While on the drive back from Oregon, staring out my passenger window and refusing to look at him, I said, “I forgive you.” I wanted to believe those three words more than anything else I have said in my life. I wanted to get to that place, after all of these months of hurt. But I wasn’t there yet and I don’t think I am there still. 

Whether or not we choose to return to the relationship or move on from it remains a question. What does not remain a question is that I need to be able to let go of the past and forgive.

For a long time now, I have held onto the hurt. I have obsessively replayed the scenes and the lies over and over again in my head. I think, in a large part,  out of the need to protect myself, because they served as cautionary tales of what can happen if I give too much of myself again. 

But constantly living in that past has caused so much unhappiness in my life. I haven’t felt like myself and happy in much too long. I think I “knew” I needed to forgive a long time ago. But no one really ever handed out a guidebook on how to actually get to forgiveness. 

I can’t keep hoping for a different version of the past than what had occurred. What happened has happened and I need to let that pass, both for his and my sake. 

Ode to California

I fucking love you, California.

It took living in a dozen places and the last four and half years away to make me realize you’re my one. If my soul mate had a name and a face, it would be you, California. It would be the rides along the coast. It would be the sun. It would be the century-old trees. It would be the fog rolling over the city. It would be the “good mornings” on a beautiful morning. It would be you, California.

I’m taking root in you. 

Recognizing Limitations

I read back to my older entries in this blog this morning. Every time I pause during the past two years, I am always surprised at how much I have gained and how much I have gotten to known myself. Recently, I have had to go through the agonizing (and very fortunate) process of deciding between medical schools. In December, I was accepted to one of my top choices in the bay area. The situation was simple then. But a month ago, I was lucky enough to receive an email about acceptance to another program, with quite unparalleled opportunities in global health.The former offers the ideal environment for me to grow as a person; the latter for me to grow in my passion.

A year ago, the decision would have been simple. School B. Even a few weeks ago, I thought the same. My strengths have always been my resiliency and my adaptability. But then, I remembered my last trip to Haiti.

When I returned from my last Haiti trip, it was because I was deeply unhappy. I was burnt out in every sense of that word. I lost sight of some of those initial motivating factors that drove me to Haiti in the first place. The reasons for my unhappiness were complex. I still believed then and now that working to level inequalities is where my path lies. However, it is now about finding another path to that – a sustainable one that allows me to keep in sight all of the things that drew me to it in the first place. And part of that is recognizing my limits as an individual. It is about creating the best environment for me to give back so I can keep giving back.

Over the past six months in the bay, I have been recovering and finding balance. I sat down and identified the things that were lacking in Haiti, with WWR, that left me so deeply dissatisfied. There were so many that cannot be changed, but also some that can be helped. The lack of support and community was a particularly significant one. Now, about to enter another intense period of my life, I can’t unlearn these things I know about myself and I can’t put myself in that situation again, knowing it will take away from me what I loved about it in the first place.

There is a pride that comes with this, with having gotten to know myself better and with having been able to accept my limitations. My strengths are still my strengths, but they are not to be abused simply because I am capable of surviving through rough times. Surviving is not enough. I want to thrive because I love what I do. I don’t mean I see it without challenges or hardships, but that I am simply not so exhausted that I can’t remember why I had chosen to be there, do this in the first place.

Doing global health projects during medical school will be difficult. This is not the time to sap myself of my idealism. When I do my masters and can devote a year to thinking about global health – Boston will be the right place for me. Right now, it is not. The bay is.

Beyond stillness

I started this blog because I wanted to write about the transformations that occur during this period of my life. I have always thought of life as a constant evolving process of change – on a molecular level and on a metaphysical level. A sort of restlessness to it all. Metastasis. Meta – beyond. Stasis – stillness. Beyond stillness. Something poignant in a word that normally describes cancerous cells exploding inside the body.

Beyond stillness. I realized, however, when I began this blog that even though all of life is beyond stillness, there are periods of it that are particularly metastatic.That restless energy that uniquely threatens destruction in its overzealous striving for growth.

That restless energy drove me to seek for purpose, for an abstract meaning to my life a little over a year ago. It drove me to Haiti the second time around. The third time around. Again and again, I think it will bring me back to these corners of the world. However, over the past six months, I have been captured by a different sort of metastasis in me that has been set off by several interpersonal relationships.

As someone fiercely protective of her independence and individuality, I think I was afraid to admit how much these relationships have taken out of me in their intensity. A part of me is still fearful, even now, of letting myself be transformed by the interpersonal relationships in my life. From them, I have learned these key lessons:

1 – True human connections are rare. They do not occur often in life. They are incredibly powerful when they do occur, perhaps due to their rarity. And they should be given the opportunity to be powerful and transformative. They are worth being vulnerable.

2 – Remember and appreciate the moments for what they are in those moments, not transformed by the end or by things outside of those moments.

3 –  Fulfilling relationships for me, in the future and in the past, have to came with enough space for me to be my own person. My “I” not completely absorbed in the “We” of the relationship.

4 – The biggest moments and relationships of my life have all occurred outside of my control. Perhaps it is exactly because they escape my rational, type-A need for control that they are my most catalytic.

5 – Life is full of trade offs. But as Gilbert says – “Everything that is worth doing is worth doing badly” – and I cannot regret the choices I have made even when they fail.

To be beyond stillness. Metastasis. The explosion – the straining – for something larger than me. I suppose it was never really possible without pain.


I have began this post again and again. I have been trying to grapple with this tremendous paradox that what had shaken me to my roots a year before — the immensity of the system stacked against any individual person — is what has gauged me empty a year later. The world is so shit-big outside of your control in Haiti, it makes you wonder about God. And faith. It makes me think about the silence of Johannes de Silencio, grappling with the paradox of Abraham. About why he was word-less through it all.

It makes me wonder about death too.

On my last day in Haiti, we passed by the carcass of a dog, laying with her puppy next to her. Her tongue was out. Flies flying out of every orifice. The pup next to her was dead too, mouth close to her teat. People walked by in their Sunday bests, barely noticing the two stray, dead bitches. I will never forget that image — the trash piles, the flies, the white dresses and tiny blue bows–


I stopped journaling for a while, although I had promised myself not to. The past month of traveling and interviews has not given me the space and time to reflect. In some ways, I am glad. This trip to Haiti was rough, as all trips to Haiti have tended to be, although never before like this. Frustration, and sweat, and more frustration. I broke in ways that I didn’t think I can be broken in anymore. The trip is over, but Haiti never quite ends. She is there. One day, while eating my morning cereal and settling back into my American life, she’s going to break loose on me. But for now, she has been patient.

And luckily so. I have been traveling from city to city for the past four weeks and will continue for the next month. The superficial interactions that come with meeting new people have been a relief. They are fun, not emotionally exhausting.

Haiti has drained that side of me.

Santigold and Bumpy Roads

I haven’t blogged for a while, not for lack of material to blog about so much as sheer exhaustion from the past few months of MCATs, graduation, turbulent personal relationships, medical school applications… Have not had the time to properly process. Although, in some ways and with certain issues, I have been avoiding processing them — avoidance taking the form of packing my schedule with as many social events as possible.

As I write this, I am on another bumpy Dominican road to the capitol. Santigold blasting in my ears. I can say I hope it will be worth what I give up. If I can stand up mean for all the things that I believe. The song uncannily captures my current sentiments and my thoughts about several occurrences over the past month. I am thinking about decisions that need to be made and roads that have already been chosen. I am struck by the irreversibility of life, puzzled as to whether or not I am at another personal cross road. There is no turning back. Time does not move in that direction. More than six months ago, I decided to graduate early and return to Haiti. More than a year ago, I decided to become involved with Haiti. Three years ago, I decided on medicine. Four years ago, I decided to go to Swarthmore. And some twenty-three years ago, my parents decided to get married. Decisions that were made and then tattooed onto this map, irretractable.

I left on Thursday night with more doubt than I have ever had about coming to Hispaniola. Doubts mainly surrounding me – my capabilities, the personal costs of this, whether I am strong enough. Doubts that neither begin nor end in clarity, all stormily brewing up anxiety. Driving through Port Au Prince in January was accompanied by clarity about my purpose, but the trip, as all things in life, turned out to be more complicated than I envisioned. I am no longer so sure. And somewhere in me, I am deeply saddened by this loss of clarity.

All I am sure about now is that I needed to leave. Under considerations for certain persons, I cannot go into details, but certain complexities over the past month have caused me to question who I am as a person, my decisions. Uncomfortably questioning. So, although I have not been running to Haiti, I have been running away.

And here I am now. Deep breath. Here goes.

Re-thinking Haitian Friendships (1/2)

I woke up this morning to an email from a Haitian friend of mine, asking for money to attend school. My brows knitted. It wasn’t the most pleasant way to wake up. This isn’t first time I have received this kind of financial requests from friends and acquaintances and certainly will not be the last. I had given away every last penny I can possibly give when I left Plaisance, some of it to him. American friendships do not come with the same expectations of financial support.

“I can’t, Jean Rony.” I wrote. I wasn’t sure what to say. I logged off Facebook and went to make a cup of coffee.

Then I remembered the first time I met him. He was this quiet boy sitting inside the Digicell door, where I went to charge my computer. “Ki laje ou?” I’m twenty-two. “Me too!” I said with a big grin. He looked at me instead and shook his head, “Look at you, you’re twenty-two and done with college. I am twenty-two and I still haven’t finished high school.” We sat together often, during those months that I was in Plaisance. He often brought his English books, always eager to read aloud passages so I can correct his pronunciation. “You are my best friend. M’ap panse de ou anpil.” He texted me on my last day.

I remember that and I remember how I had spent 19.99 on a graduation present for a friend this morning. I remember how I had spent 30.29 on another Swiss Army Knife for myself a few days ago, simply because I was careless with my last one. I remember the 12.89 that I spent on beers a few days before that. That’s half of the tuition at a private school for a year for a Haitian child. I doubt his tuition was much more than that.

I feel the same shame now that I felt when my other Haitian friend told me about how he gives much of what he earns to his friends and relatives. “Of course, I share everything.” He said, casually. I think of my frivolous expenses and I think of this post by someone I know. We can’t keep handing out, but at the same time — it is just so incredibly, sickeningly unfair. “I am twenty-two too and I still haven’t finished high school.”

In Rise of the Novels, we discussed, in the context of novels, the transition from “you are a good person because of what you own” to “you are a good person because who you are,” from extrinsic to intrinsic.  Similarly, interpersonal relationships transitioned in a similar sense — from being based on materialistic means to internal values. The transition has been so complete that we forget society was once based on something different. In fact, we antagonize and frown upon relationships that are based on anything other than “internal values” (despite that, oftentimes, these internal values are very much formed by what we can afford to experience. “Well-travelled” and “adventurous” are two more acceptable terms to like about someone than something like, say, “having enough money to take cruises to foreign and faraway lands”).

And sometimes, I forget how embedded in my culture I am as well. I am repulsed by these instances where my Haitian friends ask me for money, because in the society I grew up in, friendships do not come with these materialistic ties. My first instinct is that it is because I am a blan. But in the average Haitian community, the wealthier relative/neighbor very much has a responsibility to share their wealth. It isn’t because I am a blan, but because I have the means to give. Asking for money, in such a society, does not cheapen the ties between two people and is not because the other views you as primarily as a means of receiving money. I think — that is where most foreigners in this situation would take offense.

He is using the $40 to finish school, so he can begin providing for his mother and his sister — and I would probably use it on a dress. When I had quickly written back, “I can’t,” what I had partially meant was also that I only want to give when it comes at little to no cost to me, a phenomenon that seems to plague my generation.

Ayiti cherie, you continue to make me re-think my actions and values even when I’m not there.

(Edit: I will finish this post another time, but this post brings up a certain point about “low-cost” aid that I cannot properly address at this moment. To clarify, briefly, after thinking about this some more, I do not mean by this post that simply donating money is the way to help people in Haiti. In this particular case with my friend, this amount of money would have put him through a much-needed class and was not simple hand-out from a stranger. For some, money would actually be more of a “low-cost” commitment, that can actually be more debilitating to a society than otherwise.)