Living with Medics

Medical students are an odd breed. Right now they are smart but often stupid, drinking nineteen pints and taking knock-out pills then running to see how far they get before they fall. Soon enough, after five, six, seven years (depending on year outs, failed years – you get the drift), they’ll be junior doctors. The righteous junior doctors who we should be supporting in their long hours and dedications. Then they’ll be fully-fledged doctors, in charge of our health and the ones that sign the notes that get us out of work.

Yet I am no medical student. I’m not even in the sciences. I am a humanities student. I do not understand how the mind of a medic works, and they don’t understand how my mind works, but we somehow exist together in an odd little jumble of ‘I’m almost a doctor’ speech, debates over whose essays are harder, and varying opinions on almost every subject. Somehow the three of us, two medics and a humanities student, manage to live in a kind-of harmony, and that may just because I’m related to one of them. Still, it makes for some fantastic anecdotes.

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Our ‘bedside manner’, as they might call it, varies greatly. A medical student clearly learns to be confident (hell, you don’t want your doctor um-ing and ah-ing over whether to give you this drug or that one), and be assertive. In a medical situation, they need to be able to take charge if need be and make quick decisions, declaring what they can do and how they’re useful. This all makes perfectly good sense, but this is ‘interesting’ to deal with in a normal daily atmosphere. Perhaps it’s because there’re two of them in the flat, but the competitiveness is overwhelming. Conversations that would normally go like this:

“Hey, how was your day?”

“Yeah not bad. You?”

“Yeah, alright, thanks.”

End up being vastly different….

“Hey, how was your day?”

“Well I’ve been on a ward since nine and managed to impress one of the doctors on call which was good, and I managed to put in a cannula first try, and had to tell a few people they had cancer which was really trying, but managed to also contribute to saving someone’s life. How about you?”

“Uh, yeah. It was alright.”

Suddenly, finishing a book within a day or managing to write a 3000 word essay in record time, or even both at the same time, isn’t all that impressive anymore. Hell, it was only ever really impressive to myself and my humanities mates to begin with.

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There are conflicts, of course – as is with every flat and it’s occupants. Roommates will argue at some point; it’s practically law. There are tensions over contact hours at university (eight hours a week compared to eight hours a day causes a dangerous cocktail of jealousy, despair, and utter turmoil – see my earlier blog if you need more on this), the amount of work that’s been set, and even the level of stress you’re at.

But there are also some great moments. For them, it’s when I knock on the door because yet another one of my friends has messaged to see if I can ask my brother if the lump on their leg needs to be medically treated. Or it’s when other humanities friends come round and they get to lament over their long hours and their abilities to save lives and have an audience that can’t say ‘well, yeah, we all do that’.

For me, it’s the moments when they try to help me with my degree. Now don’t get me wrong, they aren’t helpful in the slightest, but they say such fantastic comments that I get to write down and tell my friends about and even write a blog about. (See what I did there?)

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It’s when I’m writing an essay that I seem to get the best comments. All I have to do is sigh loudly and cry out ‘Oh cruel world, why must you make me write an essay of 4000 words on a concept featured in eighteenth century travel writing?’, and immediately my ever-so-helpful-and-assertive-in-their-abilities medical student roommates will pitch in with their thoughts.

Warning: these quotes are from real life medical students.

They most likely haven’t written an english essay since they were 16.

“Just put in loads of semi-colons. That’s what I did in GCSE English.”

“Use the word juxtaposition. That sounds like a word that would get an A grade.”

“I used enjambment all the time because it’s long and sounds French.”

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Honestly, I’ve no idea how to follow that. How can you follow that? Actually, I know – once again, you immediately text your friends so they can laugh over the medical-student-essay advice and then write down those tips because they are going to be featured in a blog real soon. (Love you guys really. And I’m sorry, but you can’t write English and/or Classics essays. Stick with saving lives.)

Sum yourself up in 3 words

What makes us human is that we’re made of multiple parts – and not just physically. So when someone asks me to define myself in three words, I always feel fake in my answer – because how can you describe yourself in three words? How can you fit all that is you in three measly, little words?

Let’s take an example. We’ll call her Jackie, who is good at sports. Yet that’s not the whole of Jackie. Jackie is also terrible at Maths and Science and English, but she has a knack for IT. When she was at school, she was the one who could fix the computer or sort out the projector when it wasn’t working. Jackie has a loving mother and father, a father who isn’t her biological father but a father all the same. Jackie eats meat but doesn’t like to say that, despite the fact that steak is her favourite dinner. Jackie is also in love with a man called Brian, who thinks she’s crazy but wonderful. You could label her as any of these things: Jackie who is good at sports, Jackie the computer whiz kid, Jackie with the step-dad, Jackie the meat-eater, Jackie who’s in love with Brian. She’s not a 2D character, she’s human. A person. Made of multiple parts.

So you see? That’s why it annoys me when I’m asked to sum myself up in three words, because there’s so much more to me than three words. I’m Eleanor. I do Classics with English at university. I adore reading and books and love to write as much as I love to read. I spend more money on books than clothes, and sometimes vent about my feelings on the internet. I have two brilliant parents and an older brother who goes to the same university as me, and no, I didn’t follow him here. I have a dog that I love and take too many pictures of, posting them on social media. I can make conversation with a stranger no problem and I like making people happy. I love to travel, even though I’ve hardy travelled. I prefer picnics to parties and like sunshine but sometimes also rain.

So when you’re asked to just give three words, how do you pick? Yes, I’m a hard worker and friendly student, but I’m also always talking and don’t particularly like silence. I like talking so much that I often find myself talking loudly and sometimes I’ll cut myself off, because I’m paranoid that I’ve been talking so long that people won’t like me as much. I feel like a constantly changing person, loud and joking for one friend, then a quiet advisor for another, depending on what they need and what makes them happy. I doubt myself at least forty times a day, no less sometimes more, and always feel kind of average. I hate cat callers but also feel slightly more confident after a wolf whistle, although I hate them just as much. I’m conflicted. Even my hair is conflicted; parts straight, sometimes curly, mostly wavy, and always a combination of the three. I’m terrible at make-up but when I get it right I take so many pictures as a reminder that I can look pretty, but then feel so vain ten minutes later that I’ll delete every single one.

So don’t ask me to sum myself up in three words, because I am far more than three words could even imagine.

On Being Happy: WORDS

I was tempted to write about writing, or about books, and I probably will go into those two subjects in more detail later on (and if you’re desperate to read more about books, then head over to my other blog alwayslovetoreadalot). But I decided let’s go to the heart of the matter and what makes up literature: words.

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To mark the anniversary of 400 years since Shakespeare’s death, I attended a late night at the British Library and although we were celebrating the great bard, one particular phrase that caught my attention was ‘a love of words’. Because really, I have a serious love for words. The idea that a combination of words helps you tell stories is just fascinating when you take a step back from it all, and, really, we tell stories every time someone sings, writes a book, speaks to a friend – the list just goes on.

I adore stories, hence my love for books, but I love telling stories, hence my dream of being an author. Even day-to-day anecdotes are fantastic: setting the scene, raising the tension, hitting the punchline, and wrapping everything up in a satisfying package. We’ve told stories since the first human being spoke, and we haven’t stopped since.

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I started writing down some of my favourite words since reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara (which, if you haven’t read by now, you really should). She packed that book with so many beautiful words that just fit so perfectly into her narrative that I’m pretty sure it gives euphoria to every word-lover out there. So now it’s time for a truly exciting blog post where I tell you my favourite words. I can practically feel your excitement from here.

First of: Specificities. Just say it aloud. Specificities. Now if that isn’t a fun word to say, I don’t know what is. All that sibilance is just, ah, so spectacular.

Ceaselessly. Oh yeah, more ‘ss’ sounds. It also reminds me of Great Gatsby, so what’s not to love?

Whimsical. I like how on the ‘whim’ you get a small smile on your face. It also has that beautiful arc, like going over a hill – up for the ‘whim’ and back down again from ‘sical’. Music in words, people, it exists and it’s beautiful. Feel the beauty.

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Placidly is another, and I’m pretty sure I just like these words because they’re fun to say. With the end of this one, there are just too many letters to sound out. The ‘ss’ sound, the emphasis on the ‘d’ sound, and then the ‘ly’. Such fun.

Taint. Don’t ask me why. I think it’s something to do with the overlapping ‘t’ sound.

Thither. Swivel. Discombobulated. There are just so many words. And I love them all.

I think it’s also safe to say that essay and exam season is making my brain slowly melt, until I’m just a mess of a human blathering on about words and how fun they are to say. Here’s hoping for better content come June.

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But seriously, what are your favourite words? Don’t be shy, we’re all non-judgemental here. I’m hoping anyone who can read to the end of this post isn’t judgemental at all. (Please don’t judge me)