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

Inspire and Expire

“Breathe in, and breathe out”. That’s what I told myself 40 hours, 20 hours, 10 hours leading up to the MCAT and all throughout it. And now (at least for the time being), I’m done.

Done. Done. Done. I’m done. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s over. In fact, it took about two days for the thought to settle in before I decided to blog about it.

On one hand, I physically felt a weight lift off my shoulders as I walked out of the testing center. On the other hand though, it’s strange to have this singular mission that completely consumed your entire being for six straight months, be extinguished so quickly – dare I say, rather unceremoniously.

Not to say that I would want to go through the studying, signing up process, and entire MCAT circus again. But I did learn a lot more than I expected to throughout the process. For example,  you really learn who your true friends are when you have such an enormous exam looming over your head. You have those who respect your wishes and hold no hard feelings for the missed social gatherings. You have those who send you emails and texts of support and love. And then you have the latter who simply do not understand that the MCAT is symbolic of what you want to achieve in life. Yes, it’s just an exam, but it’s also part of that ticket to launch your life’s dream and profession.

Last Thursday, two days before the MCAT, marked the end of my fourteen-week Princeton Review MCAT Prep course. Surprisingly, I felt a twinge in my heart when I left, and proceeded to draft this up:

An Ode to the End of MCAT Class

Today marks the final day of MCAT classes. At such a declaration, one would expect a response full of jubilation and relief. However, I find myself oddly saddened that the end is here. Who would have expected that when I signed up for these classes three months ago, I would come out with a greater appreciation for learning and science? Given the horrible experience I had with my SAT classes six years ago, I predicted the same, if not worse, from this experience.

And yet, as the days turned into weeks, I found myself looking forward to the next class. My instructors were genuine, good-natured people, full of humor and advice. They enjoyed what they taught and likewise, instilled a thrill in learning that I had long forgotten about. Subjects such as physics and chemistry that made me cringe in college, were relayed in such a fashion, that I felt as if I was just being introduced. Every day, I am not ashamed to say, I learned something NEW. And I realized, that I actually have the capability to learn and love science. Gone were the days of believing I was unworthy or unintelligent because transcription and translation were unappealing subjects.

Along with these amazing instructors, my fellow students were not the cut-throat sort of pre-medical students that I had the misfortune of meeting my freshman year in college. Though they were voracious when it came to recalling concepts and studying, they were just as helpful and sweet. In fact, students would bring in little treats from time to time, for no other reason, but to relay the notion that we really were all in this together.

Having gone through this course, I now believe that I have what it takes to thrive in medical school. However, I understand that in order to have the best experience, I need an environment just as fruitful. If medical school turns out to be this – a small group of students who help each other and instructors who are passionate about what they teach, I think I could find some happiness in medical school.

So what now? I’ll wait (somewhat on edge) until I get my results before planning those next steps. I’ve signed up to take a few science classes at the local community college, and now that I know what I’m capable of, I’m a little more excited to go “back to school”. I should also try to take a whack at some of those resolutions I made twenty-seven days ago.

Nothing more to say, but I will leave you with this song that not only got me through some late-night studying, but was my personal anthem as I walked into the prometric testing center last Saturday. Who says EDM can’t be just as rejuvenating as classical music?

Best,

A.

High 5

My blog turns five today! Yay!

I feel like this elicits a celebration of some sorts. Or even a well-worded speech. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately), I have to cut this post short as the MCAT is – not four, not three, but – TWO weeks aways. That’s fourteen days. That’s like, winter break in high school – and we all know how that flew by ever so quickly. I should stop now – I’m starting to hyperventilate.

My head

My head

In all seriousness though, it feels surreal. The MCAT has forever been a huge daunting tale that I never imagined I would one day actually meet in person. I know that there are still a lot more hoops to jump through before I become a doctor, let alone actually getting into medical school. But taking the MCAT is a huge first step in my books. So prayers, positive thoughts, all and everything are appreciated as I go into this for the first, and hopefully, last time. You will have my eternal gratitude and if I ever meet you in person, I’ll be sure to give you a high five.

<3 A.

Sharks and Buoyancy

“What I Gathered from that 150-minute MCAT Class” Pt. 1

When an object is submerged under a fluid, there are two densities at work. The density of the fluid surrounding the object and the density of the object itself. Now if the object’s density is equal to the fluid density, then the buoyancy force (that’s pulling the object up) is equal to the force of gravity pulling the object down. Therefore, these two forces cancel out leaving a net force of zero which means the object is simply “suspended” in the water.

Some fish have an trait called swim bladders that allow them to achieve this suspension despite the varying depths of the ocean. This organ can expand or deflate allowing a fish to stay at a current water depth and conserve energy rather than trying to swim in order to keep from sinking or floating. Which is what evolution is all about – characteristics that allow a species to thrive without expending too many resources.

Now sharks, on the other hand, are much denser and are not equipped with swim bladders. So, as a result, they automatically sink to the floor. To avoid this, sharks are equipped with fins that are used to stay afloat. Which is probably why they are predators – because they need all of that extra energy to move their fins and “just keep swimming”. In some countries, shark fins are highly sought after commodities. However, the rest of the shark is not as profitable, so rather than heaving this giant shark body to shore (and thus, wasting more resources), these “shark finners” skin sharks alive and toss them back in the ocean, fin-less.

Well, because the density of a shark’s body is much greater than the density of the surrounding fluid, the shark ends up sinking to the bottom of the ocean floor. So this great, tremendous predator of the ocean waters is now reduced to nothing more than a loaf of bread, without any means of survival. In the end, these sharks are eaten by other fish or die due to suffocation.

How horrible is that? If I was a shark, I would elect to be taken completely when my fins are removed, rather than being thrown back into the water as a helpless organism. That is not how the great “food chain” works. I think it is absolutely horrible that, out of laziness, we cause another predator – who can easily hunt us down – to be stripped down to nothing. I know it’s a “dog eat dog world” out there, but this isn’t the case. This is, “dog steals another dog’s evolutionary means of survival” and runs away without a second look.

Physics can really get your mind going. What do you think?

– A.

Self-Awareness

It has now been a month since I have whole-heartedly committed to studying for the MCAT. While there is a tremendous amount of content, it is not as horrifying once you actually sit down and begin the process. That being said, I am beyond thankful that I signed up for a preparatory course. I’ll admit it, on record now, that I have absolutely no self-discipline when it comes to studying. That, and I forgot almost everything science-related that I learned in college, so it’s nice to have a little review. And it’s not as if my review course is torturous or boot camp-like (flashback to those 9-hour Saturday sessions for SAT) – on the contrary, I have been loving everything that I have been learning re-learning. My instructors are thoughtful and eager to help us succeed. The only unsettling factor that has been nagging at me for the past four weeks, is that my Verbal Reasoning instructor is – in all honesty – Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s doppelgänger. Yes, Buffy is teaching my class and brings the same “kickass, no bullshit” attitude. So you definitely do not want to argue with her when she’s telling you that it is necessary to skip a passage on the real VR section. She also has a tongue piercing which is hard to not stare at during the two and a half hour-long class. 

We do not joke about the VR section.

We do not joke about the VR section.

I know, it’s ridiculous, but don’t think that will stop me from inquiring one day whether she realizes that she could be the Vampire Slayer’s twin.

So am I living, breathing, consuming MCAT material yet? Nope. Maybe ask me again when I hit the two month mark in a week? But for now, I am still on a somewhat lax schedule where I include time to gym, work, watch an episode (or two), and read. You would think after scrapping both Facebook and Tumblr out of my life, I would find less to do online. Wrong. Discard those two platforms, and I have now turned to NPR, blogging, and somewhat surprisingly – Yahoo! Answers. No, I am not kidding – I think I may have a new addiction and this is answering questions on Yahoo! Answers. How? I have no clue. Perhaps it’s my rebound as I fill this void that Facebook has left. Haha, but really, there are so many trolls on the internet nowadays, that I think people are genuinely grateful when you can pause and explain an answer thoroughly to them. Personally, I know how frustrating it is to be working on a problem late at night or early in the morning and turning to the internet to seek help that you cannot get from friends, parents, teachers, or tutors. So one day, I just casually went on the Education & Reference section and began to answer a few homework questions in depth. That’s when the “Best Answers” began to hit and before I knew it, I was playing a game, trying to raise my percentage and get to the next level. Which, let me tell you, is such a high! And a total self-esteem boost when you’re battling with the MCAT. And look, now I have a nifty little crown!

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Comic relief in the form of a lookalike and Yahoo! Answers. What else is getting me through this long and daunting process? Driving. New York might have four seasons, but along with being ridiculously cold, it thrives on public transportation. Which is great for the environment and all, but what I have discovered is that driving, on my own, is therapeutic for me. Throw in some songs from John Mayer or The Civil Wars, and I can handle a long commute to work or driving home from class. What about traffic? As much as I despised the 405, traffic isn’t horrible. Especially if I’m not competing with time. And that’s just another lovely commodity from my gap year. For once, in my life, I am not competing neck-in-neck with time or finances. Work is on my time and studying is on my time. I dictate when it’s go time and when it’s time for a break. In a way, I am getting to know myself better as I form these boundaries in sync with no one else’s schedule but mine. And living at home might have its drawbacks, but to not have to worry about money for rent, food, clothes, and utilities is bliss. And to be safe, secure, and surrounded by my support system of best friends and family, I can finally focus on my self-respect (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ring a bell?).

That is one of the most valuable tidbits I have learned so far from the past three months. They say college is where you find out who you truly are. But in my opinion, it’s when you fail, withdraw yourself, become attuned to your needs – that’s when you start to create your identity. For most of my life, I saw myself as others tended to view me. I am just now realizing that there is so much more to me that even I have not yet figured out. An example? I have been told since I was six years old that I was extremely mature and “mom-like” for my age. But the more I learn about myself, the more I realize that this, in actuality, was not true. It is my lack of maturity that has brought me to this point in life.

This is not just about becoming a physician. This is about leading a life towards self-actualization. Hopefully the two will coincide as I continue on my path towards my own aspirations and desires.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”
          – F. Scott Fitzgerald

<3 A.

M-Cat

It’s official! After 24+ hours of anxiety, constant clicking, and site crashing, I have finally registered for the MCAT. I have always avoided being a gunner, but I guess in cases like these, you got to be a little crazy to get what you want. Anyway, so this is really happening – the MCAT is not just a myth anymore. THIS is the real deal. Cue the introduction of the beast.
A.

STATUS HAZMATICUS

I have a physics test tomorrow. We’ve all been studying for it for far too long, as evidenced by the following story:

During a morning conversation with a few other postbacs about how screwed we all were, which somehow involved talking about someone’s dog, we got to talking about pets. A brilliant idea surfaced: We should get a postbac pet that can roam the halls of the continuing studies building (okay, perhaps not the best idea).  We were talking about what we should name this hypothetical pet, and the thought suddenly popped into my head:

“We should get a cat and name it… <dramatic pause> M-Cat.” (aka medical college admissions test, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about)

My friends smiled, laughed a little, and moved on. I, however, could not. The idea of M-cat began to root itself in my…

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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.