Category Archives: beliefs

Reluctant Vacation

In the five years I’ve been working in publishing, I have ALWAYS worked the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  Most of my colleagues spent time with their families, so being 2,000+ miles away from my family and having not returned home for Christmas since I was 19 years old, I’ve always just spent the week manning the cubicle row.  I didn’t mind.  In fact, the first year I was working there I was so bored I spent the time rearranging the printer area and cleaning my cubicle.  Subsequent years were filled with Macworld preparations.  But this year is different.  When I mentioned perhaps taking a day off, my boss turned to me and said, “you know, you don’t have to work that week.  It’s really boring.  I mean, you should probably take if off.”  Wow.  Why do I have to wait to be TOLD these things?!

So, I have ten days off.  In a row.  TEN! 10! TEN!  I haven’t had that since back when I was unemployed.  And how do I feel about it?  Relaxed?  Elated?  Psyched?

Sadly, no.

How do I feel?  Anxious.  The first few days were concealed under the excuse of holidays.  Followed by holiday recovery.  Monday had a tight schedule of waking early, getting a workout in, cleaning, getting things done.  Today, I slept in late, tried to go out on a rainy day, found the business I was seeking to be closed, came home, read, napped, and woke up.  Woke up to feeling anxious.  I’m thinking back to this post.  Where I vowed to just sit.  Simply sit.  Without thinking about cleaning, running, gardening and all the things that have to be done.  I struggle with this.  I strive for it.  I feel like I fail at it.

This evening I was web browsing.  One of the things I really didn’t want to do during this break was get stuck in front of the television.  I’m happy to say I haven’t.  It has remained off most of the time.  But the computer?  Ha.  I follow Gwen Bell peripherally.  I admit, most of the time I’m simply not in the mood to contemplate things on the level her posts demand, but sometimes I am.  And sometimes it helps, and sometimes it frustrates me.  She’s in the midst of doing her reverb 2010, a reflection of the year through writing prompts.  I only blog once a month, so like I said, I’m peripheral.  But I saw this prompt:

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?)

And I’m sitting here, feeling like I have failed once again.  I was actually considering going into work tomorrow because I need a schedule, I need a routine, I can’t sit still.  And I read this.  And I pondered it.  And what came to mind?

Dear Alison, fucking relax.  Just fucking relax.

I don’t like using curse words unless they are absolutely needed to drive a point home.  I feel like they are needed here.

I had kind of a rough year starting in fall 2009.  I don’t know why I thought I could take 3 classes, work full-time, study for the MCAT, and sneak in some physician shadowing, along with a few work travel trips on the side.  What did this amount to?  I was sick every few weeks, including one of the worst illnesses of my adulthood that kind of freaks me out just thinking back to it.  So is it any wonder that I withdrew medical school applications and had a bit of a rough time with the process?  ( hello ego, is that you on the floor getting trampled?)  It’s no surprise to me.

So what would I have told myself?  The constantly sick and overworked and under exercised myself?

1) Cut yourself some slack.  You’re working hard.

2) Live presently.  Not in the anxiety of an application process you have very little control over.

3) RELAX.

I’m not going to work tomorrow and cut this vacation short.  I’m enforcing it.  I don’t want to successes to be measured by how much can be done and accomplished.  I want them to be simpler, more focused, and to carry a little bit more meaning.  If I had just done this throughout this past year, wow.  Look at how successful I was.  No, I didn’t get into medical school, but I learned so much!  I learned what I could balance and what I couldn’t.  I learned to let go of a really bad relationship I was in and all the stresses it brought.  I am a better communicator, a better listener, a better friend.  I have yet to learn how to dress for my body-type or the ins and outs of physiology and anatomy and cell messenger systems, but that’s not worth the stress.  I can break this down.  I can accomplish what is important to me.  In the meantime, I’m going to fucking relax.

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Weighing In

I’ve seen some of my favorite bloggers and friends post recently about personal thoughts on bullying.  And it made me want weigh in on the topic myself.  Like most girls, middle school was the worst.  I remember being told by the cool girls I couldn’t hang out with them anymore because my best friend was a nerd.  I was pushed out of the girls’ locker room once after being thwacked across the back by a girl wearing a cast.  I was cornered in a sixth grade slumber party and asked in front of other girls if I thought I was pretty and if I was jealous of another girl.  And that stupid guy in eighth grade… Charlie, I forget his last name, egged on by Laura, he came up to me and asked me how it felt to be a nerd.  I think we all kind of had it rough back then.  But I knew I could take it.  I had other things going on for me.  Mostly, I had academics and the knowledge and comfort given to me by my family that I could go to college anywhere I wanted, as long as I could get accepted.  This offered me the self-confidence to get through it all.  So I don’t have any comforting words to the me of that time.  I don’t have a pep talk ready to go.  But I do have some advice.

I would have told myself to not tolerate the bullying I did witness.  While I knew I could take the light taunts and social status assertions, I knew damn well that people around me had it worse.  Why?  Because I saw it.  There were kids who, if I had heard they had committed suicide, part of me would have not been surprised.  While the media is rightfully exposing the bullying toward the LBGT community, that didn’t really exist when I was in middle school.  I don’t remember anyone having “come out” or even “gay” being a word people had in their vocabulary to use as a taunt.  And I was just a nerd.  That’s pretty harmless.  The overweight kids had a shit time of the bullying.  I even had a hand in it and threw out a comment once to a girl about her weight that I regret to this day. (7th grade French class, Rhianna Ray, I’m sorry.)  But more effective than any teacher or parent telling me how inappropriate that was would have been my friend leaning over to me telling me hey, that’s not cool.

So may advice to the me of back then and to the kids experiencing it now?  The teenage years are tough, and people will say hurtful things.  But when you see it happening to someone else, speak up!  Not everyone is privileged with the esteem and family support you have.  You get to go home and have it all be okay.  For some people, it’s even worse when they get home.  If you see someone who you KNOW is having a rough time at school, say something.  To the kid, to the bullies, to your friends.  The peer voice is more powerful than the parental voice in some situations.  Bullying is one of those situations where having a peer advocate could save a life.

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Three Years Later

“It would be cool if you documented on your blog your progression through this medical school process and how you’ve changed.”

This is what boy said to me the other evening after I pointed out how memorial day weekend always reminds me of when I started my blog.  And also when I made the decision to go back to school to pursue a few science courses. You know, just a few science courses to see if I like it.  To see if I am capable of it.  And to see if I would possibly want to go to medical school.  My response to boy after he said this?

“You know, I’ve searched for medical student blogs.  There aren’t many out there.  There’s a reason for that.”

Let that suffice for now as an explanation for where I’ve been.  If I had used this space to document this medical school process, it would not have been about the challenges of the classes, the hardships of working full-time in an industry completely unrelated to my future goal (however equally challenging on a personal level it is – introvert in marketing and doing social media? ha, go figure), and the things that I learned from semester to semester (oh, but do talk physics to me, it’s quite the turn on).  The true process has been an evolution of personal beliefs.  A challenge to tame my mind and body and find faith in small actions by others and myself.  Also, it’s about learning to live with myself.  The process?  It’s narcissism.  And if I were Catholic, narcissism would be the mortal sin, the one you will never be absolved from no matter how much dishwater you pour over you or beads you finger.  Good thing I’m not Catholic.

The process began when I read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  I’ve spoken briefly about this before.  I read this book and felt inspired to find my role in the world.  I would bring up the book with boy and go off about how the journey forced me to challenge why I chose the path I chose.  Was I pleasing someone else?  Was I fulfilling other people’s expectations?  Had I not given myself a fair chance to explore what I was good at?  (Yes, Yes, and No.)  I turned to boy in the car and said “If money and time weren’t a concern, I’d probably try to go to medical school.”  He interrupted me and said “You’ve said this before.  You realize there’s nothing stopping you from trying if you really wanted to do it…”  No.  No, I had not realized this.  This is how unaware of myself I was.  It now seems unfathomable, like I was living with no voice.

I’m sitting here procrastinating studying for the MCAT and filling in my AMCAS and AACOMAS applications and taking a break from scrambling to get sufficient physician shadowing experience.  Because three years later, this is where I stand.  Armed with my pre-reqs fulfilled, facing application season, sorting out my list of schools to apply to, and wondering what happens if I land on the wrong side of the 50% acceptance rate to medical school.

It felt kismet that at the same time I am wrapping this up, boy treated me to an evening interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in San Francisco.  She’s touring with her latest book Nomad which I have yet to read.  She came on stage and I admit that I did not look over at boy purposefully because my eyes were a little teary over the experience.  It wasn’t about her being my hero as much as it was about here’s the woman who has inspired me to change something in myself.  Our life stories are world’s apart, but I can’t help but feel she’s opened a road for herself thereby opening a road for me.

Prior to the interview, a few older people behind us were declaring her amongst the “intellectual elite” and discussing her politics and beliefs.  Boy mockingly turned to me: “Oh! Did you know we are among the intellectually elite?”  Me: “I think they believe they are the intellectual elites.”  Boy: “Didn’t you know that’s all the intellectual elite are?  Those that believe they are.”  He helped me to feel justified in my presence.

The interview concerned issues about perceptions of the Muslim world, truths and statistics about the Muslim world, back and forth over cause and effect of fundamentalism and radicalism, and what Ayaan believes the necessary actions are for change.  Even the issue of America’s liberal arts colleges was addressed, which I found entertaining and curious as a graduate from a liberal arts school.  I’ll be honest, while interesting, I did not attend this event to hear about the Muslim world.  (Albeit my issues with women’s rights concerning Female Genital Mutilation and the desire by men to judge a woman by her virginity drove me to the study of medicine – best quote of the night “human beings, not hymens.”)

Ayaan is unpretentious, speaks her personal truth unabashedly, and asserts her personal truths to the society she lives in.  She doesn’t need an SAT vocabulary to speak concisely on the issues she addresses.  She doesn’t need pant suits, a stern frown, and a title to her name to confront a room of men in suits to elaborate convincingly on an issue.  She doesn’t need to project or drop her voice to a female shout to be heard because she makes it such that every word has value and if you don’t listen, shame on you for missing a carefully thought out point to drive an issue home.  She speaks bravely, and I walked away thinking there’s no reason at all I should not be the one up there speaking my personal truths.  We should all be living a life honest to what we believe so that we each can speak about it so passionately.

I walked away encouraged to be more brave and bold about my pursuits.  The premed process has been about learning what my weaknesses are and challenge them.  I project my weaknesses onto others, get paranoid I’m doing everything wrong, and sit unable to start projects out of fear of knowing the end result will not live up to my expectations.  I fret over how people perceive me, criticize my body relentlessly, and can easily work myself into a frenzy over past humiliations such as misused words or that time I told someone Pyongyang was the spokesperson for North Korea.  I’m neurotic and my own worst enemy.  And if anything, the past three years have amplified this adorable quality of mine.  I challenge all of this by not giving up.  I came uncomfortably close to failing physics last year (yet somehow managed to be far from failing in the end.)  If you could see where my MCAT practice scores are 3 weeks prior to my test date you’d probably wonder what I’m thinking while simultaneously affirming to yourself that no, she is not among the intellectual elites.

So maybe this has not been about evolution of personal beliefs as much as it has been about giving them voice and action.  About silencing the world to filter out the things that matter.  Something that challenges me every single day.

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For Clarification

I’ve been making my way slowly through Walter Isaacson’s Einstein: His Life and Universe (furthering my attempt to not fear physics…)  It’s an engaging biography and turns Einstein into a real person rather than this mythological genius.  I’ve had several discussions about physics with my grandfather, an engineer, about my fascination with physics.  It’s a delicate balance between imagination and math in a way I never thought they could go together.  I love the imaginative aspect that seems to trigger the development of theories that are then tested.  This has led to interesting conversations between boy and me about what we would do if stranded in space without a chance of getting back to earth.  (I’d want to build up as much speed as I could so I could see how far I could go, but then the risk of getting hit!  Too high..)

Anyway, I’ve just reached the point where Einstein is now 50 years old and very much a celebrity, and the public keeps picking at his beliefs.  I know I have heard several times that Einstein believed in God, but it didn’t entirely seem to jive with being a scientist.  Reading his comments, I have to say I agree with what he says.  He always shunned authority and hated being type-casted.  I know the feeling – I hate being pigeon-holed.  I always want to leave room for change.  So here are some passages that I struck me as very non-specific, yet say so much about how he thought regarding religion:

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.  To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness.  In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.

Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe — a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.  In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

..science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

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Jesus hates racist forwards

I got this e-mail today:

“How ironic is this??!! They don’t even believe in Christ and they’re getting their own Christmas stamp,
but don’t dream of posting the ten commandments on federal property?
USPS New Stamp – This one is impossible to believe.

muslim.jpg

If there is only one thing you forward today…..let it be this!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of Pan Am Flight 103!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the World TradeCenter in 1993!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the military Barracks in Saudi Arabia!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the American Embassies in Africa!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the USS COLE!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM attack on 9/11/2001 !

REMEMBER all the AMERICAN lives that were lost in

those vicious MUSLIM attacks! Now the United States Postal Service REMEMBERS and HONORS the EID MUSLIM holiday season with a commemorative

first class Holiday postage stamp. Bull!

REMEMBER to adamantly and vocally BOYCOTT this stamp when purchasing your stamps at the post office. To use this stamp would be a slap in the

face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.

REMEMBER to pass this along to every patriotic AMERICAN you know!!!”

Really? Because it’s for a Muslim holiday, it’s not even for Christmas

But Jesus loves racists…

Not that I’m totally for Muslims, because those crazy overly political correct people that call female circumcision a difference in culture not the child abuse that it is at the very least acceptable can just shove it (even though that’s not a strictly muslim practice). But not all Muslims are bad. And no one buys stamps anymore, so USPS is obviously trying to open the market to everyone for a buck, so let them do it.

It’s a total misrepresentation, and it’s a damn shame.

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This is what gets me through 3 classes and a full-time job

http://www.slate.com/id/2175458/fr/rss/

 Christopher Hitchens on Ayaan Hirsi Ali. 

How can people say that individuals can’t make a difference?

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Realizing how disappointing I can be only makes me stronger…

Knowing that I used to be one of those people with uncertain beliefs and an unwillingness to argue a point, I find it hard not to be frustrated with wishy washy people now that I’ve built up my convictions.  I know, so judgemental – against who I once was, nonetheless. 

For seven years I’ve had to hold my beliefs up against boy’s standard – if you can’t argue it, it’s not valid.  And I don’t like debate, it stresses me out.  So I justified my beliefs on what felt right.  I couldn’t eat meat because it gave me nightmares which make me feel anxious and antsy so not eating meat made me feel better.  I once could not say there was no god b/c I was worried about what people might think and that made me feel like I had my undies in a bunch so I just never committed to an opinion on that.  But now, I just don’t care.  Even attempting to be a vegan makes me feel at peace despite my colleague meat-pushers.  Not believing in god reassures me.  My obligation is to what is in front of me, not to whatever it is people look up toward. 

Recenlty I’ve branched out into conversations with more people about these issues (because like I mentioned here, I have to tell EVERYONE about what I care about.)  But I get irked with the people who haven’t yet decided if they believe in something or the people who didn’t know what they are putting into their mouth actually rots in their intestines over a period of years producing gases that escape through various orifices and I’m not talking about the flatulent variety.  And people who don’t want to know, don’t care to know, don’t have the energy to know that there are parts of the world that need fixing and little people can only do so much but if we all did only so much oh the difference it would make. 

And with this attitude comes the realization that I’ve disappointed people.  And in turn that disappoints me.  For me, these beliefs have come as naturally as waking up and brushing my teeth.  Nothing special, nothing mind-blowing, just a sense of obligation to help the world, just a feeling that the person in the clouds wasn’t watching over me anymore, a hunch that the cow on my plate may have been the reason I had been constipated on and off for 15 yrs.  And for the people I’ve disappointed, these new beliefs are a curious sign that maybe I won’t be the person they hoped I’d be.  but I’m not sorry, not adapting to their vision means I’m stronger than the girl they had in mind.

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