I was away for a long time, and in that time, I had some writing news and updates that I’m overdue in sharing here.
One of those is that my piece “Living the Dream?” was published in Aerial, the art and literary magazine from OHSU’s School of Medicine.
Knowing that such a magazine existed was one of the many things that drew me to OHSU as a school. I wanted to be somewhere that valued writing and the arts along with all the science-y, clinical-y stuff I love. Since starting school there, I’ve found a good group of people, not only the people who run Aerial, but also a lot of people involved in narrative medicine, humanities in medicine, live storytelling, and so forth.
In fact, this piece came from the final assignment in a Narrative Medicine elective class I took last winter, taught by Dr. Elizabeth Lahti, who is THE narrative medicine, medical humanities person at OHSU. The assignment was to write “25 Things I Know About…” something. The assignment was based on the short story “25 Things I know About My Husband’s Mother” by Louise Aronson from her book A History of the Present Illness. We read this and other stories from this book in our class, and I highly recommend.
After struggling through other iterations–one being “25 Writing Projects” and I know there was at least one more–I settled on writing “25 Things I Know About Leading a Somewhat Double Life as Medical Student and Writer.” There are also triple and quadruple lives in there that could’ve been included, especially disabled person, but for this class in narrative medicine, it seemed most apropos to focus on that tension between med school and creativity.
In the last class session, we each had to share our pieces in what our professors called the “mini-Moth.” The pieces people wrote were soooo good. Poignant, specific, interesting, well-written. We drew numbers, and I had to go first. Standing up and reading what I’d written in front of my class felt epic.
I fully owned my identity as a writer and how much I value writing and creativity. I cursed a lot. I was honest about having some school chooser’s remorse (over creativity concerns). I discussed writing pieces I was writing. I was honest about what a hard time I had at the beginning of medical school in terms of was this right for me, which while though some of my classmates had witnessed firsthand I mostly felt I couldn’t admit or talk about. I weaved in that I’d written a screenplay that was like a female, legally blind Breaking Bad as a rom-com. I wrote, and read, that I was working on a sprawling essay on disability and sexuality. I cried while reading, and I made everyone laugh.
In reading that piece, I felt like I was the most me I’d been since starting medical school.
What I submitted to Aerial was an edited version of what I wrote for the class. And here it is. You can find my piece (under my real name) on page 29, and you should read and look at and absorb the whole issue, not just my piece. And check out Issue 1 too.
It ends on a cliffhanger, and I did eventually submit a second part. I didn’t love it. I struggled with its editing. I was in a different place by the time that rolled around, and felt like there was way too much to encompass, and couldn’t get within the word count without cutting too much out, and wasn’t sure I felt it was as honest edited as I wanted to be. So I don’t know if anything will ever come of that, and I almost hope it doesn’t. It just never felt right, whatever I was trying to do with editing that second part for publication.
It’s so interesting now, because I see the original piece as such a “snapshot in time” of a time that has passed. I feel a lot of conflicted ways about that.
You know, in writing this post, I pulled up the original, unabridged piece, the one that was edited to be read for class but before it was edited to be submitted for publication, and I like it. I kinda like it more than the abridged, extra edited version that appears in (digital) print.
I think I might post the original version here and go back to what I used to in posting writing samples every Friday. Since it was “25 Things I Know About…,” that fits into easy demarcations for individual posts. So, look out for that.