Sunday, July 29, 2012

Orientation Tomorrow

My anxiety has evolved into anticipation. I spent the evening checking and rechecking all my to do lists confirming that everything is, in fact, done.  I'm really excited.

Tomorrow is going to be mostly routine legalities: computer class, bursar's office, fin aid, security for parking and ID badge, student health etc.

Tuesday and Wednesday will consist of 'meet everyone even remotely affiliated with BCMS' talks. Deans, class leaders, volunteer services, student support services, advisors, student advisors, med spanish group, security systems, the janitors, patients who haunt the ED and the guy who rides his bike past the hospital every day all have an hour slot to tell us what they're about.

Thursday and Friday are the CPR classes. Luckily I'm slotted for Thursday so my first med school weekend is a 3day! Booyah!

Well, except for the "voluntary" day of service on Saturday.  Actually, I looking forward to it, it being the first time I'll really engage in my new neighborhood.

I leave you with a few photos:
Teton Range: Middle Teton is the far left peak
Me on Middle's summit with the Grand at my back

Even the homestretch had stumbling blocks
I know, I know, climbing a mountain is so cliché but the pimple on my chin looks exactly like the Grand Teton and I couldn't help myself. These photographs have the double contradictory effect of lifting my spirits and keeping me humble.  After my photo is taken twice tomorrow, once for the ID and the other for the composite class photograph, I'll carry (literally) the memories of my climbing adventures all through school.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Homestretch/Green Mile

I've had a busy week.

I've reorganized my closets. Twice.  And replaced the inner tube on my bike's front wheel and bought a new saddlebag basket and new reflectors. It's been a few years since I've biked regularly in the city and I can barely wait to get back in the habit.  I love love love not having to find, or pay for, parking!

I killed one of my herbs, the lavender. I don't know what happened. It had good drainage and I watered daily. I think the heat conquered. I fear that this is an ominous sign of the coming year. I'll report back next June on the number of plants that survive MS1.

I  had my respirator fitting and TB screen. Why do hospitals not trust other hospitals' ppd results? Tuesday marked the 4th time in the last 7 months that I was poked (once for the yearly at work and twice before volunteering at a hospice). But BCMS required that I have one done by them too. Argh. Of course, it was negative. Again.

The obligatory pre-first day pimple woke up on my chin this morning. Yay.

I've been trying, the last few weeks, to adjust to waking up earlier. With over a decade of working second/third shift, my body understands that anything earlier than 9:00 is obnoxious. But, this morning I woke up before my alarm at 6:45! I'm thinking optimistically that it's the retraining of my circadian rhythm and not stress, despite the pimple. And the nightmare.

Ask any professional restaurant server (the career that paid for all my adult life) and they'll tell you all about the typical server nightmares: the section or table that swells with new people every time you go back, the unreasonable boss, the evil chef etc.

Years ago, when I started working for a truly nasty boss, my server nightmares stopped. I suppose with actually living the nightmare, My superego had to deal with coping with the stress thus leaving nothing for my subconscious.

On rare occasions, the night before terminally extubating my mother or, as the case may be, the nights before medical school, the server nightmare manifests.  Last night, I was back working for the nightmare boss.  I guess that shows how stressed I am. MCAT pshaw, moving cross-country pshaw, tackling two full time jobs simultaneously hah!  The day before school being on par with deciding to let my mother die?!! 

I know that the next few years are going to bring incredible stresses.  I'll be really lucky if my nightmares continue to be about waiting tables and not about things that could happen in the hospital. I can deal with the angry diner who didn't get her Coke refill.

Today, I do laundry, clean, and pay all the bills for the coming months.

Oh. I received a call from my service provider. The other phone I pay for has shown a spike in activity; would I like to add texting to the plan? Apparently, my grandmother has discovered a great new way to communicate to her friends and family. She's sent out 637 texts this month alone.

It makes sense for a woman who is very hard of hearing- there are fewer misunderstandings. I laughed despite the added cost. My almost 90yo Gram is so tech savvy. She has more facebook friends than I do!

Tomorrow, I go grocery shopping- with my new bike basket! and hit the zoo. I wanted to do something fun and relaxing the day before D-day.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

One Week.

The moment came today. I was walking to the market, a truck drove by and cast a cloud of dust and grime into my face. I coughed and pulled out a cloth to wipe my glasses. Then it happened. My perspective shifted. Medical school ceased being a vague, holy-cow-not-really-happening-to-me, intangible ambition and suddenly became real.

The financial aid is in my bank account. Orientation comes next week and I pick up my books tomorrow. Tuesday is the ppd screen and respirator fitting.

I am so completely terrified.

I walked past the market, continuing on aimlessly. Thinking. I ended up in a little rundown park by the river in an iffy neighborhood and sat, staring at the garbage bobbing in the murky water.

Am I making the right choice?

I remember telling the doctor-uncle of an old flame that I was thinking about becoming a doctor. I was 21 at the time, fresh out of working in the national parks and hadn't even started college. I had no idea then how challenging just getting accepted would be. He wasn't encouraging, a sentiment echoed by the soon-to-be ex.  Life became dramatic and I left that dream on a musty closet shelf of an old apartment.

The years passed and I continued to ramble aimlessly across the country.  I found myself 26, living in Seattle with lots of disposable income. What to do? What to do? Hey! I'll take a couple of community college classes!

And so it began. That first day, my chemistry professor told us that half the class would drop before the term's over. Humph. I'd show him. And I did. I ended up with the highest grade in the class and friends with a premed aspirant. She reminded me of the idea I had had once and, soon, I found myself on the road to medicine.

It quickly became apparent how competitive the premed curriculum and the med school application process were.  My ambitions were not very well received on the family front and my college mentor adamantly wanted me to go into a graduate chemistry program rather than medicine. Having striations of a strong Irish-Scot stubbornness, my "I'll show them" attitude came on gusting. Somehow, the determination to succeed, to beat the challenge by getting an acceptance got tangled up with my purer reasons for wanting medicine. Those reasons I had had before I knew that the challenge, the doubt, existed.

Today, in my terror, I tried to unwind them. Am I starting this insane, exigent path for the right reasons? Now, having shewed them, is this what I really want?

Or is my fear that I'm not good enough, that I won't, can't succeed, murking up the waters, like the garbage floating in front of me, causing me to question my own motivation?

I don't know. 

I'm reading my journal from work, remembering my favorite patients and how the medicine and the dynamics of medical care intrigued me. It's helping a little.

School needs to start. I'm hoping that once I'm on the rat wheel, I won't have time for these self-defeating doubts. Oh, I hope.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Cried Today

A few months ago, I met up with a childhood friend. We had drifted a little apart over the years. I had moved out west, he went to seminary school in Massachusetts.  But we communicated every couple of months and I still counted him as one of my most trusted friends.

When he came into town for the Easter holiday, we made an effort to get together. It was the first time in almost ten years that we met face to face.

It started off great. We caught up on our daily lives (he's building a massive orthodox church in Vermont- I recounted my school application adventures) and then we talked philosophy. It had been a shared passion in high school-one that we'd both explored deeply since.

I minored in moral philosophy in college and absolutely love the intellectual sport of debate. We found ourselves discussing the continental rationalists and I argued Spinoza's work over Leibniz's. I joked that it was ridiculous that Leibniz couldn't comprehend infinite regression in his monadic theory but that he had no problem with it mathematically. After all, calculus is, in part, the study of infinite series.

Everything was going great, we had coffee, we laughed, we reminisced. I treasured that, despite our differences on the religion front- rather because of those differences, he offered an intelligent insightful world viewpoint. One that, as a scientist and atheist, I'm not often privy of. Most of my other friends hold similar views to my own.

Well. As our brunch wound up, he tried to save me, spiritually- that is.

I'm not a militant atheist. I hate that I'm labeled by what I don't believe in. I don't believe in many things- Santa, the toothfairy. I wouldn't like to be called adentemfatist. It seems another useless qualification.

I tend to be very shy about my lack of belief. I've seen how much comfort the sick, the dying and those left behind obtain through their beliefs. I saw how much it helps my grandmother to believe that she'll be with my mother again in the Catholic heaven.  It seems to me, that broadcasting my own thoughts to others would only result in being hurtful for them. In fact, I sometimes wish that I could acquire that same comfort. I miss my mom.  But I can't convince my rational mind that it exists. It's just not there.

And I can live my life, fulfilled, happy and with purpose without believing in god. I truly think that it is impossible to convince, with a rational argument, the rightness in a religious belief to someone who doesn't hold that belief.

Anyway. Suffice to say, our brunch did not end happily. I tried to explain that I wasn't going to change my mind and "let's celebrate the diversity our differences bring to the lives of each other".

He wouldn't have it. He told me that he couldn't truly trust someone who didn't believe in god.  And he dropped our friendship in the rubbish can on his way out.

Well, that hurt. All of my care in choosing: eating ethically, minimizing my carbon footprint, volunteering in underdeveloped countries, helping people, spending days helping to clean out his father's church after a flood, all negated in his mind because morality can't exist without a deity to police our behaviors.

Today, I received a call from the financial aid office of BCMS. They chose me as the recipient in my class of their *Service to Humankind* Scholarship. It's a huge huge honor and I'm floored and humbled and thrilled and sad. 

I cried because a big institution, one that doesn't yet know my heart, the responsibility I feel to people and the world, looked at my CV and talked to my interviewers and decided that of all the brilliant amazing and worthy 200 people in my class, that I -stupid, underachieving, insignificant me- most represented to them, a moral spirit. (which is totally weird btw- seriously? me? I'm going to school with Rhodes Scholars, people who organized major endeavors to help others, people who have accomplished so much more than I in much less time. Weird.)  But my 'friend', someone who had known me, my heart, my choices and actions for over two decades... Bah.

Sigh. I guess everybody has to deal with getting over toxic relationships at some point in their lives.  I'm just having a really hard time doing that today.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Settling In

So I've unpacked and organized all of my stuff.  The apartment is small and technically a studio (though there's an alcove between the entryway and the kitchen- meant to be a dining area- I made it into a little bedroom.) It's clean with high ceilings, beautiful floors and tons of light.  I'm thrilled knowing that I'll have at least four years here. I finally have a home.

The last three years have been tumultuous for me.  I spent most of 2009 in a strange city, surfing the couches of friends of friends. My mom had had a bilat lung transplant and it hadn't gone well. Long story short: she spent 4 months post op in the ccu, graduated to the step-down vent rehab unit, crashed, back in ccu for 5 months, stabilized, transferred to another strange city to a LTACH for 3 months. SIRS -> MODS then she died.  The summer before her transplant, I arranged to finish my final undergrad requirements online and moved from Seattle to the east coast to take over as her caregiver, POA and medical proxy. After her death, we put the house on the market. I stayed there to keep it up and make necessary improvements but I continued to live out of my suitcase, not knowing when I'd have to up and move.

When we finally sold the house, I moved into a tiny studio knowing that I'd be moving for school in 8 months. So it never really became home.

Now... I can plan things like my window sill herb garden and the tomato plants I'll grow over the winter.  I grew these from seed- the far lower pot was the coriander that hadn't survived the 900 mile journey.

I also have a separate desk from my dining table! I'm so excited that in just a few weeks, I won't have to pack up all of my study materials to have a meal!

I'm living in a vibrant beautiful stimulating city. I have a home. I'm going back to school!  I'm on my toes with anticipation and happiness. Ironically, these are the times that I most acutely feel the absence of my parents. I so wish I could share the excitement of my future with them.

On another positive note: My cousin Becks, the crack addict, went through rehab a few months ago and has completely turned his life around. He's doing fabulously. He's out of a toxic relationship, has a new job and is really stepping up as a dad. I'm so proud of him!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


So. I am sitting in a cute little coffee shop in my new hometown. School starts in 19 days.  My family 'helped' me move. I'm never never letting them again! This is my 5th move of >1000miles but it was more stressful than all the others combined. It's so much easier to a) hire strangers to help load/unload b) organize it without the input of those who think they know best. 

In hindsight, I can't help but laugh but in the midst of it all I had wanted to cry. 

I'm loving my new little apartment and all the things to do around here. I can't wait though to get my teeth back into academics.  I've been footloose for too long and want some structure again.

The school emailed me the MS1 booklist and I'm trying very hard not to jump the gun. I've been averaging a 'fun book' a day in an effort to cram in a year's worth of pleasure reading before school starts. I think that I've overdosed though.  I've reached the bottom of my 'to read' pile and can't drum up the interest to find anything else for the next couple of weeks. Any suggestions out there in cyberworld?

I'm off to the zoo now.