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

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

I have no regrets, but I would do it over again

You may be thinking “Ellen, that doesn’t make sense. You have regrets if you would do it over again”, but let me explain.

I’m now a proud graduate of The Ohio State University with a BS in Neuroscience. As a first-generation student, I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams all of the unique experiences I’ve had these past four years. For that, I am forever grateful for all the people I have met and all the opportunities that were afforded to me.

DSCN5087But I’ve hit a serious roadblock to my vocational dream that developed the summer after my junior year of high school – to use medicine, science, leadership, and education to positively impact the future of healthcare and better the well-being of humankind.

At this point, I do not have sufficient credentials to attend medical school and I wish I could tell my freshman self what I know now. But I realize this is life. You live and you learn. It’s all a part of the journey.

If granted a wish, I would re-do my college experience over again to make sure I adequately show medical schools that I would make a great physician and achieve success the first time around. The medical school process is an arduous one, but I know this is my purpose if I still have the drive to find out what went wrong from professionals involved in admissions and to improve myself to re-apply again. Even if I say I would re-do my experience, I have no regrets. A lot of failures are blessings in disguise. I’m learning a lot about myself in this time of despair, feeling lost, but also of introspection. This failure has forced me to re-evaluate the question “why medicine?” and I feel that once I am at the moment where I can confidently say “I made it”, I will be more grateful for this unique life opportunity than if I had effortlessly gained admission the first time.

I’m currently applying for jobs to gain more experience working in a clinical setting and planning to re-take the MCAT. I am excited to continue on the journey, embracing the roadblocks and detours.

Stay tuned for some blog topics I would like to share in the coming months! 🙂

Sneak Peek
– What I learned about life while in college
– Medical School application tips I wish I knew
– Love & Vulnerability
– Book reviews
– Revisit of a blog post I previously wrote concerning social media

If you feel some of my post-grad sentiments, I’ll leave you with inspiration from Nicki Minaj’s new song (who knew Nicki could write some lyrics that would become my life anthem and also match the theme of my blog so well??)

“So make sure the stars is what you aim for.
Make mistakes though.

I never worry, life is a journey.
I just wanna enjoy the ride.
What is the hurry? It’s pretty early.
It’s okay, we’ll take our time.

The night is still young.
How dare we sit quietly.
And watch the world pass us by.”

And this quote:
CC_o_pWVEAAVotO.jpg large

#nevergiveup

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.