24 November, 2013

This was my realm. This was my sport.

It's been three months since I last wrote on this blog, but certainly not for lack of want.  If I had the time to devote to writing my thoughts and experiences, I would, but instead medical school has consumed my life even more so than last year.  And I didn't think that would be possible.

What started inauspiciously enough soon turned into the most relentless semester I have ever had in any form of schooling, and to complicate that, countless out-of-school things have been seriously affecting me as well.  Unfortunately there hasn't been a ton of good in my life lately, but I can't despair too much since I'm still alive and my family is also alive and healthy, too (the latter being rather pertinent in the last couple of months).

Still, the combination of school and life has made my existence pretty exhausting and lonely.  And as one thing builds upon another, I find myself spiraling downward into getting busier and busier, getting more and more determined to dig myself out of the hole of a setback that I'm in.  With that determination, though, comes worry.  For the first time in my life I find myself unable to get the worries of school out of my head.

I went to a football game on Saturday, yet all I could think about was school.  When I hang out with others (which doesn't happen terribly often given my schedule), my mind rarely wanders away from school for very long at all.  It's been awful and not something I can see myself shaking until this semester is over.  I hate it, and I hate that med school doesn't allow me the time to deal with things, so I just have to keep going, which really sucks.  But this blog post isn't supposed to be a complain-fest of sad stories and worried parlance.

One of the few bright spots in the past few months, as foolish as it may sound, has been racing.  I've mentioned before that it's one of the only things I have allowed myself to enjoy in school, and as problems and concerns have mounted this season, and as I've whittled more and more things away from my life, F1 has remained.

Nowhere was this more evident than the epic trip we took to Austin last weekend for my birthday to go to the US Grand Prix.  The journey and our stay in the Lone Star State was incredible, and so many times it seemed that the stars aligned for us to make for an even better, more unbelievable weekend.

We got tons of free stuff; we met wonderful people from all over the world; we stood next to Niki Lauda, Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert; we were personally shown an actual helmet worn by Ayrton Senna the year we were born (1988); I met one of my Twitter followers for the first time after he had been working on a vintage racecar; we got interviewed by the track entertainment personnel and were broadcast on the big screens in front of 113,000 people; we got to invade the track and made friends with some members of the Lotus F1 team (who gave us some brilliant team hats); and so much more.  I couldn't believe it.

I also couldn't believe that for over two days, I almost never thought of med school.  Heck, when we were at the track, it never crossed my mind.  Only in passing after we left the track each day did it ever enter my mind, and it was wonderful.  I felt like a person again.  I felt like an actual human being who could have passions and had a hobby to which I could devote time.  For once people were asking ME questions, and I was the only one who could answer them.  This was my realm.  This was my sport.

Looking back, I'm amazed at the transformation in me as I got nearer to Formula 1 last weekend.  Even on the way back, in the middle of the night several hours into our 14-hour drive, I was feeling so tired.  I was around 110 miles into my first or second stint, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to go much longer before switching with my friend.  While he slept in the backseat, the only other person awake in the car started asking me about F1.  We talked about "Rush", we talked about Bernie and his legacy, we discussed the recent history of some of the sport's luminaries, and we speculated on the future of Grand Prix racing.  In no time at all, I had taken us over 220 miles and was feeling rather refreshed.  For the first time in recent memory I could speak about something with confidence and excellent recall, and there wasn't a question I couldn't answer.

Over the course of the weekend I ended up driving over 1,100 miles, and I was beyond exhausted.  But it was worth it.  For one weekend I felt alive again, so strikingly refreshed that I could breathe in the sport's nuances and feel them in my blood.  I was no longer lonely, for once being completely surrounded by people who shared a common love with me that every other day of the year draws confused looks and erroneous comparisons.  It was one of the most memorable birthdays I've ever had.

Fast-forward one week later, though, and the teams are celebrating tonight in Sao Paulo, Brazil, capping off a long season whose twists and turns reach back to a warm March day in Australia.  They bid adieu to V8 engines, another year of Red Bull/Sebastian Vettel domination, Ross Brawn at Mercedes, and one of my favorite drivers.  Mark Webber's surprisingly emotional end to his Formula 1 career went by far too quickly, although he tried to prolong it as best he could.  But that's a whole other blog post.

Tonight I'm wondering what the next few months will be like for me, and it saddens me to know that something that was such a big part of what little life I had left is going to be absent for a third of a year.  I would be lying if I said that worries of the coming finals for med school aren't creeping into my head tonight as a result, but I'll live.  I always have.  The end of seasons always make me a little sad, but with everything else that has gone on this year, it's difficult not to take that loss a little harder.  Still, I can reflect on a brilliant season, and I can look forward to the changes that will hopefully shake up the sport for the better.  While I remain skeptical on some of them, others I think will only do good things for Formula 1.  Only time will tell.

So tonight I join hundreds of millions of F1 fans around the world to say goodbye to the 2013 season, hoping that my life next March will be accommodating enough to let it back into my everyday enjoyment.  But for two and a half more hours tonight it's still race day, and earlier this morning a Grand Prix was run in front of some of the most storied and passionate F1 fans in the world.  Life was good.  Let the offseason begin tomorrow.

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