Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Gift of Friends

People say that as you grow older, it becomes harder to make friends. Sure you get to meet more people once you start working, but many of these people you meet are mere transients in your life. Maybe it's because we rarely have the time to invest in building friendships once we've graduated from school; maybe as adults, we are more wary and less trusting, less inclined to open our hearts to strangers in the hopes that they can be something more to us. Or maybe it's because, as adults, we no longer have a common drama to share with others outside our homes, no common experience to tie us to others who are not a part of our families.

But sometimes, life hands us unexpected gifts.

My batchmates are my unexpected gifts.

I entered my Internal Medicine residency on my own, none of my good friends from medical school in tow. Most of the names on the roster of my batch were simply just names to me in the beginning. A few I had had rare conversations with in medical school. More I had never talked to at all, though I knew of them vaguely. A couple I had never even heard off until I saw them on the roster. I knew we would have to work together for the next three years, but I had no real expectations that they would come to mean as much to me as they have.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't lived the life of a resident just how important the people whom you work with are to keeping your sanity intact. Looking back at these past three years, I cannot imagine how I would have made it this far without the support and the friendship of the 19 other people with whom I shared this experience with. At the end of a long exhausting, frustrating, emotionally draining day, sometimes knowing that there are people you can share this experience with who would understand even without words what you're going through is all you can look forward to, and we had this with each other.

Our batch is far from perfect. We're an uneasy mix of strong, eccentric personalities put into a highly stressed situation -- a potential recipe for disaster. But thankfully enough, over the years, we have managed to work around our differences, and instead have fed on these differences to become better doctors and better people from what we have learned from each other.

In the process, we have become friends.

The kind of friends you'll get to be the godparents for your children someday, the ones you know will be dancing at your silver anniversary with, the ones who will be at the forefront of causing trouble with you when you're little old people with canes in the same retirement home -- the kind of friends you never thought you'd find at this point in your life... but have.

All of us stand on the threshold of a new chapter in our lives. Some of us have opted to stay in the hospital to continue subspecialty training. A few are definitely going to be leaving for abroad for at least the next few years. One is going back home. Some still have no definite plans. All are solitary journeys.

We leave each other with the knowledge that things between us will never quite be the same again. We leave each other knowing that we will probably never find anything thing like this wherever it is we are going.

But despite these goodbyes, there is another thing that we know for certain -- we are better people for having been friends, and we will carry this unexpected gift with us no matter where we go.

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