Monday, August 23, 2010

My life according to NYTimes

According to NYT and CNN (NYT mostly), single successful black women are a somewhat hopeless species because no one wants to marry us.

According to the same media outlet, 20 somethings are shiftless people who are delaying adulthood and responsibilities, who have no strong work ethic and who mooch of parents so much that we generally, as a generation, suck.

So according to this media outlet, I should just curl up in a pitiful useless ball because I'm a 20 something black woman who's on her way to being succesful.

How nice to know that I can prove them wrong, and also to know that my identity and self worth do not lie in what any "expert" or "non expert" thinks of me, my race, my gender or my generation. And really, why do people spend so much time pointing fingers at other people who they think are "poor" and "pitiable" ? Isn't is simply more efficient to write about wars and hunger and politics all that, and indeed to not just write but do something about it, than to speculate on job and marriage prospects of entire swaths of the population?

Whatever. I have work to. I'm well on my way to becoming a fabulous, successful 20 something year old black woman!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My new interest- the world of black people in America

I made a comment earlier about how sometimes I identify as "Black". That's an obvious enough way to identify- after all, no one will ever mistake me for any other race if they lay eyes on me. And yet, in my head, and perhaps in real life, there's a slight difference in identifying as a Ghanaian immigrant and as a black person who happens to be a Ghanaian immigrant. Ghana is so steeped in my blood and psyche- everyone asks me where home is and it's an automatic response. And yet, I find myself reading a lot of blogs by Black people who are not necessarily African, I find myself searching out novels by Black authors who are not necessarily African. I'm learning about a whole new culture and its actually a lot of fun. Strange in some ways to be on the outside, but not fully and not obviously so, but to also recognize traits of behaviors and cultures that have endured even with years of separation and divergent experiences, heritages and histories.

When I met my first Jamaican friend and eventual college roommate, I was intrigued by the similarities between her and me, my culture and hers. I wanted to learn a whole lot more, and I did learn some. Of course, as fresh of the boat immigrants, our views of our college world and of America were very similar. In a strange way, several years after freshman year, I feel like I'm again discovering yet another culture and am just as intrigued by similarities and differences.

I think I'm beginning to understand the worldview of Ghanaian-Americans (for lack of a better word) who can be both Ghanaian and Black and African and American and all things in between. It's a talent, I think, that some people perfect and others don't get so well. But how someone views themselves  is none of my business. Me, I'm working on trying to understand me.

This world of medicine

I keep telling myself to write about something other than the world of school and hospitals. I mean, seriously, I like to think that I have more thoughts in my head than those that revolve around this career.

However, today, it dawned on me how small the world is and how uncomfortable that can be. You see, I saw a patient today. She happens to be someone I know quite well. And on the list of differential diagnoses for her condition were some things that are not so pleasant for anyone to deal with. Test results will be available tomorrow, but I spent a lot of time thinking about how these things work- what it means to be a patient in the same institution where you work or your family member works. What it means to have your doctors and dentists be your friends and colleagues. What it means for someone you went to school with to see you in the vulnerable position of being a patient or family member of a patient........and on and on and on.

I know that this is not new to the world, and it's actually not even new to me. But it has never really hit home this clearly. See, now I know more about this lady that I really ever wanted, and regardless of what test results show, I will know even more still.  She didn't mind that I was there. In fact, I think it comforted her a little bit to see a somewhat familiar face- enough that she let go of some of her annoyance to tease me like always. But I'm hoping and praying and hoping and praying that those test results are ok. I can't even begin to deal with what will happen if they're not ok.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Me and hospitals

I don't like hospitals. I really really don't like them. This is ironic, considering the field I'm about to enter, and its even more ironic considering that I am becoming more and more comfortable in the white coat and in hospitals. But here's the thing. Most people in hospitals are pretty sick, very vulnerable, sometimes sad, sometimes barely here. Which is of course why they need the extra care and help, but which can also be very hard to see everyday, all the time.

There's this weird thing that happens in medicine, especially in teaching centers. To learn to restore health as best as we can, we must become very intimate with sickness and sick people. So much that we can sometimes lose sight of the person within the body as we focus on their body and their disease. And really, healing is not entirely in our control- we're simply vessels- if you will, of the Master Healer. And yet, it can be easy to lose sight of the family and social interactions and everything that makes the patient unique. At the same time, a health care worker, no matter what stage, cant get so wrapped up in each patient that they lose their objectivity and their own sanity.

So what's a girl to do? Some doctors are very good at keeping the whole person in perspective and some specialties lend themselves to broader look at different layers of complexity. I guess this might be one of the things that makes the difference between an adequate, good or great doctor. How you make your patients feel and if you can somehow identify with them as fellow travelers in this walk of life, without losing pieces of your heart or worse yet, breaking your heart with every encounter.

This is why I'm still a student. This needs to be worked out in my head. In the mean time, I still don't like hospitals all that much.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Family and Social history

I just finished my inpatient psych rotation. It was a lot of fun, a lot more fun that I was expecting, and while I knew I would learn a lot, I learnt a lot more than I bargained for. One of the many things that struck me was the importance of 2 things- family history and social history. In the medical world, these are simply two headings under which questions must be asked, and truth be told, these are sometimes very easy to overlook. But in the psych ward, I think every single patient I met had a family history of psych issues- depression, bipolar diasease, schizophrenia, anxiety name it, and many of them had significant stories of trauma as children. These two facts made me realize some things....
1. There is a lot more evil in the world than I know and than I want to know. I still dont understand it and really, I hope I never get desensitized to the point that I understand it or that I dont care.
2. Psych issues aren't as rare as I'd like to believe.
3. There's a very good reason for Ghanaian "elders" to say "wo ko awarea, bisa" (before you get married, ask around). Every family has their thing- go in with your eyes open and deal with whatever issues your new family has.
4. Some people will tug at your heart like nothing you can imagine. And even the patients that you might least expect. 

The question of identity

A conversation that started with a friend, and then followed with some family members has had me thinking long and hard about the issue of identity. See, now if you'd asked me a few years ago how I identify myself, I'd have said "I'm a Ghanaian, Christian girl". End of story really. Now, I find that that answer is a lot more nuanced. Ghanaian is still there, Christian is still there and now I find that I fit in a woman's skin a lot more easily than I did before. But now, occasionally I'll think more African than specifically Ghanaian, and more likely to think Black. And I think that Black, as opposed to only Ghanaian is a subtle thing but points to a shift in my psyche.

So then I began to wonder how identities are formed. What makes me Ghanaian exactly? and is it possible to be Ghanaian if you dont live there for an extended time? Is there any such thing as pure Ghanaian? and who gets to determine what that is? Is there anything wrong or right with being Ghanaian as opposed to African as opposed to Black? Does it change my focus or my dreams or future plans if my identity changes or do does my evolving identity wrap around those dreams and desires?

I dont think there are any answers, or at least obvious answers. But those are some random thoughts floating around my head.

Almost a year since

It's been almost a year since I last wrote on here, and what a wild ride it's been. Honestly, I dont think anyone missed my stellar writing (jk) but I missed this. This opportunity to put my thoughts on something, and by doing that maybe get clarity. I still have some angst about the whole blogging thing- which is funny because I'm addicted to some blogs, but whatever....

Anyways, the past few months were long, hard, painful, confusing- and it wasn't just because of academic work. But in the midst of all that I discovered some things about myself. I have an incredible, absolutely loving and stunning set of family and friends. I've always known that, but I was shown that in spades this past academic year. And to all of you, even those who will never read this, I must say thanks and I'm ever grateful for the fact that you love me so.

I also learnt that I'm a wimp. Apparently I dont like the tests that God sends my way via life. I resisit them, I complain, I whine. But thank God for grace and mercy and growth. There's still hope for me yet.

And now that a new academic year and a new portion of my education has started, I can boldly say that I'm smiling again. From the inside. Loving this journey of learning. Learning so much from all corners. I told myself that I didn't want this to become yet another medical blog, and I'll try my best to stick to my word. But I've seen and learnt a lot in the past month, and I know that there a whoooooole lot more ahead- I may need to find clarity here every now and then.

So, it seems I didn't let the blog totally die and I'm back........