Growing up

Out the window

One day, there was a coach replacement for the normal route that I take by train from the country to M. Listening to music, looking out at the dark night sky, it brought me back to a time in year ten, when I spent a long time looking out the window at no particular scenery on a long interstate coach to M. Recently, I’ve thought often about that school trip to this city – ten years have almost passed. I remember the thrill then, of being alone for a time, buying knick knacks and Asian groceries near the marketplace of the then unfamiliar city. How grown up it felt, to shop and explore, even for a few hours! I couldn’t have imagined that this was where I would come to live years later. The same markets would be the place where I would make frequent grocery runs. That fastfoward a few years, I would graduate, and be working.

In one relationship or the other

When I first moved to the city for university, I hated being alone, so much. I though surely every would prefer to live communally, rather than in their own places. Meals had always been a bonding time, whether at school or at home, and as much as possible I avoided eating or cooking by myself. Though I often went out with large groups of people, I didn’t have any close friends. Nevertheless, I had been in one relationship or the other, and for many years didn’t really have the issue of having to eat alone or not having someone to go explore places with on evenings and weekends.

This year, I have spent more time than I ever had, alone. I’ve always lived with others and am not used to coming home to an empty house – though I can see the appeal of not having to share bathrooms and kitchens, and having noise when you sleep. I’m not used to being at a cafe or restaurant and not having someone across the table to talk to. Although I do try to use meals as opportunities to meet up with friends, it’s hard having irregular schedules and frequent rural stints that makes time availability erratic. I think I am quite tired of friends who say no sorry I’m busy, sorry I have other plans, sorry I have an assignment, sorry I have a test, a bit too often. I’m not used to too, not having in depth daily conversations. Yet, with distance, time differences, and cost restrictions (though there is plenty of free technology these days), it becomes impractical to pick up the phone for a whinge whenever you feel troubled.

I think you still need to do things you want to do – enjoy that bubble tea, watch that movie, have a good feed, stroll alongside the river, regardless of whether there is someone to accompany you or not.

In ways that I don’t understand

It sounds strange but as much as I feel lonely, I seek solitude too. I prefer sharing meals with good company, but often I would prefer to eat alone than with a group that I share little in common with. I think work has changed me in ways that I don’t understand. It was mum who pointed this out to me, but in comparsion to what I would have shared in previous years, in the past few months I have said very little about daily life at work, about colleagues and patients, about the things that make me sad. On the one hand I have less time to be on the phone, but on the other hand, I find that I don’t have much energy to articulate my thoughts and feelings in an attempt to be understood. Save for a few close friends.

Less pondering, less time

I took a fairly long walk to my favourite spot with the city lights from both sides of the bank reflected on the dark water surface. The ongoing construction along the river had been completed. Along the main street there were buskers, providing background music at each street corner. Even one dressed as a big white bunny rabbit, which was very strange. There was a man with a fancy looking telescope, and a crowd of people trying to see Saturn and its ring through that. It’s painful to grow up and not to have time to breath in, see, hear and reflect. Painful because it all becomes the work eat sleep cycle becomes so dull and flat.

The trouble with less pondering is that I know I am unhappy but not actually have a very good understanding of what I am unhappy about. I’m unhappy and I don’t even know if I can feel it, or cry the tears that I want to cry. Day by day you bury things and have to move on without dealing with them. The patient with the Angry Bird balloon who had just started doing well after his surgery, when we came on the ward round one afternoon to see him crying in bed because he had just heard the news that his wife was in ICU with a massive stroke from which she was unlikely to recover from. A man who had come in for pain management of his metastatic prostate cancer, but who has severe reaction to opiod medications and who has been getting little relief with his current analgesic regime (reviewed daily by palliative care doctors). Hospital bring a lot of sadness, and I don’t know what to do with it because I already feel tired and sad from dealing with my personal life.

Plus there are these forever present to do lists – household duties, paperwork, church and fellowship committments, applications for the coming year’s jobs, and so on. As I see it, the list grows longer as you grow up. And whilst twelve hour or more days, with random weekends and public holidays thrown in are okay, they are only okay if you are content with life in hospital, being your life.



  1. There’s this Russian word called тоска (toska). Vladimir Nabokov translates it this way: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”


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