150 – Mortality, Strength, & Perseverance.

I know it’s been a while. There’s so much that I want to write about, but the words seem to constantly escape me. But today, I refuse to run away from my own inability. These feelings are important. This is real. And writing will make me stronger.


The world seems different today, filled with a certain harshness I guess I had never truly felt until now. Mortality feels ever present, weighing upon everything I have ever believed in, and forcing me to re-evaluate where I want my dreams to take me. I think about what really matters to me and conflicting signals send my mind in turmoil. I am crushed. But I must not falter now.

It never occurred to me what the consequences of a stroke looked like. When I first heard about the incident, I thought to myself, Oh, he’s at the hospital, they’ll fix him up in no time.” It didn’t occur to me that even the most brilliant people could succumb to the physical aftermath of such an incident. Doctors aren’t miracle workers. They can’t fix everything no matter how much we all wish they could. Sometimes, doctors can save lives, but not preserve functions. Sometimes, people’s health conditions deteriorate and there’s nothing medicine can do but try to slow it down. These are all realizations that I came to understand while reading Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. Yet these realizations did nothing for me when I came to face to face with a loved one changed so drastically by something so unfortunate. I was shocked.

I wasn’t around when it happened.  Half the country away, in fact. I wasn’t here for the worst of it – when the world came crashing down around my best friend’s family. Her father, not mine, but I feel it all the same. I always looked up to him because he always did what a real father should while mine was ever absent. It’s irrational for me to feel so devastated when he’s come so far from where he was. I know rehabilitation takes time, that all one can do is hope for the best. Things like aphasia and memory problems are tricky – there’s no telling how and when they might improve. I know I should stay positive, but just the thought that he might not ever be able to see how far his daughter has come leaves me in tears. I think of how I might react if my mom was in the same situation. I can’t comprehend it. My friend and her family are so strong. I’m in awe of how well they’re handling it. I’ll be praying for continuous recovery even when I’m far away again.

This train of thought digs deep, finding weakness in my life-long dream. I want to be a geriatrician. To help elderly individuals and their families as they deal with the consequences of aging. Dementia, stroke, cancer are all very much possibilities for this population. While I know that I am still very far away from being in that position, I think it’s important that I steel myself now, rather than later. I don’t want to detach myself from future patients, but I also cannot afford to be emotionally taxed every time someone I have come to know and love encounters devastating situation or nears the end of their life. I have to think now, if this is really the right path for me.

I guess I just have to do a little bit of soul-searching right now. Find optimism when all I can feel is despair. Be kind and strong, to help those that I love even when I feel paralyzed by fear. I need to find this strength and to become a better person. Hopefully, I’ll find just that in the next three years from medical school.

 

149 – a little escape 

In London (Ontario) for the weekend and it feels really nice to be away from all my stress at school. I know it’s all just going to start again on Monday, but for now, I can just enjoy a little piece of happiness. 

I can see the stars again. It feels surreal after not having been able to see them much in Toronto. I feel at peace here, like everything is going to be alright. I hope that this feeling follows me back tomorrow. 

Everyone I’ve met here is really nice and willing to chat about their experiences. It’s not even my interview date, but I feel welcome here. It’s refreshing. I’m super glad I decided to come a day earlier. The med student that’s hosting me is incredibly friendly – I’m relieved we get along. I feel like I fit in here and hope I get in. 

Time to get some sleep so I can do my best tomorrow. I’m nervous, excited, yet oddly calm because of the wonderful atmosphere. It’s a weird mix. I like it. 

148 – dreams shatter, but we carry on.

I fell into a deep slump last semester. Burned out from classes and research, all I could do was try my best not to let depression get the best of me. In November, it took all I had not to burst into tears every time I stepped into the lab. I dropped one of my courses and felt really out of my element even in classes I thought I would be comfortable in. My ability to write in a fourth year level course was questioned and even now I’m not sure I have the confidence to say I’m a good writer anymore. Without a doubt, this has been the worst year of my undergrad, exceeding the horribleness that was my turbulent first year in which I spent every month at the doctor’s with another physical illness.

Still, I’m halfway there. I’m sure I’ll make it through somehow. I haven’t gotten all of the details worked out quite just yet, but I’ll get there. One way or another.

My absolute lowest moment came from a rejection email from UBC. With that, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fulfill my goal of studying back home. With that, I began to doubt whether or not I was even good enough to have my dream become reality. I thought then that maybe I wasn’t smart enough and that I should be considering an alternative career. But those negative thoughts blew away when I talked to my mom over the telephone. She assured me that even if I got rejected from every school that she would support me trying again or taking the time to find a new dream. I’m really lucky to have her support. She also told me that she’d come live with me for a year if I got into med school somewhere else – though I’m not sure I’ll take her up on that offer since I don’t know how well my brother can handle living alone (despite being five years older than me…). Regardless, failure became an option for me and not the end. Just another possibility that I needn’t be afraid of.

Things have gotten a little easier this semester, but not by very much. I’m still struggling in the lab, but have gotten more or less numb to disappointment. I still hate the thought of letting down everyone the lab, but my inability was shattering every inch of self esteem I had left. I think it’s best not to think about what others think of me. Especially if they’re not good things.

I think my perspective has shifted a little – especially after hearing that one of my old high school teachers has struggling with untreatable cancer – something he dedicated a lot of his time and effort into raising awareness and money for. I’ve always had the mentality that the present is more important than the future – to enjoy the small, happy moments as they come, but I’ve also placed a lot of my hopes on the future, on the life that I spend day-to-day fantasizing about living. I think hearing the news really shifted the timeframe of my mind a little bit more to what’s happening right now. Along the same train of thought, I decided not to apply for graduate school in Chemistry. It wouldn’t be something I’d enjoy and life’s too short to be spending everyday of a year or two on something that I wasn’t thrilled about. There are other options out there that I think I would enjoy far more even if taking a “gap year” is sometimes considered a waste of time (I disagree with that sentiment).

I got an interview invitation from McMaster so that’s one blessing that’s been thrown my way in this really tough year. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m prepared for that – it’s given me both hope and confidence that my dream doesn’t have to stay a dream. The interview, however, is a few days after the poster session for my thesis project – so I’ve only got so much spare time. Nevertheless, I want to make it through these next few arduous months with no regrets. If that means sleepless nights and caffeine-powered study sessions, then so be it. I’m ready for you, 2017.

147 – focus? focus.

I entered this fourth year thinking it would be the easiest and most relaxing year of my university life. Oh, I’ve never been more wrong in my life.

I’m drowning in a sea of stress and disappointment and it’s taking all I have to stay afloat. At the same time, I am beginning to become more and more numb to failure and disappointments as everything I attempt to do in my research project just seems to go wrong. And although I understand that is the nature of scientific research, I also know that most of what’s going wrong is due to my lack of experience and skill in the area (i.e. I’m messing up somehow).

Alas, I have discovered that I am an awful chemist and should probably not pursue graduate studies in this area. If med schools choose to reject me this year, I’ll probably take a year to reassess, take my GRE, and consider cognitive science (my new found love – I wish I had known about this in first year) for my future.

The end of term is nearing, but there’s still so much to be done that I can’t really afford to slack off now. I’m mostly writing this so I can organize my thoughts and approach the rest of the month in as organized of a way as possible.

————–

Coursework

I dropped one of my courses last week so I’m only doing three courses in addition to my year long research project.

Assessments left to do: one PSY essay, one PSY midterm, one CHM essay, and a handful of CSC assignments. Manageable.

Also have to do my mid-term presentation and status update for the research project – it’s coming up soon and I have nothing to show for all the hours I have put into the lab. Except maybe impure NMRs and a multitude of problems….This will not be fun.

Commitments

Brain Day: in-class announcements, bookmarks, trivia night, meetings.

CSU: pub night, academic seminar, first-year help session.

music lab: hand in my hours form, train the new RA so I can’t stop being overcommitted to things (even though I really like the new project…ugh)

sprql: ensure the next lab sessions go smoothly

volunteering: xmas events, change weekly timeslot for next semester

exercise? life? TBD….

————-

Now that I’ve listed everything out – it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s definitely manageable. I just need to find my focus somehow. I meant to go to an academic motivation seminar last week, but totally forgot about it. I think I really could’ve used the reset on my mindset.

So instead, I now have to try to find it within myself to finish everything. I suppose motivation, in the end, has to come from me. Somewhere inside of me is the strength to get me through all of this. I can do this.

Hopefully my next update is not a list of things to do, but a list of things to be thankful and happy about. I’m yearning for the day that I feel glad that this is all over and done with. I’m sure it’ll come sooner than I think it will, but for now, it feels like an eternity away.

But it will come.

Someday, it will come and it will set me free.

146 – Today was interesting.

Today, half of U of T was locked down because apparently, there was a man with a rifle near the ROM.

This resulted in a flurry of “do we have class today?” comments and posts on our course facebook group. I didn’t get much of a resounding answer from Facebook but decided that since this was UTSG, which never closes down even when the other two campuses are closed for snow days, that class was probably on.

The lockdown, coupled with the soccer thing that started at 3pm (I’m clearly out of touch with football), resulted in a fair number of people missing class. Our professor was ruthlessly kind enough to gift is with a mini in-class quiz anyway (though to be fair, it’s only worth 1%). The class is interesting and all, but I’m still irked by the fact that our final exam falls on the first day of exams, only three days after our last lecture. Not nearly enough time.

After class, I went over to the Psych lab I’m RAing in and started prepping for a session. I’m finally getting used to the process, but I started to get frantic when my partner didn’t show up twenty minutes before the session. Turns out the session was rescheduled to Wednesday due to the uncertainty of the lockdown. I must’ve appeared horribly awkward to the new RA that was in the lab tabulating data. Silly me for not checking my email, right?

Nevertheless, this awkwardness pales in the face of the recent tragedies in Orlando. Both the night club shooting and the murder of Christina Grimmie, a YouTuber and singer I loved and had spent hours watching, have left me flabbergasted with US gun policies and wholly disheartened. These events are indicative that something needs to change. Counselling needs to be more accessible and gun security needs to be more tightly regulated. However, in the face of the current state of American politics, little change is likely to occur.

The lockdown today comes in clear contrast to American policy – the simple appearance of a gun has a good chunk of downtown Toronto in lockdown. It should never be okay to wield a dangerous weapon in a public area when you do not have the authority to do so. Sure, you can have your guns for hunting, for private property (home) self defence, but the moment you bring it into a public venue, you should be locked down. No one should feel in danger when at a concert or a club, but these recent events express otherwise. My heart aches for the family and friends of the deceased.

On a happier note, my Facebook feed has been flooded by photos of friends graduating. These photos remind me that this time of the year is supposed to be joyful and a breeding ground for new beginnings and new adventures. Although this cannot erase the shadow of these recent tragedies, the thought of my friends going off into these diverse paths and making their mark onto this world leaves me with a serene feeling of hope. Maybe change won’t seem as impossible of a task in the incoming generations.

145

I ended up dropping one of my courses and I think it was probably the best option for me considering 1) it’s not a required course 2) I can use the money I save for med/grad school applications 3) I can always take it in the fall when I have to pay tuition anyway and 4) I’m not sure I could handle doing two courses in such a compressed timeline.

So that’s one weight off my back. It’s a shame because I actually found one of my friends in the class last Thursday and it would’ve been so much more fun to take the class with her. I’m considering sitting in the lectures with her, but I have to prioritize doing well in the other class and starting to study for the MCAT again. So we’ll see.

Shadowed an experiment in the new lab I’m RAing in – it’s really interest seeing physiological data being recorded from the participants and I’m excited to be a part of the project. I really hope I’ll be able to do well…I’m really clumsy so I’m a little worried that I might put electrodes on the wrong place or make the participant uncomfortable. I *should* be okay though.

Completed Standard First Aid and CPR this past weekend and it feels good to know that if an emergency situation ever arises, I have the general knowledge to deal with it. I’m awful under high pressure situations, so I don’t know how useful I would be if it came down to it…but the knowledge is there.

Bought a bike from a friend today…and biked my way home. Was out of breath from the 25ish minute ride. Signs that I’m really, really unfit. Also, I didn’t really know the turn signals too well or when it was appropriate to use them…I think my mom would be terrified for my life. As someone who’s never biked on big/main streets before today, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. Definitely a little intimidating. Going to try to bike more this week.

My mom and brother have booked flights to visit me so that’s something to look forward to at the end of the summer. Just gotta get through all the work along the way.

I can do this. 🙂

144

It’s been a long while since my last post, so I decided to push myself to write something today. One of my resolutions was to write more per month, but it’s clearly become an ongoing struggle. Will try to do better this summer.

Part of me feels like I’m running away when I don’t write. It’s hard for me to get focused without a clear plan of what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it and writing seems to making things easier. When I’m not writing, I feel like I’m dodging my problems…this rings especially true when considering the copious amounts of Stardew Valley, League of Legends, and Overwatch that I’ve been playing. Gaming is not a solution to all your problems, Nessa. Jeez.

I have a rough two months coming up ahead. While I know it’ll be stressful, I think it’ll be really good to feel productive this summer.

Currently enrolled in two courses (introductory Biochemistry and Physiology) that I’ve been having immense difficulty fitting into my regular schedule and thus have been forced to take them in the summer. May drop Physiology if the first midterm does not go well since learning so much material in the span of six weeks is absolutely ridiculous. It’s not required for my degree/graduation, but I felt like taking it may help me in studying for my MCAT retake. I’ve always found learning from a teacher/professor to be easier than on my own.

I wanted to get a part-time job this summer (at a coffee shop so I can stop spending so much money on coffee…), but due to my other responsibilities, this doesn’t seem to be realistic until at least after my summer courses end. 😦

Currently continuing to help out in the psych lab I was RAing in for the past year – just training some summer students. Also applied and was accepted as a volunteer RA to another lab – really excited about the opportunity as the lab is one of the only at U of T to use psychophysiological instrumentation. I think the experience will be super rewarding even if I don’t get paid for it.

On top of the courses and the RAing, I also have to study for the MCAT and continue volunteering (~3 hours/week). Safe to say I don’t have much free time planned in the coming weeks. But it’ll be good for me. Hard work is supposed to make you a better person.

Other miscellaneous things I have yet to do, but am mentioning as a reminder to myself:

  • CPR & First Aid course next weekend – it’s apparently a medical school requirement for some schools and it’s also something that the lab I’m RAing in wants me to have
  • Renewing my passport (expires in August) – am not looking forward to taking another horrific passport photo…never understood why we can’t smile in those photos
  • visiting a doctor regarding orthotics – flat-footed me has been putting this off for a whole year…that student health coverage isn’t going to spend itself :/
  • decide on a supervisor for CHM499 – have talked to three profs, unsure if I want to talk to more as I’m already struggling in deciding which lab I’d like to work in

Will try to update on how I’m doing every week for the next two months as I navigate through this heavy workload. I think it’ll be a very simple way to keep my spirits high and the stress low (hopefully…)

More than anything, I want to focus on the little things that make life feel good. Like walking through High Park with my friends yesterday. Like winning that game of Coup on Friday (boardgame night) despite being one card down. Like finally getting a Play of the Game on Overwatch despite me being absolutely horrible at FPS games. Like CLG proving NA can be a strong region at MSI.

Things like that.

Things that can put a smile on your face no matter how hard life seems to get.

Let’s focus on these things.

Because happiness is all about perspective.