Clearly, I've neglected to write this year, and here I am again almost exactly 1 full year later hoping that writing will help quell my anxieties and help me make sense of the things that have happened this year. This is the last week I have at home before I more or less start with the next chapter of my life - medical school.

I spent my gap year on three things specifically: my clinical knowledge, my family and myself. It was refreshing to spend time doing things I loved, without the time limitations and weight of a project deadline or homework assignment due the next day or preparation for an exam. I traveled to see my friends and to see the world. I got closer to my mom this year, and now we're going to have trouble leaving each other. My job as a scribe in a Rheumatology clinic was truly valuable and I loved the diversity and comfort of the people whom I worked with. There, I saw an environment I knew that I could thrive in.

Even after a year in Rheumatology, I've seen how the knowledge of medicine will affect my life, in both good and bad ways. To see patients and realize how prevalent pain and medical problems are in the society around us is eye-opening. I feel that it has increased my awareness of others and self. Ideas I got from patients in the clinic helped me help my mom with her chronic costochondritis and I could not have wished for anything more. I felt helpful, and I knew I wanted to spend my whole life doing what the physician in the clinic did. It helps to know my resolve is strong to study medicine because once it starts it is a long, hard road.

The negative was that I was becoming too self-aware. I started worrying that every little thing that happened to me was part of a bigger problem. It does concern me that this will happen in medical school and that I will be empathetic to the point of making myself ill. It will take time and some desensitization, but I hope I'll be able to overcome it. It's best to leave one's own health to another doctor to solve and focus on the people on your table. I suppose the anxious, worried, empathetic type are the ones to become good doctors in the first place, so it'll just take some practice. Applying to medical school was grueling, but I'm finally sure it was the right decision.

The best thing I did this year was to focus on myself. I started to crochet and knit again. I cooked - all the time. I made macarons, croissants, soufflé, and had the time to teach myself endless other culinary techniques. I had a chance to read for leisure again. I had the time to have mindfulness sessions and drink tea in the evenings. I got to travel to Montreal, Vancouver, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo. Best of all, I had the time to workout every single day with Cassey Ho and eat HEALTHY. 

During school, we often feel so busy that there's just no time to do anything but study, socialize a little and sleep. It is difficult to prioritize what is important to us because there are so many things that need to be prioritized. For me, exercising was never that high of a priority but that's probably also the cause of the 30 pound weight gain I had during college. That and the fact that it is so difficult to eat well in college. I started POP Pilates and changed my eating habits last summer because I knew that getting back to the weight I was before college began was one of my primary goals for the gap year. It was a process, but I felt and saw change. Losing weight and gaining muscle tone is such a difficult thing to keep up, but seeing that change is incredibly motivating. I started loving my workouts after and I saw and felt the changes in my body. POP Pilates has made exercise a priority for me because I love how strong and fulfilled it makes me feel.

On top of that, having the time to cook healthy recipes (with the occasional indulgent butter croissant or lemon pound cake) has also been a way for me to destress and also help my mom out at home. She's going to miss the deliciousness without lifting a finger when she gets home from work for sure! What is most fulfilling about cooking is having others enjoy what I've made. I certainly have a more sophisticated palate than I once did and that's also a plus, but I love sharing my food with others. The number of times I've personally asked my mom to host her friends for a dinner party (because I have no friends to cook for here) is countless. I'm sure that if I wasn't going into medicine, I certainly would have considered a career in the culinary arts.

Starting to complete tasks for starting medical school has been so exciting because it feels like another new beginning. It's the same way I felt when I started Duke, where no one knows you and you can be whomever you want. I think I'm now someone who is more confident and better at communication than I once was. After a lot of time to introspect, I'm comfortable with who I am now. The biggest thing I've struggled with is a seriously impeding social anticipatory anxiety. So many times this year I've wanted to go to these events and classes around Austin but as the day arrived, I usually could not bring myself to go because of crippling anxiety. I start constantly thinking about arriving and being by myself in a room full of strangers. The funny thing is, I don't think I would feel nearly as bad if there were even one other person to come with me - a friend. I read this book recently called Quiet by Susan Cain, the woman who did a TED talk on introversion (I recommend this book highly for anyone interested in human psychology). She talks about the ins and outs of the qualities and strengths and life of introverts in a world that lives by an extrovert ideal. It validated me, surely, that what I was feeling was not wrong, but simply an object of my personality. But it did suggest that I could make changes, which is what I'm hoping to do during my trip abroad alone and once I get to school. The book has helped me understand the dynamics of my parents, my sister and the people around me. I love better understanding the world around me, and I feel that human psychology is one of the best ways to do that.

Ironically, I think it has also become so difficult for me this year to be alone. Whether it's just my sister in her room upstairs or my mom watching television in the next room, I've felt that I need a presence of another to feel safe and comfortable. I've been very alone outside of my family, and maybe that culture shock from having friends around constantly in college to having only family was part of this new feeling. Of course, it is not feasible to have company constantly, especially since I'm going abroad in a few days - alone. Everyone says it will be a wonderful, introspective, freeing experience and while I believe them, I worry about lacking social communication. Ironic, isn't it? That I have such difficulty with initiating social interactions yet I also am uncomfortable being alone with my thoughts and feelings. I've even started leaving episodes of Friends on while I fall asleep for the sound. How can this be? I understand it like this: what I want is the comfort of those close to me around, but not the effort that needs to be exerted to make new social connections. It's basically the introvert manifesto. Not to worry, I will continue to work to find my balance. 

I am upset that I didn't dance more this year, again partly due to my social anxiety. I missed classes and workshops because I didn't want to go alone or didn't want to drive that far. My own sensitivity and fear of not being good enough drive me up the wall. How can you overcome something like that, especially on your own? My insecurities about my dance ability were something I struggled with immensely last summer during the camp in China where I taught a dance workshop and maybe they lingered and hindered. I didn't make time to dance without a team behind me, does that mean I don't love it? Does that mean I'm not as committed or as passionate as the others? Constantly questioning myself has exhausted me. Maybe I was meant for something different, and dance is just a hobby. Maybe I shouldn't try so hard to force it. Should I try to accept that? But those few classes I did go to had my adrenaline racing and my smile glowing so why didn't I keep dancing? So many times this year I went to the studio and put on music, intent to choreograph a piece and show myself that I could but left uninspired and disappointed in myself. Still insecure, still upset with myself and not sure that I should be. No conclusion here.

On Saturday I leave for a 1.5 month trip to San Francisco to see friends, Tokyo to explore a new place, and then China to staff at the Duke TIP program at the DKU campus. Until two weeks ago, I was uncertain if I was even going to go due to some health issues I was having. In the span of that time, I felt what it was truly like to have constant anxiety and panic attacks. I was constantly worried about if the GI and dizziness symptoms I was having would come back and what would happen to me if I had a panic attack abroad, and this made everything all the worse. I've gotten things under control, I think primarily from removing dairy from my diet, and I've felt great the last two weeks. I've been able to get back to my daily POP Pilates routines and feel wonderful. I missed exercise every day for the 1 month I was struggling with these health issues and it felt like a part of my day was missing. I feel that in every stage of my life I've picked up and dropped ways to destress and relax. In high school I played tennis, in college I danced, and this year I've used pilates and yoga and cooking. But how can I find consistency? Of these many skills that are still unpolished and raw, why is it so difficult to find one to take all the way?

Who knows what is to come, but I'm trying to take it day by day with a positive outlook. Until next time.

Here are some things that I did -- click for more food pics yas

One Response so far.

  1. Frank Lee says:

    May the force be with you. Hope to see you this weekend.

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