In the past couple of weeks, I've come to feel isolated in several aspects of my life.
For one, there's the obvious. I no longer have a stomach. The percentage of stomach-less human beings in the world is non-zero, and for them and their shared wisdom I am thankful, but I still feel isolated from those I interact with on a daily basis-- my friends and family. While they experience stomach-less living through me, they are a degree removed. They don't directly feel the pain from eating too quickly and having food get stuck, or the discomfort and embarrassment of throwing up mucus-y gooey small-intestinal slime into the bushes in public, or the dread I feel before each meal, worrying that something won't sit right. Though all these things combined are much much better than the alternative-- dying of stomach cancer-- they are still things I need to live with. They are still the daily annoyances and inconveniences reminding me that my life at the moment is not normal.
Aside from the obvious life changes, there are the other adjustments that this roller coaster journey has forced me to make in my life. Though I very much appreciate the time to spend at home with my family in as a beautiful a place as Hawaii, I also fully experience the fact that the Hawaiian archipelago is the most geographically isolated set of islands in the world. My friends and peers are spread across the nation and around the world, many of them not here. I feel stripped of a community. My days are mostly rather solitary--watching tv, reading, playing piano, taking walks--and sometimes it starts to feel like I am living in a vacuum.
I thrive on human interactions, conversations, and shared experiences. I value every text message, g-chat, Facebook wall post, but it's not quite the same. I have been lucky to have had friends and family visit. Their visits break up the homogeneity of my days, allowing me to take a break by playing tourist for a couple of days. It gets me out and about, but it doesn't abolish the abnormality from my life. I still slow down mealtimes, throw up in a used styrofoam meal container in public out of last resort. But their visits are temporary, and before long, I resume my vacuum-like life, and they resume theirs, HDGC-free and thousands of miles away.
The hardest adjustment has been feeling isolated from my own life. Even though the decision I made in the fall to take time off for my surgery made sense, it was still a tumultuous time. I felt torn from my life as I knew it. I thought that once I had the surgery done, things would feel more at peace, problems would be solved. But in reality, I feel stuck. I am trying to resume normalcy, but I don't even know what that is anymore. I'm living at home for the longest period of time since high school, but those days are long over. I am no longer at MIT, nor do I belong there, nor does the world of my undergraduate years even still exist. My classmates and friends have since moved on to new schools, new jobs and dispersed from Boston, the last place I really considered home. During my last year at MIT, I worked hard to put in place a plan for the next years of my life-- Oxford and medical school. While I got a glimpse of my future life at Oxford during my five weeks there, I didn't get the chance to know what it feels like to live it. So that leaves me with the question, what is normal, and how do I get back there?
Thankfully, there is a time limit on my isolation. I know (hope) my eating problems will get better. I know I will be taking on a job for the summer. I know I will be moving back to Oxford and getting to live out my life there. I know I will be going to medical school eventually.
In the meantime, perhaps by sharing my experiences and feelings with you here, we can feel a little bit less isolated and a little bit more connected. Please share my journey with me here, share your comments and thoughts below.