Thursday, August 15, 2013

Letting Go

I have some of the worst personality traits. First, I'm a near-perfectionist. I like things aligned, neat, organized, and clean. Second, I have diagnosed mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which means that I have a hard time coping when things are aligned, neat, organized, and clean. Finally, I also have generalized anxiety and panic disorder, which means that I tend to worry a lot and at times my worry takes more than a mental toll on me.

Needless to say, all of these traits make me a planner. In my view, if I plan, I can take some of the uncertainty out of life, making it easier to live. For the most part, this view stands up to reality. My extra effort to look up directions to the restaurant means I spend less time walking around looking for it. Constantly carrying an umbrella means that I'm never wet. Budgeting means I'm never in dire financial trouble.

Ever since I met Dr., the picture in my head of how my life would go or how it was supposed to be has changed. Some things have gone according to plan: I ended up graduate school (although not law school as I originally thought), I got my first big girl job in DC, working on Capitol Hill. However, I never imagined I'd be married, much less before 30. I never thought I'd be able to sustain this long-term of a relationship. I never thought I would be picking up my life and moving to a weird state for a guy. None of those things were in the plan.

The ultimate "plan busting" experience occurred this past spring during the residency match. Hopefully the episode I am about to recount also does a decent job of explaining our story as a couple trying to survive the introduction into medicine:

It seemed like we were going to get the life we planned for as we prepared for the match. We had long discussions about our long-term (read: 3 years, the time it takes to complete an IM residency) plan and where we each wanted to end up professionally and personally. We then put together a list of possible programs in our desired locations. The list included a ranking that was an incredibly good reflection of the programs that would be great for him in places that would be good for me professionally as well. Dr. lined up audition rotations in those places, cultivated relationships with program directors, and performed exceedingly well, garnering great letters of recommendation and unofficially indications that they would rank him high in the match process. We went into the match feeling confident that we would end up back in my hometown, where he would work in a great program and I would be able to fulfill a few of my professional desires as well as my desire to move back to the midwest. We were excited and ready and then...

Dr. didn't match.

I think he'd agree that that day was the worst day - leading to the worst week - of our life together. It was full of disbelief, disbelief, tears, and "why us?" repeated over and over again. We were shocked, sad, and angry. Even when Dr. finally found a residency spot in a mutually acceptable place a few days later, I still thought almost hourly I'll never get over this. We had a plan. A plan that would work fantastically for the both of us. I had gotten my hopes up and set my heart on something (the bad part of being a planner and a secret optimist). "I'm going to give up my job, my apartment, my life for  a situation I didn't plan on?!?!" I thought as I sat on the floor of my bathroom the morning after, sobbing hysterically into a towel so he wouldn't hear me from the next room. I will never get through this.

But you know what? I did. I'm happy - and somewhat surprised - to say that, six months later, I have let go of what has happened and tried my darndest to focus on the now, not the future. Dr. is shining in his program and is going to be a phenomenal physician. I have a job with a good salary and benefits for the time being, something few people have. We'll be living together in a few short months and a few short months after that we'll be married.  We're healthy, surrounded by family who are excited for us, and we want for almost nothing (except maybe a dog).

Don't get me wrong, there are days when I think back on the match experience and am deeply saddened. But I believe that someone, somewhere was trying to tell me something and, in their effort to do so, grabbed me by the shoulders and shouted "Let it go!!!!!" I got the message and glad I did. My life since has been sweeter, happier, and more real - if that makes any sense - and I can feel an improvement in my general mood everyday.

Dr. is coming this weekend

Dr. is coming to visit this weekend. It's only the second full weekend off he's had since he started residency a month and a half ago and I am so excited to see him. Granted, he'll be tired from a stressful work week and will sleep in pretty late while I'm up at 6:00am. He'll bring tons of laundry with him that I'll spend the better part of Sunday morning doing. He'll need to do some studying throughout the weekend too.

But I can't wait.

Over the past four years of separation, I've learned that I simply love being in his presence. I'm sure many of you are thinking, "Just wait until you're married...then you'll be eating your words and begging for alone time!" Maybe. But for right now, while I'm desperate for a normal life in which I see him everyday, let me enjoy my moments sipping my morning coffee and waiting for him to wake up, just ecstatic that he's even here.

Monday, August 5, 2013


I am  beyond thrilled that in about six months, Dr. and I will once again be living together. We lived together for two years in college and, while we had a few issues at the beginning, it was a great experience that we both believe solidified our desire to get married.

I'm the only one to have a roommate since we lived together during our last two years of college. To save monday, Dr. lived at home during med school and, simultaenously, during graduated school I lived in a family's basement in DC free of charge. When I got my first "big girl job" almost exactly two years ago, I figured it was time to move out and start paying rent. I knew that on a civil servants salary I needed a roommate and I was lucky enough to find one fairly quickly. I thought it was the perfect situation: reasonably nice apartment, near public transportation, near essential retail outlets, a put-together roommate whose life seemed on track, and cheap rent.

How wrong I was.

I wouldn't say the past year and a half has been unbearable, but I will say that the only thing keeping me in this living situation is my hatred of moving and my frugality.

In the time I've lived in this situation, I've made several crucial mistakes that I will review now in the hopes that readers can either relate and make me feel better about my misery or avoid the misfortune I've had. I'll preface each mistake with my suggestion for avoiding it.

1. Don't ever assume your roommate will be clean (not tidy--clean) just by their physical appearance or how the place looks when you come over initially to check it out. When I first met my roommate, she was fresh from work in her Banana Republic suit and trendy chunky jewelry and Kenneth Cole shoes. Nice, I thought, she takes pride in what she wears, which must mean she takes care of herself and her living space by extension. My walk-through of the apartment corroborated this view. It appeared clean - despite being home to two people and two cats - and smelled good, an important thing for me. The deal kept getting better.

Oh how wrong I was. By the time I moved in about a month later, the apartment was a completely different place. The Saturday I moved in, my roommate was on a work retreat. I walked into an apartment reeking of cat pee and litter. The living room carpet was covered in cat hair and the kitchen, well, I don't even want to go there. Suffice it to say, even a pretty unclean person would have been reluctant to live there. While my dad broguht up boxes, I got to work on deep cleaning, which took me about 6-7 hours to complete. The first couple Saturdays I lived there, I did a full cleaning of the apartment. I will admit I have high standards for cleanliness (I am fairly obsessive-compulsive and very tidy), so I clean bathrooms and kitchens every week. I also figured that between two girls and two cats, we probably needed to vacuum every week. It took me about two months to figure out my roommate never cleaned and had no intention to. She claimed she had no time because of work and promised to clean soon. When she did, I quickly figured out that he defintion of cleaning was actually "tidying up" - putting extraneous items in order, moving things that belonged in her room back into her room, etc. Her definition of cleaning did not involve Lysol or a toilet brush or paper towel. When I finally sat her down and said I couldn't tolerate our current arrangement, we were about a month into a year-long lease. She was apologetic and said she would improve, but her improvement only lasted about two to two and a half months. I waited so long to approach her, she didn't take me seriously when I did.

My recommendation: set a rotation of household tasks that need to be done every day, every week, and once or twice a month. A lot of this will depend on your personal preferences, but be honest about these preferences. If you think the bathroom needs a full scrub once a week, tell your roommate. Do this right off the bat to avoid the situation I am in.

2. Don't ever assume that a roommate is responsible just because they hold down a good job and are of a certain age. My roommate was a fundraiser for a major non-profit and was coming up on 30 years old when I moved in. In a city of young professionals, I somehow got it into my head that professional success and advanced age equated to a high level of personal responsibility. This was not the case. Not only is my roommate incapable of taking care of her physical space, she also was incapable of taking care of the typical "adult" responsibilities - paying bills on time, attending to her personal medical needs, and not letting her rather raucous social life spill into our shared space.

For example, I give her a check covering my portion of the rent each month for her to put in our apartment-provided envelope and send off within five days. On multiple occassions she would turn our checks in late, despite me giving her my portion of the rent at least 12 days before it is due. This has resulted in a myriad of lies as to why we've been charged a nearly $100 late fee ranging from "the postal service lost it" to the oh-so-untrue "you gave me your check late." I took me a while, but I eventually learned that she was paid on the very last day of every month and was, despite her rather high salary, living hand-to-mouth because of poor budgeting habits and even poorer spending habits. She would send the checks in as late as possible - sometimes actually late - to avoid her portion of the rent being taken out of her bank account before her salary deposit was made. Despite my offering to take over payment of our three common bills (rent, internet, and cable), she has perpetually been late on all three of these items.

My recommendation: Be clear from the get-go that you are a stickler for on-time payments. If you can convince the person to share the bill paying responsibiltiy with you, all the better (but make sure you get things in on time!. Your joint payments affect your credit as an individual, so invest significant time in making sure your prospective roommate is responsible in this area. CHECK REFERENCES!

3. Don't become a pushover because you're afraid of offending someone. I have paid late fees even though I didn't pay rent late. I've spent 3 hours of my Saturdays cleaning because I had no courage to ask my roommate to do her part. I've been awoken at 3am multiple times because I was to afraid to approach her about being considerate of me when she comes home late from drinking.

My recommendation: Part of being a roommate is changing your living habits every so slightly to accommodate another person. If you need something, ask for it. If you'd prefer a roommate didn't behave a certain way, tell them. Yes, they might be a little offended, but that's tough. They might ask for a different compromise; you'll need to meet them halfway. But trust me, you're going to kick yourself for not asserting yourself.

Well, that's what I've got. I truly hope someone somewhere can benefit from my advice. I've got about 5-6 months before I move out and please trust me when I say I've never wanted anything more. Pray for me!

Friday, August 2, 2013

What's in a name?

Saturday marks eight months until Dr. and I get married. Besides picking a dress, linens, flowers, favors, and food (among other things), a major decision I have yet to make is whether or not I will change my name.

My mom took my dad's name, but only in hyphenated form. She did it for professional reasons: by the time they got married, my mom was established in her career and used her maiden name publically, as she was a lead anchor at the local TV station. It was also the mid-1980s, the time when I think the practice of keeping your maiden name began to take off.

Growing up, I understood why my mom's name was different from my dad's and my own. People were sometimes confused, but for the most part my mom's partial name change has never proven to be an issue for her. That's the extent of the first-hand experience I have with this issue.

I always intended to keep my name. Always. It wasn't until Dr. and I had our first serious conversation about this topic immediately post-engagement that I ever considered any other path. I'd like to acknowledge first that my issue with a potential name change is not at all because of the logistical hurdle it poses - paperwork, standing in line for hours at the DMV and Social Security Administration, calling to change all your magazine descriptions, and the like. I know this will be time-consuming, but not impossible. My issue is purely emotional.

To clarify, Dr. is traditional and wants me to take his name. I am sure it isn't a dealbreaker, but it's pretty important to him and he's taken the time to make sure I know. He objects strongly to hyphenating and says it would be worse than me just keeping my name (not sure why he sees it that way). However, his reasoning is a bit shallow and essentially boils down to "it's what you do when you get married." He's not one for nuance.

So on to my reasoning. You'll see from the lists below that I am essentially split on this. I have an inkling on which way I am going to go, but will refrain from posting that here for a reason I will get to later. To clarify further, I am absolutely opposed to dropping my middle name and putting my maiden name in it's place. I love my middle name and, besides, you rarely publically write out your middle name, making the practice of using your maiden name as your middle pretty pointless.

Reasons to keep or hyphenate:
1. I love my name - first, middle, and last. I have a unique last name and, to my knowledge, I am the only person in the world with my first name, last name combination. Furthermore, there are very few people with my last name in the U.S. (less than 50), so I'd like to carry it with me as long as possible.
2. I am fiercely independent and pretty modern/feminist/whatever you want to call it. To me, giving up my maiden name is going against the grain of what I believe, to a certain extent.
3. Finally, and most importantly, my name is a prett significant part of my identity (see #1). I have gone 26 (27 at the time of marriage) years with a certain name and I have a hard time imagining myself as something different. When I really thought about it, I realized just how much my last name AND my last name in combination with my first name, means to my identity.

Reasons to adopt fiance's last name:
1. He has a strong desire that we be Dr. and Mrs. X. I love him and want him to be happy. In the grand scheme of things, this is a small change that will make him happy (see #2 below).
2. Is it really that big of a deal? I have no professional reason to keep my name (I'm 26 and about two years into my career) and it's just a name. Chances are good that, aside from the first few months, I won't even notice the difference, so why not take the plunge?
3. I am entering a union with him both legally and emotionally, so why not take his name? As "two become one," it stands to reason that both of our identities will change slightly. Why not my name too? I want to come off as a united front and there were times during my childhood where I questioned whether my parents were a team because of my mom's different last name. I don't really want my children to experience that.

I have nine months to make this decision and I think I am almost decided. The one thing I know is that I am going to keep it a secret until the bitter end. If my fiance can't come up with better justification than "it's what you do," he can stand to squirm a little.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

...but here I am

I never thought I would end with a doctor...

...but here I am.

Honestly, I never thought I would end up with anyone at all. Even at 18, my best friend and I would joke that at 30, 40, even 50 I probably wouldn't be married. I might have a long-term boyfriend or escort, but I would be married to my job. Not only were we wrong, but ridiculously so.

Here I am at 26, engaged to a man I've been with for over 7 years. Although we started out as friends, when I finally allowed myself to fall, I fell fast. I always thought it would last beyond college, but we made it through four years of physical separation, graduate school, and medical school relatively unscathed.

Even after all we've been through and all we've weathered, I can still stay with total honestly that I am still surprised on a daily basis by how our story worked out. When I met Dr. nearly 8 years ago on our first day of college, I never imagined he'd end up my husband. Months later we were best friends, but I was in a relationship. A month after that ended, I realized I was interested in him. I took him another two months to finally man up and ask me out. We were a month from summer and an 1,800 mile separation. I truly didn't expect it to last: I was certain one of us was going to give up. But I knew it wasn't going to be me.

Despite our 7 year long courtship, I feel like we are now moving into one of the craziest years of our life together. We're planning a wedding from afar; trying to merge two families, finances, and possessions; I'm job searching and preparing to move from a city I love.

On top of all of this Dr. is starting his residency. As his soon-to-be wife and as someone who has been with him through college, applications, med school, the match process, and now his first "big boy" job, this is momentous - and trying - for me as well. I know there are many other women and men out there in my position, so this blog is my attempt to relate and hopefully find some support.

So here I am!