Plato believed that we lived in a world of
images, three-dimensional shadows of the true one. What we see with our eyes is nothing more than a cheap imitation of its true state.
example, the chair we see before our eyes is nothing more than a shabby image of the true chair that exists. We carry on everyday with
flawed perceptions of the true ideal form.
Life After College:
Year 3 - In Transit
[Friday, June 29, 2007]
I'm moving this weekend. From the Washington Square West to Above Broad Street. Above Broad Street is technically called the Rittenhouse area. But in my mind, Broad Street is this psychological barrier. It puts me into a new neighborhood. Away from school (yay!), away from my usual coffeeshop hangouts and the Italian Market (boo), and into a more commercial area (bigger boo). Rittenhouse is where all the professionals live. The lawyers, the people with families. It's where all the stores are - the Arden B's, the Kenneth Coles, the Ralph Laurens. I sort of loved the fact that my old neighborhood abutted South Philly, with all its Italian bakeries and its tiny little BYO's. Susanna Foo's is in my new neighborhood. How is it that just a few years ago, all I wanted was to move up in life. To live in a building with a doorman in a uniform and eat at fancy places. And now I find myself reluctant? I don't know.
My new apartment is marginally more expensive than my current one - but it's a downgrade. Probably because the neighborhood up there is a bit more expensive. I'll go from having my own bathroom to sharing a bathroom. From a townhouse with my very own stoop to drink beer on and watch the world go by, to a highrise building. From a newly remodeled apartment, to a super old one. With radiators. But that last bit doesn't bother me as much. In fact, I sort of love radiators. My current landlord decided to raise the rent on me by $200, and after extensive googling, I realized with dismay that Philadelphia does not have any rent control laws. So, as my school year ended and my boards studying began - I also started to look for housing. Considering that I won't be home much during my rotations, it made sense to look for a roommate situation.
You would not believe how many weirdos are looking for roommates. The whole housing thing is a huge interview process. Most people with a room open have to 1) like you 2) like you better than they like everyone else they've seen and 3) be willing to live with you. I like looking for roommate situations because 1) seeing your place as it is currently gives me an accurate idea of how you live day to day, cleanliness-wise 2) I can see what furniture you already have and have an idea of what I need to bring. As you can see, I like making lists. And, as someone who was looking for a roommate herself just last year, I had a fairly good idea that I'd have an edge for getting a room, just by virtue of the fact that I can make myself relievingly blandly normal.
Three weeks later, I was still looking for housing and at my wits' end. My grandmother had died and I had a funeral to attend, plus I had to study for the boards, so I decided I had to make a few compromises. I prioritized a roommate and apartment over neighborhood. And so when Susquehanna called me and said I was her top choice roommate, I jumped for it. Even though it was Above Broad. I told myself it'd only be for 2 years until I graduated, and then I could move anywhere I wanted.
Funny, this started out as a blog about moving my blog. Let's get back to that. So, with my 1 week off between taking the Step and starting rotations, I decided that I should get a few things in line. 1) I had to pack and move my apartment. 2) I need to redesign my blog. Like my apartment, my blog has been neglected for the past 3 years. I initially started to redesign it back in 2003 when I was still working in New York as a consultant. And then never finished it when I started my grad program in an effort to get into med school. The results are what you see here. Broken jpg's, incompletely side bars, and outdated menus. I have a mental picture of the layout I want, and I just need the time and energy to sit down and do it. And since many of my friends are also bloggers, I've been looking into possibly moving my blog off of Blogger to something else like Typepad, where Fisher lives, or Wordpress where Tom resides. The problem is - I think I have to pay for those services. Is it worth it? I've been blogging since 2001 now for free. The other thing is - I'm very protective of my space. My physical space as well as my online space. Xanga repulsed me because of the cookie cutter templates that everyone had. So, I guess what I should do is make a list of the things that I like about Blogger that I'd like to be preserved in my new bloghost.
1. Ability to custom design my own template. I really like how I can put Blogger tags anywhere I want in an HTML template that I've made, and my blog will just appear there. Can I do that with these other services? It looks like they too, are template based, and you can make modifications within the constraints of that template.
2. Cheap. Free is ideal. But - if something offers me enough features, I may be willing to consider paying a small fee per month.
Hrm. I guess that's really it. I was thinking that I was an impossibly picky and hard to please blogger. But I suppose what's really important to me is that I have control over the look and feel of my blog. I already have an idea of how I want it to look. And a name-change may be at hand. Away from Eidolon to something new.
Speaking of which, did you guys know that you can publish your blogs into little paperbacks to keep on your bookshelf? I live in half terror that Blogspot will delete Ordered Chaos, the blog record of the first few years of my life post-college and my FIRST BLOG EVER, due to inactivity. So, I stumbled across blurb and thought this might be a smart idea. Their software is far from polished or convenient, but with enough patience and copying and pasting, I may be able to preserve Ordered Chaos forever on my bookshelf. And Blogger servers be damned! If anyone knows of an easier way to get blogs into paper form - let me know.
Posted by ink |
[Tuesday, June 26, 2007]
On Sunday, I was studying at the Barnes and Noble near my parents' house. A girl sitting behind me chirped up, "Are you studying for the Step 1?," she asked curiously. "Yup," I said. Wasn't the red, yellow, and blue book a dead giveaway? This led into a 45 minute conversation which consisted 90% of the following:
-Oh my God, like, stop studying now. There's no point! They ask you stuff you've never heard of before! -I mean, everyone was so upset when they came out. People wanted to kill themselves and stuff. -I cried during the test, and then I cried afterwards too. It was awful.
I stared at her. Why is she telling me this, I thought. I'm taking this TOMORROW.
But she was right. I wasn't crying, but other people were at different times of the day in the break room. And not just girls. Some of the boys looked moist-eyed and a little shocked and scared. I was too clueless to know whether I had something to cry over. I was guessing on 50% of the practice exams, so it wasn't anything new for me to be guessing a lot on the real thing too. I didn't know how to work the computer properly, so I couldn't figure out how many sections I had done and how many I had left to go. So I kept anxiously pressing forward. My tummy kept churning and I wasn't sure whether it was because of the test or because of all the caffeine I had.
When I was still awake at 5 AM this morning, I decided it must be all the caffeine. It's now 9 AM, and I'm done with board exams. Done with everything until next week when my rotations start. And I'm marvelling at the fact that I'm still managing to be sleep deprived. Today: a haircut, packing, and picking up the key to my new apartment!!!!
Posted by ink |
[Sunday, June 24, 2007]
I came home to my parents' house a few days ago in the hopes that I'd be more productive. Most of my friends took their exam on Friday, so the comradery I shared in the library would be gone. It'd be just me. Which normally isn't a problem as I complain profusely when the library becomes social hour. But I needed company for the last leg of my long journey to the Step 1 exam. So my dad came to pick me up and home I went.
Home is a funny place. It's convenient, because I never have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, but it's also not the best place to get work done because my mom is always bursting into my room with a new lotion she wants me to try, or a new dress, or fruit smoothies. "Honey, do you want banana apple or mango strawberry? Here, why don't you try both and then decide." I went with the banana apple.
The internet is spotty because DSL out where my parents' live is notoriously fickle. And I'm hanging out in my old bedroom. I didn't get much work done over the past few days. Instead, I passed out on my bed for 3 hours in the afternoon as soon as I got home on Friday. This would've never happened if I'd stayed in Philadelphia. Probably because I'm always on some form of high alert at school. High alert! Exam coming up! High alert! Exam over, but only have 2 days to do laundry and clean room and pay bills before it all starts again!
And sprawling on my old childhood bed, even for 2 minutes, with the puppy poster still hanging on the wall and the ballet shoes strung by their ribbons on my closet door, just made me feel suddenly so tired. Of being grown-up and having all these responsibilities. So I slept. Like the dead. And woke up in a puddle of my own drool. This is what comes of sleeping face down.
So I've wandered through the days, studying a bit here and there, eating good food, having my dad harass me about my nosestud and telling me I have no class, fighting with Verizon DSL, and sleeping in the best bed ever. My mom made me a new duvet cover, with matching sheets and pillowcases that I just adore. She generally has good taste in fabrics and such, but sometimes it doesn't always overlap with my personal taste. She hit the dead ringer this time though. Not too much pink (the last set was atrociously girly), it's an austerely striped spring green, with small yellow flowers on the other side. Just girly enough. And... the pillow cases are white eyelet lace!!! I love eyelet. All the fabrics are so soft and fuzzy that I can't wait for it to be winter so I can bring it to Philadelphia and have it on my bed.
Needless to say, the Step hasn't been the first thing on my mind. But I realized that despite all its fights and all its drama, home is good for me. Because in a weird way, when my parents tear me down because of this or that, it's okay. Because I know they love me. And it reinforces who I am in some odd way. Every person feels different from the crowd at some point. The degree to which you feel your different-ness depends on whether you were a nerd when you were young (in which case you were constantly MADE to be aware of it), or captain of the soccer team. I don't think I ever got over being different when I was younger. There was always something to set me apart - first my funny British accent when I came to the States, and then the fact that I was two years younger than everyone else all through high school. I didn't like high school. I'd sit there, and wait all day to leave and go home. Then I'd blast through my homework as soon as I got back so I could do nothing but read fantasy novels for the rest of the night. Being under my parents' disapproving rule was better than being under the equally disapproving (if not more disapproving) eyes of teenage America.
So I traipsed through my house this morning wearing an old dress I found in my closet, with an army green t-shirt thrown over it. My parents absent mindedly said hello as my mom dyed my dad's hair in the backyard. And I realized that despite all our fights and complaints, and all the things my parents say I need to change if I want boys to like me, this is the place where it's okay to be me. At my oddest, I lived and thrived and loved and fought here. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I walked by the living room. I feel special here. Even with all my faults and problems. It's not like they go away when I step through my parents' doors. It just becomes okay to have them.
Posted by ink |
[Thursday, June 21, 2007]
Now that my test date is growing closer, I've been thinking about what to bring to the test center besides my registration form and ID. Apparently, this is something that med students (quintessential test takers) have a routine for. While I was starting to put together a little care-package for myself, a few people who have a standard practice weighed in:
Sam's Test Kit - To Be Taken BEFORE Exam Immodium Allegra Advil Gingko biloba pill Multi-vitamin **Make sure to make your own food the night before. Do NOT eat out.**
Lee's Test Kit Lunch - a sandwich. NO TURKEY. Drink - something fizzy and refreshing. NO FRUIT JUICES.
Tad's Test Kit. Lucky purple velour warm-up pants.
Ink's Test Kit. Arizona Green Tea Energy drink (canned - so pour into Nalgene bottle the night before for ease of drinking during breaks) Bread for lunch (no mayo, no deli meat) - LIGHT. Do not overdo and fall into food coma. Another Green Tea energy drink to fight the post-lunch afternoon slump. Sweater - in case the testing center is cold.
Posted by ink |
Some of the things I have to learn.
Pseudocyesis: false belief of being pregnant associated with objective physical signs of pregnancy
anosognosia: unawareness of one's illness/ailments (i.e. a blind person who is unaware that he/she is blind)
autotopagonosia: inability to locate one's own body parts
Posted by ink |
[Wednesday, June 20, 2007]
My problem with mnemonics is that I can never remember the mnemonic. Or, even worse - I remember the mnemonic but not what it belongs to.
Ondansetron keeps you danse-ing.
I racked my brain. Is it a medication for muscle stiffness? Something that inhibits acetylcholinesterase in the neuromuscular junction so your muscles can contract? Maybe it's a Parkinson's drug. Helps loosen you up so you're not stiff.
Answer: Ondansetron is an anti-emetic. It keeps you from throwing up so you can keep on danse-ing. Used for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Posted by ink |
[Tuesday, June 19, 2007]
Life and Medicine.
....are not compatible. Ironic, since most of us go into medicine because we want to work with lives instead of Excel sheets. Numerous critiques have been made about the medical training system, not just in the U.S., but also in the UK and all over the world. Does the training strip the life and will out of young doctors? Leaving them embittered and generally grouchy? After all, when they come in as first years, they're bright eyed and bushy tailed and generally very rose-colored-glasses about medicine. These are people who want to save the world. And make good money while doing it. But come on - let's face it, people who really want to make money don't go into medicine. There's faster and easier (and less painful) ways to do it.
That's what my friends in NY say to me. They're only now starting to realize that I left New York and started med school (two years ago. ha). Between confused Friendster and Facebook messages that ask me where I am now, I hear the same thing over and over again. "You go girl! Saving the world, one life at a time!" I suppose it's all relative. They're financing the world, one meeting at a time.
If only they could hear us in the library.
"So I've been thinking about becoming a rheumatologist. I mean, there aren't that many rheumatologic emergencies, right? No one dies suddenly of rheumatism. Okay, so your patients are a little crankier, but I think I can deal with that. The only thing is - you don't make that much. I looked up their salaries online."
If money could be separated from medicine, it'd be great. But the sad reality is that it's inextricably tied, not just because of natural human greed, but because of the cost of education. I received an email from Financial Aid last week, notifying me that I'm about to hit the federal lifetime maximum for student loans and that I won't have enough to graduate. I was told that I should "plan accordingly." What does that mean?! I suspect that the federal cap exists partly so they can distribute funds more evenly, but mostly because they know that once you go above a certain point - you're not going to be able to pay it back in your lifetime. I'm not collecting degrees here! My Bachelor's was paid for, courtesy of my parents. My Master's and my MD I'm paying for on my own (i.e. through student loans). What they didn't add to the picture of the American dream was the fine print - "Only one professional degree included. Maybe."
My emails to the Financial Aid office asking for the Federal Perkins loan (which isn't included in the federal cap) were rebuffed. "We reserve those for students who demonstrate need," I was told. "Maybe you could ask your family for support." As an older student, my parents are likewise older. They're less than ten years from retirement! Besides, as an individual in my late 20's who's held a good job at one point in her life, something inside me balks at the thought of asking my parents for money. The security guard at the library recently gave me a brochure that my med school has been sending out to their alumni. He pointed to the back cover. That's me. Sitting on the grass, laughing with two friends. There's a few problems here. A) The brochure was for the nursing school. I'm in the medical school. B) I wasn't receiving any royalties for this. Tuition discount? Anyone? I wanted to go to all the brochure distribution locations with a Sharpie and draw an arrow to myself saying "This girl won't graduate due to lack of funds."
Med school is like a bubble. You spend a lot of time in this fishbowl of a library, and real life goes on around you. Once in a while, the two worlds intersect, with disastrous results, and you're reminded sharply of how limiting a medical life can be. If you can call it a life. When I said that life and medicine weren't compatible, I wasn't speaking just of my own life. I was speaking of Life with a capital L. You know, Life at large. Not your own personal self-centered universe. My grandmother died last week. My dad took it really hard, and downstream of that, I took it really hard too. I'd only met my grandmother a grand total of three times. Ever. But she was obviously important to my dad, and seeing him in tears drove me to tears also as his voice broke on the phone when he called to tell me. There we were, two silly people on the phone - him in his car travelling on business and me on the streets of Philadelphia, sobbing. I wanted to be strong for him but instead I was a useless mess of snot. When will I grow up.
We flew out to California for the funeral. It was hard. Though I didn't know my grandmother that well, I cried for her. Because she was important to my dad, and my dad is important to me. Because she obviously really loved my dad, and I really love my dad - so that in of itself bound us together. She used to change his diapers. Between the emotional impact of attending the funeral of a family member for the first time, the funeral itself, and the flights, I lost about 4 days of boards studying. For some reason unknown to me, I thought I'd get work done on the plane. Did not happen. I came back and had to push my test date back by a week, and in the process also had to cancel my trip to Ecuador. I cried bitterly about it. 2007 has been a hard year (see countdown of bad 2007 things below), and I was really looking forward to travelling between my board exams and starting my surgery rotation. I cried bitterly because I hated med school. It just doesn't allow for life to happen around you. What was I supposed to do? Ask grandma to die at a more convenient time? Things happen. Even if she had died during the school year - it would've been bad. Considering that we had exams every 3 weeks (we had to pass each and every exam in order to pass second year. There's no 'averaging' here), there's a high probability she would've died during a pre-exam week. I would've had to go to the funeral, fail the exam, and be forced to retake the exam during the summer - which would mean that I'd have to push back my board exam date anyways.
How is cutting us off from our families , forcing us to choose between time spent in the library vs. with loved ones, going to make us better doctors? All the things they looked for in an applicant - someone well-rounded, with a larger perspective of the world, with life experience - these are all the things they take away from us when we enter the halls of medicine.
It occurred to me the other day as I was riding my bike that I should wear a helmet. Not just because it's the law, but because nothing can happen to me while I'm in medical school. Or to anyone in my family. I wanted to call my parents and tell them to not leave the house for a week until after I take my board exams on Monday the 25th. No one is allowed to have any accidents, or hurt themselves, or be a normal old person with health risks. You must die before 50, or remain in stasis until I graduate. You can get married and expect me to be in your wedding party, but you can't expect me to plan things. Not because we don't want to, or because we're workaholics, but because it's all we can do to survive and keep our heads above the water. I'm not trying to knock this out of the park here. I'm just trying to pass so I don't have to repeat a year of med school with money that I already don't have enough of.
Who chooses this. I don't know. People keep telling me that I'll love it once I get in the hospital. But right now, I just have this feeling of being tricked.
My friends in NY are all excited for me. You'll really do something with your life, they tell me. But I just want to be happy. That's why I left New York and finance and the corporate world. Not because I was searching for meaning in my life, or because I wanted to save the world, or because I wanted to leave a mark. Sure, that was part of it - but I left because I went in search of happiness. I thought money would lead me to happiness - but it didn't. So I thought that helping people would. The only problem is that I haven't met very many happy doctors.
big change, the choices we make
in life, gut instincts, on-the-whim
hairpin turns, the search for truth, the desire to be happy, the journey to finding out what
makes us happy.
being young and clueless, hoping
that we're not blindly leading ourselves to our own demise with every
tentative step we take, the pitfalls of dating, the trials
and travails of being a young woman in the post-feminist era.