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

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