Let’s Get Personal | What’s Your Story?

I attended a Primary Care Progress Leadership Summit at my school yesterday. The purpose was to advocate for the benefits of team-based care in the primary care field and cultivate this team culture through intentional story-telling and coaching. The story-telling exercise was the most powerful part because it got to the root of: what’s your purpose? why are you here?

In my single-parent household, education was a prevailing value growing up. My mother didn’t want my life to be like hers. However, as a first-generation college student, she was not able to provide very much guidance, especially past high school. I really had no idea what the “real world” looked like. I just knew how to pass all my classes and that I had a particular interest in science – until the summer after my junior year in high school when I was gratefully accepted to attend a four-week MD Camp at OSU College of Medicine. We were treated like first-year medical students: meeting professors of medicine, shadowing an infectious disease doctor, experiencing the cadaver lab, taking a comprehensive test, and receiving a white coat. This opened my eyes to a career in medicine and lit a spark in me that I can do this. So this became my goal all throughout college as I pursued a degree in Neuroscience at The Ohio State University. It was a smooth journey until the MCAT, which made me question whether I was cut for the career or not. During the summer after my junior year when I was studying for the standardized exam, I spontaneously reconnected with an old friend from elementary school who was also on the medical path. That summer, we made a routine out of running together most summer afternoons – this was my solace from studying. I had no idea that our rekindled friendship would change my outlook on life forever. My friend was a true free spirit – he always said what was on his mind without caring what other people thought. That was the complete opposite of me. I have always been a reserved person and it took me a while before I can completely open up to others. His energy was so contagious that I caught it. I slowly fostered this free-spirited nature and that was the first time in my life I truly felt alive. I started thinking about the impermanence of life and how we should strive to feel more alive. This then made me ponder the meaning of life, which is partly why I started my blog. Among many nuances, the meaning of life for me is building authentic relationships and connecting with others on a deeper level. When we are on our death bed, I doubt we’d think about whether we could have made $50,000 more or if we should have bought a Lamborghini. We are going to think about people – regrets, shared experiences, joyous times. When I’m lying on my death bed, I hope I remember more good times than regrets, which is why I am making a more conscious awareness in my daily life to be more authentic with others to build a deeper connection. You never know the magic that can arise when you open yourself up to another human being. Fast forward to medical school. I had to overcome some hurdles with the MCAT, but in the end successfully completed the leg of the race and am now in my first year. People go into medicine for a variety of reasons ranging from: family influences, money, prestige, wanting to help people, research, service. Some of these reasons provide more lasting inspiration than others. My reason that I want to continually cultivate is building that deeper relationship with patients so that I can explore how their meaning in life affects disease and vice versa. Patients are more than just their disease state. We should seek to understand their robust life outside of the 15-minute office visit. This sense of shared humanity motivates me.

Caveat to this idealistic approach of being more vulnerable, authentic, and honest (from feedback and personal experience): people might not reciprocate and value these same qualities. One of my friends expressed that he would rather not live life this way because you are handing people bits of information about yourself that they can use against you. You weaken your defenses if you show people how you think and who you are. From personal experience, I was taken advantage of because I was too honest. I knew this person for many years and we practically knew each other inside out (except for the things he hid from me this past year). Being honest and open is my way of showing that I deeply care for someone and their well-being. I’m still struggling with this concept because I don’t believe in playing games in life for it is impermanent – say how you feel and do what’s right. Don’t hurt others in the process. In conclusion, it’s wise to use your judicious decision on who you want to be vulnerable with and what parts of yourself you want to share. I’m not a big fan of superficial conversations and the proverbial “good” reply to “how are you?” and this is a way to overcome that.

Extra note on love and life: While thinking about the meaning of life, obviously love comes to my mind. I am a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. I get teary-eyed at least once in movies and books because the relationships between the characters always pull at my heart strings. I just dangerously subscribed to a YouTube channel that’s focused on creating professional wedding videos and sharing love stories – you can already guess I cry during every single video. Upon reflection, I should have had more independent time instead of stringing the other person along and being strung along. I encourage every early to mid 2o-year-old to spend at least a few months completely single – free of any kind of emotional or physical intimate relations. Society makes us believe that being alone should be one of our biggest fears, that being half-loved by someone is better than not having them at all. With the world at our fingertips now, dating apps make it that much easier to replace person after person without ever being lonely. I don’t think this is healthy. One of my friends argue that we all need to feel validated by someone and that you often can’t overcome heartbreak without seeking intimacy with another person. Yes, it’s a nice feeling to be cared for and it might be the easiest way to mask your hurt, but why can’t you validate yourself? Being truly single for a month now, I have learned to respect myself and give myself the time and space to self-improve. You shouldn’t invest yourself in someone who can only give you 99% or less of their heart. I’ve had a skewed image of what a loving relationship should feel and look like, but now I am awakened. It can be very painful to be patient, but I have faith that the wait is worth it and that there is someone out there who is ready to give you what you need and vice versa. Love is complicated. Relationships take lots of time and work. It’s a conscious effort – not just something that happens between two people who like each other. Don’t jump in if you’re not ready. That’s not fair for either of you. Being single means you have all the time in the world to use as you see fit – freedom at its purity. It’s important to have introspective time to realize who you are and what you want before trying to share with another complex being. People may have many definitions of what kind of relationships they want to have: casual, open, exclusive, inclusive, polyamorous. Don’t settle if that is not what you truly want. Establish your guidelines for love first and stick to it. If your potential lover has a completely different agenda that you don’t see for yourself, let them go. I’m taking this time to establish mental guidelines for accepting and giving love, to workout and improve physical fitness, to accomplish independent goals, to open myself to deeper friendships, to learn from missteps, to know my self-worth, to deepen knowledge, to live in my values, and embrace confidence in who I am and realize I don’t need to change for anybody. The person you’re meant to be with will want you just as you are and find your faults endearing. Only then will you be able to paint a collaborative art piece called love whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Story-telling always has a conflict. The good news: some sort of resolution always occurs. One of the most important take-aways from hardship is being able to relate to others through experiences and sharing what you learned. Key elements of intentional story-telling: story of self, conflict, choice, values, and the story of us (how it relates to your audience). Try it out: what’s your purpose for why you are where you are right now or where you hope to be?

~lntan

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. I lost someone near and dear… 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 ❤

~lntan

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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~lntan

Ghrelin with Ellen – Stay Hungry for Life

Hi beautiful souls 🙂 [cue Jesse McCartney]

It’s been awhile, but I have not abandoned the blog! As I delve deeper into my gap year, I hope to utilize this as a space to reflect and share the experiences and lessons I am learning about life and the journey to medicine.

I have been trying to think of a creative name for my blog that ties in the search for meaning in life and my love of science. Naturally, I google “rhymes with Ellen” and immediately smile when I see ghrelin. I had learned about this term in my hormones and behavior course during the last semester of senior year. Ghrelin is a peptide “hunger hormone” produced in the gastrointestinal tract and also functions in the central nervous system to regulate energy homeostasis. I wanted to apply this concept to avoid complacency in one’s journey and to stay hungry for life. Always check in with yourself and ask the question “what makes me feel alive?” Apply the answer to this question to decide how best you can contribute to the world. Just as homeostasis strives to keep our biological systems stable by continually making adjustments, we too should continually use what makes us feel alive to better our community. So that is the meaning behind “Ghrelin with Ellen – Stay Hungry for Life”. Truthfully, I really miss thinking scientifically from studying for the MCAT everyday this summer (which I took last weekend!), so this is my attempt to bring science into everyday life. I am currently working on secondaries and hope to be in a position to meaningfully contribute to society very soon!

Join my journey 🙂
~ lntan