2018 | Don’t Sleep Through Life & Wake Up Dead

As cliche as it is that I write a post every single New Year, I enjoy having this space and snapshot in time to reflect. Life is short. Our Christmas Eve sermon at church made me think about this: imagine yourself in a room filled with everything that brings you happiness. In the furthest corner is death. Every year, the wall you’re standing against pushes you one step closer to death. There’s no other way to get out of the room, but through death. I want to be conscientious of not sleeping through life and waking up dead.

Wow… 2017 was a whirlwind. It was one of the most trying and transformative years of my life.

Thank you 2017 for: the loss of an unhealthy and mismatched relationship, self-love, self-worth, ability to run a marathon, a closer relationship with God, living in my true values,  confidence in who I am, MD Camp reunion with two lovely future DOctors, life-transforming mask activity in the cultural competency workshop, donating my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, medical student coordinator role at Physicians Free Clinic, secretary/treasurer position in student government, secretary/treasurer position in Humanism in Medicine, being selected as 1 of 2 OU+REACH scholars, the start of my public medical Instagram journey, When Breath Becomes Air, class humanitarian award,  the opportunity to develop my public speaking skills at events for accepted students, getting to know an old friend better, my cousin’s wedding, completion of first year of medical school, adventurous walks/hikes/runs, two weekends of cognitively-based meditation training at the Cleveland Clinic, the summer running group, healing my acne, good health, Leroy A. Rodgers preceptorship in family medicine, leading the OU+REACH healthcare discovery camp for high schoolers, rediscovering my hobby of video editing for our student government YouTube, watching fireworks from the 40th floor in a building downtown with friends, leading orientation for incoming first-year med students, catching up with Lois in Athens, shadowing in-patient family medicine at Grant Medical Center, two week vacation to LA, the best Korean shaved ice experience, lots of sun and beach time, seeing San Diego for the first time, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend experience, meeting an elderly stranger on the airplane and becoming pen pals with her, the beginning of second year of med school, treating a patient with OMT for the first time at a CCE, really understanding OMM through teaching the first years as a TA, my OMM professor planting the idea that I could have a future in academic medicine/medical education, fun 20-mile long run on the Olentangy Trail with RunColumbusRun, closer friendships with my med school classmates, Ohio Heritage Foundation video interview about why I chose my school, 25 years of life, having the opportunity to go back to my high school to speak about osteopathic medicine, catching up with my high school anatomy teacher, finding a church community with like-minded and -hearted people, meaningful conversations at the Dean’s house, kind compliments and feedback from classmates, painting on a canvas for the first time, reviving the Humans of OUHCOM Dublin page, shadowing in (neuro spine) surgery for the first time, getting to know more medical faculty, making friends with regulars at the gym, networking dinner where I exchanged contact info with a woman in medicine that I’ve been running into since the few months before I began med school, caroling at an assisted living facility with Humanism in Medicine, kind-hearted classmates that helped me complete 11 no-sew blankets before the holidays, authentic and vulnerable conversations, starting my qualitative research project over break, Christmas hot pot meal with church friends, playing Settlers of Catan for the first time, New Years Eve gathering with church friends.

So much has happened — growth, progress, small victories. Often, medical students may feel sad that they’re missing out on life. They see their friends getting married, making money in jobs, buying houses, having kids, going on vacations around the world. This is why I don’t enjoy logging on to Facebook. But if we all take the time to reflect on our journey, there is a lot to celebrate and feel good about. How amazing is it that we get to experience such wildly diverse experiences in four years that not many people go through? I just had conversations about this topic and both doctors said it took 10 years to get to a comfortable place in life, but in the end all the hard work and sacrifice was worth it.

Reflecting on last year’s goals, I did pretty well! I accomplished all 10 at some point during the year, but the majority of them I want to continue in my life. I’ll write about three new ones I have. I don’t really make resolutions in the traditional sense of SMART goals, but I take time to think about what kind of person and what type of energy I want to radiate in the new year.

In 2018:

  1. Live Your Truth: This is my 2018 motto. Our psychiatry professor always inputted little nuggets of wisdom in his lecture and this one was my favorite: “listen to your friendly psychiatrist. You got one life; you got 24 hours. Sleep first. Exercise vigorously next. Then, decide on what values will drive your life. Then, fill the rest of the time with value-driven life that you’re creating for yourself.” I didn’t know what a value-driven life meant until I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People over winter break. Imagine yourself at your funeral and looking down at your casket: what do you want your immediate family, friends, work colleagues, and church/community organization to say about you? Those are your values. This was the year I realized I’m made in God’s image from which I developed immense self-love and purpose. I am finally at a place in life where I have a clear picture of my values and know that I don’t have to change for anyone or be ashamed to be who I really am. The truth is: you can’t please everyone. Be who you are and those that are meant to be in your life, will be. I hope to live my values and my truth every day in 2018.
  2. Simplify: This is inspired by my need to hunker down to study for Step 1 this June. I’ve heard someone describe this as the darkest time of their life. I do feel nervous at this point because I know I should be diligently dedicating some hours every day to study for it on top of school work, but I’m relishing in break just for a little longer (I’m going to start tomorrow!). To simplify, I’m going to limit social media use to once a week, focus mainly on studying and exercising for the next 6 months, transfer leadership positions to our first-year students, finish OU+REACH research, say “no” more.
  3. Serve with love: I aspire to be a genuine person that radiates kindness, warmth, love, positivity, and authenticity. Even in difficult situations, I want to be reminded of our shared humanity and to love others as my fellow brothers and sisters on Earth. I’m grateful to have found a community of like-minded and -hearted people at church with whom I can grow in faith with.
    • On relationships: Love is not a thing that needs to be earned by changing yourself from the person you are. I am truly understanding what it means to love yourself before loving another. I’m not rushing, and I’m not settling. I trust in God’s plan ❤

Wishing you a new year of sincere love, happiness, peace, prosperity, success, good health, and blessings.

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What I Learned about Life While in College

I have a lot of drafts I never published, so I decided now’s the time! This will be part of a series where I explore and reflect on life milestones and experiences that have helped me reach the position I am in now – a second year med student whose goal is to incorporate humanitarianism into the practice of medicine. I am also very passionate about passing on wisdom that I have learned, which is a large reason why I write. Hope you pick up some pearls along the way ❤

1. Be somebody that makes everybody feel like somebody. Ask questions that don’t elicit a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer by using prepositions like “what”, “how”, and “why?” (shoutout to Student Wellness Center Wellness Coaching). During college, I discovered that I love deep and vulnerable conversations that get to the core of what makes us human.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask someone to be your mentor if they are in a position where you want to be.

3. College is a really important identity-forming period. For most, this is the first time ever being away from family. You will experience peer pressure. Stay true to yourself. If you don’t want to drink alcohol, don’t. If you don’t want to go to the clubs, don’t. In the end, you don’t need to worry about what others are doing or what they think because this is YOUR life. You’re in full control of your decisions. Check in periodically and ask “if I’m a stranger looking back at me, would I be friends with myself?” Half way through my first year in medical school was when I felt 100% confident in who I am, what I stand for, and the values that I won’t compromise for anyone. This can be a lengthy process.

4. You are a reflection of your closest friends whom you spend the most time with. Are you proud of that? Choose these people carefully.

5. They say you’ll make lifelong friends with people that live in your dorm during freshmen year. This is not always the case and it’s okay. Some friendships are meant to be for a season and some are meant to be for a lifetime. Be a good person regardless and trust life.

6. Don’t be afraid to be very busy. Junior year was definitely the most busy if you’re on the pre-med route. You’ve got one foot in undergrad and another foot trying to figure out how to get accepted to medical school. On top of all of that, you might have leadership positions, research, volunteer commitments, and other organizations. I would be on campus from 8am-8pm running around to different functions. I think this helped transform me into a person who can successfully balance academics and extracurricular activities, while still maintaining a vibrant personal life.

7. Try to enjoy your senior year as much as you can. College is certainly a very unique time that you will not experience again. If you’re pre-med, you should be working hard freshmen, sophomore, and junior year. By the start of senior year, you will have already applied to medical schools if traditional and you’ll look forward to interviewing. Take classes you’re actually interested in, spend time with good friends, go to different events on campus, stay involved in organizations you’re passionate about, and celebrate when you graduate. Don’t worry too much. Life has a funny way of working things out. I know that’s easier said than done because I experienced all the feelings associated with realizing you’ll need to take a gap year. Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll share with you what I did during my gap year and why I sincerely recommend it for everyone!

2017 | Get Out There & Be Children Again

Happy Old Year and Happy New Year beautiful souls,

With friends going back to school/work, family getting on my case about my love life, acquaintances saying “thankful for 2016 because I found him/her”, and free time away from classes, I started this new year feeling a bit lonely. I am not proud of this, but I think it’s important to acknowledge all emotions, for we are complex beings.

What I do know is that I have a lot be grateful for, both in the past year and in the future.

Thank you 2016 for: the opportunity to interview at two more medical schools, consecutive snow days at my work at the school, meaningful hygiene/puberty presentation with 4th graders, beautiful cherry blossoms in Athens, group photos with all the 2nd graders I taught in AmeriCorps, first music festival, first osteopathic medicine conference, acceptance into another medical school, finishing my AmeriCorps service term with wonderful supervisors and coworkers, making a real impact in the Athens community in regards to health and wellness, prematriculation, scenic running/biking trails in Athens, getting to know a beautiful soul at my elementary school with whom I had authentic and vulnerable mentoring conversations, road trip to Cincinnati with my best friend, a sweet roommate, moving back to my hometown, first day of medical school, white coat ceremony, love, knowledge, wisdom, learning, good health, PR’s in 5k and half marathon, keeping up with fitness while in school, spontaneity, the most authentic talks with my childhood girlfriends during our night out, and reconnecting with people from the past.

Goals for 2017:

  1. Act out of love and kindness. One of my all-time favorite quotes is: “kill em with kindness.” I recently read an article about how to deal with negative emotions and that is to pray and wish happiness and well-being for that person that has caused the emotions. Remaining angry and resentful only hurts your inner peace.
  2. Embrace spontaneity.
  3. Just do it. This was the same goal I had last year, but I decided to bring it back because it’s a work in progress. I realize I might be one of those people that likes to work under pressure, but procrastinating and thinking too much causes unnecessary stress.
  4. Step outside your comfort zone in terms of putting yourself out there in leadership roles.
  5. Run the Columbus (full) Marathon.
  6. Travel this summer.
  7. Gain new medical knowledge, skills, and experiences this summer.
  8. Be an initiator. Some things don’t happen unless you make them happen. Watch this excellent TEDTalk – What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection. I’m inspired: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vZXgApsPCQ
  9. Do more of what makes me feel alive – at least one thing every day.
  10. Live in vulnerability and authenticity, always. I found that it’s freeing for the human spirit to be as open and honest as we can with people close to us. Just discovered this TEDTalk and she speaks words from my soul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcm-mAwPkxg
    • “Uncover your soul and look for that soul-spark in everyone else”
    • “Step off your hamster wheel into deep time”
    • “Getting emotionally naked with another human being, putting aside pride and defensiveness, lifting the layers, and sharing with each other our vulnerable souls”
    • “You don’t have to wait for a life-or-death situation to clean up the relationships that matter to you, to offer the marrow of your soul and to seek it in another”

Do this exercise with me:

  • Grab a plain white sheet of paper.
  • Write in big letters:

    “What makes you feel alive?”

  • Write in smaller print around the question, what activities or feelings make you feel most alive in life. Don’t filter it and write everything that comes to mind.
  • Hang it up somewhere you look at everyday. Resolve to do more of these things that makes you feel alive.
  • It’s a working document, so feel free to add to it when inspiration strikes.

I updated mine recently and I’ll share it:

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This exercise helped wave away the feeling of loneliness I had. I feel more connected to myself and to the world around me. Amidst our crazy, busy, and hectic lives often working for other people, I think it’s imperative to do something everyday that genuinely makes us happy. The feeling I get when I do something that makes me come alive is analogous to a child playing and exploring the outdoors with friends in the summertime – excited, care-free, youthful, and rejuvenated. So get out there and be children again 🙂

Update 1/15/17: Happy early Chinese New Year. This year, it’s celebrated on January 28, 2017 – year of the rooster. An ancient Chinese superstition that I was surprised to learn about in last year’s post was that one is supposed to have bad luck during your birth year sign. I guess the bad luck caught up to me in the remaining month of the monkey year… misspoken words, confused feelings, and disgraceful pride. However, I believe this is how things are supposed to be because everything happens for a reason – it’s up to you what you take from it.

A recent epiphany I had regarding the practice of medicine is that the role of doctors is not only to diagnose and treat diseases or even pay attention to social determinants of health, it is to help our patients find meaning in their lives. This struck me while listening to Paul Kalanithi (http://stanmed.stanford.edu/2015spring/before-i-go.html) and re-inspired my purpose for choosing a career in medicine. Along with our medical knowledge, lab tests, and prescribed medications, we should seek to explore how the diagnosis of a disease affects the meaning of life for a patient.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

Here’s to the journey of life and meaning ❤

Med School is not as Glamorous as you may Think | August 20, 2016 National Day of Solidarity to Prevent Physician Suicide

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http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/12833146/instagram-account-university-pennsylvania-runner-showed-only-part-story

A nice reminder for all social media users. I first came across this news story three years ago and even wrote a blog post about it. Out of the blue, my research PI (who is a psychiatrist) sent me this article at the end of my senior year and it elicited even stronger emotions. I felt compelled to start a draft, which I didn’t finish until now. A lot has happened in my life since then, but I was reminded again of this story as I attended the National Day of Solidarity to Prevent Physician/Medical Student suicide at my medical school a couple weeks ago.

Since the era of sending mail through horseback and the advent of phone calls, we have always portrayed the positive parts of our lives, but the difference now is that Instagram and other social media has consumed more of our day as we endlessly scroll past people’s filtered accomplishments, happiness, and picture “perfect” moments.

All of Madison’s friends shared some form of struggle, yet she still felt alone because social media didn’t match up with what they were privately saying. This really urges me to be real with people I talk to. I’m not going to pretend like I live in a world of rainbows and butterflies. No one lives a perfect life. This is what it means to be human. We are all in this together.

‘People are also often encouraged to put filters on their sadness, to brighten their reality so as not to “drag down” those around them. The myth still exists that happiness is a choice, which perpetuates the notion of depression as weakness.

As a family, they had never talked about suicide. Jim never considered it a real possibility — just the dramatic ending to someone else’s story. Jim feared that speaking about suicide would make its likelihood greater.

Bill Schmitz Jr., former president of the American Association of Suicidology, points out that depression does not have a one-size-fits-all prognosis. “The course varies,” he says. “In a way, it’s the same as cancer. For some, we might prolong life for months, for years. For others, it can be very sudden.”‘

  • These three paragraphs summarize the myths of depression and gets at the very root of mental health stigma in our nation. Yes, happiness is a choice, but when a person is suffering from a mental handicap, their brain chemistry has changed to where you are not in full control anymore. With that being said, depression is a real disease and not a personal sign of weakness. A lot of us want to please those around us, but we also need to be in-tune with ourselves. Your body is all you’ve got in this world; love it and take time to nourish yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually. The quote, “Speaking about suicide would make its likelihood greater” is similar to the sexual education dilemma. I think it’s important to talk about taboo topics rather than sweeping it under the rug because the more open we are, the more opportunities we have to help ourselves and others.

“It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to show people you’re not OK.”

  • Most important message I took away.

“I run because it’s therapeutic for me. Because every time I run outside, around my home, I am reminded of the beauty of the world, of which I often forget. Yet at the same time, I am fully aware of beauty — it simply saddens me because of reasons I have not yet conjured up. I suppose I am sad. But at the same time I am happy; and miserable; and joyful; and stressed out; and calm, and everything in between. I am everything. Every emotion, rigged in every format, and developed through every machine. I am numb but I am not.”

  • I can totally relate to the first few sentences as a runner, but the latter half is where the message is. We are all bodies of emotions and feelings. This is a very beautiful thing. Never feel alone in your thoughts and feelings because somewhere in the world, someone else is or has already felt that way. When you need help from yourself – tell someone, ask someone. We are all in this together.

Revisit my first post about this news story: https://journeyoflifeandmeaning.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/what-if-we-car…ore-loved-more/

Excerpt: “Make sure that whoever you talk to or come in contact with, that you are okay with how you made them feel with your words and gestures if that was your last day on Earth. Try to develop that deep connection with people so that maybe you can save someone’s life. This is a powerful realization for me. You don’t need an MD to save people’s lives – just genuine care for one another’s well-being by opening up, being vulnerable, talking deeply and loving thy neighbor.”

Developing a Healthy View of Social Media

Recently, I had a friend tell me that she didn’t want to take a picture because she was so concerned about being too fat and ugly. I hadn’t seen this friend in over a year, so I wanted some memories. This saddened me a lot and I tried sharing my perspective that you should never measure your self-worth based on numbers on the scale or what you see in the mirror. She wanted to be perfect. I said that’s not possible. She said “90% perfect then.” She even turned down entering in relationships because she said she didn’t want to disappoint them with her physical looks.

Let’s be honest. We are all affected by our outside looks to some regard. We can’t change this because our exterior is what others see first. I don’t want to sound like a perfect person because I am not. I still get very bad acne in my mid 20’s and I’ve been battling this since middle school. It’s been worse recently most likely due to medical school stress. My acne makes me feel less attractive, it takes me more time in the morning to make sure people won’t be staring at my acne rather than my eyes, and sometimes it prevents me from going out if I have a really bad breakout.

However, I think I am half way there to the wisdom of not caring what others think of you. As long as you are okay with the energy you give off to the world every day, it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear, what your face looks like, how fat or skinny you are, etc. I don’t untag photos of myself because “people might find me less attractive” and I don’t care if I’m laughing so hard in a picture that you can’t see my eyes. It’s all about the feelings of the picture – the happy emotions it elicits, not the way you look and the thoughts of what other people on your social media might think of it.

At the end of the day, I am happy with myself if I spread kindness, warmth, deep care for others, and positivity in the world. Think about the kind of energy you want to radiate from your soul.

National Day of Solidarity Lessons

  1. The osteopathic handshake is a hug. It was cute to see all the presenters hugging each other when they passed the mic and it reminded me of the hug fest we had during orientation week. As DO’s, we are known to be more hands-on and more open to expressing the caring touch. I really do believe in the healing power of touch and this is a huge reason why I enjoy learning OMM.
  2. Get enough sleep. Fun fact: 7.7 hours is the average hours we should be getting. I make this a priority and it’s been really helpful in keeping me awake and alert for school.
  3. Practice healthy selfishness. I love this phrase. Never ever forget to take care of yourself.

Med school is not as glamorous as you may think. I know I didn’t really think about what daily life was like for a medical student until I was one. I was just concerned about getting in, but the hurdles don’t stop there.

  1. You spend so much time staring at a screen studying that the next time you feel the sun’s warm rays or talk to a person about something non-medically related, you feel like a new person.
  2. All day, every day, even weekends and breaks, all you think about is studying. You feel guilty if you have too much free time. The material isn’t hard in and of itself, but there is so much content that it’s not humanly possible to master every detail. You keep striving to learn everything and fall short.
  3. You schedule to see your friends during the one free weekend after you take the block exam and before starting a new block the following week. You have less time to spend with family and friends outside of the medical world. You might miss important life events, like birthdays, weddings, reunions, graduations, etc. People might even move on without you… That’s one of the hardest things about this lifestyle. Non-medical people in your life might never understand what you go through and they move on because you can’t provide the kind of attention and time they seek. There are so many articles and videos out there about personal sacrifices people in the medical profession make (I do have something positive to say about this. See #6 in the “good things” list).
  4. You don’t get enough sleep because you are constantly wanting to study more and/or you have to get up early for another day of new lectures.
  5. If you’re away from family, you have to worry about managing life outside of school, such as cooking for yourself, expenses associated with eating out, cleaning, and other miscellaneous chores. You might experience being homesick.
  6. You put life on pause in a way. If you haven’t found your life companion, good luck dating and finding someone that puts up with your lifestyle. If you have found your life companion, wishing you the best during this challenging journey and may love endure, sincerely.
  7. Your apartment/room is a madhouse because you wait until exams are over to clean it.
  8. You spend your whole Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the library/study rooms before a big exam.
  9. You’re constantly accumulating $200k+ debt while in school.
  10. You often let go of a few hobbies and forget about what truly makes you feel alive.
  11. You end up double speeding YouTube videos you watch for fun because that’s what you do for lectures.
  12. While you may see your non-medical school friends traveling the world, making money in a job, going out every weekend, getting married, having children, buying houses, and settling down, you’re concerned about passing the first two years of didactic learning, then rotations, then applying for residencies where you work long hours with modest pay, then finally securing your first position as a board-certified physician. By this time, you’re in your 30’s (older if non-traditional). While I’m not saying these things can’t be done simultaneously, it’s just more to think about and juggle.
  13. Medical school takes a toll on you. Four of my fellow medical students developed strands of white hair halfway through the year. You might experience feelings of depression, anxiety, and inadequacy.

Good things!

  1. You become close with your medical school classmates because of the shared struggle. With a small class size, you truly become a supportive family.
  2. You get to be a sponge as you soak in all this new information. You’ll look back and think “how in the world did I gain all this knowledge in four short years.” Learning is fun!
  3. What kind of career allows you to learn something new every single day for the rest of your life?? When I feel bogged down about studying, I step back and think how awesome it is that we have a wealth of information at our finger tips.
  4. Making new and exciting memories (e.g. unintentional twinning with my classmates and end of block gatherings with the whole class).
  5. I look forward to working out now because it’s the main release of my day. It feels so good to lift or run off all the stress you felt during the day. You just have to schedule it like you’re going to lecture. Hopefully this will prevent the med school 15 haha.
  6. I have a lot of classmates that have supportive significant others, even a few starting families. It’s not impossible. If you are privileged to have already found your person while in medical school and your relationship withstands the hardships, you know they are a keeper. Count your blessings for finding someone so understanding and patient.
  7. Medical school is a unique and special time. You only get to do this once. It’s four years where you really don’t have real responsibilities. Your job is to learn as much as you can. These four years will pass by fast, so make the most of it and slow down to be grateful for your daily opportunities.
  8. A long line of people would die to have your seat in medical school. In the 2016-2017 application cycle, 21,030 out of 53,042 applicants matriculated into medical school. That’s 39.6% acceptance rate. If you’re a medical student right now, be very grateful for this life-changing opportunity. Source: https://www.aamc.org/download/321442/data/factstablea1.pdf
  9. How lucky are we, as medical students and beyond, to have such a wide array of activities to experience and accomplish that’s worth documenting? Seeing your first standardized patient, volunteering at the free clinic, studying, OMM, taking Step 1, student organization events, conferences, presenting research, leading a health careers exploration camp for high schoolers, welcoming new students on campus, new friendships, field trips, wearing scrubs, holding human hearts and brains, learning new clinical skills, rotations, graduating, starting residency, etc. Follow my medical journey on Instagram: ghrellen where I explore what it means to be a strong female physician humanitarian 🙂
  10. When you learn about diseases that people in your personal life have and you start thinking about how it’s affecting them and possible treatment options: cystic fibrosis, immune thrombocytopenia purpura, GERD, lymphoma, Wilson’s disease.
  11. You become happy with very little. Sometimes, we go through such low points in this journey that we become more appreciative of the little things in life, such as having a free weekend off to spend with friends, breaking up the studying routine to get lunch with classmates, or taking a few minutes to be appreciative of nature outside the window.
  12. I normally go on a long run shortly after noon on Wednesdays, weather permitting. As 1st and 2nd year medical students, we have a lot of flexibility and decision-making power to choose how we spend our day. Of course, this changes in 3rd and 4th year, so I’m trying to be consciously grateful for this freedom while we still have it.
  13. At the end of this journey, we are in one of the most meaningful professions. In what other capacity do you get the chance to become so intimately involved in all spheres of another human’s life? We have the unique opportunity to save lives, reduce suffering, and love humanity every day.
  14. Remember, it’s not solely about the destination, it’s the journey – not only the journey of medicine, but the journey of life. We are in this space and time only once. Step back and be grateful for everything you have.

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I challenge you to live a #lifeunfiltered

Leap into Love + a Message for the Brokenhearted & Lonely

An excuse to write on leap day or do I actually have something meaningful to say? A little bit of both 😛 It’s been one year since I saved this to my drafts, and I’m sure many of you have read about the story/study already. But if not, it’s a worthwhile read: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html?_r=0

Here are some profound quotes that left a lasting impression on me:

“Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.”

  • This is very true after leaving the college world. In professional settings, you rarely get to know your colleagues on an intimate level because no one tries or we are all so absorbed in our own personal lives.

“It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.”

  • I like this idea – telling others what we appreciate about them.

“Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed. […] But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action. It assumes that what matters to my partner matters to me because we have at least three things in common, because we have close relationships with our mothers, and because he let me look at him.”

  • We refer to how relationships start as the colloquial saying “falling in love” when we should instead say, choosing to love. From this study, love is a choice we make and an action we do. Maybe that’s why relationships and marriages fail – because we make the conscious or unconscious choice to not act anymore.

“But I see now that the story isn’t about us; it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.”

  • This hit deep. Being innately human, sometimes all we need is to be heard, to be known, to connect emotionally with another human being.

“It’s true you can’t choose who loves you, although I’ve spent years hoping otherwise, and you can’t create romantic feelings based on convenience alone. Science tells us biology matters; our pheromones and hormones do a lot of work behind the scenes.”

  • Although love is a choice and an action that anyone can perform towards others, we can only meet people as far as they are willing to go. I’m not only talking about romantic love, it’s friendships and other relationships too. You might have good intentions to want a deeper relationship with someone, but the other person must be comfortable enough to meet you in this circle of vulnerability and authenticity before this can happen.

“Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.”

A part of being human means to crave attention from other humans, and I think love is the key to this equation. I like to think of ourselves as one big human family on this blue revolving sphere called Earth, circling around somewhere in the vast universe. There is no need for hate because we are what we have, and our world would be a better place if we loved and cared for one another more.

I would like to try this questionnaire one day. Even though I need to constantly remind myself, one of my goals in life is to be more vulnerable and caring, spreading love and kindness everywhere I go in order to create meaningful relationships with others. I enjoy exploring people’s internal thoughts and just being there for them in the most humanly way.

Here’s to living a life of vulnerability, authenticity, and love ❤

Update 3/19/16: I was heartbroken today. I was really upset for a good hour – water works, sad thoughts, the whole show. But after that hour, almost like the sun creeping out of ominous clouds on a stormy day, my mind shifted. The cliche quote “love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own” popped into my head. I don’t 100% agree with this quote as I think you should always practice self-care and self-love first, but I like the message behind it. If you truly loved and cared for this person, you would respect their decisions and wish them the very best in life. So that is what I did.

I guess I am sharing this personal story because I realized how powerful positive thinking and mindfulness is. When I shifted towards this positive attitude, I started thinking of bountiful possibilities. It made me reflect on this blog post. I was pleasantly surprised that three old friends liked my tweet today which said “Love can hurt, but I still want it to be the guiding principle to the way I go about life and think about life #sacrifices #notetoself”.

This is a message for the brokenhearted or lonely:

Love really is a beautiful thing… I’m a firm believer of leading with love in all interactions, whether it be with family, friends, in the work place or with strangers because it’s a universal feeling that we, as human beings have in common. We all want to be loved, to be cared about, to have someone who is interested in what we do every hour of the day. Most of us want a companion to share all of life’s moments with. A lot of single people my age are thinking about how to find this person – resorting to apps and online sites. I have nothing against these platforms as I have never tried, but I think the most exciting part about finding this person is to be openopen to meeting new people in daily life, open to strangers becoming friends, open to getting to know people on a deeper level, open to friends becoming lovers, open to revisiting people from the past, open to authenticity, open to vulnerability. I think these are the key ingredients to finding your forever person. There are 7.4 billion people – some that have already found their person, some that are in the process, many that are still searching. Someone out there is meant for you and will bring you happiness like you’ve never felt. It’s worth the wait.

Update 1/14/17: I experienced ultimate heartbreak yesterday – one that spans the majority of my adult life. This time, it did not go away after an hour. One of my friends shared this ironic quote with me: “If you really wanted to hurt someone, love them deeper.” I started a personal positivity note titled “Why Heartbreak is Good” on my phone to restructure my thinking and wanted to share some musings:

  • Future relationships will be healthier and more genuine due to lessons learned.
  • You want what you can’t have – that’s a paradoxical truth. You can’t change other people’s feelings. You want someone to act because they want to inherently, not because you’re asking them to. If they don’t feel the same or want the same thing, move on.
  • Life could always be worse: terminal disease, divorce, death of someone you know, inadequate basic necessities, no network of support, barriers to goal achievement. Think about how lucky you are: to be breathing, to hear your heart beating, to see another sunrise, to choose how you will spend your 24 hours.
  • There is someone out there for you. Whether you’ve already met or he’s in your distant future, you’ll love again and this time it’ll be the real deal without secrecy and lies. Remember to look up, look around, be open, and proactive. The world is your playground.
  • You’re 24, still young. Yes, many are in serious relationships, engaged, married, or on dating apps but this is YOUR journey. It’s time to focus on you and start building a steady foundation for a good enjoyable life later on. Unfortunately, being female and in medicine brings many challenges both in professional and personal life. This is the career path you chose. You worked your butt off for six years to get to this point. Cherish it.
  • Embrace the clean break. Embrace your own company. Work on yourself while keeping your eyes open. These are exciting times ahead. Keep building your knowledge. This year is about you. When you do find your person, you’ll know. You’ll always know. In the meantime, be the best person you can be so that when you’re both ready, you can build a life together with the best versions of yourselves for a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
  • (My spirituality) God knows what’s in our hearts, God listens. Everything happens for a reason. Trust Him and the process.
  • If you’ve never been in a relationship with anyone else, you’re always going to have doubts and wonder what it’d be like to be with someone else. I think this makes both parties more prone to cheat. It’s the right time to explore these feelings and know with more certainty what we’re looking for in a significant other. Heartache is 1000x better now than divorce later down the road.
  • We’re just people, humans. We should never be afraid of each other. Don’t be afraid to tell people how you feel. If they don’t feel the same way, at least you released the energy out in the universe. Move on and release more good energy elsewhere.
  • Your partner should make you feel good and challenge you to be a better person every day. They open your mind to things you’ve never thought of. They understand, listen, love, are patient, and trustworthy. If any of these qualities are absent, this is not love and you should move on or have a talk.

 

Happy Old Year and New Year | 2016 | Year of the Monkey | Gratitude Jar

I know, I know. It’s way past New Years, but I’ve had this on draft since January 1st and really want to share 🙂 I thought I would have more down time in AmeriCorps – boy was I wrong. It’s a good kind of busy – more on this in a later post. To be fair, Chinese New Years was on February 8th so I’m only 3 weeks late right? I also found out that if you were born in the year of the monkey, you’re supposed to have an unlucky year when it’s the year of the monkey again according to Chinese traditions. I was thinking it would be the other way around – lucky on your birth year animal. Who says you gotta follow the status quo? I’m planning on having an exhilarating year!

This year, I had one of the best New Year’s. In the past, I usually had quiet New Year’s Eve nights in or hung out with a few friends at their house. Leading up to the night, I thought I would be continuing this quiet tradition. Then, I had the chance to spontaneously say yes to an invitation to spend New Year’s at a friend’s house. We recently re-connected, but have known each other since elementary school.

This is something that makes me feel alive: reconnecting with people whom you knew in the past. I had a chance to do that with almost everyone that ended up coming over to his house. The intricate details of people crossing and re-crossing paths in life fascinates me.

On the topic of celebrating New Year’s: my most favorite part about this holiday is how almost everyone is extremely positive about the upcoming year and enthusiastic about being the best versions of themselves.

I had dinner out and a worker at the restaurant said “Happy New Year and Happy Old Year, no one says the old part.” I thought that was very clever and we should say Happy Old Year too.

I have a lot to be grateful for in 2015: achieving mental clarity about life purpose, the ability to always look on the positive side, mindfulness of being grateful for the little things, capturing my grandmother’s hearty smile before she moved to California in my last selfie with her, competing in a jump rope competition, trying a pint of Jeni’s ice cream as a result of being nominated for employee of the semester, working at the RPAC (which brought me so much happiness and it was exciting to develop unique relationships with coworkers and students I swiped in), visiting Chicago, ending BLF on a good emotional note, attending first Crew game, winning a short visit with Dr. Drake in this office with some friends for grad week, the life-changing mentorship from my research PI, graduating, attending Steve Aoki concert, shadowing in Psychiatry, taking my last MCAT, frolicking in a sunflower field, serving with AmeriCorps, moving away from home for the first time, getting accepted into medical school, organizing a food drive on OU’s campus to serve students in need at my site, getting to wear scrubs to serve, getting to see a lot of old friends from grade school during breaks at home, going to trivia night in Athens, experiencing home visits in the community, and an extremely fun last night of 2015 reminiscing and playing games.

Here are some goals I will work on for 2016:

  1. Say yes more. I have realized that I tend to hold myself back from making new memories with new people.
  2. Improve relationship with mom.
  3. Just do it. Recently, I’ve been annoyed with myself for waiting to get things done, especially if it revolves around a conflict. I feel that I am this way because one of my top 5 strengths is harmony. I tend to avoid conflict and I am very good at doing that. Eventually, I do accomplish the task at hand, but with all the agony of mulling over the problem inside my head. So I resolve to “just do it” and tackle situations as they arise instead of thinking too much and waiting for something to happen.
  4. Live in vulnerability and authenticity.
  5. Vlog!
  6. Don’t be too humble. This sounds weird, but I hate hate hate talking about myself in person if there is no goal of helping someone else. This can come across as having low confidence and I don’t wish to be perceived that way.

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Additionally, I was inspired by an article to create a gratitude/happiness jar. The concept is to write down people, opportunities, experiences and things that you are grateful for on a daily basis. I feel that life is better lived when we are more appreciative.

To create your own jar, grab:

  • decent-sized mason jar
  • decorations/crafts to your liking: yarn, string, construction paper, scrapbook paper, markers, stickers, cut-outs, pictures, glitter, ribbon
  • hot glue gun
  • some friends! 🙂

I had a great time making this with two of my closest friends, and I cannot wait to see what all we were grateful for in 2016.

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I Live For Failures

Assignment 2 158“Ellen please move your pin from green to red. You will go to detention at recess today.” I cried when my 5th grade teacher told me this because I left my spelling contract in my cubby overnight and failed to get it signed by a parent.

I felt ashamed and loathed my 4th grade teacher for a couple hours because she reprimanded me to be quiet when a classmate had asked me a question in the middle of class.

I angrily drew all over and ripped my 6th grade math test that I got a B on and didn’t talk to my friends at lunch that day.

I nearly quit my first job in high school because my boss sat me aside to tell me that I needed to be more outgoing with the customers.

I would like to share how I changed my mindset about failing.

Remember: Everyone fails at something at some point in their lives. We are all human. Do not be ashamed. Keep on keepin on. Always keep this in mind.

I grew up learning that I always had to do everything right in order to catch up to everyone else because I was economically, socially, and linguistically disadvantaged when I started school. This afforded me a vulnerable mindset as witnessed by the examples above. I was so afraid of failing, of being ridiculed, and being called out.

You never know until you try.
First year of college was when I learned a great deal about failure and what to do about it. I applied for three different positions and organizations to be a part of for the following year, but I ended up being declined for all of them. I remember in one of those interviews, the interviewer prompted “tell me about a time you’ve failed.” I let a minute-long moment of silence pass, and the best answer I came up with was getting straight B’s in Gen Chem. Now, I hope for that question in every interview because I am so passionate about the topic.

I recently conjured up this quote for a study abroad scholarship essay: “Failure should never be the last stop in one’s journey, just a pit stop to re-energize and reflect.” I have learned there is value in all failures and mistakes as they are learning experiences for future endeavors. It’s such a valuable gift to yourself.

Today, I learned from a past homecoming court member/fellow Stater that I was not selected to serve on the 2014-2015 homecoming court. She graciously made sure that I was okay and didn’t want to cry or need some alone time, and I was taken aback by such condolences. This is not how I choose to react to failures. If you take too much time dwelling about the past and sulking, you’ll miss the beautiful moments of life that are unraveling in front of your eyes. Several hours later, I am still smiling and still blessed to be a Buckeye. It’s not because I didn’t care for homecoming court or knew that I blew the interview. I thought the whole process went very well actually – going into how I knew about homecoming court even before the first day of classes as a freshman because of a role model whom I had in high school and then seeing her on court when I came to college (I still have a to-do list I made during freshman year welcome week detailing all the things I should do and get involved in for the next four years if I were to apply for homecoming court), my gratitude for this university and nearly endless opportunities given to me as a first-generation college student, and how I wish to pay it forward and give back to the community and future students. I was really looking forward to being in a position to inspire future students to make the Buckeye education their own by getting involved, being open to new experiences, and really cherishing every day spent here.

I never want to lose the overwhelming enthusiasm I felt that day. It was an absolute pleasure looking back on the three years I have had at OSU as I was preparing for the interview. I had such a great time with the interviewers, and it’ll be a memory that I will keep with me forever. I still very much look forward to coming back as an alumni. I have so much love for this place that has given me so many opportunities – a life that I could not even imagine in my wildest dreams.

Reflecting, the only thing I regretted not doing was to ask the interviewers how they are affiliated with OSU. I was genuinely curious to hear a little bit about them, but wanted to be respectful for the next interviewee as we only had 20 total minutes. Other than that, I don’t really know what the main problem with my performance was… I guess the lesson here is: there will always be people better than you. But do not fret. Compete with the person you were yesterday instead of others around you. Be the best person you can be.

This experience made me more appreciative of the things I am already involved with – Ohio Staters Inc, Buckeye Leadership Fellows, a research opportunity this summer, Helping Hands Free Clinic, and getting ready to start a new chapter in life as I am preparing to apply for medical school. My goal for next year is to put in more time and effort into these activities rather than trying to look for more. Quality over quantity. These are some amazing opportunities right in front of my face, and I feel that I have been taking them for granted this whole year.

A question I prompted to myself while preparing for the homecoming interview is “what is the most important thing you’ve learned at OSU?” This is my response:

A leadership title or degree should not stand in the way of who you want to be, what you want to do or what visions you have for the world.

I used to think I NEEDED to become the president of something in order to be a good leader. This is far from the truth. Anyone, regardless of rank, position or credentials can be a leader with the right vision, mindset, and attitude. Just this morning on the radio, 104.9 shared a story about how a 13-year-old girl started her own business with a facebook page saving stray dogs, paying to get them cleaned up, and finding each one a home. This is such a powerful message. If you are really passionate about something, never let that fire burn out and pursue it until it becomes a reality. You cannot be afraid of failure(s).

Relating this to medicine, I made an earlier post about how you don’t need an MD degree to care more about humanity. Simply be there for people around you and listen. I am trying to live this every single day.

This was a hodge-podge of thoughts I have about failure, but I hope something resonated with you to keep a healthier mindset about failing and life.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”
(one of my all-time favorite quotes and life mantra).