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I want it all...

Updated: 3 days ago




Jacky was a last born child and the daughter of a Politician. A recipe for showbiz. Rather than be a charmer or manipulator, she immersed herself in books and got lost in the world of ‘The Famous 5’ or ‘Sweet Valley High.’ Then, she would recreate that world through writing essays and poems for competitions. Which she mostly won. When she needed to blow off some steam, athletic sports was her escape. And on an odd day, when pushed into a corner she would participate in public speaking. One could say she was a Jack of all trades but most of the time she kept herself to herself. It came as no surprise then, when her parents were once summoned to the school by her teacher,

“Jacky has her head in the clouds. She is one of my best students but she tends to zone out alot. The other day I caught her reading novels during the lesson.”

“We have noticed this. She has butter fingers and misplaces things often.” Her mum retorted.

Later her dad would ask her, “Jacky what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Well,” she tilted her head to the side, her chin resting between her thumb and index finger, “I want to own a plane.”

Jacky didn’t buy a plane. Instead, when she was older she volunteered at the neighbourhood hospital during school holidays. She would hover around the ER seeing the action and wanting so badly to be part of it, that after her final exams she applied for an attachment at the same hospital. While there, she shadowed whichever doctor she would find and got a chance to carry out minor procedures. When the time came for her to apply to University it was a no brainer — Psychology or Medicine. Medicine had it.

Her time at the University was full of firsts. First time away from home, first time in a foreign country, first time in a boarding facility. Instead of venturing out however, she retreated inward and only communed with her books and her one Asian friend. The effort showed in her grades. When invited for social events, she was unable to let her hair down and shake off that awkward feeling of trying to be vulnerable with someone else. It just didn’t come naturally to her. She remembered all too well the day her mom was driving her and her brother to school. A Craig David song was playing on the radio and they started humming along at the back. Jacky had just started to get lost in the music when a sharp voice broke through her thoughts, “Both of you!” Their mum had turned down the volume and craned her neck so that one eye faced them while the other faced the road. “I don’t want to hear someone has fallen pregnant or brought a pregnant girl home.” And that was it. The sex talk.

This was probably why she was tightly strung. She breezed through the five years of Undergrad and only attended a party or two towards the tail end of the course but by then, everyone thought of her as a stone wall. When she finished and came back home for the mandatory one year internship, she discovered she liked to tinker with body parts. Pull them apart, sew them together. Tangible results. So she decided she was going to become a Surgeon.

It was while applying for Residency that the tide of her life changed. She had gone to the nearby bank to pay the application fee, when the teller who served her looked at her papers and said, “Aah. You are a doctor? Applying to be a Surgeon! Impressive! You must be smart.”

“ Mmh thanks.” Jacky smiled but the smile was controlled.

“Where do you work? Could I have your number?” He continued.

She took a good look at him. He looked calm and extremely self assured. And he had piercing eyes; the kind that grab you and don’t let go. ‘Why was he trying to chip away at her stone wall?’ she wondered. But since this didn’t happen often she said, “I am sure it’s somewhere there on my paperwork,” Took her receipt and left without giving him a second thought.


Two weeks later he called. “Hi Jacky, it’s *James.”

“Who?”

“James. You know from the bank.”

“Oh.” Her tone was flat.

“I would really like to get to know you,” he said unfazed by how she sounded.

“But you know I am leaving this place soon for my postgraduate degree.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that I want to get to know you. Besides it’s admirable what you are doing. Serving humanity. You seem focused on your career and that’s a great thing.”

She allowed one layer to fall, “Ok then.” And so followed a series of dates, phonecalls, round the clock texts and soon they were dating. A couple of months later, she moved to the city for school, and enrolled herself into the annals of a long distant relationship.

“It won’t be easy,” she told him before she left, “Residency means work on most weekends and nights. Kwanza Surgery..”

“Jacky, it’s fine. It’s just for five years right?”

In the beginning, nothing changed much between them other than the physical distance that separated them. James managed to get past all her defenses and awkwardness and earned the title of being her first. It may have been because of how she was socialised or the books she had read or what she had seen or heard but Jacky believed that your first should be your only. That whatever path you follow must end at the altar. So whereas she tried to introduce him to a relative or two, he introduced her to none. She started to feel her walls come up. Was he really serious about her? Because the plot was not travelling in a straight line. So in addition to the physical distance, she created an emotional ridge between them. And focused on her studies.

But James was not shaken off easily. He jumped over that ridge she created, called her and said, “Jacky I have resigned from my job. I am moving to the city to start a business.”

“What?”

“Yeah. I will work in two counties but one of them will be right where you are. Don’t give up on us so fast.”

He won her over.

“But why don’t you want me to meet anyone in your family?” she asked him much later after they had reconciled.

“My family,” his voice trailed off, “It’s a long story but they frown upon inter- tribal relationships. Before you, I had dated a girl from a different tribe and when I took her home, all hell broke loose. It was so bad we broke up. So I don’t know what they will think of you.”

“Let’s give it a chance. They just need to get to know me. I think they will like me.” Because even if she was introverted, she had never encountered strife. Not directed at her anyway. She got along well with most people. They would like her — she was sure.

They didn’t like her.

And they didn’t pretend to. And she discovered just how bad things were when James’ step-mum invited her for a cup of coffee to ‘talk about things.’

After they had rushed through the preliminaries his mum clothed her dislike for Jacky in feigned concern. “You know James moved here for a business that has barely left the ground. We are concerned about your professional disparity. He is struggling and you are… a surgeon! I am afraid this will not go anywhere. Let alone our cultural differences. Is this what you really want?”

Try as she may, she did not know how to respond. It was the last thing she expected from this meeting. She felt as if she was on the wrong end of the barrell and wanted to ask James’ mom, “Whose side are you on?”

That encounter did something to Jacky. She didn’t realise it but it started to erode her self esteem. She found herself trying to be less of herself to gain acceptance and with that came a period of second guessing herself. The few times she visited his family, the conversation would always veer to, “how much money do you make?” or “where do you live?” She wanted so badly to say, ‘but there is more to me than my career. I want to be a surgeon, a wife and one day a mother.’ But she remained silent. She knew when to let her tongue wag and when to keep it still.

The more the opposition her and James faced, the more they wanted to advance the relationship. But the current was hard to ignore. It was an election year, businesses kept flopping and his was not spared. She had to bail him out a couple of times and he started to get into seasons of silence where he would retreat into himself. At some point he went to a different county and tried farming.

During this time, his bouts of silence would come round often. And because the residency program was so busy, she was not able to travel to see him. The only way she could reach him was by phone. Once, she video called him to check on him. She assumed he had rented a place, but what she saw when she called was far from what she had imagined.

“Oh my. James, where are you?”

“At my place at the farm.” In the background was a makeshift structure that looked like pieces of untamed wood joined together to form a habitat. His clothes, which looked like they hadn’t seen water or soap for a while, hang loosely on his body, his eyes hollow. Next to him was a stray dog that looked as thin as onion skin. They stood side by side in miserable solidarity.

“James you don’t look well. At all. The place looks dilapidated.”

“I am fine. Doing the best I can.”

But that image stayed with her. She carried it around like a bizarre wallet photo. So out of love and loyalty, she opted to rent out a place and asked him, “If you want, you could come back and we can stay together. Maybe apply for work and try to get some footing.”

“I don’t know..” His words lacked life.

“Look. We have done this long distance thing for a while. Since we have decided to be together, let’s be together. You will get back on your feet soon.” She pressed.

It took him a week to decide and he was back. But the dream or plan she had envisioned for them quickly took an about turn.

He didn’t get back on his feet. He fell flat on his face; in ditches and jail cells. He took heavily to the bottle and she spent a lot of resources bailing him out of jail because of drunk driving or picking him up off the streets. The relationship quickly morphed into a ‘Saviour-Sinner’ kind of relationship where Jacky would fluctuate between moments of trying to rescue him and moments of surrender. “This is not working. This is too much for me” She once said to him.

But he would prode her soft spot, “It’s just stress babe. It will get better. I want a life with you. I want us to settle together. In fact, let’s have a baby.”

“I don’t know…is that really a good idea? Why don’t we start the traditional processes first.” And she was drawn back in.

They went together to visit her family who took to him like a precious new puppy. Her dad took their decision to settle well and slaughtered a goat in their honour. As their tradition dictates, he gave them the arm of the goat to take to James’ parents as a gift. But because James had pressing issues to follow up on at the farm and she had to go back to her graveyard shifts, it took a week for her to get time to pay her future in- laws a courtesy call.

“Hi,” she greeted them when she got to the door of the house, “my parents asked me to bring this as a gift to you as a gesture of good faith.”

“When did you two come back to town?” James’ dad asked her.

“Last weekend.”

“So that goat has been stored for a week?”

“Erm yeah but I froze it. It’s still ok.” She had not been welcomed in yet so she stood at the door like a delivery man.

“Ah that one is not fresh. You people go have it yourself. Go back with it.”

Jacky stood there. Like a sculpture. What was the protocol in such a situation? She turned around in slow motion and went to the car. Called James but he called back and asked her to just leave.

They went ahead to have the follow up traditional visits because the more you face adversity, the more you desire to overcome it. Me and you against the world sort of thing. But for Jacky it started to feel like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Everytime she voiced her misgivings, James would pull her back in, shutting down the roaring in her head.

Soon after, she was pregnant. With the weight of an insecure man, hostile future in-laws and a tough residency to boot. And because they did not want to have a child out of wedlock they planned a wedding — mostly funded by her family. His family boarded the train much later in the process. “Why are you rushing to get married?” They asked. “Why is the venue so far? It will be costly for us to travel that far!” But the wedding planning ship had already lifted anchor. The motor was on. There was no turning back. In a sudden twist of fate or luck, his family got him a job — 280 km away. And he had to report immediately. This was two weeks to the wedding.

By now Jacky was in her fourth year of residency. Getting time off was impossible. She played around with her call days and after a night call got into a flight two days to the wedding. He also got there at the same time. The ceremony passed without event. There was to be no honeymoon because they both had to report back to their stations. He was on probation and therefore not eligible for leave and she couldn’t get leave either.

The following morning, Jacky boarded a bus back to the city and James boarded a bus to his work station. Settings continue.

Three months later, the baby came.

And things went topsy turvy.

First her c-section wound got infected and she had to be in and out of hospital for cleaning and dressing. She developed anemia and leg swelling which impeded her mobility almost completely. Slowly, depression began to set in. Instead of living a day at a time she started to dread a day at a time. Her anxiety levels were also through the roof because she had to resume residency after a month. She had a new nanny. James was far and could only come every other weekend. She would lie in bed with the baby, and a full bag of nightmares. When her mom offered to come help her James said, “You are being too dependent on your family. Why are you so anxious anyway?” And she wondered what had happened to me and you against the world.

Her first week back to work was harrowing. That Sunday she had a heavy call that got her doing surgeries back to back for a whole night. She only had time to go back home, freshen up, repeat. During the ward round she was unable to engage in any meaningful discussion. She was in a brain fog. One of the Consultants summoned her and asked, “Are you sure you are supposed to be back? Perhaps you can take more time off?”

But Jacky wanted to be done with residency. More time off meant prolonging hardship. If she could just get it out of the way, she could focus on the baby and the marriage. So despite the pressure to sit out, she declined. Her personal life was in disarray, her self confidence was at stake. She didn’t want to wait. She wanted to be done.

Meanwhile the marriage was hanging by a thread.

In the quiet of the night she would ask herself, “Did I make a mistake?”

James’ drinking continued. The fights were epic and would be followed by periods of silence from him. Sometimes he would abscond work and his bosses would call her to look for him and she would not even know where to start. How do you locate someone who is 200km away and giving you the silent treatment? When he would come home, the first day would be blissful, then the fighting would begin. It was nights of breastfeeding, days of residency, weekends of marriage instability, evenings of reading for exams, afternoons of thesis writing. She just went on autopilot and somehow kept moving with support from close friends, her sisters, her mom.

She finally sat her exams. Did her written papers well. But the night before her final exam, her daughter had a bad flu so she didn’t sleep. When she went in for the exam, her head was fuzzy. During the Q and A she slipped up and mentioned something that caused her examiners to stare at her in shock. After that episode, the exam was declared over. But she was optimistic; she had worked her ass off.

A few hours later, a friend and classmate called her to her house.

“Jacky what happened during the exam?” she asked her.

“Why? It was generally ok except at the end where I said something that was off but it was ok.” Her eyes were war weary.

“Jacky no. What happened. I was told you didn’t pass.” Jacky’s heart suddenly jumped, bucked horribly. She tried to hold back the sob but it forced it way out. The weight of that statement finished her. How could she be failing at everything? That meant an extra six months of residency. The six months she had worked so hard to avoid. She felt like she had been hit by a wrecking ball. Her esteem and mental state took a huge blow.

“There must be something wrong with me,” she used to tell herself. “I can’t seem to get anything right.” She remembered the girl in her who wanted to buy a plane. Who was driven. Who was good at so many things. “Who are you now?” Her chest felt constricted. The nights became unbearably long she started to take sleeping pills to drop off.

She took time off to travel home to take a break and was there for two weeks.

At the end of the two weeks, someone from the Faculty called her and said, “Jacky. How are you?”

“I am ok.”

“That God you have been praying to clearly heard you. The Board of Examiners sat and decided to allow you to pass.”

She was finally a Surgeon.

But the state of her mind did not change. She sunk lower into depression. When she had time to visit James he discouraged those visits saying that the house there, was not conducive for a family and she started to wonder if he had met someone else. She badly wanted her marriage to work; to see what they could salvage. She tried to apply for a job in a county near him but it didn’t go through. The toxic fights remained. And were now centered around her career. She remembered that first meeting at the bank, “You are a doctor. Applying to be a surgeon? Wow! Impressive.” It seemed like a lifetime ago. Actually a life ago.

She had to move back to the county that deployed her. James was not happy. “You are destroying us,” he told her.

“But when I was applying for this, you knew. I told you what it meant and the course of the career. You know I am bonded by my county.”

“No. You must choose. Married people are supposed to live together. So if you can’t get work nearby, just move here.”

“You mean resign?”

She got so low, she started to stress eat and gained more than ten kgs. It was when she hit rock bottom that she decided to go for therapy to find herself. And that is how she started to climb back up again.

Jacky eventually moved back to her home county. Where she is enjoying the fresh air and the mental freedom. She loves being a surgeon and is reconnecting with her baby. She is done trying to fit into a mould of trying to prove herself. Now she is all about tearing down the negative and rebuilding.

As Narrated to me by Dr * Jacky who chose to remain anonymous



 

There was a hiatus, and then he came around. At present he is trying to apply for a transfer to join her…..

Can one really have it all?

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Am happy that she found herself and is rebuilding herself too.she is strong and awesome

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