauds self* I don’t remember the last time I studied twice for something. And it paid off. I didn’t have to pull all-nighters and passed all my courses! *more applause* Although I had failed to continue regular exercise during that time, I felt pretty confident about life.

Then as always, there was that plot twist. Ah, I should’ve know that it would happen. “The higher they are, the harder they fall.” And boy did I fall hard. I had an unfortunate 1st week of practicum which people have described as on the verge of abusive and in the end, it drove me to a place that I hope I never have to go to again. I had to study like crazy that weekend in order to “catch up” with the “level of knowledge that I should have” but I couldn’t. I spent more than 20 hours that Saturday sleeping, feeling like I was falling in and out of consciousness. The dread of failing the practicum made dying seem like a better choice. Sounds stupid thinking about it now, but at that time, I believed that. I guess when you’ve spent your whole life studying and all, failing seems like the end of your life. Sunday, I knew that I needed to get help. I couldn’t get my mind out of the gutter and like a waterfall thoughts kept pouring in about suicide and dying. I knew I wouldn’t go through with it, but I didn’t know what to do to get rid of those thoughts. I felt so zoned out, I couldn’t focus on anything, couldn’t even concentrate on what people say to me. I knew that I wasn’t okay and needed help. So I told my family about it and we went to the ER. After lots of waiting and meeting nurses, doctors, and psychiatrists and retelling my story many times, we went home and then came the mess to sort out since life goes on. But all in all I’m glad I went. There’s always someone there for you at the “end of the road” whether it’s the ER, suicide hotline, or friends and family. I wish there was a “pause” button on life where I can just put everything aside and replenish my energy. But there isn’t.

So after emails, phone calls, and trips to school, I was able to get my life back on track. I worked harder than before to fix my life. I had given myself a second chance and I was going to take that second chance and make use of it to the fullest. I began exercising everyday again and went to the weekly anxiety management groups at school. It was a hassle, but this isn’t something that can be fixed with the push of a button. For any kind of success, foundations of hard work underlies it. I made an effort to meet up with friends and spend more time with family. I tried not to let what happened stop life from going on. I wouldn’t say that I was able to do well in that area, but I tried my best. I pushed myself to work and take on more shifts, covering for a colleague. And though I would have vivid nightmares and thoughts of what happened, I tried to look forward. Because I couldn’t let that one event define me.

So as I prepare to start my new practicum placement tomorrow, yes I’m anxious. The memories pop up so vividly. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what happened. But life goes on. I determine whether I’ll be chained to that memory or not. I don’t have to wallow in fear of the same thing happening again and limit myself from what I know I can do. I can believe in myself. I believe that going through this has and will only make me stronger and that I had to go through it only because I was strong enough to get through it. Stories are full of plot twists and surprises, but being the author of my own life story, I can always change the outcome.

 

Cherry Blossoms

Sitting in the car after yet another final exam, I looked outside and it amazed me yet again how beautiful cherry blossoms are. It made so grateful to live in beautiful Vancouver where streets are lined with rows of cherry blossom trees. Watching them slowly drift to the ground from the branches onto the street below, a carpet of soft pink petals lining the sidewalk. At that moment, I wanted to be a cherry blossom tree.

No, I don’t think I’m insane from studying…yet. So why a tree? Let me see.. From field trips in elementary school to visit the huge old trees in Stanley Park and learning about how the rings in their trunks showed its age, to seeing the blossoms, trees are quite interesting. It’s history is kept in each ring and it just builds up every year. From the weak saplings, it grows into something so thick and strong. With each year of enduring rain, snow, and wind, it grows stronger. Its branches keep reaching higher and it just grows better when if its pruned. It grows so strong that its roots can uplift concrete, creating the cracks in the sidewalk that made it oh so fun for biking when I was a kid. If there is something in its way of growth, it just grows around it, changing the curve of its branches.  And it provides shade when its too sunny and refuge when its raining. Its thick bark protects it from everything. It just thrives on pure nature outside. It becomes bare in the winter, but every spring, blossoms bloom yet again. Then they drop, and make it beautiful all around them. The fragrance of spring that it gives calms my spirit every time. And as I seek shelter from the sweltering heat from the sun in its shade, its ever-increasing strength and tenacity to grow inspires me. If something that is just literally a block of wood can be so strong, so can I. And I can make life around me beautiful too. That’s how amazing life is. Trees are living things with the ability to grow, reproduce, take in and use energy, excrete waste, and respond to the environment. And although not exactly the same type of living, but we live too. “Life” can be pretty fascinating don’t you think?