Much to my genuine and serious dismay, I’ve been out of touch for awhile. I had high hopes for being able to lead a balanced life once school started. It included staying on top of my work, doing regular exercise, sleeping well, eating good food, spending quality time with the people (and pets) that I love, and developing this blog. I was optimistic and thought that I could do it all once school was in full swing. At the very least, I thought that I could do one recipe post and a Top 10s List each week. I mean, I’ve been wanting to write a food blog for years, so it seemed like taking the time—no wait, making the time—would be as simple as knowing that it was a priority. I was wrong. Lesson learned. When you are in med school, you could spend all of your free time studying, and it will still never be enough. Maybe it’s just me, but I went about 2 weeks into the academic year before realizing that most of the above priorities had already been bumped to make more time for studying and preparing for the next day (which was still not enough). Seriously, I kid you not. Prepping for the next day could be my full-time job, which means less time for writing this blog and doing the other things that I love.
All that to say, about a week ago I made one of the best decisions of my life by deciding to go to school part-time. What that really means is that I’ll be taking 6 full-time courses instead of 10. So it will still be busy and hard, but I will be able to share a bit of a life with the demands of this rigorous academic schedule. It may be because I’m returning to school after working for 10 years, or that I’ve made the mistake of misaligning my priorities in the past. Or it may simply be that I want to live the most fulfilling and joyful life that I can imagine living; and I want to do it every day. I don’t need it to be perfect or easy. In fact, I’d rather it not be. But a life that fills my soul with real ‘stuff’ and allows me to be present for it, that’s the kind of life that I want.
I guess after being around for 30 something years, I have come to learn that life is now. It’s not when and if _______ happens. In my case, in 4 years when I graduate. I don’t want my partner to wait until I’m a doctor before we can have a proper date or for my stress levels to be out of whack before I begin to really care for myself. (Sidenote: Did you know that stress is the one of the biggest contributors to most all diseases, weight gain, and emotional ill-health? Not to mention, aging. Oy!) In the spirit of being honest, I will tell you that I am vain and aging prematurely is not something I’m willing to let happen without a fight. Trust me (younger) ladies. When you hit your 30s, you’ll know what I mean when they say that it isn’t that easy anymore.
In all seriousness though, at the end of this life (or even in 15 years) will it really matter that I was able to practice for one more year or earn an income for one more year? No. But it will matter that as a doctor, I will have integrated the material well and have given quality time to the material, studying and practicing it to the best of my ability. It will matter that I will be able to empathize with a patient’s experience if I ever have to advise him or her to “slow down.” It will matter that I’m doing all that I can to prevent myself from getting sick so that I can experience my best-quality life now (and preserve my health for later). And if I do get sick, if I’m lucky, my recovery will be easier. Having a better quality of life in turn, will allow me to give my very best to those who deserve it the most, including me. And I hope that it will also matter to you.
I say this because my hope is that having more time in my life will allow me to have more of a presence on this blog. This space is a big part of where I want to be spending my time! So in part, I’m writing you today as an apology for not being around lately, but more importantly to share with you this simple (re)discovery in my life. My life is (our lives are) right now—not when we make more money, get our dream job, meet “the one”, or have/don’t have the fill-in-the-blank. If we are always striving for something else (in my case, more time), when are we ever just ok with what is? When are we ever ok just being IN our lives, actually experiencing the moments? It certainly took reassessing my priorities to make that clear to me. Again.
We have all thought, at one time or another, of the answer to the question, “what if you knew you were going to die soon?” I feel grateful to be able to say that if I knew that I were going to die soon, I’d be right here. I’d be writing a blog post. I’d be in my home with the people that I love. I would move my body every day, even if it was just a little. I would spend time outside experiencing these sunny, crisp fall days. I would bake brownies and laugh with abandon, in no particular order. Oh, and I’d definitely eat some lobster. If I were going to die soon, I’d do everything that I’m doing today. I couldn’t have said that a week ago.
Lentils with Roasted Veggies and Broiled Eggplant (Serves 4)
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty
// Ingredients //
4 japanese eggplants
2 tbsp red balsamic vinegar
salt and black pepper
1 cup small dark lentils (i.e. Puy), rinsed
4 celery stalks
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 white onion
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup each parsley, dill, cilantro (or any combination of the three)
1/4 crème fraîche or plain greek yogurt, lightly salted
Pierce the eggplants with a sharp knife in a few places. Put them on a foil-lined tray and place them directly under a hot broiler for 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. They may be done more quickly, so keep an eye on them. The eggplants need to deflate completely and their skin should burn and break.
Remove the eggplants from the heat. Change the oven temperature to 275°F. Cut a slit down the centre of the eggplants and scoop the flesh into a bowl, avoiding the black skin. Season with salt and pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of the vinegar.
Meanwhile, while the eggplants are broiling, place the lentils in a medium saucepan. Cut one carrot and half a celery stalk into large chunks and add them to the saucepan. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and onion, cover with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Simmer on low heat for about 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender, skimming away the froth from the surface from time to time. Drain in a sieve and discard the carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, and onion. Transfer the lentils to a mixing bowl, add the rest of the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir and set aside.
Cut the remaining carrot and celery into a small dice and mix with the tomatoes, the garlic, the remaining oil, brown sugar, and some salt. Spread in an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the carrot is tender, but still firm. Add the cooked vegetables to the lentils, followed by the chopped herbs and stir gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Spoon the lentils onto serving plates, pile some eggplant in the centre of each portion, and top with a dollop of crème fraîche or salted yogurt. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.