Sunday, November 16, 2014

Block Two

Firmly entrenched into the second block (semester for everyone else) of my first year and I must admit I'm just really happy. Sure, Anatomy lab stinks to high heaven and I'm not sure I get anything out of those three hour blocks of my life that I will never get back...and sure, I'm not entirely sure I know what I'm doing in osteopathic manipulations class...and yes, I miss my family so much sometimes that it's hard to breathe...

But I'm doing the thing that I've been put on earth to do. I am not just following my dreams, but achieving them. There is ready evidence that I've accomplished something, and a long to-do list of things I've yet to accomplish. I'm in the "dream sweet spot" somewhere on the road between one plateau and another.

One of my cats came to live with me about a week ago, and while we are still adjusting to each other in the new space, it's good to have something else alive in this apartment. And he's content to nap while I study and only occasionally make demands of me - time to play, bowl is empty, omg it's three am and you're sleeping!!

We first years have also been permitted to join clubs this block, having proven that we can "cut it" as far as school goes since we passed block one and are still in our seats. This has allowed me to find other people interested in similar things as I, which implies a certain similarity of personality as well. I feel far less isolated.

The structure of my classes has changed as well. Instead of taking six separate sciences, I am taking six different aspects of one subject - the musculoskeletal system. The curriculum feels more integrated and I feel less like I'm being pulled in six different directions.

It's also the holiday season, so I know that I get to go home every three weeks and spend quality time with my people. I won't lie and say that every single moment is a blessing, but I will say that every day is a relatively good day, and I'm happy with my choices.

I'm also supremely happy that I'm going through this experience as a grown-up. This small difference means that I will go to bed when I'm tired, budget my time so I don't have to pull all-nighters, and will eat, exercise, and take care of myself. I really can't recommend that last thing more. We're learning how to take care of other people, it seems quite a shame if we aren't taking care of ourselves.

Speaking of taking care... there's about a billion muscles I have to go memorize...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

It's way more studying than you think it's going to be...

Well then, how did it get to be October already?

Block break is in twelve days. (!) It's been a heck of a block, it feels like undergrad on steroids - biochemistry, skeletal anatomy, genetics, immunology, microbiology, pathology, and some actual "how to be a doctor" classes involving taking histories and all that jazz. And that was just the first 9 weeks.

It's interesting living 300 miles away from everyone you know and being forced to adapt to a new environment and a new group of people. You make the best of it. You try to remind yourself that the days may be long but everyone says the years are short. And then there's the people who try to make it funny. I had a professor tell us that while we might have worked very hard to get in to medical school, we were going to have to work just as hard to get out.

The best way that I can put it when someone asks how it is... well... it's medical school. I'm very happy to be here and I feel very fortunate to be having this experience...but it's also sort of terrible. I basically study, sleep, go to class, and take about 5 hours a week for myself. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depends on how much I get done in a day... but yeah. It's way more studying that you think it's going to be. And before you know, you imagine that you can't possibly study that long - believe me you can.

My coping mechanisms involve food. I cook a lot. On my light weeks, I will go on monster cooking marathons, making whole big family dinners every night and freezing all but one portion for some "future impossible day." This has made things so much better when it comes to those 'terrible weeks' with four exams.

I've also been going to the gym a lot - it's where I watch television and don't feel bad about it. I use the gym at my apartment complex because they have free WiFi and it's like fifty feet from my door. It seems impossible to get out of it with it's location.

I talk to people back home and they remind me who I am. It's easy to start to lose yourself in an attempt to fit in and make friends. You find a few people that you connect with - you complain, you share, you giggle about the most horrible things, and then sometimes you just cry. I try really hard to limit that, but sometimes there's just no getting around it.

But overall, it's somewhat like I expected it would be. But yet not, if that makes any sense. Anyways, back to the biochem in preparation for tomorrow's exam. And maybe making cookies.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Off into the breach...

Found an apartment, moved in, set up household, looked at booklist.

Nervous, excited, apprehensive, happy.

Will I be the weird old one? Will I make friends? Will this be fun? Will I be able to do this? Will I miss my family so much that it's distracting? Will people actually come to visit? Will my son get along with life at home without me?

So many feels.

I had three weeks between leaving my job in the ER (which was amazing, by the way, and deserves it's own special post once I've had time to cogitate properly) and starting medical school. I had minor plans to move house, go on vacation with my mates, and spend some quality time with my family.

And now it's the start of the last week of that time. It seems like I don't know where the time went. And it seems like I don't know how to best, or more appropriately, spend my last week of freedom.

I've had some great times with friends. Friends that have shown me how much I mean to them, and how much they are going to miss me. It's a good thing to be loved by so many wonderful people. But it's hard to be present in the moment when everyone is telling you all these things, because really feeling that moment would involve being all sappy and emotional. And that's hard to do for three weeks.

It's a long goodbye, and I've never been good at those.

I'm trying to get on the other side of this - to see those moments that come after, the weekends together, the vacations, the holidays, the moments in the apartment studying where it seems perfectly natural and normal. I'm trying to envision my new life as I separate myself from my old.

Everything changes after this moment. There will be things that continue, relationships that go on, hobbies that still get attended... but this life changing experience will be nothing short of that. To be anything other than a bundle of confusing feelings seems like a failure to understand the gravity of the situation.

I'm mostly excited to come back to this moment, years from now, and reflect on how all my worrying was for naught, and that this was the start of my greatest adventure.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Second Star to the Right

After the first interview, I received three more interview invites, one of which I accepted. The first school I was accepted to was within driving distance of my hometown, so I stopped entertaining offers that would require an airplane. Ultimately, I decided upon the second school. They are within 100 miles of each other, but that hundred miles makes a huge difference...

I had no idea how to compare med schools, having never done it before. Ultimately, I used two different metrics - the percentage of students passing their COMLEX on the first try, and the percentage of students getting their first choice residency. Not only were both of these numbers higher for the second school, but it was in a town I liked more, had more of an international focus, and devoted an entire "block" (8 weeks) to board review. Also, the free parking didn't hurt.

Finally, on my acceptance letter from the second school was a personal note from the president telling me how much everyone who met me enjoyed the interview and how much they all hoped I would pick their school. A subtle shift in the interview tactic - we hope *you* will pick *us*. It made me feel like a stellar candidate, and someone worth pursuing.

That was November. Schools that accept you that early want a decision by December 15th. So, I took the acceptances I had and picked the best school. I took a different tactic to the whole selection process. I didn't have a "dream school". I picked ten schools in cities I wouldn't mind living. I planned to attend every interview I was offered, but in the end, really only attended interviews I could drive to from my hometown. In the end, I decided which of my acceptances was my "dream school".

I didn't see the point in picking a dream school before I knew my chances. It seemed a surefire way to set myself up for disappointment. I'm happy with my choice. I've put down a deposit, signed a pre-lease on an apartment, and have begun acquiring housewares. Oh, and the spouse and I have decided to try living in two different cities for at least the first year. It will give us a chance to get some things settled back home, allow the spouse to maintain his current level of tenure at his place of employment, and allow us to keep our house.

I'm getting my ducks in a row. Filling out forms, faxing things (like it's 1985, yes), and just enjoying the time off. I'm even entertaining the thought of learning a foreign language or learning the piano. I'm also, truth be told, trying to finish the published books in the Songs of Fire and Ice series. Silly, yes, but it feels good to do silly things.

Every now and then I peek my head up and take a look around and realize... this is what it feels like when your dreams start coming true.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I got in to med school.

I had an interview this past Friday and I found out yesterday at 9:56am that I was accepted. I still have up to seven "pending" interviews, but it's nice to have my first acceptance.

I really enjoyed the school, the people, the town, and the interview process. It was a little hard not to get emotional sitting at the interview waiting to go back, thinking about everything that brought me to that moment.

It was conscious decision that made everything happen - conscious decisions and a lot of hard work. I feel relieved and nervous and excited all at once. I am probably still in a bit of shock, trying to come to terms with the fact that Yes Virginia, I made it in to Med School... and now the real work can begin.

Above everything else, I'm unbelievably happy and thankful for all the endless support, patience, and love that helped me get here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why do all these moments make me cry...

I have an interview Friday.

It's my first interview. I'm understandably nervous. I did all the reasonable things - buy a suit, hem the pants (I'm 5'2"), pick out accessories, print directions...and now we're down to "freak out."

I do a lot better when I have "to do's" on my list. Things like update CV, etc.

What I need to remember is that I worked very hard for almost three years to get to this moment. I never wavered in my commitment to this goal, even though there were plenty of stumbles. The important thing is that I got back up, I dusted myself off, and I tried again until I finally got it.

I earned this interview and I deserve to be driving down there Friday morning. I have a lot to give, and I have my own perspective on why I want to practice medicine. I want to contribute to the field, to my community, and to the world at large. I want to give something back for all the opportunity that I've had.

I think I'm just trying to organize my thoughts into concise answers to anticipated questions. And I guess I'm nervous about being around the other applicants who will, no doubt, have done some amazing things with their pre-med years. I also think I'm probably forgetting about the amazing things I did with my pre-med years too...

At any rate, Friday at 12:15 EST, I'll be interviewing for med school. And that's kind of an amazing thing.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Well. Here we are. It's almost 5 in the morning, I'm drinking a blood orange San Pellegrino I got from a patient, and tonight will be my last night here on the oncology ward. The MCAT is done and in the dust. My score put me firmly into the osteopathic camp, which really, is probably where I've belonged this whole time. I graduated college. I missed summa cum laude by .02 GPA points, but I'm still graduating with honors.

I made it through my school's pre-professional committee process and was rated as a "strong" candidate. This is the third ranking in the list of six rankings they give out, with the top three usually scoring interviews and ultimately acceptances. In the end, I had five letters of recommendation from some of my professors, an adviser, and my research mentor.  I then received a letter from the committee itself, and the another one from a DO that I shadowed in June.

July 14, 2013 I applied to med school through AACOMAS. I picked out ten schools, one as close as three hours away, some as far away as the other side of the country. August 14th I received my first secondary, and this past Friday I sent in my last secondary application. I received secondaries from all ten schools I applied to, but I elected not to complete one of them. The school that I decided not to continue applying to had a residency requirement of five years post-graduation...and really... I didn't want to live there.

I made it through the pre-med years!

In the next year, I will (hopefully) be invited for interviews and then be weighing my options when it comes to offers. I have a few top choice schools, but I'd really like to wait until I've visited the campuses to make any sort of determination of what I consider my top choices. My very supportive spouse has no real inclination towards one city over another, but ultimately he needs to be happy too so his opinion is certainly a factor.

In the meantime, I've accepted a promotion to the "Advanced" version of what I'm currently doing, which will increase my responsibilities to include starting IV's, drawing blood, performing EKG's, and probably several other things I'm forgetting. Oh, and, it's in an emergency room closer to my house that doesn't involve paying for parking or driving across the city anymore.

I'm looking forward to the next several months - I'm also taking some time to watch tv, read some books (Game of Thrones for one...), sleep late, and just enjoy being alive. I'd like to take a moment to encourage anyone who's been following the journey so far to go and do that thing you've been waiting for the right moment for. Your moment, like mine was, is now. Capture it.