“Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” – H.H. The 14th Dahlai Lama
For the most part, my blog has remained pretty quiet since Thailand. Save for the occasional advertising for Accepted.com, I have been doing a lot of reflecting these past few months.
Let’s back up a bit. To the summer when AMCAS had opened and I was putting together my AMCAS application. I knew I wouldn’t be submitting my application on June 1st. In fact, I had decided to submit early August because I still had a few loose ends to tie up. Quite a few people voiced their opinions against waiting two months longer to submit, but I knew that I wasn’t entirely ready June 1st and I wanted to be 100% ready when I submitted my application. However, come August, I started having doubts about entering the application cycle all together this year. Early August became late August and before I knew it, it was time to go off to Thailand. So I decided to put the process on hold and apply to schools with later deadlines when I arrived home in October. However, when I came back from my rendezvous in Asia, I was convinced that the only way to get more traveling in was to go to a medical school abroad. I put a pause on all my current application attempts and threw myself into research in order to find a way where I could combine my love for traveling and medicine. Until I realized that if I wanted to attend a residency program at one of my dream schools, I would have an easier time actually attending a U.S. medical school.
Some time by the end of October, my gnawing feeling turned into growing realization that I would not be entering the 2015 admissions cycle. And oddly enough, I was comforted by that fact. One more year to really put together an outstanding application. One more year to proceed according to a checklist and officially submit everything on the day AMCAS opens. One more year to apply for financial aid so that I am granted a fee waiver well before the application is available.
Looking back at my old drafts from the summer, there were many times where I voiced how I would love to just wait another year if it’s weren’t for my biological clock. I am all for a feminist view when it comes to the workforce, but let’s face it, it is hard to solely focus on your career when you want to factor in a family as well. And for me, another year off meant another year that I would have to wait to fulfill another desire of mine.
But I knew, I knew deep down in my heart back in June . . . back in May, that I was not ready. I may have had my MCAT score and a few letters of recommendation lined up, but I was not financially or mentally prepared to go into battle. And at the end of the day, I want to take my time. I rushed through high school and I rushed into college. Granted, everyone in my life seems to moving forward. But at the same time, slow and steady wins the race. And as we established before, the journey to medical school and beyond is a marathon, not a sprint.
Everyone around me has different opinions. My parents, my friends, my colleagues, and my classmates – all have high expectations for me. They only know parts of my story, so they don’t understand why I haven’t already started the next chapter of my life. I know many of them will be confused with why I am stalling – in fact, I fear that many of them will believe that I am wasting my time away. But I’m not.
I was the student in undergrad who skipped lectures and discussion sections in order to pick up an extra hour or two of work here or there. I was the student who selected the lowest meal plan, 11 meals a week, in order to save a bit of money, which meant I skipped lunch every day and ate one meal a day on the weekends. I was the student who didn’t have my family’s financial support nor any financial guidance, and ending up running her credit score into the ground to salvage payments due for school. I didn’t go out nearly as much as I could/should have and on the rare occasion that I did, I wouldn’t allow myself to buy anything. It was sort of miserable.
Is it unfortunate that I will be 3 years behind my fellow Class of 2013 graduates? To put it in simple terms, yes. But if I only focus on that one aspect, I won’t realize the benefits I have already reaped from taking time off. Regardless of schooling or age, every individual is different and each and every story varies to some degree. My background has led me to where I am now, and while some might scoff at the delay, I know that this is the right thing to do for me.
So this year, no doubts, not buts, I am throwing in my hat for the 2016 admissions cycle. I’ve already begun throwing around a few 20/20 vision jokes with my mother, so hopefully (fingers crossed), I will get a seat for the class of 2020. Sure, I’ll probably graduate medical school when I am 29 or even 30, but I hope you take it as a sign of maturity when I say that life does not end at 30 and I certainly don’t plan for anything less. I will defeat the odds. Women should not have to race against time in order to fulfill both their personal and career goals. I want a family and I want to be a physician, but I also want to be the best person that I can be. And if that requires more time, well then I will take the time I need without regret.
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.
Happy New Year,
Two days ago, I felt both my breath and heart pause as I noticed the subject line of one of my emails. At first glance, I thought that the email, announcing a Facebook message, was simply spam and my mouse hovered over the delete button. But curiosity set in, and before I could stop myself, I opened this message that was sent at 2 AM and was completely thrown off balance.
I have been in love once before. It was hard, fast, and all-consuming. And whenever I told someone, they would shrug it off as a petty crush and nothing more. But I felt something – I knew something was there and the pull between us was indescribable. It wasn’t some big secret either, everyone and anyone could sense our chemistry. But we both came from strict households and therefore neither of us could ever dream of pursuing an interest. But the thing is, and it has been dawning on me more and more after reading this message, we may have been the best of friends, but I certainly wasn’t treated with due respect. And I think my love for him was what masked this unacceptable behavior.
He was intelligent, quirky, quick-witted, and had a thirst for knowledge that I found enthralling. I have always been clever, but in his presence, I pushed myself even further both academically and socially, tapping into potential I did not realize I had. He was the first person I spoke to when I woke up and the last person I said good night to before I went to bed. There was never a dull moment between us because there was always something to discuss, something to debate on. But with the wit, came the subtle insults. Crass speech that I didn’t particularly care for, but despite my protests, he would use regardless. Back then, I was the type of girl who didn’t utter a single term of profanity – so I understood that not everyone would abide by my moral standards. But it wasn’t just the speech, it was the words that were thrown at me. I had never cried over someone until he walked into my life. Words – hurtful, despicable language – cloaked in jargon so sesquipedalian, that I felt both insignificant and moronic simultaneously.
We were not in a relationship. We were not lovers, nor were we anything but close friends. But under that shield of “friendship”, I was in love with him, and so I took in what I could, without any reprimands and without walking away. All this time, all these years, I didn’t see it for what it was. I’m not sure – maybe because in my head, I associated it with solid relationships? Familial, martial – relationships of that sort. But in actuality, abuse – verbal, physical, emotional, mental – can happen between anyone and at any time. Certainly between friends, most certainly between close friends.
I fell in love with him, and for seven years of my life, I went through a roller coaster of emotions. As if I was looking through a window, I witnessed my demeanor shift and change and watched as my thoughts grew darker with every interaction. I tried to move on from him as quickly as possibly. I tried to cut ties, and when that failed, I tried to become friends again. That chemistry between us, that never died, but now looking back, neither did his behavior toward me. My thoughts were discounted and my gender was used against me more often that not – I was patronized for the beliefs I held. Sure, there was some support – some words of encouragement, but just around the corner was another belittling statement.
Last year, with the end of school, I finally was able to let go. Gone were any feelings of love and respect. Gone were the feelings of pain and seeking revenge. I simply let go, and I’ve had such a happy year where I’ve grown so much.
Fast forward to Wednesday. His message was a six paragraph long apology detailing his sorrow for acting the way he did toward me. I’ve probably read this message over 50 times in the past 48 hours, agonizing over whether I should respond or not, and if so, how? My entire life, my “busy and exciting life that I am blessed with” as he so elegantly put it, was put on pause. My thoughts were naught by his words and figuring out what the underlying meaning was. Because you see, not only was this an apology to me – it was an apology to the entire female race. Someone he was familiar with had became a sexual predator and victimized mutual friends of theirs and he was suddenly hit with the realization that his misogynistic behavior contributed to this scenario. So this six paragraph long message is also a declaration of how he will stand up for women in this fight against sexual violence. And all of that, which, don’t get me wrong, is great and everything, had me utterly confused on why I was being associated with abuse given I have never been the recipient.
But it finally hit me. It hit me just moments ago. There is no ulterior motive to his actions. From what I can gather, there was no malice laced in his words. He just happened to arrive at a conclusion that I should have seen long ago. The friendship we had – as fated as it seem to be – was toxic. He never laid a hand on me, but his words were weapons enough to bring me down and force me into my own shell. Even his lack of communication, times when he would suddenly withdraw and leave me with cryptic sayings, was in a way, a form of abuse. He would leave and then come back, play with the strings that made up me and eventually, led to my unraveling.
As someone who believes in rehabilitation and second chances, I am content that he has seen the error of his ways and is trying to take steps towards becoming a better man. But I won’t be replying to his apology. There is no reason to – I’ve put the past behind me and his message only affirms my actions. I will never be the same person I was before I met him – that I know. But I will also never, ever put myself in a similar situation, and for that, I thank him.
After a brilliant month of traveling Asia, I arrived back home a few weeks ago with my heart torn. I encountered what everyone experiences after an enthralling vacation – post-travel depression. I just simply was not interested in immersing myself into my old routine after embarking on what turned out to be an incredibly life-changing experience. So when I finally came home, I wasn’t just reminiscing about all the good times – I began to wonder what I could do to get back into such a state where my stress level was at a minimum and life was absolutely beautiful. Everyone keeps asking me how my trip was – and rightfully so. But it is quite difficult to sum up such an experience with mere words.
“How was your adventure? How was Thailand?”
“The trip was amazing. Thailand was absolutely amazing. Given that my internship was in Thailand, there wasn’t a lot of red tape so I was able to be up close and personal with surgical procedures and witness a variety of diseases that affect the Thai children. Along with that, I was able to do a bunch of touristy things including bungee jumping, elephant riding, ATV-ing, and ziplining. But the best thing about Chiang Mai was the people – I met people from all over the world and hearing various perspectives in a program that wasn’t American-driven was absolutely refreshing – but yah, amazing!”
“Tell me more!”
Not to say that this little blurb I repeated isn’t true. It just doesn’t sufficiently capture what I felt – am still feeling – inside. For example, I saw more in Chiang Mai than landmarks and hospital procedures – I witnessed my confidence build up as I traveled around Asia. I’m not sure if it was because I was solely on my own, but I had a fire inside of me that kept me strong. You see, I have always had self-image issues. Whether it be my body, my hair, my face, my teeth, my skin – I have never been comfortable with myself. So you would think that in a place where the humidity was at a max and my hair was completely unmanageable, I would have folded into a shell. And yet, it didn’t bother me because I was too busy enjoying myself. I ran around the hospital in my scrubs, involved myself in every touristy thing possible, and every single night, played volleyball in the pool. My fear did not inhibit me and my stress level was at an all-time low. And although my physical/eating habits were the same (except rice was a staple in breakfast, lunch, AND dinner), I lost close to 20 lbs when I finally arrived back in America.
A picture is definitely worth a 1000 words in this scenario and I hope through a combination of photos and words, I can provide a detailed, yet concise summary of my time in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Singapore. I also accumulated some traveling tips and decided to dedicate a page on my blog with my thoughts on what to bring, what to wear, etc.
- Chiang Mai (Thailand)
I spent two weeks in Chiang Mai for my GapMedics internship. I was placed in Nakornping Hospital with my first week dedicated to the Pediatrics ward and the second in the Obs & Gyn ward. Given that c-sections are a common procedure in Thailand, I found myself in the Surgery wing a lot and was able to witness a lot more than just c-sections and sterilizations. Our work day typically began at 8 AM with an early commute to the hospital and our shadowing would end at 3 PM. After that we had free time until dinner at 7 PM, followed by global tutorials which was taught by a local RN. Given that most of us were there for only two weeks, we spent every day doing something differently. After global tutorials, we would run into the swimming pool until 10/11 PM and then go into “the white room” where we played cards and spoons until 1 AM. I ran on about 6 hours of sleep every day, but there was never a moment when I felt exhausted or lethargic.
Monday: On the first day of my pediatrics rotation, I was able to hold a patient in the NICU who was recovering for pneumonia. Given that it was my cohort’s “first day”, the tradition is to spend only a half-day at the hospital so that we could take a tour of the city center and experience some of the local cuisine with one of our program’s coordinators. I was also able to score a pair of these stylish elephant pants which brought me one step closer to becoming a legit Thai tourist! Along with our global tutorial courses, we also had an additional, one-time language course so that we could get a few Thai phrases down for our hospital placement. “Sawadee Ka” (hello/goodbye) & “Khob Khun Ka” (thank you) became frequently used phrases in the household.
Tuesday: Tuesday was “Temple Tuesday” where we climbed up to the tallest temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which had a beautiful view of all of Chiang Mai. In the hospital, we spent the first half of the day in the Hemato Clinic where we witnessed many children who were anemic. One girl had such severe anemia that her facial features were affected to the point where she had no cheekbones and a flat nose bridge.
Wednesday: After several convincing arguments given by my fellow peds group member, I agreed to go bungee jumping on Wednesday. On the day, we also spent time in the HIV clinic where we got to palpate an enlarged liver in a 3 year old little boy.
Thursday: Apparently Thursday nights in Thailand are similar to Thursday nights in college towns across the US – so for our first Thursday in Chiang Mai, we celebrated with a BBQ Pool Party and a trip to the local night market, which was followed by a ladyboy show and clubbing at the poppin’ club, Zoe’s. During our internship, we spent time in the PICU where a heart patient who had contracted pneumonia was rushed in as we were entered the wing. We spent the rest of the session watching as a team of ten nurses and doctors hurried to intubate and hook up the patient to several monitors.
Friday: Given that the GapMedics program is a year-long program, some of the people we started off the week with were actually finishing up their two/three week stints. So we had to say good bye to some dear friends and then hurry off on our “Hill Tribe Weekend” adventure. Below was my pediatrics group for the week with representatives from the UK, Maldives, Italy, and the US!
Saturday: On our first full day of the “Hill Tribe Weekend”, we ended up going elephant riding, white river, rafting, waterfall sliding, and experiencing some amazing thai massages. We lived with a Thai family in an elevated bamboo hut and woke up to some of the most gorgeous sights and freshest air. We ended the night sitting on the deck and singing while watching the youngest boy try scaring the sole male member of our group. I also scored my first bracelet after bargaining with the women for 10 minutes.
Sunday: On the last day of our “Hill Tribe Weekend” adventure we visited Tiger Kingdom where we had the option of seeing small, medium, big, and large tigers – I went for the biggest! We also ziplined before arriving back at the GapMedics household. After a quick swim, we ended the night by attending the Sunday Night Market.
Monday: Our second Monday marked the beginning of a new placement, which for me was my stint in Obs & Gyn. Since it was a half-day to welcome in the new kids, us oldies decided to ride ATVs. Although it was supposed to be a three-hour gig, we ended up spending over four hours riding through the forest and the countryside and by the time we had finished, it was pitch dark outside. I also realized that although I was one of the few people in my group with an actual license, my skills in ATVing are subpar, evident in the fact that I rode into a cornfield -.-
Tuesday: On our second Tuesday, we decided to visit the Umbrella Factory and score some souvenirs for ourselves and our loved ones. As one would surmise from the name, this store created some beautful umbrellas. But what was special about this particular location was the artistry involved. Inside the store, you can select from a variety of items ranging from phone cases to scrolls to fans to lanterns. Really, anything or everything was there – and if it wasn’t, you had the option of bringing in an outside item. Then you venture outside where there is a row of artists, all gifted in their own way and who, for a small price, can paint you a one-of-a-kind piece of work. Below, my artist painted a scenic waterfall with two elephants on a scroll for me.
Wednesday: Waterfall Wednesday allowed us to once again, appreciate the natural beauty of Chiang Mai. Climbing up and down the waterfalls and laughing at our antics was a reminder that sometimes it’s the simplest of things that provide us with the utmost pleasure.
Thursday: Another Thursday meant another trip to the local night market where we witnessed a different, but equally entertaining, ladyboy show and an unforgettable night at Zoe’s. But a sweet memory for me was the aftermath of Zoe’s – after tucking respective people to bed, we ended up being the last four awake and simply proceeded to swap life stories in the white room at 2 AM.
Friday: You know, I wish I could say I had an amazing last day of my internship on Friday. However, the more remarkable moments occurred at the local cafe where we often spent our lunch time at. Speaking of lunch, did I mention that a lunch consisting of AMAZING Thai food in decent portions came out to be about a $1? And then a refreshing drink at this cafe with free wi-fi was another $1. So all in all, $2 dollars spent a day for an overall lunch meal. We also visited Zoe’s again since it was the club’s 25th Anniversary and lit lanterns at our farewell dinner.
Saturday: On our final day at the GapMedics house, we decided to spend the day swimming in the pool that we had fallen in love with. There was only a few of us left as most people had gone to Hill Tribe Weekend, Phuket, or another weekend adventure. One of my friends made ramen for lunch for all of us and after a few more hours of swimming, we left for the airport. I admit, I shed quite a few tears as I said good bye to people who had become some of my closest friends in a matter of weeks.
- Sri Lanka
Because I was in Sri Lanka for quality family time than anything else, I spent many days sitting outside on the balcony with my favorite grandmother and just listening to stories of her past. During the day, my aunt and I would watch Tamil movies that had just come out and at night, when my uncle came home, we would explore parts of Colombo. On a day that my uncle was able to take off, we took a trip to Sigiriya, a World Heritage Site. It is an ancient palace that was built on top of a rock, and was selected by the king due to it being 660 ft high. And we ended up climbing all the way to the top to witness the scenery and the magnificence of the area. We also took a detour to the Dambulla Cave Temple – another World Heritage Site that has been preserved so well that you can still see the details of a 14-meter Buddha that has been carved out of the rocks.
I went to Pattaya to visit the Father Ray Foundation that my high school Leo Club has been raising funds for annually. It’s one thing to hear stories from another about a certain organization and all the astounding work you do. You can donate tens of thousands of dollars to a cause, but never really understand the impact until you visit it. That is what I was expecting when I decided and I was pleasantly surprised and how much more I gained from the experience.
On the downside, it was during this three-day period that I fell terribly ill. And let’s face it, no matter how old you may be, when you’re away from home and suddenly fall ill, that’s when you want to go home. Home where just inches away is all the medicine you can get your hands on. And if you are like me and live at home, then you immediately think of your mom who would instantly nurse you back to health. While I wish I used more of my time in Pattaya, especially at night, exploring the city, I ended up sleeping immediately after my volunteer shift was over and trying to nurse myself back to health. However, I was able to capture a video of children from the home, village, and drop-in center that the Father Ray Foundation sponsors; all dancing in celebration of new equipment.
Going to Singapore was a last-minute decision and spontaneously occurred because a friend of mine who I met back in freshman year of UCLA was visiting home around the same time I was traveling. Her family was extremely welcoming and our few days together were activity-packed. As soon as I landed in one of the nicest airports I had ever witnessed, my friend whisked me off to the local beach where we spent two hours cycling around. We watched an indie movie called Bad Turn Worse and I was introduced to her childhood friends over dinner. We also visited the local museum and a beautiful botanical garden called Gardens By the Bay.
Ten different flights, four different countries (including my layovers in China), and about $4000 spent in total. But if I had the option to do it all over again, I would sign up in a heartbeat. There’s just something so cathartic about letting go and seeing the world for yourself without any ties, commitments, or distractions. I simply got a taste of it on this round, but I can say, with certainty, that parts of my heart were left in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Singapore. I know now, what I have known all along but with more fervor, that I need to do some more traveling. And if not now, when?
To be continued,
I definitely need to make more of an effort!
I posted this video recently on my FB and got quite a few shares, so I wanted to embed the link here. I love this video because oftentimes people don’t feel the effects of sunscreen. The problem is, you won’t appreciate the benfits of daily sunscreen use until you’re older, when the damage of lifelong UV exposure really shows. I’ll admit – I’m guilty to going without sunscreen quite often these days since it takes that much more time in the morning when I’m already sleep deprived. (I know, I know, bad future dermatologist!) But watch this video and see just how drasticallysunscreen can change your protection against UV rays. I know I’ll be spending a few extra minutes putting on the good stuff after watching this.
This past weekend, I had a lovely opportunity to see one of my best friends get “coated” at her white coat ceremony for the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Along with the excitement of seeing my friend take that first step towards her future, I was equally elated that I would be making this trip via airplane. While I have been on airplanes tons of times for international flights, it was my first flight domestically and just knowing that I’d be off the plane in 90 minutes versus 17 hours was thrilling. Therefore, I didn’t really plan to bring anything with me for my flight. I figured I’d get an hour cap nap in and then be on my way to her apartment. But as always, things didn’t go exactly as planned.
Due to a somewhat long security check process, I ended up missing my 4 PM flight and had to wait at the airport for another four hours for the next available flight to Sacramento. At first, I thought I wouldn’t make it through the next four hours as the wi-fi at LAX was a bit skittish and I didn’t bring any tangible books with me. But then I remembered that I had a copy of Suicide Med on my tablet from the extremely talented and funny Dr. McFadden aka Dr. Fizzy. Having already fallen in with her writing through her anecdotes on her blog and her first book, The Devil Wears Scrubs, I have been looking forward to giving this new book a try. But between summer school, work, babysitting, and planning for my upcoming Thailand trip, I hadn’t found the time.
Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you view the glass), missing my flight gave me the time necessary to get started on what ended up being a thrilling read! After a late night and early morning the next day, I ended up finishing the book, which completely blew my mind from all its twists and turns. The story was told from a variety of perspectives which really drills in the lesson that there are always multiple sides to one story. The plot line completely veered left from what I predicted would happen and really ended with a bang. Plus, you get some interesting medically-relevant facts and some great study tips in general. So if you have a chance, definitely check out Suicide Med by Frieda McFadden. It’s a wonderful, easy read that will be sure to get your inner-Nancy Drew all riled up. And it turned my missed flight from a low to a high point of the day. [:
P.S. – On a funnier note, despite my efforts to be on time, my return flight ended up being delayed. First, the incoming plane hit a bird so maintenance had to clean the windshield before letting passengers onboard. Second, the airlines misplaced the jet bridge that connected the gate to the airplane. Seems like I should look into downloading a few other books for these unexpected occasions!