Monthly Archives: July 2013

Recommended Doses

My wife and I have had a lot on our plates for the last few months. 

On May 22nd, I got my acceptance letter for medical school. So really everything started right around then. I had graduated less than two weeks before I got that fateful email, so I had around two weeks of blissful work, no school or anything.

Since that day, however, it has been totally and completely nuts. We have both quit our jobs, my wife has found another (and I haven’t because…well…suga’ mama, remember?). We have made 7 trips to our new destination city, often driving 3 hours there, spending a LONG time looking at houses/job interviews/doing school stuff, then driving 3 hours home. These days usually see us leaving the house around 5 am and not returning until the wee hours of the morning. I like road trips and driving more than most people, but these are some long days. (I have the same love of driving as a 4 year old boy – I just like moving the wheel, pushing the pedals, and making the car go).

Also, just to make things more exciting, I traveled to Idaho and did my first Ironman triathlon in June. You know, a week away from home, big competition, physical exhaustion, lots of stress, etc. 

We also bought a car and went on vacation with my wife’s family for a few days. Want to know what all of these activities have in common? Here, I’ll give you a hint.

I tried to think of something witty to write here, but got sad looking at all that money.

Having gone through all of undergrad without any student debt, as well as avoiding car payments by paying cash for cheaper cars. we have so far avoided any debt at all. That whole financial plan was shattered pretty quickly this week, as we racked up more money in debt last week than all of the money I have ever spent in my entire life on anything put together. Yikes.

So they say (I’m not sure who “they” are, in this instance. Most of the time I like to reference exactly who is saying something here, as they could be anybody. This was told to me several times in the last few weeks by several people). They say that couples, especially newlyweds, should not attempt too many life changes in a short time span. I’m sure that whoever says stuff like that is inserting a picture of us, since we have crammed all of these “life events” into a few weeks. Geographic changes, career changes, financial stress, and some bonus stress like Ironman. 

We have done really well with this so far. We seem to grow closer together when faced with stressful situations, and have somehow managed to sail smoothly through some really challenging waters. Yesterday, however, everything sort of caught up with us. We had yet another three hour drive, towing a trailer in the rain, moving all of our crap from one place to another, and we were both just tired of it. I’m ready to be settled someplace and get to work on medical school, which starts next week. Yikes.

Tomorrow we begin the actual move, so my next post should be about my white coat ceremony.

Thanks for reading

Life is Weird – Updates

I have lived in the Midwest for around 7 years now, so I am somewhat familiar with the weather patterns (or lack thereof) that we experience. Example: typically in July we experience week after week of blazing heat (100+) with high humidity, just to add more misery icing onto the melting, sad cake that is late July. Today, however, it is 65 degrees and pouring rain. Even weirder, the highs for the last few days have been low 70s, with even more rain. Last summer I only mowed my lawn once, because it never rained and all vegetation turned into crispy brown kindling. Anyways, life is weird.

Tuesday night I couldn’t sleep. This is weird because I usually don’t spend more than two minutes in bed before falling into a deep sleep, which lasts until my iPhone jars me from my slumber in the morning. I sleep through earthquakes, fire alarms, thunderstorms, and long plane rides with screaming kids. Most times I am in such deep sleep that I don’t even realize I need to pee, until I finally get up in the morning and dash to the bathroom (urinating for four straight minutes, oddly enough, is not something my wife finds attractive). So Tuesday night I found myself laying in bed from 12-330, shifting around, rolling over, staring at the ceiling, and NOT SLEEPING. I didn’t like it at all. Life is weird. 

 My younger brother is 17 and in the hospital since yesterday. A normally healthy young man, he cut his leg with a chainsaw last week and now has a bizarre infection. Local doctors are conferring with Infectious Disease specialists in large cities to try to figure out what he has, and blood cultures aren’t showing anything. As I repeatedly tell my friends and family, and despite the title of this blog, I didn’t magically become a doctor when I was accepted into medical school. I still have the same amount of medical knowledge (nothing) that I graduated college with. So when my brother has all these weird symptoms and lab results, I feel like I’m trying to stare at one of these crazy boats.

This is really a thing. It’s called “dazzle” camouflage, and it’s used by only the most fabulous ships in the navy.

A week from today I will move and start orientation things with my medical school class. My beautiful (talented, lovely, wife who is way too good for me) has been interviewing with design firms in this new city, and has received no less than five job offers from various companies, some of whom are not even openly hiring. As a recent college graduate, I know so many people looking and applying for jobs across the nation and getting nothing. My wife, on the other hand, pulls in five incredible offers in one target city (at double her current salary….suga’ mama!!)

Finally, I have carried a composition notebook constantly this week, jotting down ideas and actually working on my book, which I have no chance of ever finishing in this decade. I’ve done that and played an unusually large amount of Minecraft, and it’s been a great week off of work. Oh right, I didn’t mention that. As of last Sunday, I am officially unemployed for the first time in about 5 years 🙂 I have worked through most of high school and all of college, and I feel myself beginning to go a little bit insane after one week of packing and “vacation” at home. I know I’m going insane because I can read, on other blogs, how terrible medical school supposedly is and I still get excited about starting it, just to be doing something.

Life is weird.

Thanks for reading

Late to My Own Party

A few weeks ago I had the chance to sit down and talk with a friend and mentor of mine on a nice summer morning. This guy is articulate and insightful, and our conversations are usually fairly interesting. On this particular morning we talked about work he was doing for his masters program, specifically studying changes in the attitudes of young people as generations have gone by. Because he works with young people, his focus is on the Millennials, or Generation Y. The milleninals make up most of our teenagers and twenty-somethings in America today.

I am a Millennial. You are likely a millennial as well, if you are reading this. We were born after 1980, and most likely before 2000. Generation X came before us (1960is-1980ish), and this would be my parents generation. The baby boomers came before them, and my grandparents are likely best represented in this category. Before them comes the silent generation, one that was raised during the Great Depression, fought and won World War II, and returned home to shape much of what America is today. 

If you haven’t done so, you can read an interesting article from Time (a few months old) here, or do credible background reading here (citation needed). To summarize, Millennials tend to be characterized by confidence, optimism, and idealism, despite coming of age during tough economic times. We are the most highly educated generation. Most millennials are tech savvy, liberal, less overtly religious than previous generations, frequent users of social media, and generally friendly with their parents and respectful of elder generations (I didn’t make that last bit up. Pew Research Group backs me up here). Critics of my generation call us lazy, narcissistic, overly confident, and entitled. There is truth to all of those descriptions.

At first I felt as though I didn’t identify with Millennials. By lifestyle, religion, and values I am often distanced from my peers by those very decisions. I began to list in my head all of the reasons I may not fit well in this Millennial grouping (of course by writing about it on my personal blog I fall right back into that Millennial stereotype. Oops). To run down the list from the Pew article, there are tons of differences. I married at a very young age (20). I have no tattoos. I have strong religious beliefs, and make no efforts to conceal them. I have been gainfully employed for the past six years during high school and undergrad (this will change in about 4 days when I move to begin medical school). My Facebook profile is very private, I don’t have Twitter, rarely take selfies, don’t have cable TV, and spend much of my free time reading. 

Armed with this notion in my head, I headed to the Internet to prove myself right (the fact that I turned to the Internet should have been a great clue here). Sure enough, Pew research has a quiz you can take to see how Millennial you are. The scale is 1-100 (not 1-Millennial, as I was hoping). After 15 quick questions my results popped up. 

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You can find an online quiz for almost anything these days…

Shocking, right? I started the quiz so confidently, checking off questions. No piercings, yes I’m conservative, no tattoos, etc. Other questions seemed silly. Of course I spent about an hour online yesterday. Do I have a house phone? Heck no! How many texts did I send? Hmm…around 40. It was a slow day. Did I play an hour of video games yesterday? Well, I did happen to spend 90 minutes or so on the amazingly addictive time sink called Minecraft (seriously though…I start on building something cool, then next thing I know it’s 2am!!)

So I’m definitely a millennial. It’s official, the Internet said so. I still have to hold on to the hope that I’m an unusual millennial, since that makes me sort of special. There is some truth to that idea, I think. I already talked about some of my non-Millennial traits, but there’s more to it. At a medical school interview this past year, I learned that the median age for fist year medical students was 26. I’m 22! By the time I’m 26, I’ll have either a) graduated medical school or b) died of a sweet tea overdose. 

Worth it

Once a practicing physician, I will be about as young as a new doctor can be, without being some sort of prodigy. In fact, the first millennials were born in 1980, so the oldest would be around 33 today. This means that millennials are just now finishing residencies and becoming physicians, entering a field currently dominated by Generation X. I’m interested to see how we change medicine in the next twenty years. Will our confidence, idealism, and optimism usher in a wave of reform and growth, riding the momentum handed to us by a wave of medical breakthroughs in proteomics, epigenetics, and gene therapy? Or instead, will our spirit eventually be destroyed by the grind of life? We were all told, while growing up, that someday we would change the world. Will we wake up in our forties, with debt and family problems, and realize that won’t happen? In that case, the idealism we currently hold may change to a characteristic cynicism in two decades. Only time will tell.

I’m curious what my kids will be like. I’m young, but I can remember not having the Internet. Maybe our kids will end up being the Networked Generation? The Wireless Generation? Let’s wait and see.

Thanks for reading!

My Only Opus

I really enjoy writing. As a clever reader, you have likely already figured that out. After all, I have this blog, and another blog that I loved for several years, so it would seem obvious that I enjoy writing. In fact, I am a far better reader than I am a writer. 

And I’m a terrible artist.

Let me put it to you this way. While I read prolifically and consistently across multiple genres, the only real output I have ever actually generated while writing is in the form of blogs or mini-papers on current topics. I am such a flighty author, never able to stay perched on any subject long enough to generate a substantial product. 

I have a friend who is already a published author. He is my same young age, but he has already written and published his first book. His second and third books in that series are on their way as I write this! So when I consider the fact that we both run blogs with a readership that consists of more than our mothers (barely….hey Mom!), I find myself wondering why I also have not published a book. Is it because I am slightly ADHD and flighty when I get writing? Yes, definitely. ALSO, it’s because I’m an amateur. My friend doesn’t have the work experience or academic experience that I have. In essence, while I was working and studying, he was writing. He has decided to become a professional author. That seemed to suck some of the fun our of it for me. He HAS to write, every day, all the time. Without these next few books coming out, his life will have negative consequences in his near future. I really don’t want that.

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The utilities have to stay on. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So I will keep writing for the fun of it. Now I may have sold myself short near the beginning of this. I want to publish books. Multiple books. I have the rough outline of a novel that I am slowly filling in. I would someday love to publish a work of non-fiction as well, and I have collections of writings on modern day issues that I would publish, if given the chance. I don’t see myself finishing this novel any time soon, but I have no doubt that I will one day sit down and work through the whole story, polish it up, and let other people read it. It might even be good. I have even given some thought to a movie. Despite films many weaknesses in storytelling (and my absolute lack of experience in screenwriting), I have kicked around some ideas for a movie with a good plot. I’ll have to write some other time about why I don’t like movies, because I feel myself getting off topic.

Right! While I may eventually write a book, perhaps a movie, that is sort of good, I think I may have already created my best idea ever, and it’s a video game. Hopefully I didn’t lose anyone there, because this game I have designed will drown everyone who builds and programs it in heaps of money. I’m a med student with no experience whatsoever in video game design, but I pretty much minored in video games for the last four years of college, so I know this is good. If you make video games, or know someone who does, please comment or message me (even if you are reading this far in to the future). I volunteer myself to do writing and design work.

You may be wondering what this game is like. It’s online multiplayer, but with singleplayer portions and mechanics as well. It combines RPG mechanics like levels, equipment, and stats with survival mechanics and open world action. The technology may not yet exist for this game to happen. It might have to wait for the console after Xbox One, or for the PCs of the next decade. I spend a significant amount of time thinking about it this last week, and just the thought of how sweet this game would be has made the games I’m playing now seem less fun in comparison. I think video games are a form of art. Well, if movies are considered art, then video games certainly should be art as well. Bethesda and Ubisoft come to mind as current companies that may have some knowledge of the world I want to create, due to their work with open world environments in games like Assassin’s Creed. 

I will admit that this game is not entirely original. I have created countries, creatures, and geographic features that are distinctly mine, but I borrow freely from games that do things well. I love the survival mechanic from Minecraft, but even that mechanic is better characterized from an older game called Lost in Blue. 

The way I know this idea is good is because I add to that document often. Pretty much daily. It’s like when I am reading a good book and have to know the ending, except I get to continually improve and refine the stories and concepts as I go. Here in a few minutes I will hit publish on this post and leave it on this blog for all of the internet to see forever, but I am going to keep writing. I’ll keep blogging. My novel will fill out a little more (right now it’s like the awkward teenager that seems to be all knees and elbows). I’ll keep daydreaming about this video game, and the game that is made will likely be quite difference from this current version in my head. I’m content with that. I’ll keep writing.

Thanks for reading!

Don’t Be That Guy

At this phase in my life I have memorized a short, succinct answer to several questions. Lately the most common question is “Hey I heard you did an Ironman! How far is the swim/bike/run again? How was it?” 

There is no possible way for me to casually describe such a crazy day, especially during one of those quick conversations that occur with people you see every now and then. So I usually reply with something like “Well, I had a really good time. It was a long day, but I am happy with the outcome.” All of that is true, but it skims the surface of a goal that has taken me years to accomplish.

A few weeks ago the most common question was this:

“What are you doing now that you have graduated from college?”

Me- “Well, I am going to medical school in the fall at _______ Medical School” This was followed immediately by.

“What kind of doctor are you going to be?”

Me- I have some ideas, but I likely won’t decide for a while. I want to get some firsthand experience first”. 

Once again, that is true. I have some ideas of specialties I am interested in, but I am not interested in deciding for this reason right here:

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I see all of that green as a vast, lush field of….ignorance, I guess.

See, since I have this vast sea of ignorance to overcome, I can’t make a remotely informed decision. I understand that some students come from a family of cardiologists, or that they have had their hearts set on pediatrics since they were little, but I have none of that background. I have absolutely zero health care workers in my family, and my motivation for becoming a doctor is based mostly in a desire to help others and an above average aptitude for biological sciences and problem solving. It’s my belief that there is no “ideal field” for me, the only place I will be truly happy as a doctor. Instead, I think there are likely many areas of medicine in which I could practice and be satisfied with my choice, but I have no way of deciding between them until I get in and experience medicine firsthand. 

Back to my point. After I tell people I am undecided on a specialty, I sometimes get feedback like this. 

“Well I had this doctor once. Man, he never listened to me. Every time I was in his office I had to wait for 3 days to get seen for 4.7 seconds, then he would just prescribe whatever drug was on his pen. He was rude, smelled bad, and scheduled me for a follow up in a week. Follow up for what? I was only here for a bit! He told me I had cancer but it was just GERD. Bla bla bla bla…..yeah so don’t be that doctor.”

You, the reader (hopefully I have more than one eventually), may have done this yourself at some point to another prospective medical student. I don’t understand this. This doesn’t happen for other professions

“Well I knew this architect who built a building and then it fell down and killed a bunch of people, so he went to jail. Don’t be like that architect.”

“I have a friend that’s in sales! He can be really pushy and annoying, trying to sell me stuff all the time, and just doesn’t know when to back down. Don’t be like that.”

“We hired an interior designer once to do our conference room. She picked these horrible colors that we didn’t like, then went on vacation and didn’t call us back. She also only spoke French. Don’t be like that!”

My cousin’s boss was in management! Yeah….turns out he embezzled a bunch of money from a non-profit that runs an orphanage and used it to buy a private jet. Don’t be like that guy.”

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Seriously. I am certain this experience is not unique to me, and I will count on other medical students out there to back me up if they have been through this bizarre ritual as well. First of all, I have no idea what to say to someone who gives me that “advice”. There are better ways to make small talk with people embarking on new career paths, people.

Thankfully, I have had so much genuine support from friends, family, co-workers, and doctors. The people closest to me have been universally encouraging, often telling me that I will make a terrific doctor someday. That’s good to hear, especially from some of those who know you the best.

As always, there is a lesson to be learned here. Physicians treat people that are often in very stressful and emotional situations, so every thing they do is magnified. See, people tell other stories about doctors as well. Doctors that cared for children, parents, and friends during cancer, births, surgery, etc. Doctors that may not have spend much time with these patients, but nevertheless had a huge influence on them. These doctors were compassionate, respectful, and friendly. Even though the stories I hear may be 20 years old I can still see the respect and love in their eyes as they tell me about a good experience they had with an excellent doctor somewhere. That’s the kind of doctor I hope to be.

Thanks for reading!

All That Glitters

So this is definitely the final stretch before my first year of medical school starts. Four weeks from today, in fact, I will be starting orientation week. I have so much to do during these few weeks that they will likely go by extremely quickly, and I will look around to find myself in the middle of medical school.

Possibly my grades after the first exams. We will see.

I have two more weeks of work, then a weekend of call, and then two weeks “off” while I attempt to get my wife and I moved several hundred miles into a new house before school starts. The first weeks of school should yield lots of posts on this blog, as my wife will continue working at her current job for a few weeks after medical school starts, leaving me all by my lonesome.

I read far more than I write, and I write considerably more than most of my generation. Heck, I regularly exceed 140 characters when I post my thoughts to the internet, and I rarely abbreviate. Since I read often and quite rapidly, I spend a fair amount of time on Amazon or browsing book stores for something interesting and different.

NOTE: I read Jim Gaffigan’s new book last weekend, and it was incredibly funny. It is probably best read in short segments, but the in-laws were shopping last weekend so I had several hours to kill in a local mall. I laughed out loud so many times the guy next to me at Barnes and Noble probably thought I was losing it.

Like I was saying, I spend a fair amount of time browsing for new books. I am certainly guilty of glancing at a book and immediately making assumptions about it based on its appearance. I am sure that I have passed some very interesting reads simply because the appearance of the book was not what I was expecting or wishing it to be.

Everyone knows the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”, but the truth it teaches is worthy of illustrating to show some of the things I have learned over the past few days.

Right now I am re-reading the Lord of the Rings. I have made it a tradition to re-read the Chronicles of Narnia each Christmas and the Lord of the Rings in the summer, enjoying the familiar flow and cadence of each story, reacquainting myself with favorite characters as old friends. This particular copy of Tolkien that I am reading is the exact opposite of the story contained within. Grey, paperback, and largely featureless on the cover, the backdrop shows the Misty Mountains in poor focus behind a prominently displayed title. My book shows plenty of wear, between the bent corners and curved spine. Those that have read the story know that the tale told inside is of epic proportions, detailed, polished, and assembled over the course of decades by one of the most masterful authors of the 20th century. If I saw my book on the shelf in Barnes and Noble, I might very well keep walking. Maybe this is a bad example, because everyone and their mom has seen Lord of the Rings. Let me put in a huge picture to make up for my lack of pictures so far.

The three really long movies. Surely not everyone slept through them….

There. That should be huge enough.

 

That same idea (not judging by appearances) is a key theme throughout the story. The appearance of a character is inversely proportional to the role they play in the story. Aragorn appears to be a dirty Ranger from the wilderness, but is in fact heir to the throne of Gondor and descended from a line of noble kings. Gandalf is a pivotal character in the story, counselling, fighting, encouraging, and rallying against Mordor, yet he is called Gandalf the Grey. The color grey itself implies vagueness and ambiguity, and for much of the story Gandalf does nothing to dispel the illusion of himself as a wanderer. Even Frodo, who by his resilience is finally able to bear the ring to its destruction at Mount Doom, is by all outward appearances useless in the fight. As a hobbit, he is small, weak, and totally unprepared for combat and violence after an idyllic upbringing in the Shire.

The opposite holds true as well. Denethor is Steward of Gondor, the leader who should be at the forefront of containing the evil of Mordor. Instead he does nothing, even squanders the resources at his disposal. Elrond and Galadriel, wise and powerful Elven rulers, do little more than offer shelter and counsel during the journey and climax of the story.

Given the pace of our lives today, it is our nature to make quick decisions and rapid judgement. Our actions weave a web of cause and effect that last far longer than the instant that it took to make those decisions. I am better at this than most, often picking meals from a menu in seconds (although that may also be because I mostly eat hamburgers. Bad example, sorry)

Pretty much the parts of the menu I can see

Pretty much the parts of the menu I can see

 

To put it another way, I am often quick to make assumptions on people based off recent status updates, despite knowing next to nothing about their lives. I don’t know what it is for you…maybe someone is bigger or smaller than you. Maybe they are better dressed, or more poorly dressed. Maybe they live their lives a way that you don’t necessarily understand (ahem, people who don’t eat at Chick-fil-A!) I do no one any favors by sorting through that new information in an instant.

To summarize before you go to sleep: I am hoping to find places and people with which I am not familiar, and spend enough time learning from them and about them that I am not doing them an injustice by an incorrect first impression.

Now I hope to spend a little longer before settling a matter in my mind. I want to give more than passing thought to what is subtle, and learn to notice the absence of something expected as easily as the presence of the unusual. I hope this makes me a better husband, a better friend, and someday a better doctor as well.

Thanks for reading!

 

Edit: After posting this, I have received tons of traffic from Lord of the Rings fansites. My best guess is they showed up because of the giant picture of the ring I placed in the blog. In an effort to drive traffic, I will soon begin inserting photos of famous people and upcoming movies into posts….just kidding. Maybe.