My Medical Narrative: Part 2 of 3

In my last post, I talked about studying for exams and what it’s like to study medical humanities. As much as I enjoy reading the books on my list, it’s really easy to feel disconnected from the text when you are not suffering from the illness or trauma the author is writing about. The more books I read, the more I thought about the narrative I wish to share. The only problem was that, according to me, I didn’t have a medical narrative to share. Then I remembered that I actually did, but it didn’t hit me because, well…I really don’t like talking about it. After reading so many of these books, I wanted to try. And “try”, not as a scholar of medical humanities, versed in the theoretical applications and a specific vocabulary from my studies, but just as a guy sharing his story. This is Part 2 of 3.

(to read Part 1, click here)

This is going to sound really dumb, but I promise it’s true…

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Drinksgiving 2020

Years ago, when I was working on my undergrad degree, I learned about Drinksgiving. I worked at a local bar on the weekends, a place made up of mostly locals and regulars. I’ve been to plenty of bars, but working at one, and being an aspiring writer, you observe things really quickly and very astutely. Every Wednesday shift before Thanksgiving, I noticed two distinct clienteles that would show up: large groups of friends, made up of thirty-somethings from out of town seeing each other again, and the regulars, staying extra long and being a little more jovial than usual. I didn’t get it at first- why are they here? I’d rather be at home with family or a gathering at someone’s home than this place. But the more I watched, the more I noticed how they were together. They didn’t just like hanging out here; it’s like they were observing something. They stayed really long, drank way too much, yet no one ever got belligerent, and some even brought food from home for their friends, and for us working that night. (they also tip really well, so I’m not complaining) It took a couple of years to realize that this “a thing”: getting together with friends, celebrating with those we care about, becoming a kind of buffer for the next day. It made a lot of sense after working a couple of these shifts, then even more sense when it was my turn to come back home this time of year. The holidays, for some, can be difficult, dealing with unpleasant family history, hoping everything goes well, which in turn becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for disaster, while unpacking how the year has gone, including the highs and lows.¬† Drinksgiving is a kind of time and space where you don’t the need to perform a kind of happiness, where you can share something free of judgement, where you could be around people you want to be around with instead of those you feel obligated to. I think we could all use a Drinksgiving night. I think after this year, we are all searching for that space.

The first half of the semester has now come to a close, and I reached some important milestones, but working through a pandemic, relegated to working from home (something I’m not a fan of yet accept it necessity), it’s hard to tell if the semester is really over, or if the last nine months was a big blob of time. My days consisted of waking up in the morning and getting dressed, only to show up to a class made up of black squares with names of students I rarely saw face to face. I’m currently in the “reading for candidacy exams” stage of my academic program. A year ago, (and I know I’m gonna get slack for this) I would have been really excited to spend hours in the library, reading books from a list I curated. I envisioned myself surrounded by pillars of books, devouring them, one after another like a hungry wolf. I love reading, and I love my studies, so to spend hours solely reading works well for me. Instead, I’m confined to my apartment, where I’ve always struggled to get any work done. I’m not a homebody. I am much more comfortable studying at a library, calling it day after, and walking home, leaving my work behind me. I can’t do that here. I wake up, and I see my work station, about three feet away. It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s hard, and as versatile as my work experience is, I feel like I’m never going to get used to it. Some days after working in front of my computer for several hours, I feel like I need to wash the blue light off of my face, or find some errand to run just to get away from my desk. On top of all of this, I really missed seeing my friends, colleagues, and mentors, some I haven’t seen in months, and a few quitting their program. I try to find some highlight of the semester to focus on when I blog, but this one has been extra challenging. That’s where Drinksgiving kicks in.

Due to spikes of COVID-19 infections in both Ohio and California, I stayed at my place instead of going back home and seeing family. It’s a bit difficult knowing that I have to wait another God-knows-how-many more months not being back home, having to hear about my friend’s and family’s life events through a medium like social media. Asking people to get together is borderline-problematic, as we’re all trying to social distance. As Thanksgiving came closer, I remembered about Drinksgiving, and it was a perfect compromise. I set up multiple Zoom meetings with friends and family, seeing and catching up with them, sharing stories and really dumb jokes, all while drinking profusely. (that was mainly me, but that’s beside the point) My favorite part was keeping up with friends while trying to figure out time zones. (I stayed up until three in the morning once!) Sure, we would all love to see each other instead of using video conferencing, but like navigating a pandemic, we are making the most with what we have. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything remarkable to say about this semester, or sage advice that is a product of working through what was probably the most difficult semester of my program. But it’s okay, because like the spirit of Drinksgiving, the point isn’t to wallow about the coming day, but to be around those you’ve waited months to see, in an effort to give yourself emotional space before the coming day. The semester came to an end, and I got to see friends and family. I have little to complain about.

Today, the first day of the new year, I’m doing the thing I’ve been working towards for years: writing what I want to write. I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow (I heard it’s going to snow again), but I think it’s going to be a good day. Below is a slideshow of screenshots during my Drinksgiving gatherings. We all laughed, shared, reflected, grieved, rambled, and drank. Also, some of there were taken after the semester was over and during the holiday season. (one was taken on my birthday- Happy Birthday to me!!!) Pandemic or not, I’m glad we found some time to stay festive, and to celebrate a holiday that is now very close to my heart, Drinksgiving.

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Happy Holidays to all who read this, and even those who don’t. I hope 2021 brings you nothing but happiness, joy, love, and a renewed perspective for things to come ūüôā

First Day of My Second Academic Year, 8/21/19

It’s morning, mirrors fogged up, as I stand in front of my bathroom counter, shaving, with small traces of spice in the air. It’s my second year at Ohio State University, and today is the first day I teach Freshman Composition, a class I’ve taught dozens of times, only with different course objectives, and in a different state. I’m moving my face around to get a good shave, while muttering the things I wish to tell my students. I go back and forth about the information I wish to share with them. Do I talk about my background? That I’m a grad student? Maybe I need an opening joke to put the class at ease? I’m on the edge of a doubt spiral, until my cat jumps on the counter, giving me a look of affection. I pat him on the head, then, in Piece Brosnan’s voice, he says, “You’re going to be fine”. Then it hits me- I don’t have a cat. I look to him, then spot a red lever mounted on my bathroom wall that I’ve only noticed until this moment. It says “PULL” in large red letters. I pull the le-

7:08- I’m awake, exactly seven minutes before my alarm goes off. Do I try to salvage these seven minutes, and try to get a bit more sleep, or get an early jump on my day? Hmm….umm‚Ķ…Oh, I have to shave! I jump out of bed, and start getting ready.

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Spring Break Catch-up and Program Update

Generational Synthetic by Beach Fossils
(click play to listen- no quarters required)

Today is Tuesday, March 12th, the Tuesday of Spring Break at OSU, and I’m doing the thing that I enjoy the most: writing. It’s strange to start a blog post dedicated to what life is like in a PhD program about how much I love writing when that’s all I do- I write papers, I read books for research for future papers, I’m always thinking about the next writing project, and it’s almost impossible to read a book, and not think to myself, “I can write about this”. It’s important for me, to write, in this silly blog, because I love it. I’m trying to dive into writing like a young aspiring poet attending his first open-mic night. I’m sharing this rather intimate insight because, well…‚Ķ..I’m really damn busy. This is partially why I haven’t written a new blog post in so long. I have several drafts that were supposed to turn into really nice stories and observations about PhD life, but they’ve all been brushed aside.¬† But I don’t wish to speak ill of my program- that’s not what this blog post is about. Rather, I was hoping to share a bit about how my program is going. And it’s definitely going. Continue reading

Luz Por Las Nubes

(para leer en espa√Īol, haga clic aqu√≠)

A couple of months ago, I stepped out of the country for the first time in over twenty years. My parents were planning a trip to Mexico and wanted me to come along. As great as it sounds to go out of the country, I mulled over this for a long time. It wasn’t the flying or awkwardness of visiting other people that bothered me- to be frank, I’ve grown so distant from my family and roots from years of studying and focusing on my career. I didn’t even know if I wanted to go. While studying was always a convenient way to describe this distance, it feels like it has always been there. Growing up, I never liked a lot of things my family liked. Music, certain foods, or even speaking Spanish- I spoke so little Spanish around others. Today, when I speak Spanish, it sounds like an alien taught himself Spanish, then taught me, and gave up halfway. When my mom asked me about the trip, she made me deal- if I get my passport, she’ll buy my ticket. (Who the hell is going to say no to that?) I got my passport, booked the tickets, and we were scheduled to go. It came at a really good time, too. I just finished sending out a stack of applications for doctoral programs. (read all about that here) Something about sending out those applications and putting my future in the hands of cloaked readers made stepping on a plane and heading to unfamiliar territory sound really enticing. It ended up being me and my mom, on our way to Mexico. We boarded, flew away, and I didn’t look back because I didn’t want to.

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“Luz Por Las Nubes”

(to read in English, click here)

Hace un par de meses, sal√≠ del pa√≠s por primera vez en m√°s de veinte a√Īos. Mis padres estaban planeando un viaje a M√©xico y quer√≠an que fuera. Por muy bueno que parezca salir del pa√≠s, reflexion√© sobre esto durante mucho tiempo. No fue por volar o la incomodidad de visitar a otras personas lo que me molest√≥. Para ser franco, me he distanciado tanto de mi familia y mis ra√≠ces en los a√Īos de estudio y de centrarme en mi carrera. Ni siquiera sab√≠a si quer√≠a ir. Si bien estudiar siempre fue una forma conveniente de describir esta distancia, parece que siempre eh estado distanceado. Al crecer, nunca me gustaron muchas cosas que le gustaban a mi familia. M√ļsica, ciertos alimentos, o incluso hablar espa√Īol; habl√© tan poco espa√Īol alrededor de otros. Hoy, cuando hablo espa√Īol, parece que un extraterrestre aprendi√≥ espa√Īol, luego me ense√Ī√≥ y se rindi√≥ a mitad de camino. Cuando mi madre me pregunt√≥ sobre el viaje, ella me hizo tratar, si obtengo mi pasaporte, ella comprar√° mi boleto. (¬ŅQui√©n diablos va a decir que no a eso?) Consegu√≠ mi pasaporte, reserv√© las entradas y est√°bamos programados para irnos. Tambi√©n lleg√≥ en un buen momento. Acabo de terminar de enviar una pila de aplicaciones para programas de doctorado. (Lea todo al respecto aqu√≠) Algo sobre el env√≠o de esas aplicaciones y poner mi futuro en manos de lectores encubiertos hizo que pisar un avi√≥n y dirigirse a un territorio desconocido suene realmente tentador. Termin√≥ siendo yo y mi madre, en nuestro camino a M√©xico. Abordamos, volamos, y no mir√© hacia atr√°s porque no quer√≠a.

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Guess what…..?

I GOT IN!!!!! I am writing this post after receiving my letter of admission, meeting the faculty and campus, and attending the Open House for incoming Grad Students in the Fall. Ladies and Gentleman….

I will be attending Ohio State University in the Fall as a PhD Candidate.

(Go Buckeyes!!!)

My New Campus

I cannot begin to express how all of this feels. A goal I have worked for ten years in the making is now coming into fruition. Every doubt that ever crept into my thoughts, every day that I told myself it was futile , every voice that told me to stick to what comes easy to me- all of these naysay moments have now been silenced. About five years ago, while I was working on my undergraduate degree, I was working at a local bar, and someone vomited near the back entrance. It took about half an hour to clean up. That night, on the way home, I asked myself, Is this career path worth it?

Yes, young Rolando Rubalcava- I can definitively say that it is.

I’ve been waiting so long to wear a badge like this.

Last weekend, I met the OSU English Department faculty and a few other incoming graduate students. (I guess they’re part of my cohort?) They were so supportive, and made the experience really special. My Department Chair and Graduate Advisor were very affable people, making me feel acclimated. It was a flurry of new experiences, and I took it all in, every moment, every face, every gesture that made me feel welcomed. I’m constantly asking myself if this is actually happening. A part of me genuinely doesn’t believe this is happening. During one of the days of the Open House, snow began to fall- I reached out my hand and real snow fell on my palm. It landed in my hand, melted, passing its coldness unto me, and for the first time, I felt snow fall on my skin. Yes- this is happening.

Life, up in the air, at approximately 30,000 ft.

In a few weeks, I will select the courses I will take and make the move. I guess that means I have to find a place to live. Wait- do I move all of my things? What about my job? Will I just quit and that be that? How will I get around? Where do my buy my groceries? Will I be ready to live in Columbus, Ohio by the time I move? Do I keep this blog going? I guess what I’m asking is…..

now what?

Acknowledgments

I am still elated about the news: I’m going to attend Ohio State University for my PhD!! This is really exciting news and I am still trying to process it all. While I was applying, I knew that while it was me writing my essays and sending my applications, it wasn’t a solo venture. It quite literally took a village. A lot of great people helped me get to this point and I wanted to write a post dedicated to them. Here are the people that helped me get here: Continue reading

Midnight Postscript  

Hello readers! I’m writing this micro-post at about Midnight on a Monday in December. Santa Ana winds are stampeding through my neighborhood, and the cold snap of December is kicking in. I’m currently at a bar, finishing up my first drink, in the thick application submission. I submitted my first application this morning, wondering all day if there was anything I missed. I ask myself, Is this one going to be it? I don’t have an answer. My intuition sees it as misplaced will. It’s done, and there’s no going back. I also took the GRE exam today. Once the gatekeeper of my fate, I now see it for what it is- a formality. It’s just one part of this process, and whether I’m good at it or not, I have to do it. I did my best, and I owe this exam nothing. What matters is that it’s not deterring me from applying. Not again. Now, we wait.

I spent the last few weeks working on my application essays. How do you fit your entire academic history in two pages? This has always eluded me, until this year, when I decided to do what I’m good at- pouring my heart into every word, down to the last character. I printed it out it out, and it felt like it weighed ten thousand pounds. Like a marble statue, I have most of it done- now, I’m working on those last final detailed touches that will make it perfect.

Negroni by candlelight

The majority of my applications will be submitted in the next two weeks. This means I will do nothing but work on making them as immaculate as possible. A part of me already sees me celebrating. Another part of me wants to crawl into a hole, hoping to escape the outcome. Doubt lingers, bleeding through the words of support from loved ones. I want to do well, but at this point, it’s no longer up to me. I’m eating, sleeping, and dreaming application season, putting my future in the hands of graduate departments.

I’m in a Lyft, on my way home, and the song playing has a chorus that most appropriately speaks to the next couple of weeks:

I can not give you everything, you know I wish I could
I’m so high at the moment
I’m so caught up in this
Yeah, we’re just young, dumb and broke
But we still got love to give

While we’re young dumb
Young, young dumb and broke
Young dumb
Young, young dumb and broke

Morning Renaissance

 

View from a Park Bench

View from a Park Bench

I’m sitting¬†on a park bench after a jog. It’s cold, the air is misty, and January still feels new.¬†This has¬†been my¬†jogging route for years. It¬†grounds¬†me. When I jog, I only hear my feet pounding on¬†concrete and the gasps of my breath. I reach a small¬† park, making sure I stop to rest and catch my breath. Next to the play area and soccer field, there’s a small bench where I like to sit. On cold mornings, I can see the steam rise from my skin. Here, I get to sit there and think, endorphins and dopamine rushing through my brain, sweating, steam rising. These are the thoughts in my head:

(Song playing in my head while I jog: Some Time Alone, Alone by Melody’s Echo Chamber; click below to listen)

we resigned the light to someone/And handed to the righteous/We will walk into the right motion/Some time alone, alone to wonder/Change your mind and talk/Waiting around/
While everyone else is moving on and on, and talk Continue reading