I Lost My Friend of 12 Years/Best Friend of 7 Years, but Gained a Relationship with God and Became Closer to my Family

Disclaimer: this is a deeply personal post, much more than the previous one. Views are my own.

“Getting a corgi so you can attract all the ladies right?”
“Like I have time for that.”

“This sacrificing for medicine thing is no joke. Just turned down a hot date to study on a Saturday night.”

These are real quotes I heard in the past 24 hours from fellow medical students.

I didn’t get closure. I don’t know when I will. I am working on it.

We FaceTimed every day, catching each other up on our days. We had just seen each other the week before. Although we had a difficult conversation before parting, a joke was mentioned at the end. A week later, they want nothing to do with you because they found someone new. They want no contact because it’s not fair. Just like that, knowing someone since 5th grade means absolutely nothing. I am sentimental, sensitive, and loyal, so this shattered the depths of my core. Without going into all the details, our companionship did have a romantic plot for some time, but due to many external circumstances, slowly fizzled along with growing apart in different cities. I knew we were at different stages in life and wanted different things out of life, but I couldn’t stop my loyalty. Is it a death sentence to remain friends with your ex??? Maybe, I’m the only weird person, but life is too short. There should not be a limit as to how many people you can be kind to. I also would like to add I’m not some crazy person that would hold onto something relentlessly that isn’t reciprocated. All I’m asking is for relationships that grow apart: why can’t two people discuss a civil dissolution and go their merry ways while still remaining friends/acquaintances in the most general sense? I’m aware of the old adage of people entering and leaving your life for different reasons, but I was naive to believe this person would be my lifelong friend. If you look at my life, my dearest friends are those that I’ve known the longest. These are some life lessons I’ve learned recently:

  • People don’t have to be in every season of your life.
  • You’ll never change other people’s thoughts, attitudes, way of life. Accept what is and move on if it’s no longer giving you good energy and you’re no longer enhancing each other’s potential.
  • Even if you have the best intention, other people are not guaranteed to think like you do. I constantly think about how life is so short on this planet compared to eternity. This motivates me to relish in all of my relationships and connections to people and overall live with kindness for all people. I really do believe in the phrase “forgive, but never forget.”
  • Nothing is ever lost in life: memories were made, experiences were shared, lessons were learned. Take them with you and don’t make the same mistakes.
  • Always hold your family closer than friends (exceptions do exist, like when you have very unreasonable family members who always tear you down, but I sincerely hope this is not the case). It takes a lot to be estranged from family members as you share a blood line, but with friends and significant others, anything can break that bond within seconds no matter how long you’ve known them. Through my heartbreak, I’ve opened up to a lot of people and heard their stories. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard similar sentences, “married for 24 years, raised 4 wonderful children together, and divorced.” In my neighborhood, I am a part of a row of 3 houses that have single middle-aged women living independently after a divorce. The lifelong probability of a marriage ending in divorce in the U.S. is 40-50%. That’s about half of us! Here are interesting stats of some variables associated with divorce:
    • race/ethnicity
    • importance of religion to the couple
    • timing of the first birth of any children (before marriage, within 7 months, after 7 months, or never)
    • if one spouse has generalized anxiety disorder

This is not meant to be pessimistic, but realistic in the fact that anyone can have a change of heart. One of my prominent goals in life is to not experience divorce, so this little bit of research helped me prepare for the future.

  • Serendipitously, I became quick friends with an elderly gentleman at the gym I regularly workout at. He describes our friendship as if “we’ve known each other for years” when in reality, it’s only been a few months. Even with a 40+ year age difference, we’re able to talk about anything and everything. We know all about each other’s love lives. Something he shared stuck with me: “I wish I would have gotten divorced 5 years before we actually did.” Early on, they both knew trouble was brewing, but he really wanted to stay together for the kids, at least til they all graduated from high school. He shared that kids know when there’s something wrong. Sometimes, it’s not about holding on and being loyal, it’s about letting go. This reminds me that selecting the right person is so important, no matter how long it takes. Don’t rush and don’t settle.

I hope by writing and sharing, I can gain some closure. I often think about how my experiences can help my future patients. As doctors, we need to remember we are humans and remind patients we are too. An activity I recently did to cope with loss is: writing down all the reasons why this was meant to happen and then on the back of the page, specific qualities of life you wish for in the future. Keep it somewhere you can access when you need to. Spirituality has also helped me cope tremendously. My family had roots in Buddhism, but I didn’t grow up with a religion. I’m not sure where this will take me in the future, but I have found comfort in developing a relationship with God, praying, knowing that He has a plan for our lives, and listening to Christian music instead of mainstream radio. Another relationship I gained is a closer one with my family, particularly my mom. We’ve had our ups and downs, and still do, but this is the most honest relationship we’ve had in our entire lives. Due to external consequences, that individual and I did not open up to our families about the relationship. As teenagers and young adults, we blindly believed love is all we need. This was not healthy, toxic even. After I told my mom everything after 7 years, I vowed to live honestly and authentically, especially with family. If someone doesn’t appreciate honesty and authenticity or if I find myself doing something that violates these values, I know I don’t have to force a relationship with that person or continue doing that activity. I can’t wait to finally live freely and without fear. In the Asian culture, respecting and caring for our elders into their old age is extremely valued. It can be hard growing up in the US where this is not valued. It’s an ongoing internal conflict for me. The current cultural notion is: we’re young, we should be building our own lives, move far away, have 5-minute surface conversations on the phone with one’s parents, they don’t need to know the important thoughts and activities of your life, visit them only during major holidays because being away from your friends is so boring. Years pass and the next time you really become close with your parents again are when they’re nearing death in a hospital room. Yes, we should all be independent adults chasing our dreams, building a life worth living, taking as many trips as we can, and having fun as 20-something-year-olds. I don’t disagree with that, but I also know life can flash in front of your eyes. Years quickly pass, your parents get older, health problems arise with age, and when you finally realize you should have cared and spent more time with them before they pass, it might be too late. Looking at the grand scheme of life, we have a lot of time to live without our parents if that’s what you’re looking forward to, upwards of 40 years. Imagine stepping into your parent’s shoes. The best situation would be to still have your significant other grow old with you, but what if you were divorced or widowed in old age? Would you want at least one of your children you raised to care about you or be sent to some arbitrary nursing home instead? I’m not advocating to live in your parent’s basement or constantly worry about them and put them first before the important things in your life, but a healthy balance must exist between independently building your vibrant future while also remaining close to your family, especially those that sacrificed so much to raise you to be the successful adult you are now. I am happy to return to my true values and know that one of my purposes in life is to care for my single mother. Never change your values for anyone. I can only hope that my future significant other respects me for who I am, values and all.

Sample some of the songs that have helped me get through tough times:

  • Stars Go Dim – You are Loved
  • Danny Gokey – Tell Your Heart to Beat Again
  • Matisyahu – Live Like a Warrior (Richello Remix)
  • Chris Tomlin – Impossible Things
  • Axwell – On My Way
  • Mandisa – Unfinished
  • Lauren Daigle – First
  • Matthew West – Mended
  • Bobby Mcferrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy

There were a whole host of reasons for my situation, but I cannot leave out the fact that medical school played a part. We have to say “no” to hanging out on weekends with friends, going to birthday parties, family functions, weddings, vacations. We need to plan around major exams. We only have one summer between 1st and 2nd year. We always have things to study seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Lifelong learning is a cornerstone to being a physician. Sometimes, friends and family don’t understand this. I’m creating an ongoing list here to resolve this sacrificial dilemma and think about it in a more positive light:

  1. My faculty mentor told me “you can have it all – all of your priorities”. Know what your priorities are. Write them down. Your studies should be #1 or #2 on your list. If you make time to do what’s most important to you (say the top 5 things), you can have it all.
  2. Treat medical school like a 8-5pm job. Work relentlessly hard Monday-Friday during those hours to get things done. There’s always going to be more, but if you had a good week, don’t feel bad about taking one day during the weekend off to enjoy your #2-5 priorities.
  3. Share with your friends and family what you do and what interesting facts you’re learning about in the human body.

Did you know heart burn, acid reflux, and GERD are talking about the same thing? This is when stomach acid used to digest our food leaks backwards into our esophagus that connects our mouth to our stomach. The best treatment to try first for this is lifestyle modification, not medication.

  • Eat more plant-based protein (beans, broccoli, spinach) to improve the strength of the sphincter/door between the stomach and esophagus.
  • Avoid dietary fat, caffeine, chocolate, mints, herbs/spices eaten after meals, alcohol, estrogen and progesterone (birth control pills).
  • Lose weight and eat smaller meals, so the stomach doesn’t extend too much.
  • Avoid eating before laying down and elevate the head of your bed 4-6 inches (sleeping on pillows won’t work, you have to physically place blocks under the head of your bed to raise it).

Both men and women 50 years and older are recommended to get colon cancer screening. Colon cancer is 70% lifestyle related. Want to know how to prevent colon cancer in old age?

  • Eat less processed meats (lunch meats, bacon, sausage, etc.)
  • Eat less red meat
  • Eat more vegetables and other fiber-rich foods

The link between a meat-heavy and vegetable-sparse diet to colon cancer is as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer.

3/4 of all adults and 90% of adults from African and Asian descent will experience lactose intolerance. This means that you don’t have the functioning enzyme to break down the lactose in dairy products. The lactose travels further down your gut and gets chewed up by bacteria. As a result of bacterial digestion, carbon metabolites, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide are produced. This is why you have bloating, diarrhea, and dehydration after eating dairy products if you’re lactose intolerant.

Take your significant other to medical functions or a night out with your classmates. When you involve your loved ones, they become a part of the journey rather than a carry-on baggage you lug around. However, if sharing your new way of life isn’t working and you feel dragged down and stressed by this person, it might be time to let go. We’ve had 3 relationships break up in our medical school class shortly after starting school, but we also have 2 students starting families while in medical school (albeit the wives are not the students). It can be done, but it requires deep understanding, patience, and strong communication from both people. I recently read a wonderful article about how a wife survived family life while her husband was in residency. It helped me gain a lot of insight into how to work on a relationship and what kind of understanding must exist on this journey: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2014/11/wish-knew-advice-spouses-doctors-residents.html

Thanks for reading. I pray we all live the life we’ve always wanted.

17015901_10154703790267740_5529409400839713916_o

~lntan

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:

fullsizerender

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

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, depressing 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. You can still keep doors open without traversing through, but knock on other people’s doors.
  • 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. You’re not late to the dating apps if you don’t find anyone by age 30 – how grateful we should be for technology to open up such a world of possibility.
  • 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.

 

~lntan

Day 21 (Friday, May 23): “It’s Not How Much We Give But How Much Love We Put into Giving” -Mother Teresa

Woke up around 7:45am. Wore the green white-flowered sleeveless Kurti. Breakfast around 8:35am: round bread, veggie curry, omelet, and tea. Received some compliments on my Kurti. Rachel was interested in getting her pants fitted after someone mentioned that the store where I purchased the Kurti provides free tailoring.

We took traveling vans to Manasa Jyothi. Our Mysore minivan crew got excited to see Chand again, but sadly he wasn’t driving. Adam was my seat buddy! He complimented that my Kurti makes me look more oriental. I was like “I know.” I’ll embrace my Asianness. Haha. Dr. Raj rode in our van also. It was a 45-minute drive. Adam and I talked about dreams, X-Men, and my lizard story. Manasa Jyothi has been my favorite field trip so far. The woman from the Netherlands has really done something spectacular, and she’s only 37 years old. Truly inspiring. I hope to pursue a passion like that.

IMG_5619As we passed through the white stone-walled threshold of Manasa Jyothi, I felt an indescribable feeling of happiness and comfort. A trampoline and playground emerged with numerous joyous children swinging, riding bikes and running around. At first glance, one would not suspect that these children have suffered more than we could imagine. The story of how Maartje van den Brand and Shobha Madhyastha founded and manage the school inspires my future endeavors in life.

IMG_1240Manasa Jyothi is a residential school for mentally and physically handicapped children. They recently moved to their current resident in Kundapur. It’s a modest-sized school that has grown gradually over the last ten years (started in 2000). They have around 18 children between 5-18 years old. The infrastructure can hold up to 35 children. Services include individualized programming based on each child’s needs, free medication and medical care, good hygiene and health practices, daily teaching, exercise, yoga and free medical equipment (i.e. wheelchairs, helmets, back braces). They are challenged to be independent by making their bed, washing their hands and brushing their teeth. The primary goal is to keep the children healthy and clean according to western standards. The secondary goal is to provide a safe and educational home. Tertiary goal: inclusion of disabled children into normal schools. When the Government passed the Right to Education Act in the parliament, disabled children were not included in this article. It is one of ADAPT’s greatest achievements that after much lobbying an amendment of the Right to Education Act was made. This means that more than 30 million disabled children will now have a right to education in India as well. Inclusion in education of children who are differently abled in India still has a long way to go. Two of the students will attend a normal school next term.

IMG_1245A range of staff is available and needed, such as teachers, volunteers, a psychologist, physiotherapist, speech therapist, and occupational therapist to provide unique care for each child. The philosophy is that the children learn best when they are safe, happy, and valued. Every child has this right. They aim to build the children’s self-esteem by teaching them to value themselves and develop other positive qualities (e.g. independence, honesty, integrity, respect for others). They have a non-violence principle and focus on verbal and visual (sign language) communication. The school is funded privately by a trust and does not request money from the parents. This is important for children who do not have loving parents to take care of them properly at home. Manasa Jyothi serves as their home, education and transition into society. In India, the stigmatized status of disabled children renders an unhealthy and sometimes dangerous lifestyle. The children end up on streets, beg for money to survive or are abused. The vision of Manasa Jyothi is to change the stigma by showing the interaction between handicapped children and care-takers.

IMG_1388I enjoyed seeing and hearing Maartje talk about her humble beginnings with Manasa Jyothi. Maartje is a physiotherapist from the Netherlands. Her father has been an inspiring force in her life as he has dedicated the last 15 years of his life working for UNICEF and the UN to improve human rights of people in prison. After graduating and volunteering for an NGO for a year in the slums of Indonesia serving mentally and physically disabled children, she felt a calling to do something good for the world in 2007. She gave up her physiotherapy practice and left family and friends to move to India. She found her way to Manasa Jyothi and was only planning to volunteer for three months in order to improve the health care and education. As time passed, she learned of the horrid things that were happening to the children, such as molestation and abuse. She was so disturbed that she went to the police, which is uncommon to do. People told her to “look the other way”. After three years, she decided to leave and started a foundation in 2009 with help from family and friends in the Netherlands. She mentioned that in our countries (US and Europe), people would be willing to help, but here no one wanted to get involved. “Foreign people come here and think ‘oh this place is too nice. Why do you need more funding?’” It’s a struggle retaining workers at the school because of the stigma behind disabled children. Frequently, workers leave before getting married because “what will the neighbors think if she works with handicapped children?” The woman’s status decreases if she works with handicapped children rendering her less desirable for marriage. Maartje learned the local language, Kannada because she believes communication is pivotal when helping people of a different background. She always says it’s her last year, but looks at the children and can’t leave.

IMG_5610It was shocking and eye-opening to hear the children’s stories. Vino’s parents came to get him fully drunk one day and Maartje now refuses to let him go home. One parent was quoted to say “let God decide if she lives or not”. One girl was locked in a hut for seven years. Another girl had her uterus removed by her parents. Several have cases of cerebral palsy, which developed during birth. Seeing the children at Manasa Jyothi now is a complete turnaround. Vino is awaiting admission to a normal school. The children are clean, smiling, and laughing as they are riding their bikes, chasing after each other or swinging on the playground. I had the opportunity to watch Maartje interact with a girl through sign language, and I could sense the love and connection. The girl looked at Maartje as if she were her mom. I admire that Maartje experienced first-hand a (public health) issue and was courageous enough to pursue a solution to the problem when all odds were against her. A quote on their website http://manasajyothi.jimdo.com/ encompasses my thoughts and feelings about this school: “it’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” –Mother Teresa. I hope that one day I can live life giving back to a cause I am passionate about with love.

IMG_5608Afterwards, we headed to the beach in Kundapur, which was surprisingly pretty clean and serene. Stopped by a restaurant for lunch. Dr. Raj ordered us a 5-course meal with samosa, naan, three types of curry, gulab jamun, yogurt, rice with raisins, veggie noodles, fried tortilla chip, white rice, more curry and ice cream with fruit. There was a lot of food.

IMG_5629

Dr. Raj’s family joined us for lunch also, and we got introduced to them at the end. We met his brother-in-law, sister, brother and two nieces, one of which is attending Manipal for medical school. His sister is an OBGYN and brother-in-law is a pediatrician.

IMG_5631Adam casually used me as a shoulder rest while we were waiting for the van, which coincidentally happens to me a lot when I’m around tall people. He questioned if I get dark easily since I’m part Malaysian. He asked what the other half is. I said Vietnamese and we concluded that the people get pretty dark.

We went to the Hanging Bridge next. I slept a little on the way there. The bridge was beautiful. I got on it, but decided not to cross because it was precariously waving back and forth. I was imagining what it would be like to fall into the water below, and that scared me because I don’t know how to swim thus causing my fear of large bodies of water. Alvian shared my sentiments, so that was nice someone else understood. Kelsey R and Taniqua didn’t go either. The others just went to the other side and came back. Got some good pictures though!

IMG_1405Then, we went to another beach. Everyone took off their shoes and got in the water except me because I don’t like the feeling of wet sand and shoes. Adam thought of the idea to do a shadow O-H-I-O picture, which turned out awesome!

IMG_1423I took some scenic pictures of a canoe, an elusive clear-colored crab and waves crashing on rocks, while everyone else enjoyed the water. I was cooling myself off with my airplane tickets, which serve as good emergency fans by the way when Adam asked if I save them. Me- “Yes.” Adam- “Me too. I keep my movie tickets also.” Me- “Wait. Me too!” Adam- “Did you save the ones from last night?” Me- “Yes (checks purse).” I’ve been collecting movie tickets since Home Alone was in the theaters. Haha.

IMG_1434We had the option of going shopping afterwards. Half of the people hopped off the van and half of us went with Dr. Raj. The department store had saris, kurtis, cotton scarves, and children’s clothes. Nothing really caught my eye, but several people got some quality stuff for a cheap price.

Returned to campus for tea time: fried tofu-like balls. Back to room. Uploaded pictures to computer and dilly dallied until dinner at 7:30pm. I changed my profile picture to one of me and the little boy I fell in love with at Manasa Jyothi. I went to their website, read, and wrote down information because I am genuinely interested and wanted to remember as much as possible. I posted the website under the profile picture.

IMG_5640

Dinner was good: barley rice, roti, Gobi Manchurian, squash curry, and another curry. Had yogurt also. It’s weird – I hated the yogurt in the beginning, but now I really like it as a palate cleanser at the end of the meal. Serves as a pseudo-dessert too. Sat with Kelsey F, Alexa, Adam, and Lindsey. I asked how Sahanna was feeling. She said “better.” Someone said Adam should do a Mohawk. And he turned it on me and said I should do a Mohawk. Lindsey said “that’s gonna take a lot of maintenance.” Adam continued with “buy a leather jacket and wear some brass knuckles.” Me- “I think of Grand Theft Auto when I hear brass knuckles.” Adam- “That’s what I was basing it off of! Get out of my head.” I nod my head a lot when I listen to other people talk. Adam started imitating me and I burst out laughing. Alexa and Kelsey F were like “What’s going on? Did we miss something?” Adam was just being super silly. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.

Walked back to hostel with Lindsey and ran into half of the girls standing in a circle at the top of the 5th floor stairs. Xhonela, Kelsey R, Lauren, Ashley, and Nikki were there. We talked about experiences in India and bugs. I shared my lizard story. Some shared their excitement for heading back to the states. I find it more worthwhile to make the most of every moment, good or bad. It’s inevitable that we’re leaving, so why pine for that day when you can be happy right now? I constantly remind myself that we won’t ever be in this moment in our lives again. Back at the room, I washed clothes, showered, skyped Arif and mom, tried catching up in the word doc journal in bed, but fell asleep. Sesen posted a comment on my FB expressing her surprise that I worked at Hollister and teased me about having a lot of past lives. It made me think about authenticity and the implications of being a “mysterious” person. I don’t really talk about myself very often – preferring to listen to others first, but one of my goals in life is to be more vulnerable. So I found myself pondering if having different facets of your personality show at different times a good thing or bad thing. I tried figuring this out on Skype with Arif. I want to be an authentic person and thought the way to do this is to be one person across life’s many different activities. He brought up that it’s not really possible to be the same person because we have to act differently in different settings (I remember learning about the term “impression management” in sociology). I guess he’s right. We both concluded that the most important way to be authentic is to make sure your core values stay the same.

Manasa Jyothi Handicapped Residential SchoolMy favorite group photo on the trip.

Another quote from the Manasa Jyothi website: “Consideration like ‘he is mine or he is another’s’ occur only to narrow-minded people. To broad-minded people the whole world is their family.”

Day 17 (Monday, May 19): Songs that Bring Back Memories

Woke up around 7:30am because I thought we had class in the morning at 9am, but walked to breakfast to see that no one from OSU was there. Breakfast was pancakes with onions and tea. I sat by myself for a couple minutes until Kelsey F. walked in. She tried eating outside, but it was too humid. Shortly after, Adam and Drew walked in. Kelsey informed me that Dr. Raj cancelled class for this morning. I was surprised because I was mentally prepared for some early morning learning. Kelsey asked if I wanted to go to the Manipal Store. Dan and I went along. The store wasn’t open yet, so we found the little shop where Sesen purchased her bangles. Kelsey bought some.

We walked back to the hostel, and I decided to try the laundry service for the first time due to the large accumulation of clothes from the weekend Mysore trip. I brought my clothes down to the first floor in a white bag, and the woman gave me a slip to return back to the room later that day around 3:30pm. Then, I walked back to my room and did some journaling and blogging. I also checked in with my mom on Skype for almost an hour.

Anna knocked on my door around 12:30pm to walk to lunch, and we stopped by Lauren’s on the way to get her. There was some very tasty limeade at lunch today. I drank two cups.

As I was leaving with Kelsey R, Sahanna told me Sesen spent the time creeping on me this morning to find the picture with Justin Bieber, but didn’t see it (I shared that I took a picture with JB before he got wildly famous when his song “Baby” came on in the van). Sesen said my Facebook pictures don’t reflect who I am and that it doesn’t even look like me. This got me thinking about authenticity. In BLF, we have explored this term in regards to leadership, and I believe we should strive to be authentic in all parts of our lives (i.e. not putting on an act for show). I recently had a conversation about this topic with a friend, and he refuted saying that the personal and professional sphere should be distinguished (i.e. you should act differently at home vs. work). I definitely agree with this statement also. So the conclusion I have come to is that your morals and values should transcend any roles that you play in life. Those should always be consistent, which is an important part of being authentic and genuine. This is not the first time I have heard a similar statement said about me. Introspectively, I told them that it takes some time for me to be completely comfortable with new people. I am working on this, but it’s in my personality and nature. As for the not looking like me bit, I suspect it’s the make up. I used to wear a lot more in my middle and high school days, but I like to keep it simple now. I didn’t bring any to India and went au natural, which was extremely refreshing.

Before class, Lauren, Kelsey and I sat in the first floor coffee shop to update our journals and download the lectures. I caught up through the second day of Mysore from drafts saved on my phone. Akon’s “Right na na na” came on over the music system in the coffee shop and pleasantly caused a flashback to Chand’s jams in the van. I really like when songs remind you of a moment in your life, for better or worse – such a unique human feeling. The nerd in me just decided to look up why songs evoke vivid memories. Here’s the neuroscience/psychology behind it: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201312/why-do-the-songs-your-past-evoke-such-vivid-memories
So neat that this phenomenon can be used for therapeutic purposes! #sciencerules

Lecture with Dr. Raj at 2pm was about communicable and non-communicable diseases. Communicable diseases can be described as contagious (e.g. hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, influenza, malaria, polio, TB). The spread commonly occurs via airborne viruses, bacteria, blood or bodily fluids. Non-communicable diseases are not passed from person to person and are also known as chronic diseases (e.g. cardiovascular diseases – heart attacks and stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases – chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma, diabetes).

Here are some lecture highlights:

– India suffers from more communicable diseases than noncommunicable (opposite is true of the US and other developed countries).

– Eradication is better than elimination.

– The flu vaccine given each year is a prediction of upcoming strains, so it is not a guarantee that you’ll be protected. However, people have said their influenza is milder if they received the vaccination.

– TB is caused by a virus. It is a big problem for India.

– For coinfection of TB and HIV, the TB is treated first.

– In India, HIV/AIDS is commonly contracted by sharing needles or heterosexual intercourse.

– Why don’t drug companies invest in Neglected Tropical Diseases? Drug companies won’t make that much money because it only heavily impacts certain areas of the world.

– Mental disorders in developing countries are heavily stigmatized. There are hardly any counselors or psychiatrists available.

Lauren and I picked up our laundry after class. The service cost 150 rupees. Some of my clothes/bath towel was tinted blue (suspecting it was the dye from the Manipal shirt), but I didn’t care too much.

Tea time around 4:30pm: fried veggies and ketchup. Kelsey, Lauren and I decided to check out Bombay Bazaar and took a rickshaw there. We thought it was further down the road from the university, but it ended up to be within walking distance. The driver charged 25 rupees. The bazaar didn’t really have souvenirs, but rather household items, such as cooking equipment, brooms, shoes, clothes, containers and simple jewelry. Then, we explored many of the stores surrounding Manipal. Lauren bought a collection of journals at a Hallmark store. Then, we serendipitously discovered a small clothes store, which had a whole plastic bag filled with scarves. Kelsey and I bought the same patterned scarf for 100 rupees.

I felt an immense headache during the shopping trip, so I took an Advil when we returned to the hostel. For dinner, Kelsey and I decided to try the Chinese food on the second floor at Yodragon. I was craving some stir fried veggies, but couldn’t really comprehend the menu so I just ordered Hong Kong chicken and noodles. Kelsey ordered honey chicken and noodles. Mine was in a dark soupy sauce, which I’m not fond of, but the food generally tasted good. Several people bought soft-serve ice cream for dessert, which persuaded me to get chocolate and vanilla swirl in a cup.

IMG_5583

It cost 15 rupees, which is equivalent to 25 cents in USD. I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post. It was a chill first day back, so I only took one picture the whole day.

Kelsey and Lauren showed me a WiFi spot at the back of the cafeteria. We sat on some steps and chatted. It was nice, except for the nighttime bugs. We had a heart-to-heart conversation about our feelings of homesickness towards the beginning of the trip, the out-of-body realization that we were in India at that moment in time and how we should make the most out of our remaining days.