Becoming a “professional”

Today ended week 14 of my first semester of medical school; I can’t even believe that sometimes. The past few months have had me thinking a lot about different issues. All of them involve the responsibilities of someone who is considered a “professional.” I still feel 15 years old and incredibly reliant on “real adults” some of the time, but the fact is that I’m soon going to be a very educated person. Not to toot my own horn… That’s just a fact of life and consequence of being set to finish 21 years of formal education in 2018.

I wonder about the responsibilities that come with being a respected member of society. I think about how my position as a doctor is going to be to treat my patients- not to judge what brought them to that point, but to help them become healthier in mind, body, and spirit. And that’s really all I want. To break down stigmas that keep people from being healthy and happy in every way possible. To help our culture advance to a point where that is a possibility for everyone.

I’m also getting a lot less tolerant of people and their ignorant viewpoints. About so many things. Let’s make sure our neighbors have a way to be healthy and happy, and leave the rest to them and whatever they do or do not believe in. There are too many people trying to be the global morality/religious police, and that’s not going to fly as a physician. My patients won’t come to me for judgments and a slap on the wrist; I’m sure they’ll receive that from plenty of other people in their lives.

Medical school is a mind trip, but not just academically.


My Granny

My granny passed away a week and a half ago. She was 91, and had had problems with congestive heart failure for years now, been in and out of the hospital several times recently, so it wasn’t a shock or particular horror. She got to pass peacefully at the home she moved into with her husband in 1955, and then raised her kids and grandkids in.

All year, her health declined rapidly. I saw her in July right before I moved to school, and I was shocked at how frail she was.

She’s talked for years about how she’s the next one to go, after her older siblings and best friends have passed away. It was always kind of depressing to me, and I never had a response, but in July, she said, “honey, your granny’s just not doing good.” And I knew that it was probably happening for real this time.

When I first came to school in July, I planned to definitely go home for fall break (the end of this month) to see her, knowing it would potentially be for the last time. As the days went by, I realized fall break would not be in time. So, I planned to go home the weekend of October 4th. She passed away the day before I went. I wasn’t totally shocked, because obviously the progression of events was there. Also, my mom had told me earlier in the day that I might want to bring black clothes home since I was driving 3 hours. And, that day, I had been very bothered by a dream I’d had. I have crazy dreams, and I’m the person that usually remembers their dreams. But that night, I dreamed that there was an assassin trying to get in my granny’s house, and my family was trying to stop him. But he kept getting inside, like by magic or teleportation or something. So, I felt a little weird about it all that day anyway.

I’m torn between being sad I didn’t get to see her one last time and being glad I didn’t have to see her on death’s doorstep. It’s selfish, but I’m partly glad I don’t have to have that mental image with me. I lived next door to her for my first 18 years of life, and I stayed with her a LOT when I was young. So, to me, she’ll always be early-mid 70s, in good health, and a total spit-fire.

My granny was one of the most hilarious people I’ve ever known, and probably ever will know. Not from jokes or being intentionally funny, but from being stubborn and nutty and not having a filter and saying weird things that don’t make sense to younger generations. She had been widowed for over twenty years, and lived alone, so she talked on the phone more than a pre-teen girl (in my generation; I guess kids don’t TALK on the phone anymore- I’m ancient). As a result, she knew everything that was going on in the county, and she always told me stories about people I’d never heard of. But that didn’t matter anyway, because she usually called them “that man up there” so it was a puzzle I never would’ve figured out anyway.

Some of my favorite memories:

She always made fried chicken and gravy for us, and always talked about making it, because, yes, it was the best. I wish I had some right now.

She had these kids books on tape, which I guess wasn’t super uncommon in the 90s, but I loved them so much and never could find them when I got older.

She always had some crazy cats, but she claimed she hated them because they were expensive to feed. There were always kittens, and I loved playing with them when they would let us catch them.

She had a chalkboard at her house, and it kept us busy for hours, playing teacher. My sister taught me to spell my name in cursive at her house.

One time, I found dead termites in a shed in the field behind her house, and I was convinced for a long time that they were demons. And I never told anyone that lol.

She had this massive heating stove in her living room, and one day in the winter I burned my wrist on it a tiny bit. But I wasn’t supposed to get close to it, so I didn’t tell her. Then I went to kindergarten the next day, and my teacher asked me what happened. (If she hadn’t known my family so well, she would’ve probably thought I had been abused.) I said I burnt it on a stove, but I couldn’t explain it because I didn’t really know how to explain a stove that wasn’t for cooking. I still don’t, actually.

For some reason, one day three of my cousins on the other side of the family came to stay with my granny, sister, and me, and we discovered that the closets in her two bedrooms were connected. So we spent a lot time trampling through the closets to go from room to room, but then we got in trouble. I remember that she gave us hotdogs that day, and I thought that was really cool and special.

There are these two big walnut trees in front of her house, and sometimes she would have us help her pick up all the walnuts in her yard. There would be absolutely billions of walnuts.

When I was younger, she would plant a big garden. I learned that potatoes grow in the ground, which is still weird to me. We would pick cucumbers and squash and okra, and then she would cut it up.

We would make muffins together (from the packages), and I would get to help pour the milk in and stir, and it seemed like such a big deal in that 2-step muffin making process. And then those strawberry muffins were the finest cuisine in the world.

As I got older, especially after I graduated high school, she liked to tell me about when she worked in the hosiery mill, and how she made $6 a day.

She loved to tell the story of when my uncle (I think?) was a kid and put his foot into his boot, only for there to be a snake in there. She’d laugh and laugh about it.

During the summer, when she thought the mail was about to come, we’d sit on the porch in her chairs that she’d painted five times over, and the porch top would be so hot from the sun.

It seemed like there was always a wasp getting into her house, which is weird now that I think about it, but she always said “let’s put him in the electric chair,” and she’d go get a pair of pliers. As a 70+ year old woman, she would hunt down a wasp with a pair of pliers and squish it.

She got new carpet when I was younger, and we went back and forth forever, because I wanted a Coke, but she said I’d spill it on the new carpet. I finally wore her down, and I immediately spilled the entire Coke on the carpet. Luckily it was tan/brown carpet, but I’ve never seen her so mad.

About 6 months ago, she told me not to “go try to find men off the tv. They’ll get ya, and they’ll kill ya.”

For Christmas, she would always give my daddy a grapefruit, addressed from Santa. She got the biggest kick out of that, and it honestly was really hilarious. A great Christmas tradition.

My granddaddy died when I was almost 2, so I don’t remember him, but my granny always asked me if I remembered him feeding me cookies. I feel like it was important to her to know that I knew he was part of my life, even just for a short time when he was really sick.

Obviously, none of these are big-honking memories, nothing special. It’s all everyday stuff. Because she was an everyday part of my life, which is even more special than having a couple big moments to remember. She’s the closest person to me to have died, so I’m lucky that she had had a long, good life and was ready to go. Her death has me thinking a lot about life and death and families and sickness. As a medical student, I don’t really think about that a lot. I think about sickness, but I don’t think about dealing with death and loved ones and all of that. It has been kind of interesting to start pondering it all.

I’m happy for the time I got to share with her, and for the hilarious, independent, spunky woman that she was.

/deep thoughts.


Med School Musings

“From the outside looking in, you can never understand it.
From the inside looking out, you can never explain it.”

This is a quote used over and over and over again in sorority life. And yes, it’s kind of true. There are things about Greek sisterhood that can’t really be put into words.

But, now that I’m about 8 weeks deep into med school, I realize how many times this quote has popped into my head to describe medical school.

I love med school. It’s hard and makes you feel dumb and takes all your time, but, somehow, I love every bit of it. Even the parts that I kind of hate. I don’t normally talk about the parts I hate, because honestly, I’m so glad to be here and so absolutely thrilled to finally be living my dream. Also, I don’t really have time to dissect my feelings that deeply. I’m happy than ever and incredibly busy, and that’s good enough for me.

When you start medical school, it truly becomes all you can talk about. It’s all you ever do, all you ever have your mind on, and so it’s all you can converse about. But it’s frustrating, because it’s so hard to explain everything. I’ve wanted to be a doctor for around ten years, or more, I would say. So, of course, I’ve done tons of investigating on every part of it. I knew it would be hard and crazy busy, etc, etc. So it’s exactly what I expected, while at the same time being nothing like anything I ever dreamed of.


One more post about my future, but this is a good one.

When I saw The Great Gatsby movie a couple months ago, one of the book’s most famous lines hit me like a ton of bricks:

He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

I’ve adored Gatsby since reading it in high school, but I never understood that part at all. Suddenly, sitting in the theater, it made so much sense that it literally took my breath away. Gatsby was me.

I had always believed in that one fine morning- that every dream can be reached, if you just work hard enough, just put enough into it. But as I sat there, listening to Toby McGuire speak Fitzgerald’s words, I realized that I’ve been doing everything I knew to do in order to reach medical school, but it hadn’t been enough. I wondered, “am I just a boat against the current? Is it already behind me, even though it feels so close?”

20130917-190442.jpg

Fast forward to a month ago. I received a call that I was given an interview to a medical school! (I’m withholding the name of the school from the internet until I am officially done with all my other applications.) So much excitement and nervousness all at once. Naturally, I immediately start sobbing as soon as I hung up.

One of my friends from college goes to this school, and another friend interviewed there before attending a different school, so they gave me the scoop on everything. I was still crazy nervous though.

20130917-191419.jpg

Interview day: My mom and I drove up the night before, and I went to a meet and greet with some current students. It was really cool, and really put me at ease. The campus is beautiful, and a reasonable distance from family and friends. Everything about it made me really excited.

The interview was the first part of the morning, and I was in the second group to go in. Their interviews are closed file (all the interviewers have is your name), so you really get the sense that they want to get to know you. I didn’t feel like they were grilling me about my grades, which it what I expected from a “medical school interview.” A couple of the reactions from my interviewers made me feel like they were pleased with my answers to those questions, when I thought those answers were just normal. So that surprised me, but made me really happy.

After the interviews, some different people came in to talk about the curriculum and financial aid, and then students took us on tours and to lunch. The buildings were gorgeous, and all the students seemed to really love the school. From everything they and the professors said, there’s not that typical “cut-throat” med school environment there. I got a really awesome, positive feeling about how everyone works with each other, not against each other, and how the faculty is very involved with the learning process.

So I left the interview a little nervous about how I, a normal young woman, would stand out against my interview group that had some pretty impressive post-grad degrees. But I was also somewhat confident about my interview, and really, really excited about the school as a whole.

They told us the admissions committee would be meeting the next week, and accepted students would probably be called starting on Friday (this past Friday, the 13th).

20130917-191559.jpg

I worked both jobs (pathology lab tech; pharmacy tech) on Friday. I had my ringer turned on, vibrate turned on, and carried my phone around ALL morning at the lab. Ugh. No calls. I checked Student Doctor Network (forums for pre-meds and med students) for the first time in my life, and it seemed no calls had been made. Went to the second job. Sat my phone right in front of my work area at the pharmacy, and told my pharmacist that I could get the call at any time. It was 5pm, and no call. Then, it got crazy busy. My pharmacist and I were scrambling for an hour straight to try to get everything done.

At 6:30, as I’m hurrying to fill a prescription for someone who was waiting, I hear a noise. I look down, and my phone is lit up with a phone call. All that was going through my head: “OMG.”

Hello?
Hi, this is Dr. So-and-so, with such-and-such school. How are you?
Good, how are you?
I’m good, thank you. Do you know why I’m calling you?
Well, I’m hoping it’s because you’re going to ask me to come to your school in the fall…
That’s exactly why I’m calling you!

I was shaking and just basically in a state of disbelief. He told me that I’d be receiving a letter with the deposit deadline on it and whatnot. Then I hung up, and just sat my phone down, looked at my pharmacist, and simply said “I’m in.”

She literally screamed, hugged me, and then shouted, “She just got into medical school!” to the people in line. It was quite the moment! Then I think she could tell I was about to go right back to finishing all the work we had, so she said “Call someone!” and rushed off to take care of the patients herself. I called my parents, who just happened to be together, and I started crying right there.

I was still shaking for like 20 minutes! When I got off work at 7, I called/texted a bunch of people, and then made the announcement on Facebook and Twitter. To say that everyone (EVERYONE) was super supportive is quite the understatement.

Facebookmedschool

It’s such a beautiful relief to know that, at the end of July, I will be starting medical school. It’s also a relief that I have almost a full year to relax and take advantage of any spare moment for laziness and to get my ducks all in a row. Obviously the hard road is just beginning, but it feels amazing that I am over that first big hump towards my life-long dream. Before my interview, I was thinking about the “why do you want to do medicine” question, and I realized that becoming a doctor is literally the only thing I absolutely have to have for my life. I want it far more than anything else, and I’m so thankful that I’m getting the opportunity.

I still have an application or two that I’m going to leave out, but I have really felt like this is the school for me for the past several years. I didn’t apply there last year for many reasons, but the past few weeks have only strengthened my belief that following your heart will get you to exactly where you need to be.

20130917-185228.jpg


Love.

I have been incredibly blessed to have parents who taught me so much, and who have been willing and able to pay my way when my plans haven’t turned out.

But what if I didn’t have them? What if I didn’t have a few really good friends who would let me lean on them when I needed it?

I don’t know.

I’ve been feeling led lately. Straight-up, old-school, praise the Lord Jesus, church led, to serve in my community. Knoxville has a homeless populations of 1500-2000 people. That’s the population of my entire hometown. And they need love and help and support and a person to make eye contact with them and share with them the resources that they need.

I believe in feeding the hungry. I believe in clothing the naked. I believe in showing the love of Christ where you can, how you can. I believe in taking care of your neighbors. I believe that sometimes all someone needs is someone to show them that there is hope, or to point them in the direction of the resource that they need. I believe that we have a huge responsibility to live these things. No, I don’t have money to donate to a shelter or to buy someone food or to pay a bill for them or to go on a mission trip to Haiti. But I have time. And energy. And a smile, or a kind word. I believe in giving back to your own community, in a way that is sustainable and makes a difference in the streets you walk on.

Image

Tonight, I finally went to a volunteer orientation at one of the shelters in Knoxville, the Knox Area Rescue Ministries. They believe in meeting needs where they are, and in showing the love of Jesus while they do it. I was blown away. Left overwhelmed with open eyes.

I had never been out of my car in that part of town before. It’s infamous for being where the homeless people gather. (The Homeless. As if they’re some sort of organized, evil faction of human beings.) As I walked on that sidewalk for the first time, I was very conscious of the fact that these frightening people…. were just people. People walking around. Being regular people. Not scary. Not threatening.

While the volunteer coordinator was talking, I teared up multiple times. Y’all, I was unemployed for three months a year ago. I was a college graduate who had been fired literally just because they wanted to fire me. If I hadn’t had my parents who were able to finance me, I could have easily been turning to these ministries for help. The line of struggling and homeless is so fine. And it’s such a slippery slope. There are so many things that you have to overcome to dig yourself out of that situation. You might not have bus fare to get to the social security office to replace the card you lost when you were evicted. You don’t have internet to apply for jobs. You don’t have an address to put on applications. There are so many simple things the coordinator mentioned that, when added up, equate to a desperate situation. The homeless population is people from all walks of life, all situations. They have different needs.

But they all need someone to look them in the eye and give them dignity of being a person. They all need love. They need a meal. They need to build relationships. No one is without hope or worth.

The ministry I went to tonight has a bunch of different programs. They have your standard meal service and overnight housing, but they also have a 30 day program to help the participants develop a sense of worth and goals, more long-term housing for those that need extra time, help for mothers with children, help with addictions, transportation to and from buildings like the career center, job training programs, and so much more.

Tonight really opened my eyes to the variety of needs going on in my city, and to the variety of opportunities available for someone like me to help. I want to make a difference in someone’s life, and I want someone to feel a little more hopeful because of their interaction with me. I hope I can find the right volunteer position to help me to do that.

In my never-ending search for purpose and direction in my life, I’ve decided to make my own purpose. To give before I expect to receive. To not just try to take take take 24/7, but to maybe give and spread something out to someone else. Like I said, I don’t have money to give, but I have a severe lack of a social life that makes me perfect to talk to people. Have a conversation; make eye contact. Since I can’t find my direction, since I can’t make a school take me or find a permanent career, I’m choosing to create a portion of my life that will have meaning and substance.

Image

Be intentional about helping your community. Be intentional about showing love to others. Live with intention. I know I don’t live in the only city with hurting people.

Image


Indecision 2013

It’s hard to write, about anything, when your head is filled with a millions possibilities and directions.

I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen. Which is why this has been such a difficult time for me.

But I’m trying to see the positives. I’ve had worlds of disappointments to teach me to work much harder than I think I need to. I’ve had to learn to be patient. About everything. I’ve learned to make big decisions quickly instead of mulling over them for weeks.

And, I think I’m perfecting the ability to simultaneously send myself down multiple life paths in order to see if one will work out.

Im 24, but it’s hard to feel like an adult at this stage in my education/career.

I’m not there, but I’m working on it. I’ll apply to every program and every school in the world until I find the way to the future that I’m working for.


The world you deserve can be won.

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swaps of the not quite, the not yet, and the not at all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you deserve can be won. It exists. It is real. It is possible. It is yours.”

A friend posted this on Facebook today, and it stirred up so much emotion in me. (I googled, and apparently it’s a quote from One Tree Hill, which I did actually watch in high school.)

I didn’t get into UT’s accelerated nursing program. I really wanted to be able to stay put and finish the August to August program (and only have to take out 12 months of loans!!!!), but I didn’t make it past the interview stage.

As you can imagine, this hit was HARD. Harder than med school, if that’s possible. I knew med school was a long shot, but this seemed more in reach. I’d finally found what I should do, and I was trying to do it. It just made me look at every part of my life as if it was all such failure.

20130321-213438.jpg

It’s been quite a week, for sure.

Obviously, I’m not giving up. I’m looking at programs and evaluating how they can help me get what I want.

The more I think about the rejection, the more I think that it happened because I didn’t step out and decide to create a new path. I can’t stay here any longer. I love this city, and it’s seen a huge chapter of my life, but I’m just not growing here anymore. I think I’ve gotten everything from Knoxville that I can get, at least for now. And that would’ve still been true had I been admitted into school and stayed for an additional year.

I can go anywhere and do anything right now. Benefits of being young, single, and needing to take out loans no matter where I go. :) Why haven’t I been thinking that I owe it to myself to blaze a new path- one where I can grow and learn and do things I’ve never done before? That’s what I did when I moved to Knoxville at 18, and that’s what I need to do now. Go somewhere that will take me to the next stage of myself.

I’m sick of failure and rejection. I’m ready to create a new adventure for myself, even if I have to fight a million wars to get there.

20130321-213302.jpg


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.