back into focus 

as i shared in my last post, i’d unknowingly hit ‘pause’ on my life and my dreams these past couple years once a measly little exam seemingly took over my life but i’m back now reclaiming my time and my joy.

in that process i’ve made a few pretty big decisions about my future and just wanted to share with you all. thank you for your company on this journey. i used to constantly be in awe – and still am – of folks in the arts or humanities or really anything that didn’t have a set multistep plan for their careers. i used to find so much comfort in being a traditional applicant to medical school – straight out of college, no decisions to make about what to do with years off, etc. but the older i get the more i realize that no one’s life path goes in a linear fashion. we all face expected and unexpected challenges and have to roll with the punches. here’s how i’m choosing to roll with mine:

i’m going to be a psychiatrist when i grow up! i’m guessing that this does not come as a surprise to most of you. pretty sure most people knew this was where i was destined to be before i was able to fully embrace it myself. there were many things that fueled my uncertainty but most of them boiled down to giving too many effs about what other people think.once i set all that aside – worrying about ‘hanging up my stethoscope’ and not being considered a ‘real doctor’ (what does this even mean?? i’m in medical school, which contrary to the belief of people who continue to ask me if i’m going to be a nurse when i tell them that, i’m going to be a doctor!!), stigma against mental illness and providers in communities at large and within my family of origin, folks assuming that i’m only going into it to have a good lifestyle (anyone who knows me this is probably at the bottom of the list of reasons – and anyway what’s wrong with wanting balance in my life??) – i realized that by caring about what others thought i was simply holding my own happiness and passion hostage.

i came into medicine because of my passions for social justice and mental health and i can think of no better way to execute my dreams than by being a psychiatrist. i love getting to know my patients. i’m good at it.

of course i still have concerns – am i risking my own mental health? will my empath self be able to hold down the boundaries necessary to function in my own life without absorbing the struggles of others? will i regret missing the opportunity to be the patient’s first line and home base as their primary care doctor?

but there’s an underlying peace that i’ve found from leaning into this. into what feels right for me and what’s brought joy in some of the darkest days these past few years. into what i’ve always envisioned for my life.

i’m moving to NYC! i’ll be at columbia this upcoming year obtaining my MPH. my struggles with USMLE greatly robbed me of my passion for medicine. it often left no time or energy to explore my activism and advocacy. getting an MPH was always a part of my life plan but it’s something i’ve decided to pursue now (rather than later) in an effort to rekindle the flame and remind myself of my goals for my life, beyond passing an exam. i still have no idea where i’ll be living or how i’m going to balance moving several times this summer while taking shelf exams and OSCEs and step two. but for the first time in a long time, i’m truly excited about the future and it feels so damn good.

i only have a few more weeks of core rotations remaining in third year and i’m so happy and proud that i chose to advocate for myself to start rotations before retaking step one. i’m not exaggerating when i say that decision probably saved my life. in the past year i’ve learned so much about myself and the physician i aspire to be. i’m so excited to continue to move forward in my career and this life i’m building. grateful for your company through it all.

roaming the deserts

I’ve been spending a lot more time exploring the treasures of southern California after realizing that I’m surrounded by such incredible beauty and don’t explore it nearly as often as I should. I’ve also been getting over my irrational fear of ‘finding parking’ and thus, venturing out more.

This past week I went to check out the super bloom in Lake Elsinore and to Desert X in Coachella Valley. Both were incredible experiences that I’m so grateful to have had. I’ve included some of my favorite shots taken on my DSLR from both locations below. Looking through my lens at works of art and the art that is our world truly brings peace to my heart. Grateful for the means to go on these adventures and the joy they bring my soul.

 

portland, pt. 2

Hubs and I went to Seattle and Portland a couple years ago and absolutely loved it! So when I was thinking of a place for a short self care trip before diving back into step one studying, Portland was high on that list. After doing a little research online, I found great deals for flights and a wonderful Airbnb (read my tips on finding great deals on airbnb here) so it was a done deal!

Day One: I stayed in the Alberta Arts District, which was so nice. It’s a fun little neighborhood with great restaurants, coffee houses, small shops – pretty much everything you need for a slow vacation. I got there early morning, checked into my house, rested a bit and then spent the late morning and afternoon exploring Alberta St. I went to several shops, had brunch at Tin Shed and iced tea at Case Study Coffee. I later met up with my high school bestie for dinner at Pok Pok Noi and then, of course, got ice cream at Salt & Straw. It was the perfect first day in Portland – delicious food, lots of walking, great conversation and time to slow down to read and journal.

Day Two: Last time we went to Portland was in winter so we didn’t have the chance to explore any of the outdoorsy sites but I definitely wanted to do that this time. I usually don’t like doing tours because it feels really artificial and then you’re forced to be on someone else’s schedule but since I was traveling alone this time, I didn’t really trust my navigation skills enough to venture out on my own. While researching the best ways to explore along the Columbia River, I came across Pedal Bike Tours. I saw that they had a bike tour that took you through the Gorge from waterfall to waterfall – it sounded perfect so I immediately called to book a tour. The meeting point was downtown, right around the corner from Stumptown so I stopped by there to have breakfast. We drove out to the Gorge, which took about 45 minutes in the van. We started at a couple historical site and then rode our bikes from waterfall to waterfall. It was such a beautiful experience, despite the fact that I had not been on a bike in almost a decade. My tour guide and group were super helpful and make sure that I was comfortable and didn’t complain too much about how much I was slowing them down heh. We saw six different falls and rode the bikes for about as long as traffic allowed. Our tour guide was a Portland native so we got to hear a lot about the history and ask her questions about the recent changes, etc. This whole experience was the highlight of my trip, as I’m sure you can tell by the series of photos at the bottom of this post.

We drove back to downtown and I was super hungry so I walked around downtown and bought the biggest (and most delicious) fajita burrito from a Mexican food truck. Our tour guide had mentioned that Salt & Straw had just started serving soft serve at Wiz Bang Bar inside Pine St. Market so I walked back to that area and met up with a fellow med student. I think I honestly enjoyed the soft serve more than the ice cream, mostly because of the chocolate shell over it. I’ve had cravings for that cone literally every day that I’ve been home since heh.

Day Three: I slept in a little because ya girl was out of shape and biking seven miles & hitting 10k steps really did its number on me. I spent the late morning at Blue Star Donuts, reading and sipping Stumptown Cold Brew. The donut wasn’t as great as I was expecting after hearing all the raving reviews but the staff at the Hawthorne location were so fun. After eating, I walked along Hawthorne St. and did a little shopping. I absolutely love how Portland celebrates and promotes small businesses. They also had wonderful secondhand stores in this area. I was planning on going to First Thursday in the Pearl District but honestly just got tired and lazy. I went back to the house and just hung out with my housemates for a while before walking to the food trucks around the corner from the house and got to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air. I spent some time reading Murakami in the living room and had some great conversations with my housemates.

Day Four: I was leaving Portland in the afternoon so I took the morning to try Barista Coffee and Waffle Window. It was really nice to get in a walk before spending the rest of the day sitting on airplanes and in airports.

Overall, it was such a great trip – exactly what I needed to slow down and recharge. And, as usual, I’ve included some of my favorite shots from my DSLR below.

cancún

Finally got around to going through the photos on my DSLR from Cancun and wanted to share some of my favorites. Any votes on which one(s) I should print for our gallery wall, which I have yet to put up?

My main goal for our trip to Cancun was simply to relax. It had been a really tough couple months before that, full of studying and stress so it was great to just get away for a while and learn more about the culture of a country so close to ours.

We stayed at the Intercontinental Presidente Cancun Resort and we absolutely loved it! While a lot of the resorts were full of mostly tourists from abroad, the guests at ours were mostly from other parts of Mexico. It was wonderful to walk the halls and hear Spanish everywhere we went, even within the hotel. The view from our room was absolutely breathtaking.

The Mexican food in Cancun was actually really disappointing. Growing up in Southern California, Mexican food has always been one of my favorites. And there are so many places you can get authentic and delicious food here so I know what it’s supposed to taste like. But most of the food in Cancun was targeted towards tourists so that was definitely saddening.

My favorite part of the trip was visiting Chichen Itza and learning about the history of Mayan peoples. It was a really hot day so it took some effort to really enjoy learning but I’m so glad we went. We set the tour up with a company that was housed in the lobby of our hotel. The architecture of the pyramid was absolutely amazing. It still boggles my mind how they knew so much about astronomy, medicine, etc. with such limited technology. Part of the tour was also visiting and swimming in a sinkhole, under a mini waterfall. We also visited a Mayan village where we had lunch and shopped various small businesses featuring art my local artists. Being surrounded by that culture and truly learning about it was so wonderful.

We also went to Playa del Carmen one of the days, which was nice because of all the shops on 5th avenue. We personally thought that the beach in Cacun was nicer but some people think otherwise so if you’re going, check out both and form your own opinion. We met some really cool people who were in our van for the trip. We were all able to communicate in our broken english and spanish. Our tour guide grew up in Texas and was fluent in English so I was able to ask him a lot of questions about Mexico (about their healthcare system, the economy, etc.).

Overall, other than the heat & humidity, it was wonderful vacation. My favorite thing was definitely learning about the Mexican culture and getting to practice my Spanish. The next time I go to Mexico, I’d like to go to a less touristy area so that I can learn more about the culture and history.

 

r & r in redlands 

The past few months, pretty much since 2016 started, have been nonstop studying – exam after exam. And it also felt like the stakes were getting higher and higher as time went on. Now, I’m in independent study time for USMLE step one and the pressure is on. This exam is known to be the most difficult of many licensing exams and also plays a huge factor in what and where you’ll practice medicine.

I’ve always prided myself in understanding that test scores do not define me or my ability to be a good physician. When struggling with the MCAT, I knew that somehow things would still work out because this was my calling. But the step one boogie monster got to me and I started doing all the wrong things: not taking breaks, staying up too late to finish my study ‘to-do’ list, focusing on quantity instead of quality, comparing myself to others and making this test my life.

Earlier this week, I performed pretty terribly on a practice exam and after crying & wallowing and talking to one of my best friends, I realized that I was essentially setting myself up for failure. So I decided to take a couple days off and remind myself of the life I live outside of this exam. I went to a neighboring city and just explored. I dusted off my DSLR and just roamed around eating great food, shopping at local stores, hung out at a local coffee house and drank delicious coffee while reading and journaling.

Going to be back at it tomorrow, while fasting for Ramadan (which I’m nervous about but also excited that I’ll be taking this exam in such a blessed time). I’ll have even less ‘chill’ time between starting third year and taking this exam but pushing it back was just so necessary for my own well being. I’m committing myself to doing my best on this; I won’t sell myself short but I’m also not going to look at what others are doing (especially if they’re vacationing while I sit here stressin’ out).

This is my journey. It’s had a lot of twists and turns and loop-de-loops but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m going to be caring for actual people one day very soon and I can’t wait. But this is just something I have to get through until then. Thank you all for accompanying me on this journey – you all push me to constantly renew my intentions and better myself.


airbnb experience & tips

As I’ve mentioned in many previous posts, traveling has always been the best way for me to feel refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges. So after every set of finals, hubs and I try to take a trip – even if it’s only overnight. It allows us to spend some much needed time together and just get out of our routines and explore. One of my favorite things about traveling is how wonderful it feels to come home. Being away can really make you appreciate the routine and mundanity of home.

Because I only had a couple days off and we had several family commitments that same weekend, we decided to stay local and head to Pasadena. At first I looked into hotels but because we were booking really last minute, all the rates were really expensive. Then I remembered that Airbnb exists and started looking on there!

For those who don’t know, Airbnb is a website in which people host visitors in their home in several cities all around the world. You can either rent out a shared room, a private room, or an entire home or apartment. I think it’s really great because it allows people to travel without having to pay an arm and leg and allows people all over the world to make a little money on the side. We had a really great experience with our first stay in Pasadena and I’m looking forward to using this website for all our future travels!

Here are a few tips on how to use Airbnb to ensure a great stay:

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explorin’ home 

As I’ve said before, hubs and I try to take a short trip after every block. At our school we only have finals so that really adds a lot of stress to each set of exams since our entire grade rides on that. With all the stress of trying to figure out my new schedule for boards and remediation, I didn’t get to plan anything in advance. Last minute, we decided to have an overnight stay-cation in downtown Los Angeles. Then we realized that we’re not hip enough to hang out there and then decided to go to Pasadena instead.

Because it was so last minute, all the hotels were going to be really expensive so we decided to try out Airbnb. I’ll hopefully have another post separately on advice on using Airbnb in the next few weeks.

I’ve been living in California for well over a decade but still haven’t really explored all the touristy spots in SoCal. Because we wanted to stay local for our trip, we decided to go to Pasadena and check out places around there. Our first stop was The Huntington. I’ve included some photos below from my ‘real’ camera.

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