Finding Happiness

Happy Birthday Daddy

I’ve been looking forward to writing this review from the very first day of the year. It’s ironic how, now that it’s time to write it, I’m struggling to find words even though I have a lot to say. This was supposed to be ‘that’ year. It was supposed to be a year of unapologetic self-discovery and giant leaps in all the parts of my life where they could possibly be made. I was to be done with Medical School by June and out of this godforsaken place shortly after. It’s interesting, taking inventory of the year, to see how this year has somehow managed to deliver on these expectations while straying so far of course.

I started the year in a terrible mood, despite being in excellent company. I remember feeling like the underwhelming first hour of the year was a sign of things to come and, in many ways, I was right. I entered the year with a cloud of sadness over my head like is commonly depicted in cartoons. It was a constant fixture when I was alone, blending in with the grey walls I spent most of the year staring at. I became acutely aware of its presence on days when I was out with other people and found it impossible to get excited regardless of how excited everyone else was. Early in the year I reminded myself that inebriation lifted this cloud momentarily and fell back violently into old habits.

The first three months were a blur, where I almost completely ignored my academic obligations under the guise of finding happiness. I searched many places I had no business searching and tried things I had no business trying. I must admit that many of the individual moments were euphoric, but I could feel a crash coming and it did not come as a surprise when it did. This phase ended on the last Thursday in March when I had to face many consequences at once. I remember floating through an end of posting test that day, unsure of how to face the repercussions of my recklessness. I was scared and alone and terrified of making the wrong decisions.

That is the point where the whole year went off track. I took many hits in April – feeling helpless and useless while someone I loved suffered, struggling with my emotions and the dysfunction that makes it almost impossible for me to express them when it counts and, finally, the closure of my school a month to my final qualifying exams. I was home for eight weeks starting in April and it was the first of two terribly low periods this year. This is not a post where I unbury hatchets, but I can’t go on without mentioning how disappointed I was in many of the people I had come to look up to. A simple matter was terribly mismanaged and the weaker party was left, in numerous ways, to suffer the effects of this mismanagement

I remember very little of the months I spent at home this year as the days ran blandly into each other. I know that I was drunk a lot and spent a lot of time in introspection that was largely, in retrospect, pointless. I also faced a somewhat major health scare. I however remember that, in what was a totally unexpected turn of events, I found a source of happiness that didn’t leave when I sobered up. It took me a while to understand what exactly was going on inside my head. When I finally did, I was more than grateful to latch onto her. It has been an exciting ride and it still does my head in that someone is willing to take me with all my issues and hold my hand when things get dark. I was finally able, at this time, to begin to let go of my temporary sources of happiness and try to create happiness in healthy and well- adjusted ways. I began to make slow and steady progress in May.

In June my school was reopened, thrusting me back into preparation for my final examinations. It was a gruelling month of preparation and the three weeks of the exams were arguably the hardest I have ever lived through. I had to juggle school work with some extracurricular obligations and it was  overwhelming at times. I’m very grateful to my study groups who are fast becoming the closest friends I’m leaving Medical School with. I’m grateful to all the people who encouraged me when I didn’t think I could go on or make it to the end of the exams. I particularly remember leaving my Surgery Clinical exam certain that I had failed. The weekend that followed was full of despair and I will never forget my mother calling me to say that she was proud of me and how far I had come, regardless of how the exams went. I like to think that I do not need validation, but I shed ugly tears that day and those words gave me the momentum to carry on.

The exams finally ended on the first of August (which, coincidentally, was my mother’s birthday). The month of August was a month of expectant waiting. I waited three weeks before finally finding out that I had passed the exams and I remember arriving home on the twenty third of August with all my luggage from school and lying in bed exhausted from unpacking and from waiting. I was having a conversation with my mother that evening when the message came in that the results were out. I remember telling her calmly that I had passed and being unable to hold back my smile as she excitedly called people to inform them. I remember being ecstatic for over a week as the congratulatory messages rolled in.

The happiness eventually wore off and the second of my ruts began. It was linked to the first one, being a direct result of the earlier brouhaha. This time, for three months, we were delayed as punishment for speaking up against oppression. These were three months where my unhappiness was justified (and shared). It was three months of falling into the very same habits that I was trying to avoid. The uncertainty of it all was really bad for my mental health and found myself snatching at coping mechanisms and doing many things that I regret. It finally ended in November with convocation and induction ceremonies that I didn’t really enjoy. Waiting for so long had taken much of the excitement out of it for me. I’m at the third stagnant stage of the year now, trying to figure out what comes next and hoping to make the right decisions. I have been able to go through the past few years on autopilot, but it is time now to make important decisions and I have to be conscious and deliberate.

For all its uncertainty and sadness, this was still an unbelievably exciting year. It’s easy to dwell on the lows and forget how often I was grateful for the small things and to the people who were consistently in my corner. I met, interacted and formed bonds with more people than I ever have in one calendar year and received kindness from many people (quite a few of whom were unexpected). I chose to write this post while in the company of my only consistent source of happiness this year and, as such, I’m optimistic going into 2019. Things feel very different now and I’m dealing with a few new responsibilities. If the last two years are anything to go by, I’m in for an exciting ride. Hopefully I will find more pockets of happiness than I did in 2018 and I will be able to hold on to them. Fingers crossed.


Michael spends way too much time doing nothing in particular. He is professional procrastinator and a struggling student.

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