Thursday, July 26, 2018

Finally a breather - and something about Spanish

Somewhere in Boston, there is a garden

So, getting used to being a third year has kept me away from writing, but here I am in a more relaxed rotation, ready to write.

The first thing: I got my Step 1 score back. Some combination of disbelief, relief, joy, fear, and anticipation. I will be going full steam ahead towards orthopedic surgery. My score is below average for ortho, but still within striking range. So now what lies ahead is doing my best on my rotations, keeping up with research, maintaining my relationships with my mentors, and looking far ahead at Step 2 and away/audition rotations.

I finished my first rotation, Obstetrics & Gynecology, a few weeks ago, and am just as many weeks deep into Family Medicine. I think I will eventually write more thorough, thoughtful update and reflection posts on each specialty, but that those will come eventually, much like my posts about my trip to Germany in summer 2016, and my Grand Canyon hike. Someday.

The changes in my life, other than the shift from pre-clinical to clinical education and the new three digit number that identifies me are my (1) new apartment and my (2) improvement in medical Spanish.

For the first one: I moved in with two of my classmates into their apartment, where there is a larger, more home-like common space, a smaller kitchen and bathroom, and a smaller bedroom for me. In strict terms of real estate, it's a downgrade, but I realized that my old digs were not great for my wellbeing. I got along fine with my old roommate, but I also tended much towards being asocial and a shut-in unless there was a place for me to specifically go or people I wanted to specifically see. My new apartment is a lot more like my college one, where I interact with my roommates more, and we get along.

That said, a big thing that I realized about myself is that I really miss my college friends. Like terribly so. Maybe it's that we're all scattered out at different rotations, but I don't feel as connected as I used to with my med school friends. We don't actually have that much in common, whereas I felt I was very close with my college friends (and in love with one, who is not my ex-boyfriend). So lately I've found myself really keeping in touch with old friends, and old-old friends (my best friends, the ones I've had elementary-middle-high school + two years of college, and I'm lucky to have two of them).

Hollyhocks will always make me happy

And I guess the last thing I'll say is that my improvements in Spanish have probably been what I've been most proud of in terms of soft clinical skills achieved. My Family Medicine clerkship is at a community health center where probably 90% of the patients are either from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Colombia. 5% more are probably from the Dominican Republic. The others are old white Italian-Americans. So I've had the very special challenge and privilege of learning primary care en espaƱol, which means going in to see patients on my own, collecting a history and doing a physical exam, reconciling medications (with some patients illiterate in English and Spanish), distracting the little people accompanying parents to their visits, seeing patients as young as three days old to as old as ninety years old. In the past three weeks, I've perhaps spoken English to ten patients. I feel a lot more confident and competent as a clerk and as an hispanohablante. I am making progress.

I've been getting good feedback as a third year student, but I get really proud when the attending physicians (all of whom speak Spanish themselves, running the gamut of gringa to fluent) ask me where and how I learned Spanish. Even better feedback is when the patients grill me about where I'm from and are surprised to learn I was born and raised in the United States with parents from China, and not Peru or Puerto Rico or Mexico where the Chinese diaspora has also touched. That's the best trophy I have in the road towards professional Spanish fluency.

So I think I feel a lot of things, and I think I need to write a longer post about this. But I now speak medical Spanish much better than I speak medical Mandarin, which makes me feel very guilty on one hand, proud on the other. The next step will be to actively seek out learning or patient care opportunities where I will use those languages.

This year will be one of many changes. I already has been. I'm growing a lot. I loved OB/Gyn, and though I don't love primary care, I look forward to every clinic day. And I'm ready to get back in the operating room. A lot has changed, but really, a lot has not.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Spring into summer update

View of the green, green Colorado River from the South Kaibab trail
None of these pictures are in order. I think my dad took most of these. But since I'm probably going to take an eternity writing up a post about the Grand Canyon hike itself, here are some pictures.

Hello from third year of medical school. I'm starting on OB/Gyn and like it so far. Still waiting nervously for my Step 1 score and having catastrophic thoughts of not scoring high enough for my dream specialty. Felt all kinds of sadness and guilt and inadequacy when my research attending and some of the ortho residents I worked with last year said hello to me on the day I thought I would get my score back (they're delayed and I have to wait longer). Felt something similar when the resident who mentored me since first year called me volunteering advice for my surgical rotation (and then gave me some advice as a new parent whose wife delivered her baby on the floor I'm working on right now). Keeping an open mind is surprisingly not hard, since OB/Gyn is really cool, but it's also not hard to remember how happy and excited and home I felt in orthopedics.

I'm learning some things about myself. I'm getting better at talking to patients. I like our patient population (safety net hospital, non-white, non-rich, many immigrants, many complications). I have more role models now: two gynecological oncologists whose patients trust and adore them. Gyn-onc doc #1 speaks fluent English and Spanish, and proficient Haitian Creole and Cape Verdean/Portuguese Creole. Gyn-onc doc #2 speaks fluent English, Spanish, and Mandarin. About 1/3 of the patients that go through our hospital don't speak English (most common languages Spanish, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean, Vietnamese...I would have lost my fucking mind if I had heard Doc #1 speaking Vietnamese). I don't think I'll go into OB/Gyn, but I do think I'll eventually work somewhere where I'll need to speak Spanish on the regular. Eventually I'll find my way.

My Spanish is getting good. I thought it was good until I heard Doc #2 speaking with perfect, perfect grammar. Subjunctive tense, correct yo forms of irregular verbs in all tenses, correct conjugation of mandates and everything. The feedback that I treasured most from last week was when a patient I interviewed asked me where I was born and raised, and if my parents were from Latin America. Like everything in third year, I'll get better at the things I want to improve on if I actively seek out opportunities to try. So on I go.

I'm moving into my new apartment at the end of the month, and I'm doing it slowly over the next few weeks. Always kind of been into ~~~minimalism~~~, but I've accumulated some junk during my first two years in Boston and am downsizing. Namely, I'm giving away some of my plants, since I propagated too many of them.

Lastly, I was really affected by Anthony Bourdain's suicide. I loved his shows, and his overall attitude and approach to life. He, too, spent some of his formative years in Massachusetts, and I'll spare the details so you read Kitchen Confidential. Part of this was because it came after the death of one of my friends and mentors from the free clinic I was part of in college. The O was the coolest almost-octogenarian I've met. He helped me find my feet when I was struggling with new leadership and more responsibilities in the running of the clinic. He gave me lots of solicited and unsolicited advice. I owe a lot to him, more than he knew. Wouldn't be in med school if it weren't for him, wouldn't have even wanted to become a doctor if it weren't for him. He said he'd thought he'd die in his 20s, then in his 40s, then went quietly a few days after a stroke pushing 80, surrounded by friends. I wish I could have seen him again.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

S/S 2018 | Wardrobe Planning

I'm back from Step 1 hell, and from my Grand Canyon hiking trip. More on that later, but it was the most fun, challenging, and fulfilling great outdoors adventure I've had. I'm glad I shared the experience with my dad, and I hope to do a lot more hiking/camping/backpacking in the future.

It's kind of late for me to do a wardrobe planning post for this spring and summer, but the context is that I'm starting clinical rotations in a week and need enough clinic-appropriate clothes to dress up in. Currently, I own two 'nice' blouses, two potentially clinic-appropriate shirts, one dress, four pairs of trousers, and a skirt. For shoes, it's a pair of pumps a pair of flats. Looking at this, the only things I really 'need' to get are blouses -- everything else I have enough of, at least to get me started. I'll think about adding to my shoe collection when autumn comes around, or if suddenly during my first rotation (OB/Gyn) I realize I need clogs or something. I'll survive OB/Gyn OR with sneakers and maybe my very waterproof snow boots for the time being (only sort of joking).

Anyhow, here are my ideas for adding to my spring/summer wardrobe:

  1. Short sleeved Eileen Fisher blouse, silk -- I've actually bought one of these secondhand from Poshmark, and may be gambling a bit on the sizing. I would prefer a looser fit, but the measurements may suggest otherwise. I wanted high quality pieces for a lower price and environmental impact, so secondhand I go
  2. Eileen Fisher tank, silk -- there's another one of these on Poshmark that I want to buy. Both would be black, but it's hard for me to find colors that I want to wear (that are not navy, as I've temporarily banned myself from buying navy anything)
  3. Muji dress, linen -- last year I sort of fell in love with a linen dress with 3/4 sleeves from Muji, took a great picture of myself in it, and never bought it. I don't know if I'll buy this year's version, but this marketing image with Honey and Silk was so captivating, and exactly evocative of how I want to be when I wear a linen dress (thanks, advertising)
  4. Uniqlo shorts, linen -- well, I already bought these and they are great
Lastly, I'm actively trying to suppress my memory of Step 1. It was awful, I felt awful during and after the exam, and I don't think I did well. My dream specialty may be out of reach -- I'm almost certain of it. So I'll strike any mention of Step 1 from here. Grand Canyon post coming shortly, hopefully.

As a final aside, Eileen Fisher is a brand I have only heard of/had any desire to buy from thanks to the blog world. So many people I read wear Eileen Fisher. But, I love linen, and I love silk (of which I garment so far). The consumerist web has nabbed me on this one!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Early spring update: loose leaf tea, greenery, and what's next

It's been a long time since I last posted. I'm finishing my second year of medical school soon with our last exam, then taking the next 1.5 months for my dedicated study period for Step 1. And then it's off to a great hiking vacation with my dad for a few days: Grand Canyon, South Rim to Colorado River and back up again. Down 4860 ft the first day, camping at Bright Angel Campground. Then up 4460 ft the next day.

I went home for a week earlier this month and saw old friends, and replenished my stash of loose leaf tea, which I get from Berkeley Bowl. I went back to Berkeley with my parents and sibling and had a good time showing them around, revisiting my old favorite places. I miss many things -- maybe most things -- about Berkeley. Seeing old friends from college reminded me of that, and though I'm very happy pursuing my dream career on the other side of the country, spending time with familiar faces does remind me of what I lost by living so far away. And I did lose a lot. More than a perfect day hike, long car rides, and nostalgia could give back.

We were planning on hiking a notable summit in the Bay Area, but rain got in the way and we went up and down some killer muddy hills in a local park. Still worth the effort, mostly because of present company.

I don't want to dwell on the past, but it's hard not to. And it's also hard not to be nervous about my future, uncertain as it is now. I still want to do orthopedic surgery, but to do that, I need to absolutely kill Step 1. And to do that, I need to stay disciplined and healthy and smart and study better than I ever have. And to do that, I need to focus.

So, after the Grand Canyon trip, I'll come back to Boston and start third year. Clerkships -- it's been a long time coming. What I'm saying is I'll be off the blog until mid-May, and probably sit on editing what I expect to be mediocre pictures of the most beautiful landscape on Earth. Before that, I'll probably have something to say about building my professional wardrobe, and my spring/summer shopping list for clothes. I haven't made a lot of effort in these things, but I'll need to, given how imminent rotations are.

And that's all for now. I hope you're having a good week so far, and that the snow melts sooner rather than later. I thought I put my parka away for good last week, but I was wrong.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Raw denim - a 13 month update, and some thoughts on jeans

A few years ago in college, one of my friends fell down the rabbit hole of r/malefashionadvice and took it upon himself to start dressing well. There was a period of time when he texted me and two others in our group every single time he bought something -- raw denim, cordovan boots, leather belt, weird thrifted sweatshirt with a painting of a dog screenprinted on it...

My jeans thing we gave him particular shit about was his obsession with raw denim. Selvedge. Vocabulary words that I still don't completely understand or care to understand at this point. He babied his jeans, cared about each crease and fade, wore them every single day, soaked them in the bathtub. I didn't get it. I still don't really get it.

My tumble down the rabbit hole of raw denim was gradual over the years, and it was only 13 months ago that I bought a pair -- a less expensive pair, from Uniqlo. My two older Uniqlo jeans were stretchy and getting uncomfortably skinny, and I wanted the option of layering tights or leggings underneath them if it got that cold. So I got a new pair of jeans -- men's raw denim -- in size 29. That's another thing: I needed to accept that my body has changed since I was 19. I wanted a looser fit and that's what I bought.

I retired the two old pairs (of three - the other I wear in spring and autumn) and wore my new selvedge jeans damn near every day for the rest of the winter. And then I did it again this winter. They were stiff the first winter, rubbed indigo everywhere (I paid more attention to where I sat and leaned), and I actually think I should have sized down. I had too much fabric around my waist, and it sat weird under a belt. I really thought about getting them tailored.

Not really qualified to say what combo of soaking, washing, etc is the best. But I'm not dead set on having Reddit-worthy fades, so I wash my jeans regularly now. Then I made the stupid, stupid mistake of putting them through the dryer. This shrank them down to be more of a slim instead of a relaxed fit, but it fixed the waist issue. Now they fit like women's size 26 or 27. I'm glad I sized up when I did.

I liked not having to decide what kind of pants to wear every day. Unexpectedly, I got compliments on my style, that it was cohesive for so consistently featuring "dark blue or black" jeans. I don't own black jeans, but my winter ones are dark blue indeed.

So, that's where I am. I kind of wish I had taken more pictures with them over the past year. But, in the end, they're just jeans.


My own story of jeans began with something from Marshall's or Ross in middle school, then three <$10 pairs from Forever 21, then two pairs from Uniqlo in college, a thrifted pair, to present day. My preferred fit is mid-to-high rise, slim or straight leg, true or dark blue. I have to be able to squat and deadlift with full range of motion in them. Must look good cuffed or uncuffed. Nondescript. Absolutely no obvious branding. And for now, the search is over. I had a pretty bad relationship with jeans and body image as a youth, and I'm better at keeping it at bay. I think I'm in a good place now.

Friday, January 12, 2018

A review of my 2017 clothing purchases

Left: my jeans | Right: a crazy Monstera deliciosa trying its best to survive in the hospital

As always, to keep myself accountable. I don't like doing too many clothing or consumption related posts in a row, but my updates in general have been pretty sparse.

Call it what you will, I'm trying to have a more intentional and critical approach to my wardrobe. Shopping as an activity to do out and about is loathsome to me, but that doesn't capture how much time I burn thinking about clothes, researching them, looking at them on the internet, or even going into a store and trying things on without buying anything. With that in mind, I'm listing my purchases and acquisitions in chronological order, +/- $5.

January to March
  1. Uniqlo men's selvedge denim jeans - $50 - my winter jeans. I will write a long post about just these jeans sometime soon
  2. Uniqlo dress - $20 - a really good purchase. I love this dress and wear it as often as I can. It looks professional and suits my body shape
April to June
  1. School group tank tops (2) - $28 - unfortunately, I didn't have a choice in buying these or not. One was to wear to Boston Pride, the other was because I was a hiking group leader for the first year orientation hike. I bought the first one by choice, second one because I felt like I had to. I need to be more vigilant, but these serve me fine at the gym
  2. Uniqlo linen sleeveless shirt - $20 - so important in the muggy humidity of an East Coast summer
  3. Uniqlo mock turtleneck shirt - $5.90 - my replacement for the Red Polo of my youth. I like the cut of this shirt a lot, but noticed that the color has faded. Additionally, I find that Uniqlo tops are sometimes just too short for me
  4. Scrubs (3 pairs) - free - a very, very kind chief resident in orthopedic surgery gave me three pairs of scrubs (exchanged for new from the hospital scrub machine) when I told her my scrubs were from Goodwill, and that students don't get scrub cards. She was such a darling, and absolutely radiated warmth and authority both. She taught me a lot and I am so grateful to have found a female role model, if only for the summer.
July to September
  1. Mizuno running shoes - $60 - my old pair had a hole, which I discovered after my sock got soaked with blood in the OR
  2. Maggy London black silk dress - secondhand - $45 - 100% an impulse purchase off of Poshmark. It's a gorgeous dress that I would wear to any evening occasion, though it's a bit too big. My first foray into the online secondhand market
October to December
  1. Volunteering event t-shirt - free - I didn't have a choice here
  2. L.L. Bean flannel - $30 - not as stoked about the black Stewart colorway, and I also think this one fits boxier than the same flannel I got last year. This was purchased on steep discount
  3. Old Navy pixie pants - $18 - for my growing professional wardrobe. Bought on Black Friday
  4. Old Navy underwear (4) - $20 - also bought on Black Friday. Not a huge fan of them, and I wouldn't have bought them had I known my mother would force me to get red underwear for my zodiac year (my other Chinese-American friends warned me, I didn't listen)
  5. Uniqlo heat tech thermal - free - Uniqlo had a code for a free thermal and I absolutely got it on impulse because it is so fucking cold in Boston - at the time of writing, it is 10*F
  6. Calvin Klein underwear (5) - free - a 23rd birthday gift from my mother, per Chinese tradition. It's the year of the Dog next year so naturally I must have plenty of red underwear to ward off bad luck

Total amount spent on clothing in 2017 - $296.90
Total number of items purchased in 2017 - 27

Excluding the scrubs and underwear, that number comes to 12 items purchased in 2017, which I am quite happy with. I'm still in the process of building a professional wardrobe in time for third year rotations, and I'm still in the process of building a casual wardrobe fit for a young woman. Where I see a "lack" is definitely in the professional clothes category, to which I hope to add at least two more blouses and another pair of trousers, as well as a pair of black ankle boots that I still haven't bought.

Overall, I don't know if I'm any closer to developing a coherent personal style or not. Lots of Uniqlo here, but I think I've realized I'm not so suited to Uniqlo anymore.