Thursday Born

The everyday life of a psychiatry resident (who was born on a Thursday).

Archive for December 2010

Future Self – Reverb 10, Day 21

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I’m writing this post on an airplane! I left my kindle at Ahmet’s apartment but thankfully Google is providing free wifi on Delta flights for a month, so here I am. I still wish I had my kindle though, considering I’m heading off on an even longer flight tomorrow, with no free wi-fi… but I will survive and get my kindle back in January. I haven’t sold my old Sony Reader yet, so I’ll have that for the next trip.

What is Reverb10?

December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)

Dear Me,

I just want to say that it gets even better. It really does. What do I mean by it? Everything. Medicine. Life. Love. It all just keeps getting better.

Love,
You.

***

And to 14 year old me:

Dear Me,

I don’t think there’s much I can tell you that will have much impact right now except that you will find what you’re looking for, and you’ll also find what you’re not looking for, but what turns out to be what you really needed/wanted.

Love,
You.

***

I admit, there’s more I’d love to put in my letter from future me to current me, but I really don’t know how true it will turn out to be. I’m pretty confident though, that in the end, I’ll be content enough with how things go. I really do think it’ll all just keep getting better.

What do I know about me in five years? I should be 2.5 years into my residency. Most likely I’ll still have another 1.5 or 2.5 years to go, but there’s the minor chance that it will only be half a year more. Beyond that? I don’t know. My parrot, Chu, should still be alive. I could be married. I could have a kid (could I have two? I guess it’s possible, but I think it’s really unlikely). I’m going to bet I’ll have at least two more nieces/nephews. More of my friends will be married. More of them will have kids. I feel like I’m at a point where five years from now, my life is going to be very different than it is right now. And I’ll get there, five years from now.

Written by Aba

December 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm

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Beyond Avoidance – Reverb 10, Day 20

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What is Reverb10?

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

I’ve been avoiding writing this post! I’m struggling with coming up with an answer that I can turn into a good post. I’m struggling with coming up with an answer in general.

Of course I’ve avoided doing things this year, but I eventually got a lot of the bigger ones done. I’m lucky in that most have had clear cut deadlines (like the paper and poster for my summer research), so although I could put them off for a while, I couldn’t put them off forever. A lot of the things without deadlines, like going to the dentist, I’d already put off for over a year.

My life is very laid out for me right now and I don’t have too many decisions to make. There isn’t really much room for avoidance in medical school, at least, not avoidance that I wouldn’t seriously regret someday.

I’m feeling guilty again, like I shouldn’t be participating in this project if my life is going so well. My life is not easy, but it is challenging in the way a puzzle is challenging, not in a “I have no idea if I’m going to eat tomorrow or the day after” way.

What have I been doing right this year? Holding myself more accountable. As soon as I realize that there’s something I really need to do but I don’t want to do it, I write it down. I learned one summer, counting down the days till I was done with something, that crossing things off (the days off a calendar, for example) is extremely satisfying. So I write things down so that I get to cross them off and be happy for a few seconds. It’s a small thing, but so is the inertia that stops me from doing them in the first place.

So especially around exam time, there is likely to be a daily notecard of things to do on my desk. Things like my hundred push-ups workout set for the day, or filling out some rebates, or taking a picture of something I made recently that I had wanted to blog about. Sometimes I have a big picture list where I’m not entirely sure when I want to be done with the items, but I want to make sure they’re on my mind, so that list has things like renewing my library card, or finishing my Step 1 application (almost done! I think I just need to pick a place and then a date now. I’m thinking June 14th in Seattle; it’s a Tuesday, and then I have clinical orientation that Friday. I think Tuesday is as far as I can sanely push it).

I’m a very forgetful person, and so still, if something doesn’t make it onto a list, I’m very likely to forget it. I didn’t do all my course surveys at the end of my first block this year, and now if I forget to do any, I’ll get a negative comment about professionalism somewhere in my Dean’s letter or something. So you can bet that I do those as soon as they start sending us the emails about them now!

I have a few things left to do this year, like finish reading all the chapters in First Aid (Step 1 review book) that have to do with subjects we’ve already covered in school, and finish the hospital write up that I was supposed to turn in right after my hospital session (my preceptor told me to take my time! So, I have), and maybe even book my appointment for my wisdom tooth surgery next year (late February?) so I can get a price quote and budget accordingly.

But I’m on track with what matters to me right now. I’ve never been good about making flashcards for studying, but I’m so glad I bought these note cards, because they’re a perfect size for lists!

(And true to form, I made a phone call in the middle of this post that I’ve been putting off for at least a month now. Got some money back from Kaplan that will soon be spent on a different test prep service).

Written by Aba

December 20, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Healing – Reverb 10, Day 19

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What is Reverb10?

December 19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leonie Allan)

Sigh. I really hope some of the next twelve prompts are more different from the others. I think a more appropriate response to this post would have been my Lesson Learned post, but then again, that was mostly about 2009, not 2010.

Healing for me is generally about recharging. Down time. Immersing myself into a book or a new blog or a new tv show. It’s all about inner focus. Letting something select, often a new story, into my mental bubble and staying there with it for some time.

It is generally the idea of things that heal me, the way I think of them, and sometimes the way I have chosen to think of them. I love tea, but the ritual of making it and settling down with a warm mug has emotional associations that make it more special than what it really is. Same with reading in the sunset. Or making certain foods. Even wearing certain clothes or curling up with a specific blanket.

I don’t want to need healing next year, but I would love to still have time for these little actions that fill me with the simple, quiet warmth of contentment.

Written by Aba

December 19, 2010 at 9:38 pm

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Try – Reverb 10, Day 18

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What is Reverb10?

December 18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)

Not much, really. Nothing beyond what I’ve already mentioned in previous Reverb 10 answers. Next year, post April will be about when I start to seriously buckle down and study for Step 1, and then take it, and then start third year’s hospital rotations and apparently disappear until sometime fourth year. I would verify that this is true, except I can’t find any third years to talk to…

I’ve already found myself not planning things. I’m a planner by nature and I usually have lots of craft and food projects on my mind, but instead I have been treating next year as an extra-curricular sabbatical. I’m hoping to squeeze a few things into January and February, but after then I’m going to stop seeking out new things, because it’s really hard for me to resist the temptation of a recipe or a new project once it’s worked its way into my head as something I want to try.

I don’t want to completely disappear though. I do want to keep blogging. I want to keep making time to talk to my family and friends. I want to keep my relationship with my boyfriend strong. I want to try to get my parrot used to my hands again. I’m going to be downsizing my life a lot, but I want to make time for the people and aspects of my life that really matter.

Next year, I’m not going to just try. I’m going to keep living my life. It’s going to change a lot, but I’m going to take ownership of my time, as much as I can.

Written by Aba

December 18, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Lesson Learned – Reverb 10, Day 17

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What is Reverb10?

December 17 – Lesson Learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)

The idea of learning something about myself is strange to me. This is falling into a similar place in my head as the idea of not feeling integrated with my body. How do I learn something about the person I am? I guess learning something about oneself generally comes along with surprising yourself, and I don’t think I’ve surprised myself much this year. I haven’t put myself through any tough, new situations. I haven’t demanded much of myself.

I guess this would be the year that I most learned that I can unashamedly be me and still have friends. No, I don’t mean that I decided not to think about others and that turned out to be okay. After college I worked for a year, and lived by myself in a one bedroom apartment. I stayed in my college city and still had many friends, and my boyfriend, who were still in school, but I didn’t socialize a lot. On a good week I saw my boyfriend two or three times during the weekday and then for part of the weekend.

All in all, I spent a lot of time by myself. The lab I worked in was tiny (my PI, a post doc, and then one other person) and not very social, aside from two or three times when we had fun lab parties at my PI’s house. I came home at night to my parrot and the internet. Many weekend days were spent home alone.

To some people this probably sounds like a very bleak existence, but I really needed a break. I had started to feel a bit suffocated by my social circle, and after four years of sharing a room (even though I adored my roommate) I really needed some space. In retrospect, I wish I’d gotten to see Ahmet more, now that we’re spending at least four years living in different cities, and I do wish I’d kept up with my friends a bit more too, but I had to go to work early in the morning and they tended to socialize pretty late. I made it out when I could, but the timing often wasn’t right. I also unfortunately didn’t start playing the kinds of video games they did until a year after the fact. Oops.

So now I’m back to having a roommate, and being in school, and having friends, but I’ve managed to hold on to some of that precious solitude I had cultivated. I think I hung out with people by default too often in college and that lead to the burn out, but now I actually think about whether or not I want to be around people. And I haven’t lost my friends by doing this! I don’t automatically become a less desirable person to be friends with if I can’t, or simply don’t want to, accept every single invitation.

Maybe that was the best thing I learned about myself this year. That the people who love m unconditionally (ie, family) aren’t the only people that like me when I’m being, well, me.

And I definitely love me when I’m being me. I kind of miss those “lonely” weekend days, sitting at home with bad sci-fi (syfy…) channel movies in the background and my parrot happily playing by himself, occasionally demanding attention but mostly just happy that I was in the same room. I’ve come up with new versions since then though, and once I get around to buying my parrot’s new cage (a smaller one for my room, so he can be where I am when I’m at home; right now he has a large cage in the living room), it’ll be almost exactly like the old days. But now it’ll be in my new(er), comfy room, which I’m currently in love with because I finally bought a cover for my second comforter and I love the bright colors of the two covers together. And I have a space heater which I also love and which is desperately needed; I knew my room was the coldest in our apartment, but I never knew how much colder it got. Well, with the apartment temp set at 65, my room can get as low as 51. Now, even though it’s winter, my least favorite season, I have my bright warm haven of a room to retreat to and be me, nothing held back, no part of me compromised.

And it’s a good thing.

Written by Aba

December 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm

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Friendship – Reverb 10, Day 16

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What is Reverb10?

December 16 – Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)

I’m a bit late in completing today’s reverb 10, but there are several reasons why you will forgive me. One reason is that it is still today in my time zone, but the most important is that I am now 3/8 of the way through my medical education! Just 2.5 more years to go!

This was another prompt that I’m not sure I can interpret faithfully, and that doesn’t matter because I have decided that I’m simply not going to even try. I love my current friends, but I can’t say that they have been perspective changing. Maybe they were last year, when I first met them, but not this year. We agree on too much. We have reinforced each other’s perspectives but we have not done much, if any, changing of each other.

No, the people who have changed my perspective on the world the most this year have been people I don’t agree with, and this is something that I’ve done a lot of thinking about. And for good reason. This has been the year of the Tea Party. The year of realizing that there are medical students and doctors who have moral objections to abortion (I guess I just never thought about their possible existence). The year of actively trying to understand those I want to avoid because of our differences in beliefs.

I admit I’ve blogged about this already, right around when I first started thinking about it. But I’ve had so many more thoughts since. I’ve kept up with that woman’s blog. I’ve read some Mormon blogs. I’ve occasionally read up on the Tea Party movement. I watched Religiulus and found it, well, ridiculous and quite biased, but an interesting look at the far end of all of this. I was raised Roman Catholic so religion is not a foreign thing to me by any means, but the way it manifests in people’s lives is interesting. It can be so beautiful in some people, and so downright upsetting and tragic in others.

And through it all I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that people with a strong faith in religion are not necessarily people I cannot be friends with. That just because people may not have my same views on abortion, or gay marriage (or gay people in general), that it doesn’t automatically make them someone not worth knowing, or at least, not worth knowing about. I’m not about to become best buds with a lot of these people, but I’m not about to completely discount them either.

If I really believe that I am right, the best way to spread my views is not to completely alienate those I disagree with. I need to understand them first, and then maybe someday, I need to engage with them. My family is religious, and I come from a religious country, but it’s very different in Ghana. Yes there are people blindly following poorly credentialed religious leaders and being misguided, but there isn’t as much… hate. There isn’t quite as much pride or aggression. Religion was everywhere in Ghana and yet even though the US is apparently more secular, religion somehow feels more oppressive here and I’ve learned to try to avoid it. Don’t get me wrong. I have been and will again be very frustrated with how religion has influenced people in Ghana (we’re starting to get our own mega-churches), but I have never been scared by it. I have never felt threatened by it there.

In a way, I think religion is a red herring in all this. It was easy to think, well, it’s the deeply religious people in the US that I disagree with. But no. That’s not quite it. It’s much deeper than that, and I’m still working on untangling it all.

Written by Aba

December 16, 2010 at 11:38 pm

5 Minutes – Reverb 10, Day 15

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What is Reverb10?

December 15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

Here we go!

Meeting my niece (ok, so that was very end of 2009), then re-meeting her in July and October and both times being so surprised at how big and alert and aware she was. She’s also a really pretty baby. I also want to remember seeing my mother and my brother interact with her. It’s really interesting and heartwarming seeing my brother as a loving father, and it’s a lot of fun seeing how much both my mother and my niece light up around each other.

My summer vacation. First, taking Ahmet to Ghana. Watching him meet my Grandmother, who is the most awesome little grandmother ever and so loving and enthusiastic. Her asking me if she looked okay before she came out to meet him, which was just really endearing. Breakfasts and lunches together with my family nearly ever day, in the beautiful new veranda room my mother had built. Pictures of it look like they’re from a magazine. And then just the family aspect of eating together was nice. I realized I’d kind of missed that.

Then Turkey was also a wonderful time. The best part was probably our trip to the seaside at the end. Being in water that I floated in at a more comfortable level due to the salt was really cool (I barely know how to swim). Ahmet was also a really good teacher and was great about making me feel comfortable in the water and not rushing me.

And I’ve run out of time. Oops. That was fun though! Next time I do something like this, more listing and less exposition!

Key moments I also would have liked to remember were my brother’s wedding (not the one with the baby; I have three older brothers, btw) and Ahmet’s graduation. And then lots of other more everyday moments, but I think those were the big ones.

So far, of all the prompts, this is the one I’d recommend trying, for those of you not doing the entire reverb 10.

Edit: And I apparently cheated by sleeping on this and thinking about it before starting, but I was trying to study when I read the prompt!

Written by Aba

December 15, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Life in General, Reverb 10

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Appreciate – Reverb 10, Day 14

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What is Reverb10?

December 14 – Appreciate What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

(I appreciate that the author of this post wrote a prompt that wasn’t a ridiculously direct tie-in to a book she’s just written.)

If I have to say one thing, then I’m going to say the Internet, because the internet connects me to all the other things I’d want to say instead.

I’ve been online since I was ten or eleven (I’m twenty-four), but the way I use it now is quite different from the way I used it then. Or two years ago. Or five years ago.

The internet is now a place of learning. Not just by reading random wikipedia articles, but so much of my education is currently facilitated by the internet. Recorded lectures. Powerpoint slides. Notes. Old tests. Research papers. School email. School calendar. Financial Aid. Everything’s online! Often this year I have turned to a friend and wondered, “How did past med students  ___ without having the internet!” We can easily check what time a test is. Someone can let the whole class know that there’s an assignment due tomorrow by sending one email. If we’re studying and we disagree on something, there are so many resources through which we can easily search to find the answer.

The internet is also a place of connection. I can stay in touch with people from undergrad, from boarding school, and from my school in Ghana, so easily, with resources like facebook. Extended family, people I meet through a new activity, friends of friends, all of them easily found and reached out to.

Even better than that, my family can be as spread out as it is, and yet we can all stay a part of each other’s lives. My mother and my sister in law email me pictures and videos of my (amazing and adorable) niece.My brothers can easily let me know about something new that’s going on in their lives. I can put music on my mother’s ipod for her by remote accessing her computer! With the internet, it is okay that I am in the Midwest of the USA, a place I never particularly thought I’d live again (I was born in Wisconsin, strangely enough, but was there for less than a year). My boyfriend is miles away on a different coast. My parents are even further, on a separate continent. My brothers are in the US, but we’re all spread out, in four different states that don’t even share borders.

The internet makes it bearable. I am not completely stranded here in this land-locked state. I almost wanted to go to one of my other two options for medical school, due to their locations, but this one was far cheaper and generally consider “a better school,” and my interview here had been one of my favorites. Coming here was one of the hardest easy choices I’ve had to make.

So this year I have really appreciated that my loved ones, and my education, are all accessible right here where I sit, on this blue exercise ball, huddling by my space heater and allowing myself a few moments (maybe hours) of respite before I have to start studying again.

And I think I can bet that if you’re reading this, you’re pretty appreciative of the internet too. :) Right?

Written by Aba

December 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Life in General, Reverb 10

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Action – Reverb 10, Day 13

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What is Reverb10?

December 13 – Action. When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

This is a very ironic post.

I have this idea in my head of the kind of medical student I want to be. Unfortunately, she and the medical student I actually am, are quite different. Now, I’m fairly certain, no, I’m very certain, that in the end, I’ll be the doctor I want to be, but I could make the road to that new level a bit easier than it is right now.

Easier isn’t the right word. Efficient. Productive. Less round-about-y.

I’ve always been a procrastinator. As soon as I had assignments I could procrastinate on, I did. I have memories of being seven or eight and, though I was given at least a week’s notice, trying to start and finish a project the night before it was due. Somehow, this has not held me back in life. But my success has been born of many late nights and panicked scrambles. Many pre-test days of “Damn. I guess I do need to memorize that entire pathway” or “We really need to be able know the names of these drugs?”

I’ve been working really hard to be better about this though. I don’t completely waste time online all day. I watch all the lectures for all our classes. I read (or skim) all the course notes. I even take my own notes now! But I’m still not quite where I wanted to be by now. I’m not yet as on top of the material as I know I could be without turning into a medical student who I don’t want to be, the reclusive anti-social complete shut in who has no hobbies. I think I have a ways to go before even being worried that I might be that person.

So how do I realize this idea? I keep trying. I take on new traits bit by bit, learning new study habits, figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t. I might need to accelerate the process though, because I need to be at maximum potential in about five months.

Why is this post ironic? I’ve been out of my last test since 11:30am. Four hours later, I still haven’t started studying for tomorrow’s (er, I haven’t started yet today; I have studied for it in the past), and I’m writing this post.

Ok, ok, enough navel-gazing and more hypoglycemia! (Endocrinology test tomorrow)

(Oh, and my roommate started doing reverb10 too!) :D

Written by Aba

December 13, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Body Integration – Reverb 10, Day 12

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What is Reverb10?

December 12 – Body Integration This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)

I’m supposed to be studying with classmates in 23 minutes (Pathology exam tomorrow!), so here’s another hurried post. I wonder if I’ll find the time to do tomorrow’s post…

I always feel integrated. I’m an introvert through and through so yes, I am generally off in my head somewhere, but my thoughts are creations of my mind, which is my brain, which is a part of my body. I’m a bit of a generally holistic person, and I very firmly believe that mind is body and body is mind and that you can’t really separate them out. So for me, those “Wow!” times aren’t about feeling more cohesively me, but about feeling more present in the moment.

Sometimes I’ll be alone in my room and the sun’s setting through my west facing windows and I’m curled up on my bed with a book and I have music playing and all of a sudden I feel very much here and everything comes together in a warm happy feeling that life is good and I love and am loved.

And then there are the more active moments. I’m a member of (and co-leader of) the Ballroom dance club here. It’s a medical student thing in theory but we have Graduate students and OT and PT students too. I love being a follower, and just letting myself relax and listen to the music and automatically respond to (most of the time) the cues of the person who’s leading me.

But most of intense of all, there’s fire spinning. I am too scared to try fire poi, and I don’t own a fire hoop yet, so I have only really spun my fire staff, which feels nice and safe. You can’t let your guard down though. I use pure white gas as my fuel, which burns short and hot but beautifully bright. And the sound! There is a magnificent roar to the flames, as they whoosh around and over and near you, warm and scary and familiar. I am in control but I need to focus to stay in control, except at the same time I can’t think too hard, because when I think too much then I sabotage my muscle memory and I might twist my arm just a bit too much or not turn my body at the right moment. I have yet to set myself on fire though, which is actually quite rare and it’s just a matter of time before it happens. Clothes are easy enough to put out though (just don’t wear synthetic fibers ever), and hair grows back (best to just keep it covered). I don’t do this often, but when I do I have an amazing time. I’m not very good, but you don’t have to be very good at something to enjoy it!

Written by Aba

December 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm

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