"Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing." - Helen Keller
I spent the two years after I got kicked out of medical school wondering what the fuck I had been doing here at all. And it wasn't so much a WTF kind of what the fuck, but a long swim to the surface of an existential sea. I was searching for a purpose. There had to be a reason, and I looked for them as the days unfolded. It was like every person in my life was an upside-down teacup to be looked under, because maybe my purpose here resided in them. All of the teacups were empty, or at best held trinkets that couldn't explain or pay for my loss. I had a hard time keeping my temper.
For most of the last four and a half years, I've just wanted to go home. For the last two, I suppose we could have found a way. But the first of those two years was spent trying to redeem myself academically in hopes that I could return to medical school. The next was spent trying to come to grips with the fact that my youngest is autistic, and remedy that.
If you have not had a child with a life-changing disability, then you really can't imagine what it's like. Before we had Asa, that lack of empathy made it difficult to believe that my husband or I would be able to parent a child with autism. So when I found out he was autistic, I fell apart. The woman who told me reminded me that he was the same child he'd been the day before, but I knew at a heart level that that was a lie. Asa wouldn't grow out of it, and that hope that one day, like his dad, he'd just blurt out a sentence and move on with his life had been a part of who we thought he was.
I sometimes wonder how I would have reacted to that news before I went to medical school. It was in medical school that I learned that I could withstand hunger, humiliation, frustration, depression, self doubt and blind fury, all on very little sleep, for years. Medical school is like having an newborn for a very, very long time. I'm finding that having an autistic kid is like having a toddler for a very, very long time. I went absolutely crazy when I found out that Asa was autistic, but I also bucked up enough to make sure he got the treatment he needed. Medical school taught me how to do that. Certainly I didn't learn that skill from my own caregivers.
And how would that part of my life have gone if I had still been drinking? I mean, yes, I did have a few savagely drunken nights afterward, but how would I have managed if I hadn't have had a lot of practice at not drinking in response to pretty much, well, everything? Who knows, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have gone better.
We'll be here for exactly as long as we'd expected to be. Five years, one month. I'll see both of my classes graduate, and I've had the opportunity to be there for my friends in meaningful ways. My psychiatrist here was the one who told me about East Coast Medical School the day after I appealed to Midwest Medical School, and the one who encouraged me to apply. Dylan got a solid start in grade school, and has seen and done more than he would have at home. Our marriage was tested in horrible, tragic ways, and it survived. There was purpose to this - so much, in fact, that I doubt I know the whole of it, and I may never know. But in reality, I walked away from this having lost nothing. I still have my family, my marriage, medical school, the hope of one day having a deeply meaningful career. Sure, we spent a lot of money here, but that can be recouped and we aren't starving. If I chose to, I can say that we spent that money to find out what we were made of, and quite frankly, that's worth more than money.