Seeing the Sunlight

Michael, MD/PhD Student

Over the weekend I visited the Upland Lemon Festival. Lemonade being one of my all-time favorite beverages, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Due to long days in the lab and things to do around the house, I haven’t spent all that much time outside lately. I pushed the concerns and worries to the back of my mind and simply enjoyed myself, exploring the various booths and sharing funnel cake with my wife. Sure, it was hot, making the lemonade that much more refreshing.

Perhaps this combination of mental state and vitamin D synthesis explains the near-euphoric feeling I had wandering around the festival in the bright sunlight. I closed my eyes, spread my arms open, and twirled around, feeling the warmth on my skin.


My Christmas Break


Snow. Even though it can be found only an hour away, blanketing the mountains that border Loma Linda, I sometimes miss walking outside to find a blanket of fresh white powder. That’s one of my favorite parts about traveling back home for the holidays; frolicking and playing in one of nature’s gifts. Christmas is well over a month behind us, but many states across the eastern US are still seeing plenty of snow. So as I sit here and wonder what it would be like to attend medical school in the midst of a blizzard, let me show you a little bit of how I spent some time playing in snow:

I had made that video for my family so it’s a little bit on the longer side, but I thought it might be fun to share with you as well, just so you know med students still know how to have fun every now and then!

Flash forward to the present and it’s business as usual: memorizing antibiotics, learning the inner workings of the kidneys, and trying to boost my q-bank average. A few days ago, we were given the opportunity to choose the order in which we’d like to rotate through each specialty during our 3rd year of medical school.  It was just another reminder at how fast this year has been been progressing, and how we are merely moments away from working in the hospital. I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel…

How To Have Fun

Kari, Fourth Year Medical Student

I’m going to admit something that makes me feel kind of lame: I think I’ve sort of forgotten how to have fun.

The swing at the playground by my apartment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely enjoying my life, but these final months are kind of a weird time in our lives. We fourth years are pretty much done with interviews (see my post on that here), and lots of us are doing electives that are of interest to us.

Now when I go to work I’m excited to be there and when I come home, sure I’m reading on my patients, but I’m not trying to keep up with a mountain of classes or study for a Board and there’s nothing left to do for applications but wait for Match Day in March.

And so I have free time.

Like, daily. 

What? Yes it is weird.

We worked really hard to reach this point. Long long hours in the hospital, overnights, never seeing the sun, so many tears shed over Pathophysiology––I know it’s not just me––and so much stress and travel to get that rank list ready.

And now I find myself startled by the small amount of stress in my life. Which looks SO silly when I type it, but it’s really brought home for me the fact that it’s been a long time since I had time for fun hobbies and I’m not even quite sure of what I really like to do. But I am completely caught up on quite a lot of TV shows right now, and I’m doing my best to try new things.

I might be mostly alone in this, but in case I’m not, I just wanted anyone else who’s feeling this way to know that it’s okay that we don’t remember what we used to do to have fun––we’ve been busy.

And now?

I get to see my friends outside of the hospital AND I get to see my husband.

I’m training for another half-marathon. This was the view from Smiley Heights on my run this morning.

I also bought a fish. It’s a baby betta. If we don’t kill it, it’ll grow up. Her name’s Victoria Dragonslayer, but I really have no idea if she’s actually a girl.

And sometimes I bake. I got out the Kitchenaid Mixer we got for the wedding and it made some sweet banana bread.

These are mostly things I’ve liked to do throughout my time in med school, and I feel weird but completely blessed that I have some time for them as we come up towards the end of these 4 years.

After all, residency will come soon enough.

Life in the Cracks

Everyone always tells you life’s a journey. I can’t begin to recount the number of times I’ve heard it likened to a path, a road, a process. Running a race. My nose wrinkled up a little bit yesterday morning when I had a similar thought. I’d always thought myself more creative than the safe, vanilla “life is a journey”-ers; but this time clichés got the best of me.

I hate waking up, but am in love with mornings. Days are one of the only occasions where I firmly believe that crust trumps filling; the beginning and end are so much more lively than the flat landscape of mid-noon. Sometimes I think my bias comes from missing the ocean; watching the waves come and go—finding a soft beauty and dynamic in the ebb and flow. The mixes of dark and light dancing into dusk and dawn remind me of the sea.

There’s something to be said for the mountains. Brave and jutting, imperfect and cragged, still not afraid to stand post above the skyline. I think the hills are my favorite—there’s something soft about hills; maybe it’s because they’re gold and dressed in tall grasses. Or that I’m fairly certain if one looked long enough they’d find a few hobbit homes tucked between their creases. Even valleys demand respect; low and unpretentious, the downhill slopes are protection. Always compared to hardship, heartbreak, and questions. How fitting then, that God would raise up walls around them on all sides to protect from the wind; valleys aren’t pits, they’re baskets.

I’m a super ADD runner. I rarely let my iPod make it through a song before I’ve queued the next. Sometimes I rip my ear buds out all together and let the tempo be my own. Either way, my mind is always going a thousand miles a minute. Sometimes I can corral my thoughts along the lines of whatever I’m listening to. Other times it revolts against the prodding and stubbornly insists to do its own thinking. There are a few constants to my runs, though. The first is that one of my shoelaces WILL come untied. Something about my footfalls is enough to unnerve even the bravest double-knots. The second is that I think about God. There’s some sort of weird synchrony between being outside and just running—letting yourself go without much purpose except not to stay still—and spirituality. The same rings true for lying down or siting in complete quiet. Maybe God likes morning and night and seashores best, too. The times where there is movement, and change, and rest all bundled into one. The third thing I cannot escape, besides running out of breath, is looking around. Sometimes I feel like I’m life’s spectator to a ping-pong match—my gaze darting around, displeased until it’s attempted to take it all in. Maybe that’s why I think about the mountains so much. And the hills. And hobbits. And the sea. And find myself agreeing with the kind of overused lines about journeying lives that should be found lining a tacky picture frame or bookmarks in the Christian bookstore.

My agreement comes from looking down. Checking my shoelaces. Making sure I don’t step on cracks. Scouting for crackly leaves to tromp down on. It brings my vision back to my own two feet—rhythmically moving on the cold, hard grey. The metaphor of medical school—a path of flat monotony with little strips of breath, and change, and non-fluorescent outdoor, natural light shoved in between. Life lived in the cracks. I’ve never been so appreciative of the dirt and weeds and wildflowers that make their homes between the concrete slabs. Their beauty is lived by context; they are no more or less alive because of their placement, but their resolve to stay, to blossom between the rock, makes me smile.

Medical school is not an easy road. And I have a sneaking suspicion that things don’t get easier as the white coat adds more threads. This life is full of concrete slabs. But it curves around mountain faces and the backs of hills and into lowlands in the pit of God’s palm. Waves wash over this road, sometimes pounding, sometimes softly pooling around my ankles. This life is full of concrete slabs, but there are flowers in the cracks.

Hunker Down and Learn

In my last post, I wrote about how it felt a little jarring that there was just one week left of third year.

And now I’m on the other side, studying to take the USMLE Step 2 in one week. I would say I’m appropriately nervous.

After a very positive final week in the Adolescent Partial unit (with plenty of learning right to the end), my classmates and I took some final exams – Family Mock Board, Ethics, and the CCSE [Comprehensive Clinical Science Examination] – it’s supposed to be predictive of our Step 2. That was depressing.

The good news? I passed them all so far. Though we haven’t heard from ethics, and it was kind of hard.

Still – in celebration of these milestones, I have made the following change:

From this:

To this:

That’s right, the pager signature has gone from MS3 to MS4.

And now that I’ve reminded you, if you’re in my class you should probably change yours too.

Unless you’re trying to blend in with the third years, which I hear might not be a bad idea – you guys are apparently pretty smart.

And now I’m here:

Oregon. Home.

What better place to spend a few days studying?

I get to see my sister:

Mom takes good care of us. Like with food. And love.

And I even found some gelato.

Why hello there.

So in this time of transition, good luck to those second years now enjoying their last summers and to the third years who’ve just started a brand new roller coaster of a year (I’ll see a few of you on Peds in about a week).

And to my fellow new fourth years, I know it’s a busy time for us, whether it’s Step 2 in a week or getting ready for important career-focused rotations,   so I just hope you’re having a great week. Do something fun.

And change your pager.