When I Grow Up

Inspired by barefootmed’s post about passion, I decided to create a “mindmap” from a post I drafted up back in October of 2013 that illustrates my thought process as I was deciding what career would suit me best.

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This is of course a watered down version of the real deal. There were many other professions and disciplines that I considered going into whether it be for a moment or for an extended period of time. I wish I could say that I had it figured out in high school. I mean, I thought I did – like many other pre-meds, I had declared that I wanted to be a doctor back when I was 5 years old. But as you learn more about the world, you just realize there is just so much more out there than your generic, “teacher, firefighter, lawyer, doctor” spiel that you get in elementary school. Friends, movies, tv shows, books, professors, colleagues, people – they all gave me perspective.

While I am happy that I found my way back to my five-year old’s dream, up until two years ago, I honestly never knew why I was hell-bent on becoming a doctor. There aren’t any physicians in my immediate or extended family. I wasn’t exposed to death at an early age, nor was I diagnosed with any life-threatening disease that required frequent trips to the hospital. I had no fractures or broken bones growing up and I was seldom sick so the only time I would see my pediatrician was once a year during a wellness exam. That’s all. So why was I “passionate” about becoming a doctor when I couldn’t identify where that passion stemmed from?

High school students (and younger) are often led to believe that in order to find that right job for you, you must be passionate about it. This hit close to home for me because there were countless times in college and high school where I would find something science-related boring and question my intentions for going into the medical field. I had a high school guidance counselor who stood up to my freshmen class and told us that if we weren’t passionate about science and math, we were probably not going to become doctors. It struck a nerve then, and it still irks me now that a counselor would say that to students who barely had a grasp on what they wanted to do, let alone understood what the term “passionate” entailed. As someone who naturally excelled in English and History, I definitely started questioning myself after hearing just that one phrase. And that’s probably what spawned my inability to commit to one profession during my college years.

Of course, nothing beats being Mr. Feeny.

So back in October of 2013, months after graduating from college and on the brink of taking classes for the MCAT, I sat down and tried to logically explain what worked and what didn’t. And I came to the conclusion that it’s just not ONE thing that makes this profession suitable. It doesn’t boil down to passion. It stems from a myriad of factors including my likes, dislikes, and job expectations. And when all of that was taken into consideration, I just knew. Regardless of how long this process will take, nor how many hoops I need to jump through to get there, this is what I want to be when I grow up.

<3 A.

 

Countdown

Another year, another 31st of December, which means it is time, once again, to look back and see where my head was at this time last year. In a sense, readdressing my resolutions is like opening up a yearly time capsule. Let’s take a look at my 14 resolutions made on December 31, 2013:

1) Get a tattoo.

  • [x] On July 5, 2014, I got my first tattoo. And I know, on the grand scheme of things, this is somewhat trivial, but this was a major step for someone who always dreamed, but never followed through.

2) Apply to medical school.

  • [~] TBA

3) Develop a greater understanding for my culture, language, and religion.

  • [~] This is definitely an ongoing resolution, but I have made strides this year!

4) Go on an overseas medical trip.

  • [x] Made it happen! I went to Thailand and then some.

5) Learn how to play “Stop This Train” on the guitar.

  • [  ] Not yet.

6) Shed 10-20 lbs.

  • [~] I lost 20 lbs in Thailand when I was the happiest and experiencing minimal stress. It gave me great insight on how my life has to change to get to that point once again.

7) Attend at least one concert.

  • [x] The one and only, Jason Mraz.

8) Exercise a least five times a week and continue to make healthy food choices.

  • [~] Again, another ongoing process.

9) Learn to study smart and excel in future classes.

  • [x] YES. If I learned anything this year, it was that I had the potential all along.

10) Pay off my credit card debt and loans.

  • [x] Done and done.

11) Read at least two new books every month.

  • [x] Take a look at the right at my Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge!

12) Prioritize myself first when necessary, but be a better friend, sister, daughter, and community citizen.

  • [x] Learning when to say no and when to say yes.

13) Learn to stay calm and curb my anger.

  • [~] Ongoing process.

14) Stay optimistic, everything happens for a reason.

  • [x] If there is was one word to describe this year, it would be “acceptance“. I took me quite a while to come to the realization that regardless of who I was or am or where I come from, my story is one and only. There is no set path in this life, but if I remain hopeful, what will be, will be.

8/14 done properly. 5/14 are ongoing. And only 1 that has yet to be completed. 2014 may not have been significant in terms of life events, but this first gap year of mine provided me with some much-needed reassurance. I not only know what I want out of life, but I am a little more aware of how I should go about to do so. Here’s to hoping that 2015 will continue to provide me with the determination to manifest my desires and the encouragement to turn ideas into ideals.

And with that I leave you with my 2015 resolutions and my best wishes for an extraordinary new year!

 

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Happy New Year,

A.

What Now

It’s been a while since I have updated this blog. Or at least, it feels like a while – although in my defense, I’ve been sick for a good two weeks now! Being an aspiring physician, I know it is sinful to admit that I usually avoid getting the flu vaccine. But when you’re hit with a strong bout of the flu for the first time in years shortly after agreeing to take the flu shot, you do begin to wonder. Anyway, enough of that tangent. My first round of midterms are coming up and I figured that as long as I am procrastinating memorizing all those bone diagrams for my anatomy exam tomorrow, I might as well churn out another post!

Where can I begin? To be honest, as soon as the MCAT was over, weeks began to blend together and before I knew it, we were in mid-March. It’s all one big blur of laughter, tears, and food. I did get my score back and initially, I wasn’t too happy with it given that I had a goal score in mind. However, after a few days of processing, as well as a few emails from medical schools encouraging me to apply, I have come to appreciate my score. Will I take the MCAT again? Maybe? It’s all up in the air right now, but since a new format of the MCAT is taking over next year, there are PLENTY of dates (like three in August!) left, if I decide to commit to an endless hour study marathon again. For now, I am content.

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As you might be able to tell from above, I also started/finished watching Happy Endings. I totally recommend it if you’re looking for a 30-minute “pick me up/study break” sort of TV show. Sadly, it only lasted for three seasons – more of a reason to check out this cult favorite!

Recently on Twitter, I’ve noticed numerous schools trending as high school students have been getting their acceptance letters (and I guess for the NCAA bracket). This past Friday, #UCLAbound began trending, putting me in a major flashback friday. It was just five years ago that I was in a similar position. I was a nervous wreck, but not because I was awaiting to hear from my “dream school” – more so because I just wanted to get into the schools I applied to. There was no real reasoning behind why I applied to the schools that I ended up applying to – some were from recommendations from others, some were from some internet browsing, and some were simply television-influenced (like Yale and Gilmore Girls). And when I decided to ultimately submit my ‘SIR’ to UCLA it was more for my family than anything else. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it is an amazing school; but I certainly didn’t decide to go there because of the athletics, or the Psychology department, or the food …. well, maybe a little bit because of the food, haha.

although we never had anything as fancy as this

although we never had anything as fancy as this

This is all coming back to me now, not only because it has been half a decade since, but come this summer, I’ll be going through another major application cycle once more. Sure, I sort of went through that process last year with graduate schools, but I had no idea what I was doing and my plan was haphazardly thrown together – sort of like when I was applying to undergraduate schools come to think of it. This time though, I know what I want, but even more so, I know what kind of environment I can thrive in.

I am currently taking classes at a community college for the first time. And not to offend anyone who has attended community college, but I was a little hesitant diving in given some of the horror stories I had heard. However, not only was it easier to sign up for classes than it was at a university, but these classes are SMALL. Compared to my Life Science courses ranging from 300 to 400 students, there are about 30-35 students in one of my biology classes. Amazing. My professors knew my name by week two and there was not a moment when I felt lost in a crowd.

As I begin to narrow down my MD/DO options for this upcoming cycle, I realize that the schools that I decide on must provide me the same sort of feeling that I have been relishing in community college. Regardless of school status or “fame”, the schools I choose must be on the smaller end when it comes to class sizes. Now I know that might be more harmful than helpful given that there are less spots to compete for – but at the end of the day, if I know I’ll end up drowning in a 500-person class setting, why place myself in one? Along with small class sizes, I also want to consider affordability and residency placement. Though I am a Southern California-bred gal, I don’t think temperature should keep me from applying – I think that’s more of a consideration when I (hopefully) am accepted and (possibly) narrowing down schools.

So what now? Well, at this point, I would love to hear if any of you have any pieces of wisdom regarding school selection or recommendations. All of the blogs that I am following have been incredibly helpful already and I am sincerely grateful, but if you find that you have anything to add, I would love to hear it. Until then, I’ll continue to work on my personal statement and relish this in-between year!

<3 A.

“What Now” – Rihanna

“This Is The New Year” (almost)

I know it’s an overdone thought – to make resolutions by the 1st of the year. And while I do agree that resolution-making can happen any time, what I like most about my New Year’s resolutions, is that I can look back and see where my head was at this time last year. Let’s take a look at my 13 resolutions made on December 31, 2012:
1.) Get accepted into a Child Life Masters Program

  • [  ] Not only did I switch from Chid Life to Developmental Psychology, but as we all know, I ended up deferring my acceptance.

2.) Keep tabs on UCLA Happenings and attend more events – it’s my senior year!

  • [~] While I did not really keep tabs, I did attend more events and ended my year with an event in Royce Hall.

3.) Have two more successful quarters for CEC and leave behind a positive legacy

  • [X] It depends on what you define as “positive legacy”, but personally, I gave CEC my all and looking back, I’m proud of what I accomplished.

4.) Learn how to play “Stop This Train” on guitar

  • [~] I took some steps towards this goal. I enrolled in guitar lessons and have learned a few songs including “Stay” by Rihanna.

5.) Take advantage of megabus’s $1 offer and take a semi-spontaneous trip to San Francisco

  • [X] I did ride the Megabus, but to Vegas, not SF. It was definitely not spontaneous, not did it cost me a mere $1. More like that + 40 more smackaroos. And to be honest, it wasn’t as great as I was hoping it would be. (*Sidenote: But I DID take a spontaneous trip to Davis via the Amtrak and while it wasn’t cheap, it was an amazing trip with one of my best friends*)

6.) Take a trip to Las Vegas, post-21

  • [X] Yessir and it was quite an experience.

7.) Exercise at least twice a week and slowly expand that to every day

  • [~] This didn’t really kick in until the latter half of the year, but better late than never!

8.) Follow a healthier eating regimen – take multiple trips to Ralphs and be conscious of all foods

  • [~] Still working on this, but I have definitely made changes in the houeshold. Now to get my mother to use brown rice instead of white.

9.) As always, go to at least one concert

  • [X] Not only did I go to multiple concerts, but I attended the CONCERT of concerts – Coachella. Check and mate.

10.) Attempt to do better in school – whether this means, procrastinate less, prioritize/focus more, or simply, thrive in new setting

  • [  ] I’m still working on this. Study smart, procrastinate less, concentration endurance – tips are welcome!

11.) Write consistently in this blog, every day, for the entire year

  • [  ] Oh, I wrote this with the intention of having a separate 2013 blog that represented blogging for 365 days. But by Day 22 I realized that I didn’t have the time, nor that interesting of a life, to fulfill this.

12.) Finally close that “7-year” chapter and do what I need to do to move on.

  • [X] Done and done.

13.) Never lose faith. Everything happens for a reason, so keep powering through.

  • [X] Losing faith in life is like losing the will to live. With everything thrown at me this year, I think I’ve managed to say afloat, no?

6/13 done properly. 4/13 done so so. And 3 that were just not completed – but I wouldn’t count them as failures. 2013 will always be significant to me as this was the year I graduated UCLA and came out as a recipient of a Bachelor’s Degree.

This time last year, I was trying to rebuild an image that had been demolished by certain events. I wanted to keep moving forward despite all the signs telling me to slow down. This year, I’m hoping to discover myself  and really focus on my emotional, physical, and psychological well-being, while keeping in mind of my friends and family who have been with me through thick and thin. Here’s to hoping that 2014 not only brings me one step closer to an acceptance to medical school, but an awareness of who I am .

One key lesson for the year:

Value yourself. The more you ­elevate your self-worth, the more you will ­attract what you desire.

And with that I leave you with my 2014 resolutions and my sincere wishes for a wonderful new year. Cheers!
Au revoir, 2013.

Au revoir, 2013.

Happy New Year,

A.

Reintroduction of Serendipity

Given that today is Thanksgiving, albeit a Hallmark-driven holiday, I figured it would be the right time to reintroduce my blog’s theme, “serendipity”. It is times like these, when you reflect on what you are thankful for, that you realize how much these fortunate accidents tend to shape your life for the better.

I originally stumbled across this word when watching the movie, Serendipity (which is a great holiday movie, by the way!), starring Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack.

Jonathan: This is the ultimate blend to drink. How’d you find this place?

Sara: I first came in because of the name: Serendipity. It’s one of my favorite words.

Jonathan: It is? Why?

Sara: It’s such a nice sounding word for what it means: a fortunate accident.

After this film, I began to witness how “serendipity” truly plays a character in our daily lives – and for all those times I can count, the outcome is always better.

An example? My Applied Developmental Psychology (ADP) minor at UCLA. I had known from the moment I started college that I wanted to minor in Applied Developmental Psychology. However, when I applied my sophomore year, I wasn’t accepted and I was absolutely heart-broken. Along with the disappointment, I wasn’t too keen on applying soon after. Less than a year later, however, while busy with plans to study abroad in the summer, I decided to apply last-minute on a whim. I’m not sure what consumed me, but despite the application being due the following day, I just knew I had to get it in. So in less than 24 hours, I contacted and received a spur-of-the-moment letter of recommendation from my 5th grade teacher and mentor (thank you, Mrs. Burke!) and was able to submit in a complete application. Two weeks later, I was offered a spot for the Summer 2012 cohort.

Spontaneity for the win, right? And sure, my plans for studying abroad were scratched. But as my good friend, Diana, noted today when I saw her, there’s always tomorrow. Back in high school, we planned on going to Spain together. Maybe that’s meant to be or maybe we’ll find our way there through some alternate path. While I advocate studying abroad in college, it just wasn’t in the books for me; but what I got out of my minor is priceless. Along with all the interactions with the children, I have met some of the most remarkable people through this minor. Some outside of my cohort, who supported me when I struggled to fulfill pre-med requirements and my minor requirements by overlapping classes and taking the maximum amount of units (thank you, Yujia!). And some inside my cohort, including one of my good friends post-graduation, Marina. I mention Marina because I had dinner with her a few weeks back. And it was then that I thoroughly explained to her about everything that went down with Columbia. Without hesitation, criticism, or disbelief, she simply said the following phrase. A phrase that was reiterated by my former partner-in-crime, Jessica, who I met up with this week,

“I feel like you’re doing you”

And that’s what I am thankful for – being surrounded by friends and family who understand where my true passions lie and are willing to believe in my dreams. I have done some crazy things in the past, but despite all that, they all have faith in me. My father, my mother, my sister. My advisors, mentors, and role models. My best friends from 4th grade, my friends from college and my friends in high school. Now I just need faith in myself, in my destiny, as I make my way towards medical school.

Along with Diana, I reconnected with Tim, a friend who will one day be one of the most powerful motivational speakers out there. He wrote this great gratitude speech, so while you’re dealing with that post-dinner food coma, check it out. In short, I am thankful for my failures along with successes. Without them, I would not be where I am today. If I wasn’t rejected the first time, I would have never met the people I did in my cohort in ADP. To sum it up, I am thankful for serendipity.

In gratitude,

A.

gobble gobble

gobble gobble

It’s a Journey

Following my grand gesture a little more than a month ago, when I voluntarily decided to opt out of graduate school, I made a promise to myself that I would use this “time off” wisely. I try to stray away from the words “vacation” or “break”, because in my mind, this year off is just as crucial to my applicant status as the years at UCLA were. So I need to be productive. Not busy, but productive. And likewise, I can’t indulge in this new-founded free time. I’m not saying that I have never had free time to myself when I was at UCLA. Realistically, I have so much time to spare that I finished seven seasons of 7th Heaven in a month during the summer, along with taking classes. But at the same time, I never had time to myself to be productive. I’m gluttonous when it comes to free time. I tend to soak it in – which means sitting in bed in my pajamas watching TV and being a couch potato. That’s what I have always done when I  have wanted a mental break from school, home, work, and life.

But this “time off” is not a mental break. It’s more mental preparation for what is to come. Especially now that I have decided that I am really, truly, whole-heartedly going to dive into this doctor thing. In the past month, I have started shadowing doctors to gain a better understanding of what to expect. Per my primary care physician’s recommendation, I have looked into osteopathic, along with allopathic careers. Three months ago, if you had asked me what the difference between a DO and MD were, I would have looked at you with complete and utter bewilderment. Fast forward to now, and I am shocked at how little I really knew of the medical field. Maggie Gyllenhaal once commented that her Columbia education taught her to

“acknowledge that I really know nothing”

Well, you can say that this time spent researching and shadowing has done just the same in my case. I have wanted to a pediatrician since kindergarten. Why a pediatrician? I liked children. I liked being surrounded by fresh faces and young minds. Great personal statement for what motivates me to be a doctor, right? So as much as I am drawn to pediatrics, I have decided to look at other specialities via shadowing. Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, OB/GYN, to name a few. And so far, every occupation I’ve looked into has strengthened my resounding want to become a health professional. It is not about one speciality, it is about the whole package. And being a doctor is not just a “job”. It is a lifelong journey that I need to be emotionally, mentally, and physically ready to take on.

“You’re too lax”

This was told to me in 10th grade by a girl who was extremely gifted. When I first heard her utter these words, I was in complete and utter shock. I, of all people, lax? Are you kidding me? I have never been as tightly wounded as I was back in high school. So I took in those words and promised myself that I would some day meet up with her again and be able to throw them back in her face. Petty? Extremely – especially now that I realize that she wasn’t completely wrong. I may have been a “tight-ass” in high school, but at the same time, I had such idealistic/naïve views of the medical field. They told me it was going to be hard. They told me that I would meet thousands of crazy pre-med students in the same scenario. But I sort of half-listened as I charmed my way out of high school, not really knowing how to study, and optimistically thinking that becoming a doctor meant taking a test and getting into a school.

Thankfully, I have been given the time to really discover how being/becoming a doctor is multi-faceted. And through this knowledge, comes acceptance and understanding of what I must overcome – not only in this year or next year, but for years to come. It’s a bit hilarious really, thinking of how, a month ago, I cringed at the thought of disappointing so many people by not carrying out a false dream of mine. Now I cringe thinking of all I might have lost if I decided to blindly follow my mind.

Sometimes it pays to consult your heart. As corny as that may sound, I really think regrets stem from solely following either your brain or heart and not allowing a dialogue between the two. Sure, I don’t have the hustle and bustle of a city. I can’t call myself a graduate student or revel in the immensity of Columbia University. But I do wake up every day at 7 or 8 AM. I learn more about this field that I am dedicating my life to and I get to read often. I have become a regular at Planet Fitness with my two best friends. I have fallen in love with the guitar. I get to find the beauty and importance in the little things. Sure, it’s not New York, but I have never been healthier or happier.

And with that, I leave you with this hilarious comic:

My personal favorites are Pediatrics and Radiology [:

My personal favorites are Pediatrics and Radiology [:

<3 A.

Unpredictable Until the End

Nearly a month ago, I had booked my one-way ticket to New York and was ecstatic at the possibility of a new life. Fast forward to today and not only am I still in sunny California, but I am in fact, not attending graduate school for the time being. Many may question this decision – in fact, many may assume that I simply “chickened out” or was all talk. But I can assure you, up until last night, my bag was packed and I was still enrolled in my classes at Columbia. And yet, this past week has been filled with so many events – “omens” you might say – that influenced my decision to stay. So I guess you could say that while it was decided last-minute, it was in no way a “last-minute decision”.

As I wrote in my previous post, an unexpected situation arose with the apartment. Months before, I thought I had secured an apartment and well-known apartment mates who would be understanding, communicative, and all above, kind – given that we were all Resident Assistants, I more so expected this than hoped for it. However, as the date for my arrival drew closer, certain unattractive characteristics began to unveil themselves. I could list out all of them here, but what would be the point? To reiterate, I am known to be a people-pleaser. What I hate more than anything else, is disappointing people. So to drop out of my apartment as quickly as I did must be supported by some legitimate reasons. Which I would be more than happy to discuss in person. Until then, let’s just say these misgivings grew to the point where I felt absolutely unsettled about the big move.

This past week, I felt as if I was burdened down with something I couldn’t quite pinpoint. As I continued to attempt to salvage the apartment situation, I began to think of alternative options. One possibility was to simply find a new apartment. Another possibility was – to the satisfaction of my mother – stay at home and instead, focus on my goal from elementary school. When I came into UCLA and immersed myself in the science curriculum, I was immediately discouraged. I began to doubt myself and my chances of getting into medical school and in fear of failure, I began to contemplate alternative career paths. Of course, those who were closest to me, such as my best friends and family, could not wrap their minds around this change in occupation. However, I had the support of those who did not know me quite as well and who believed that college was a time for change. So I readily morphed into someone who was never sure of what she wanted to be from the beginning. I ignored deadlines, the MCAT, and anything else that should have been done in preparation for medical school during my undergraduate career.

Fast forward to the end of senior year and I finally realized that I squandered away an opportunity on fear alone. So while I had decided to go to graduate school in Columbia for my Masters degree, I promised myself I would still take some steps towards becoming a doctor, whether that would be preparing and signing up for the MCAT or taking additional science courses on top of the courses necessary for my degree. I think that’s something many people have to understand – yes, it was Columbia. Yes, I had a set future. Yes, I could have gone on to pursue a PhD degree. However, this was my back-up plan. As much as I enjoyed Developmental Psychology in college, I really couldn’t see my life’s career being built around it.  Fear, rejection, the thought of not being where I wanted to be by the age of thirty – these thoughts and expectations are what fueled me to go the practical route and have a back-up plan rather than taking the plunge and fighting for what I love.

Of course, I considered the fact that this could be me, making up excuses once again for the condition known as “cold feet”. Could it be that my nerves are just getting to me? Maybe I am meant to go to New York. I know my mother is against it. I know my relatives in Sri Lanka are against it  – with the daily texts from my uncle and what not. So maybe their insecurities are what I’m currently feeling? But then, I spoke to my best friend, Siobhan, and reasoned everything out. And the next day, my best friends – JPAACKS – took  me out for a farewell lunch. And when I told them that I was considering deferring Columbia and just staying here to pursue my medical dream, they were absolutely ecstatic for me – happy that I was the “old” Anantha once more. And that’s when I knew for sure. If the people I love, see this as a viable option, then perhaps I am doing the right thing after all.

I told everyone that these are my “selfish years” – my only opportunity to go off to New York and discover more about myself. But being selfish means doing what I want. And after four years of throwing myself into school, volunteering, work, and research, I’m taking a break. A break from a schedule and doing some self-improvement in the comfort of my own home. Many of my fellow graduates cringe at the thought of going back to the nest. But let’s face it – I will have more opportunities in life to travel and explore. But the years are numbered when it comes to spending time with my family. How many more Halloweens will I have to actively participate in candy handouts with my family? How many more Christmases and Hindu holidays? I took this all for granted back in high school, but I do not intend to take these days for granted during my “one-year break”.

This year is still dedicated to me. I’ll be writing in my blog, working on ideas for a novel, exploring nearby cities and traveling, and hitting the gym with my best friends. But I’ll also be working towards my long-term goal of being a doctor. It’s going to be hard work – I know it. But I know whole-heartedly that this is what I want. And regardless of the number of years it takes, I’m going to get there. So with that, I have a new countdown – in five months’ time, I’ll be conquering the MCAT.

Until then,

A.