Tonight We Dine in Hel(minth)

Being back in school it can be easy to get caught up in an obligation mindset; I’m learning all this stuff just because I have to, and I probably won’t remember half of it in 5-10 years (or less). Plus, when we are constantly preparing for exams and being put on a timeline for learning, it can be hard to take a second to appreciate what we are learning. In light of that, I want to make it a point each week to step back and appreciate some of the cool things I learn mostly as a tool to fight burnout, but also to keep a record of this stuff lest I forget:

Recently we learned about various parasites, most notably helminths, parasitic worms. Yes, I know disgusting. We learned all about the different ways they can get into your body and all the things they do. They can burrow through your skin and make their way to your lungs. They can infest your eyes and eat through your brain, or even crawl out your butthole like a submariner climbing out of a hatch. It’s enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies, yet I can’t help butt marvel at these creatures. These simple animals can bring beings hundreds-of-times their size to their knees. To them we are merely comfy, all–inclusive bed-n-breakfasts, and in some cases also nurseries.

Quarter-of-a-Century Reflections

I realize my last post may be somewhat poorly timed if I was planning on doing another reflection post today, but none of this really has any strategy so the heck with it.

Not that it has to be said, but 2020 has been challenging. Through the challenges though I’ve come to better appreciate all the blessings that have come my way in the 25 years that I’ve now spent in this life. And while there’s still so much I don’t know about this life, here are some things I know for sure:

  1. My family will always love and support me.
  2. Feeling frustrated usually means I’m growing.
  3. Math gets a bad rap through no fault of its own.
  4. Bad rap is the actual correct phrase (TIL).
  5. The more embarrassing stories you have, the more interesting you are.
  6. No matter how proficient I am at something, there will always be someone out there better at that thing, who I can learn from.
  7. Cannons and Supers now give TrueSight on Howling Abyss.
  8. Nobody really knows what they are doing.
  9. Buying coffee or tea at a coffee shop for the beverage itself is a scam.
  10. There will always be people who disagree.

Life Lessons from Zoom Medical School

– Fixing my bed has finally become part of my everyday morning routine. Not because med school has made me more mature, but because I don’t want people to see my messy bed in the background. Its also a nice productive way to start the day.

– My happiness is more dependent on my state of mind, than on what I’m doing and who I’m with. I can live simpler and spend less money and be just as happy, if not more so.

– Living with less options requires more creativity.

– Just because someone is not actively in my life, doesn’t mean they don’t care about me.

– Just because someone is actively in my life, doesn’t mean they care about me.

– Patients are way more ok with having a first year medical student come talk to them than I thought they would be.

– Having my own bathroom makes living with other people 100x easier.

It doesn’t come with instructions

I recently have been trying to do more cooking. It been on my list of things to work on for while now just because it feels like an “adult” thing I should know how to do. I’ll look up recipes for inspiration, but a lot of the time I lack certain ingredients and, being to lazy to venture out to the market and procure the exact ingredients, I end up doing my own variation of the dish. I also don’t have measuring implements, except rough tablespoons, and find that I am also too lazy to actually measure out or convert how much of each thing is going into my creation.

Usually it turns out fine. If not, I can adjust it with spices, or ketchup, or just try to remember for next time.

Growing up, cooking was one of the things that seemed inaccessible to me in that I lacked the experience or the knowledge for it. I was the type to always want to follow the recipe exactly, or else it wouldn’t turn out as good. But for some reason I was only like this with food. With my toys, with rocks and sticks, with garden tools, I was always repurposing things and finding different ways to interact with them,

The inaccessibility of cooking is partially due to the advent of competitive cooking shows. We see these world class chefs giving harsh criticism to what most of us at home looks like perfectly good food. If those professional chefs can’t make good tasting food, then how the hell am I supposed to be able to. This makes us forget that taste is somewhat is subjective. Food can taste good without being complex and refined, as long as that’s what you are going for.

This is not to devalue professional chefs and people with “refined” palates; in fact I admire and envy them. People who dedicate their lives to creating the best flavors and the best culinary experiences enrich the lives of so many people in so many ways. All this is just to say that, for me, my food doesn’t have to impress Gordan Ramsey, it just has to taste good to me, and that’s a relatively low bar.

I’m a _______ person

There are a lot of activities that seem almost inaccessible to an average Joe like myself simply because I lack a certain expertise or a certain it factor. I grew up in an academic culture that told us some people are good at science and others are good at language arts and others are good at history. You’re either a math person or you’re an art person. And while there is evidence out there that indicate that there is some truth to that (people with dyslexia or dyscalculia or other similar genetic conditions), I honestly feel like the true potential of most people would surprise themselves.

Obviously this also doesn’t take into account resources, opportunities, privilege, lived experiences etc., but all things being equal humans are remarkable and flexible learners, and I think we should acknowledge that the next time we try to place limits on ourselves for not being a _____ person.

The “Enemy”

{Note to self:}

The worst thing you can do when trying to win a argument is dehumanize your opponent. When you dehumanize them, you move away from understanding. When you can’t understand them, its harder to beat them (if that is in fact your goal) and you start to hate them. And when you hate them, your “victory” loses its purpose and becomes self-serving.

Get angry, be passionate, but make sure its grounded in love and not hate. Keep an open mind. There are people out there who are justified in their hate. People who have been recipients of mistreatment and violence their whole lives because of things outside of their control. Whether or not that hatred is productive is a different story. Take some of the burden off their shoulders if you can bear it.

Shining Eyes

Orchestral conductor Benjamin Zander uses “shining eyes” as a way to tell if his musicians are reaching their potential. He says, “If the eyes are not shining, you get to ask a question…Who am I being that my players’ eyes are not shining?

This is a useful tool for leaders, and perhaps even more so as a tool for self-reflection; Who am I being, that my eyes are not shining?

Of course, 95% of the time we can’t see our own eyes, but I think most people have a sense of what having shining eyes feels like. Personally, I feel my eyes shine most when I engage in creative tasks and when I get to solve problems. I often felt it when I worked at the museum. And I felt it when I was working in street medicine.

Nowadays in medical school it can feel like most of the time my eyes are dulled and I’m just going through the motions. Especially with the culture in academia being the way it is. I get a twinkle every now and then, but I’ve learned to suppress it because God forbid I openly expresses any sign of satisfaction with learning; that just makes me a gunner and a kiss-ass.

I’m trying to find my way back though. I’m trying to tune out the voices that say I need to study in a certain way to be successful or that studying should be miserable.

I’m gonna find ways to reconnect me to my work and make them eyes shine.

Clumping and Folding

Interestingly, this topic has come up a few times, independently, among different friend groups. That is of course the debate of whether or not you clump or fold your toilet paper (TP).

For those who are unfamiliar with these techniques, clumping is when you wad up your TP, wipe, and then throw it away/ in the toilet. Folding on the other hand, is when you wipe (some people actually do a pre-fold prior to the initial wipe), and then fold the TP over to reuse it for one or more additional wipes.

The main argument I hear from clumpers is that it is cleaner and you avoid getting your own excrement on your own hand since you usually have more layers of TP between your hand and your anus. Some also seem to think that it makes for a more effective wipe. As a folder, who cares about the environment, I am forced to believe that clumpers use excessive force when wiping and at the same time use haphazard technique. This makes sense though because when TP is clumped there is an uneven distribution of pressure throughout the implement due to variation in the clumped TP layers, so you cannot be sure that you are applying sufficient force across the whole surface without either using excessive force and/or smearing around a bit.

Furthermore, when clumping I imagine it is harder to be sure that you are clean because the gyri in the TP clump obscure one’s vision of the wiping surface. With a flat surface, as you have with folded TP, you can determine with confidence the point at which you have reached the end of the scouring process.

Perhaps looming in the background of this debate are the bidet users who are sitting back and laughing as this unfolds, no pun intended. And I agree that bidets are likely the superior method overall, but that is discussion that most of the U.S. is not quite ready for.

Note to Self

Being self-confident and self-critical are not mutually exclusive.
Being self-critical and self-loathing are not the same thing.

I can love myself and think highly of myself, and still recognize my shortcomings. And I can be disappointed in myself for not meeting my own expectations without demeaning myself or my self-worth.

There are times when I feel like I can come off as arrogant or narcissistic, especially in social situations. But that persona has really just developed as a defense mechanism, a fake-it-till-you-make-it type of thing. It’s a narrative I tell others, and myself, to affirm that I am worth my time here on Earth. I used to deal with a lot of “self-hate”; feelings of inadequacy, of unworthiness, imposter syndrome, etc. Much of that I still struggle with to this day, but I think I’ve learned to cope with it better over time. Like many people, I deal with some of this through humor, but for me being self-deprecating is often too real and actually depressing. So instead I’ll lean into small/ insignificant virtues or compliments because in my head the suggestion that I excel at something (usually trivial or pointless things) is funnier than fixating on my flaws, which are obvious to me and, in my mind, are obvious to everyone around me. But now it’s gotten to the point were some of that bleeds out into serious conversations, and it can sound like I seriously think I’m better than everyone around me.

To some extent I did always think I was “special,” I just wasn’t convinced that I was special in ways that mattered to anyone else, especially given what society and the media tells us makes a person valuable. Those feeling are compounded by rejection; putting your genuine self out there, hoping that someone, somewhere, will find value in the things you value about yourself, only to be ~gently~ informed that you are not quite “special” enough. Even if you are validated at some point, the specter of all the past, and future, rejections perpetually lingers in the background waiting for any opportunity to pop out and say “I told you so” (as you can tell the medical application process has done wonders for my self-esteem).

Through all this it’s easy to get mad at the world and in your own way try to reject the world for rejecting you. The only problem is (1) “the world” probably won’t even notice and (2) “the world” doesn’t deserve that kind of effort from you. Your value is not dependent on others’ ability to see it or not, and your time is better spend on yourself.

Two ways to respond

When someone calls you out on your bullshit there are two ways to respond:

  1. You can take it personally and deny it to maintain your own self-image
  2. You can reflect and do some critical self-analysis

I like many others, tend towards the former because how dare anyone question my character. I am not like most people, I know why I believe what I believe, and do what I do. All of it is good, perhaps the best.

But I’m trying to be better; more humble, more self-aware. And maybe – just maybe – our characters are not always as consistent as we think they are.