Friday, May 25, 2012

On What I Want To Be When I Grow Up.

My father died when I was seven years old. I was told that the cause of death was pneumonia and that was the end of the story or so I thought. It was not until years later after my first semester in college that I discovered a key element to his story. Pneumonia was only secondary to his primary cause of death, AIDS. This single but most important detail cascaded a number of questions. How did my father contract HIV? Why was my mother involved with him? How was it that I am here and healthy?

Uncertain on how to proceed from this, I spent most of my undergraduate career participating in a multitude of student organizations, volunteering in community projects, and even studying abroad in hopes to find rhyme or reason to my familial circumstance. Though personal inquiries of my father were still left unanswered, I found a temporary but resonating resolve through these acts of service. Whether it was building homes in Tijuana or producing a fashion show to fund student scholarships, I relished opportunities to extend my energy and ideas with others towards a larger, more productive goal. Utilizing my talents to create something tangible, while also formulating this interconnectedness with people developed this zeal within. By my senior year, I received the prestigious Senior Oceanids Award for my involvement in community service.

Motivated by this means of charity, I decided to work at Pomerado Hospital in order to make use of my skills in a new medium that is patient care.Working with patients learning to walk again after surgery; teaching a patient how to hold a spoon after a stroke - these simple tasks illustrated for me the subtle but relentless ways our bodies work towards healing itself every day. I saw firsthand the power that comes from a mobile body. Mobility produces functionality; functionality begets autonomy and without this, quality of life is greatly compromised. I realized thereafter that I wanted a life devoted towards enhancing the condition and quality of one’s life was in the role of a physician. 

Moving to Boston, working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, volunteering at Massachusetts General Hospital and ultimately, enrolling in the MA in Medical Sciences program at BUSM; all were substantial to my professional and personal growth. However, none was more meaningful or impressionable to me than my time at AIDS Action Committee as a hotlines counselor. People called with general questions of HIV/STD transmission, while others spoke of scenarios of some possible exposure to a sexually transmitted infection. More often than not, calls were less concerned with physical ailments and more so for support as a caller waits for her test results or another discovers he is HIV infected. I became accustomed to consoling others through my words and realized that despite the information I could provide, it was my approach on how I spoke to them that made our conversations most productive. I had to assess what their main concern was, understand the expectations of that caller, and then fulfill those needs exclusively through dialogue. I would imagine each caller as a patient; probing for some solution to a certain, health-compromising predicament, and my voice was the only means of treatment. In the past, my ideas and my hands created the environment conducive towards helping others. This time, however, it was my aptitude to audibly observe the needs of another that produced a positive outcome. What was difficult about these anonymous callers was that for that brief moment I was on the phone with them, I would imagine that I was speaking to my father. This was the closest I have worked directly with the community my father was a part of, and with each case I would catch myself saying the words I wish I could have said to him. Saying the words like, your diagnosis does not make you who you are. Viruses are not bias upon your sexual preference. You are not alone, and you are surrounded by those that love you and care for your health.

Looking back on college, I questioned the reasons why my father died the way that he did. I realized now that my attempts to rationalize his death does not, unfortunately, change the outcome. It was in his lack of presence that I discovered my purpose in service, in the medium of patient care, and now in hopes, in the role of a physician. My father is my constant reminder of how valuable a life is, and how unfortunate it is when that life is compromised or shortened in such inopportune ways. My uncle, a physician for decades, told me that the eyes and ears of a clinician were the tools that direct accurate diagnoses and ultimately, better treatment of care. Understanding these details of the human body is imperative to become a doctor but the ability to mobilize this information in an advantageous way for the patient, using those skills of keen observation and effective communication, are as equally important if not more to become an influential caretaker. I want to use my talents to prolong, enhance, or at minimum withhold pain from a life through my words and actions. I am conscientious in cultivating these skills -- seeing, hearing, speaking truth -- and practice their mastery every day, so that I may be the physician I know I can become.

N.b.  A draft to my personal statement. Copy this, and I will kill you. Love, elle

Saturday, May 19, 2012

On Boyfriends.

I found a few old posts that I wrote pre-break up and when I read it, I was just flabbergasted on how short-sighted I saw myself, the truth of the situation, and how unfortunate it all was. And, of course, the word "boyfriend"came up pretty often. Is it weird that the word boyfriend is actually something I can't really see myself using anymore? Not just for the moment but in general. I literally used that word for almost 7 years of my life, straight. It's not bragging, I humbly recognize that it was a privilege .. Maybe by declaring that I'll never say that word again, I won't be shocked if that actually happens. I mean, let's be honest. What if I don't fall in love again? This is a completely, plausible outcome. Am I ready for that? The idea of never using that 'B' word again. I might just have to be. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not entirely closed off by the idea of meeting someone. It's just that I want that if someone does come into my life - all cute and smart as I imagine him to be - to be cool with the idea that he is not just a 'boyfriend' or 'best friend' or whatever 'friend' version of mine that may or may not include benefits. I want that person to be who he thinks/identifies himself to be and not worry so much of what role he needs to play in my life. I used to be offended when my boyfriend at the time would introduce me by my name and not as his "girlfriend" but, by whatever his intentions was by doing so, I realize the power in him identifying me by my name than so much as the person I am in his life, was all actually endearing

Despite my declaration off men, I would want a family someday. With people other than myself, a home, possible kids. A man to hold hands with on a Saturday afternoon. But here's the problem: how do I get there when the idea of a 'boyfriend' makes me want to shake my head at the moment? This may be a problem. I would want to think that I could be in love again. It's a fun, whimsical thought on trying to guess the how and where and who that may be with. How I get there, not quite sure. And what choices would I have to make if that is something I may want in my life not necessarily now but later? Will I have options later down the road? Is it (too) bold to say to the universe that - one day - I want to share my life with another? A "friend" of mine spoke hypothetically about his future partner in life, with this flair of confidence. As if he had already knew who she was but doesn't. He isn't dating anyone, that I know for sure. But I wondered how he imagined her in his head. I was sort of envious, not gonna lie. This notion that he knew he would fall in love again.. how was he so sure

So, at the moment, I'm actually attempting to suppress a crush of mine. Why? Though as fun as it's been to have these shamelessly cute feelings, it is annoying as hell. Plus - 1) I don't think he's interested and 2) this is probably, most likely the worst time for me to even get slightly involved with anyone. Let it be said. I need a  breather. It's hard, though. I can't differentiate whether these feelings come from actual value of him or because it is an oh-so-famiiar feeling. But let the records show. I think the reason I liked this guy was because he was the antithesis of my ex-boyfriend. He was focused but with a heart. Sentimental but funny. And as much as I hate to see this go - for both practical and lack of reciprocation, it was my pleasure to have had that feeling again. That reminder.

I did not expect myself to be in a place where I would have feelings for someone, anyone, anytime soon. And yet, I did. I speak so much of the resilience of our bodies, and I think I may have underestimated the ability of our yearning to love (and in return, to be loved - thought not always guaranteed). And though nothing will come from this, except for a minor loss of some self-dignity, I am grateful for the glimpse of these feelings. I never would have thought that I could feel like this again again. Feelings of hope and endearment for someone else. It's nice to know that the heart still skips a beat, the face still blushes with the thought that there could be - someone out there to be.. whatever he and I needs to be.

Monday, May 7, 2012

On the Last Day of School.

Poor Entry. The titles keep on changing on this. It was first "On the First Day of School" then "On the First Day of the Second Semester" and now.. we're on the last day before finals. Awesome. Procrastination is real. Took me a good, what 9 mnths? Not bad, not bad at all.

My first intention was to write entries on those actual days so to capture that 'moment' right before we knew the outcome of it all. And yet, we're all still in that situation even after two semesters. For most of us, we don't know where we'll be as of next year for professional schools, much is relying on how we perform in the next couple days and the MCAT and - heck, for some of us, summer plans aren't even quite settled. All this is fun, aint it? Jumping for joy.

No, of course not. I don't know about you guys but I'm scared shitless. And yes, I know we all can play ducks. Where we are chillin on top, everything looking cool hanging out on the water but really our feet below is kicking around like crazy to keep afloat. I know, I know. Ducks aren't always treading but you get my point.

This year is going to big. Has been and continues to be. By the end of the year, we would of hopefully been invited to those very coveted interviews for medical school. Little secret, remember those people we saw during our first semester - the people on tour for their interviews?  I was envious of them. How they were in that part of the process, closer to the dream. Closer than I at least. I understand that we all have different paths and how we get here of there does not have to be so linear. And that, of course, is the beauty of our story. But. It's hard not to judge this whole process when its about comparison and scores and where you rank on this iron-clad ladder for medical school admissions. Also, side note, I wanted to kick their asses. Because I prematurely judged them for not knowing how lucky they really were. How oh so lucky. But the ass that needed the most kicking was obviously myself. So I used them as friendly reminders of how much more work I need to put in, for myself and for my dream.  

I remember sitting at the Keefer Auditorium listening to people who completed their first year, telling us the number of hours they studied, to read before class, to not fall behind.. It all seems so trivial now. What they should've just said was, Get your shit done. Well. And how ever way you do that or works for you, figure it out fast and do that constantly. And also how we all secretly wanted to beat one another and at one point had said "I didn't come here to make friends, I came here to do work!" And yet for the most part, we did both. Cuz Lord knows had I not had the support, the hugs, the coffee breaks - I would be insane. I'm pretty close to that now but imagine without my friends to keep me straight. Crazy. Absolutely crazy.

I believe we're good for it. All those hours and hours of work put into class, libraries, bed rooms until 2 in the morning. The amounts of coffee consumed, conversations we've had with one another to settle nerves or motivate us. All that and then some. None of it is wasted. We are finally learning what we want from ourselves, asking our selves, our bodies, our minds to work and expand and become something that it needs to be in order for us to be where we want to be. We have a glimpse of the life we want, and we all know we want it that bad. With that, let's kill these finals. Fourth quarter, two minutes on the clock. Time to make our mommas proud.

This year is going to be a big. I can feel it in the core of my bone marrow.