Matter, Energy, and Life of Michaela A. Castello.

Hasta Luego, San Diego

Roughly eighteen months ago I made the decision to pursue an epilepsy fellowship in a chaotic process that ended with a position at Stanford. Today, I’m faced with the obvious consequence of my choices: I had to move out of San Diego. The quasi-academic nature of postgraduate medical training leaves little time for major life changes: Technically, a residency ends on June 30th, while a fellowship begins on July 1st. Thankfully, I used my chief resident powers to ensure I had a week of vacation at very end to try and deal with things, but in characteristic fashion, it was full of chaos, uncertainty, and melancholy.

I quickly learned that Stanford is located in a region known as the “South Bay” that is very different from San Francisco, the city. It also became readily apparent that as expensive as the cost of living is in San Diego, it’s much higher in the Bay Area, in particular the South Bay. I made an ill-fated play at a lottery for university-subsidized housing that left me scrambling for housing a month before I was supposed to leave, ultimately deciding for a number of reasons to live in the actual city and attempt to commute to work.

Despite the hardships (or perhaps because of them), the friends I made while living in Loma Linda became a chosen family. Even after I moved to San Diego for residency, the distance was easily surmountable by car. We attended each others’ parties or stayed over weekends when we could. I routinely made the two-hour drive to Redlands to see the stylist and architect of my blue-purple hair; we’ve now known each other for thirteen years. Because of this, I wasn’t really starting over; the excellent friends I made in San Diego simply expanded my existing social foundation.

Between the variability of a residency work schedule and knowing a bunch of people who do interesting things, unpredictability has shaped most of my social life. I have enjoyed texting friends to go rock climbing, bumping into people I know at an event, or a spontaneous invitation for dinner. Rachel and I were able to trade Bast back and forth between our respective houses (he now permanently resides with his Best Mom, Rachel, along with the Basthauser I built for him). Additionally, in the past year I made a concerted effort to get more involved with and make friends in the queer community, which has been invaluable.

There have been a lot of major changes in my life in the past several years. During that time people I know have been there for me in myriad ways, some they know, others they don’t. Even though social media and air travel help to shrink the world, moving this kind of distance disrupts that stability and support system. Finally, although we separated two years ago, the end of residency also represents the conclusion of what Rachel and I set out to accomplish together.

Taking all of this into account, along with a hefty dose of my own gross incompetence, it is perhaps a little less surprising that I did my best to pretend this move wasn’t happening for as long as possible. I avoided talking about it even as I watched furniture I have enjoyed for years get carried off by enthusiastic buyers (and in the case of my favorite chair, a junk hauler). Which is how I found myself a week out from the hard deadline, utterly unprepared and unable to lift anything thanks to a recent surgery.

During that week, my brother and friends showed up and pretty much saved the day. They tore through the remains of my living space, helping me get rid of accumulated detritus, carrying heavy boxes and furniture, and in the case of Adam, packing and repacking the shipping container. Before I could fully comprehend what was happening, Mark and I were on the road to SF. I am still completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and care from so many people.

I now find myself reeling in the aftermath of a move to yet another new city. Some parts are exciting: epilepsy is a fascinating subspecialty, I wanted to experience working at a different institution, and I once heard there were a lot of queers in San Francisco or something. I’ve been lucky once again, running into some friends both from San Diego and pre-Loma Linda who have kept me company and helped me get more familiar with the city.

At the same time, I’m faced with completely rebuilding my local social groups. Finding a new queer community will take some dedicated effort; the world of medicine isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with us. I’m sleeping on an air mattress while I wait for my stuff to arrive and have no idea how I’m going to get it all unpacked: I now live on a steep hill with limited parking.

It would be undignified to admit how many times I have cried so far; I’m homesick and I miss my people. I do really hope to return after fellowship in a few years and, once I get established at work, fly down to visit in between.

If you’re in the SF area come visit me; my new place won’t be as comfortable as the last one but I’ll make it work somehow. Please don’t forget me, promise?

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