Slow Down, It’s Not a Race

What up World? It’s been a minute! It’s actually been longer… but it sure feels like time sped up and somehow I landed here. A yoga instructor I had the other day talked the whole class about slowing down. It resonated with me and I wonder how many other people feel this pull to race to the finish. Funny enough, I’m not sure what that finish is yet. Is faster better?

In March, I finished up my 2nd year of medical school and started this thing called “Dedicated”. Basically, the school gave us 7 weeks to have focused study time for our first big board exam.  Step 1. It’s a little frightening when the message is to work hard at nothing but this one test.

During dedicated, I tried to cut out as many distractions as possible, and it was probably the most disciplined I have ever been. I’m talking a 9:30 PM bedtime with a 5:30 AM wakeup. I would eat breakfast and then head to the library for 8-10 hours. I did the things that would keep me human – like Crossfit, dinner with family, church, I skied once – but aside from that there was no fluff, and it was hard.

I felt disconnected in many ways from reality.

I tried to go on a date… then when he cancelled, I was devastated. I put on jeans and did my makeup for the first time in weeks. I even put on deodorant. No one should get that excited for a first date – just saying.

Then I watched a documentary called, “Take Your Pills”. It’s about ADHD and Adderall and competition and what we have to do to keep up in this crazy world – forget about trying to get ahead. It sent me down a spiral of wondering if this feeling of disconnectedness was my new norm. What was I sacrificing in order to follow my dream? I texted one of my friends in March saying, “I’m fearful that this will set a tone for the rest of my life”.

I took my test, and no, I don’t know how it went yet.

I’m not as fearful as I was then, but I do wonder sometimes how I plan to approach the many different priorities that will demand my attention. Google ‘physician burnout’ and you get over 9 million hits. Does that seem wrong to anyone else? Why are we killing ourselves for this? And who’s fault is it? Maybe it’s because I’m not doing enough to take care of myself, or maybe there are too many pressures to be the first to arrive, and then to be the best. All the time.

You might wonder why I did all of those things for this one test. It’s because I was playing the game that the national medical community says is important. It wasn’t my values, but the values of the world I wish to be a part of that I was prioritizing. It was a finite period of time, but what’s the future cost? I hope to be part of the conversation that helps to shift the priorities, to slow down. To value humans and to be present. To learn the material because we find it interesting, not because someone high up says that a certain score on step 1 is valuable.

It’s a rush to the finish. I feel my heart beating faster even as I write this and think about the valuable time that I’m “wasting” while putting words on paper.

Is it a waste? I sure hope not.

Hindsight is 20/20

When you think about your own birthday do you feel excitement, dread, sadness? I feel excited for the cake mostly, and also because for 24 hours I get to feel special. I also feel a small sense of dread that no one will remember, or be free to hang out, or that even though it’s 24 hours of feeling special, maybe I won’t? Does this happen to anyone else?

When I turned 21, I remember telling everyone that I was “getting so old”. When I turned 23, I never would have guessed that I would move to Atlanta that year. I continued to believe that I was “so old”. When I turned 24, my friends came to visit me, and we decided the best hashtag for the weekend was “Trap queen 24”. When I turned 25, I made donuts for all of my friends, we sat on the living room floor and drank mimosas. At 26, I studied in a coffee shop. A lot of life has happened since then and I realize how young I was, and how ridiculous it must have been listening to me say that. I give you all permission to slap the senses back into my 21-year-old self.

The musician Maggie Rogers just released a new record and she wrote a little piece about it. She says, “I found my space in the place between knowing who I was and finding out who I am”. This past year has been a gift. It’s most certainly been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, but it’s given me more confidence in understanding who I was, am and who I will be.

Today, I turn 27 and I’m not going to say that I’m getting old because I know that while a lot of life has passed, a lot more life is left to live. I still love brunch, I still love to read and write, to laugh [my most used emoji is the crying/laughing one], and I love to feel the breeze on my cheeks, the silence of snow falling in the trees, and the sound of rain in the middle of the night.

Hind sight is 20/20, but wouldn’t the future be a bit boring if we could see so clearly?

Three Words.

Courage, Patience and Connection, these are my words of 2019. I chose them when I was reflecting on 2018 and I was thinking about what my hopes and dreams are for this trip around the sun. One didn’t fit without the other and I think I’m only just beginning the ways that they weave together.

I chose courage because the second half, of the second year of medical school is notoriously one of the most difficult, all because of this little blip in April. It’s called the USMLE Step 1 and is the first of board certifying exams. Basically, it’s a multiple-choice test in clinical vignette style based on the first 2 years of medical school. Each question goes a little something like this:

A 35-year-old woman presents to the emergency department with acute onset shortness of breath. She states that she recently returned to the United States from a trip overseas when she started having pain in her left calf. She has a 10-pack year smoking history and takes oral contraception. Her labs show…. Which of the following possible risk factors is most responsible for her symptoms?

Do you know the answer? It’s okay if you don’t!


I seek courage to face each day and to look inward at my own strengths. I’m an Enneagram Type 1 and basically that means that I’m constantly striving for perfection. I know that’s an unrealistic expectation, but that’s where courage comes in. I’m looking for courage to make mistakes and to stumble from time to time this year.

I seek patience to trust that the plan I have is the best one I can come up with and that the rest is held safely in the hands of God. Today, I had my first test in the Infectious Disease block. It didn’t go as well as I hoped, and as I looked at my score, I felt this deep sense of frustration that I wasn’t good enough, or that somehow, I’m doing this whole thing wrong. I looked at the average and my mind went to all of the ways that I didn’t measure up compared to them. This comparison game is one of my biggest enemies, so I’m seeking patience to trust in my own learning and in the cycles of ups and downs.

Connection is my final word because I want to hold tightly onto human connection. A few years ago I read this article but it still feels relevant. All of her sentiments ring true and leave me feeling convicted of living life in distraction. I’m seeking to connect deeply this year, with friends, family, patients, the world around me.

Courage, patience and connection. Those are the words of 2019 and I guess I’m a perfectionist that tries to see the world as a glass half full of cabernet sauvignon, full bodied and savory.

Do you have a word? Or two, or three?

Reflect // 2018

Think of this as my virtual holiday card. Happy New Year from me!

2018 began in the midst of glow sticks. My cheeks glistened with sweat and I formed the resolution to say “no” more. This year began with me, first.

In 2018, I have experienced joy from my fingers to my toes, filling up and overflowing from the deepest corners of my soul. I traveled, laughed, cooked and ate my fill. I kicked a** in med school, read a lot and played a lot. I am physically stronger because of CrossFit, and mentally stronger because of life. This year I have also felt tremendously lonely. Waves of bitterness and grief washed over me as I watched friends who I called family continue to live their lives without me. I questioned what I was doing in lecture halls 20+ hours a week when I was perfectly happy with the course of my life before.

At the beginning of my winter break I traveled back to Atlanta for a wedding of a friend and a lot of the trip felt like returning home. Then when I landed in Denver, that also felt like returning home. I think it’s easy to forget the pain and yearning of years past when you feel stuck in the moment. I was content with my life before, but medical school was always a missing piece. I knew there was something more for me. I knew that I was born to do something bigger and sometimes it’s more painful, as we pursue that something bigger, than we imagine. When the days are long, and they blur together, we joke around, sarcastically saying things like, “look what happens when you follow your dreams”, but in all seriousness, look what can happen when you follow your dreams. It’s hard work, but I know I’ll look back on this time with fond memories.

I have been challenged and I have grown. I may have missed the mark at times, but I’m still striving for the bullseye.

This year I have been learning about the power of listening before speaking. I tried to learn to say no, but still said yes, a lot. This will most certainly be another goal for 2019.

I’m hopeful for this year to come.

A few of the highlights from my year —

  • I adopted my cat, Pippa. She hates me and loves me and is more like a dog than a cat. I love her. 2018 taught me that I can be a crazy cat lady.
  • I turned 26, bought myself flowers. If no one else is going to do it, then I will.
  • I participated in the CrossFit Open. CrossFit makes me feel strong, capable and powerful. It reminds me that we can accomplish any challenge we are faced with if we persistently chip away at the work.
  • I went backpacking in Utah at the little-known national park – Capitol Reef.
  • I learned about the heart and gave a speech to my dog. Jk, I gave it to people, but I pictured them all as my dog while standing on stage.
  • I ran my first half-marathon. About a month before, I went to the running store to buy new shoes and I spent the whole time trying them on telling the guy helping me that I hated running. Apparently, it was charming enough for him to ask me out.
  • We finished our first year of medical school and we celebrated with the spiciest Thai food at City Park.
  • I went to Bellingham with the rest of the family to cheer for Leah graduating from Western Washington University.
  • Then we went moose hunting in Winter Park and slept under the stars.
  • I went to London and learned that solo travel is not for me.
  • Back to medical school, more sleeping under the stars, sailing on Carter lake. This was the start of a challenging semester in school.
  • We rang in September by hiking a 14er in the snow.
  • The MS2’s beat the MS1’s in kickball.
  • Successfully completed Neuro and felt closer to my med school fam than ever. This month passed by in a blur of study, eat, sleep, repeat.
  • Snow! More of the blur and Thanksgiving and Med School Prom.
  • A trip to Atlanta.
  • Skiing and lots of cookies.

Cheers to 2018!


October in Review

October in review, for all of the things that I’ve wanted to say this month but haven’t had the time or energy to channel them out into the world wide web.

Maybe it’s better this way. I’m not sure. I’m still trying to figure out how to keep this blog going while in medical school.

October was a challenging month. It started with the end of the neuro block, 8-weeks of grueling coursework in the nervous system. With all of our exams on Monday mornings, it makes it really challenging to take a guilt-free weekend off from studying. By the time we got to the end of neuro I was tired and beaten down, but we picked ourselves back up to start the GI tract the next day. The rest of October passed in a blur of brown-tinged jokes and complaints of abdominal pain. What causes diarrhea you ask? It feels like a million things.

My patience was tested. My focus was tested. My ability to find that elusive balance was tested.

On October 1st, I saw a beating heart. In a human body.

On October 1st, I got the opportunity to shadow a cardiothoracic surgeon while he did an open repair of someone’s ascending aorta. Those are basically all fancy words for the tube that comes off of your heart and sends blood to all of the different organs in your body. It’s pretty important that it is strong and sturdy, but sometimes they become stretched too thin and that’s when we worry about them breaking. So, this surgeon went in and replaced a piece of this man’s aorta with a manufactured tube. It was incredible and exhilarating and humbling, all at the same time. I was also terrified of the possibility of tripping and falling onto the patient the whole surgery. My mantra for the day, “do not fall, do not fall”.

On October 8th, we finished neuro and promptly ate our weight in Denver Biscuit Company.

img_4907

On October 10th, it snowed.

img_4917

On October 12th, my friends and I went to the ballet, Sleeping Beauty. We put on our fancy dresses, I put on some new lipstick and we pretended to not be medical students for one night. Which was actually pretty difficult because we went to the ballet with the CU School of Medicine Alumni Association… Also, I may or may not have rested my eyes during the first act.

img_0639

On October 27th, my 2011 MacBook Pro was considered to be a “vintage machine”. I don’t think they understand what the word “vintage” means, but I bought a new computer anyways.

I had been thinking this month about some of the things I was thankful for because my cousin Katie was running a series on her blog about resistance and gratitude. I sent her 5 things, but I left out one. I’m really thankful for student loans because without them I wouldn’t be able to get through medical school. So, while I have to pay them back eventually, at this moment in time I am able to focus on becoming the best doctor I can be, while not having to worry about where my next meal, rent check or gas money will come from. Because of student loans, I can purchase a new computer. This is a privilege.

All through October, we studied a lot, making tables and graphs of the diseases of the GI tract, and having a little bit of fun along the way. Now here we are, on the edge of November.

This month I was challenged to be faithful; to trust in what is coming and what I cannot yet see. To trust that this hard work will pay off and that the season will change. I am encouraged.

How has October been for you?

 

 

Keep Going

We’ve been on a road of neurons and the connections their axons make. A road filled with the cranial nerves, stroke consequences, brain tumors, and psychiatric disorders.

Everything brain.

A rhythmic pulse of a beating heart.

A rise and fall of expanding lungs.

Tears of joy, ecstasy, sorrow.

A decision to choose. To say yes or no.

These are all things brain. The axons are highways and side roads that traverse through our bodies. They cross in predictable places and they carry predictable information. They are critically important, yet fragile all the same. Learning the mystery of the brain has been both rich and exhausting, and if you’ll have me, then I’d like to tell you a story.

It starts with a man and is a story of resilience in the face of hopelessness.

Resilience is the ability to spring back, to adapt to change, to grow out of the dust of defeat and to keep going when everything else around you is yelling for you to get down. 


This man came to us as part of our psychiatry course. This is how it works:

  • The school puts out a call for volunteers to be interviewed by students.
  • A volunteer shows up on the prescribed day and enters a room full of 8 medical students and two facilitators, 1 psychiatrist, and 1 psychologist.
  • The volunteer is asked questions about their experiences with Depression, Anxiety, Psychosis, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, Substance Use to name a few examples.
  • After the volunteer leaves, we discuss their stories as a group with our facilitators.

This man, he entered the room, carrying a cup of coffee and wearing a hat with the words “Resist”. His wide eyes sagged like he hadn’t been sleeping well and he told us a story of assault, depression, and anxiety. This story had twists and turns, frustrations and sorrow. He told us that he attempted suicide, twice. Sleeping two hours a night gave him the dark circles under his eyes and panic grabs hold when he thinks about what his life will be like when his loved ones are gone.

As I listened to him share his story I felt sadness and despair. I thought to myself that this man knows what it’s like to be pushed down and told not to get back up.

When I asked him, “What motivates you to choose to continue living?”, he said my family, my grandchildren. He said, today my depression doesn’t feel that bad. Today is not as dark as yesterday. This man picks himself up and he chooses to brush the dirt out of his scrapes to try again. As I was reflecting on his story and our interview with him I thought to myself, if he can keep going then so should I.

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to be given the opportunity to be in medical school. Lately, when I feel defeated and beaten down by the number of things there are to learn and the amount of time I have to learn them, I try to remind myself of all the people that are anxiously waiting to hear about an interview. I try to remind myself of the privilege that I am given because, one day, I am going to be a doctor. In moments of doubt and uncertainty, I try to remind myself if he can keep going then so should I.

So, we build resilience. Every time we fall, stand up, rub the dirt out of our scrapes and try again.

“The phoenix must burn to emerge” – Janet Fitch

A Story

Once a month, at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver there is a gathering of people. To listen to strangers share their fears, accomplishments, comedy, sadness, and adventure. It’s beautiful to watch someone walk up on stage, brave enough to speak out loud some of the most vulnerable details of their lives. This is the Moth story slam.

10 stories. Five minutes. Three judging teams. One slide whistle. One winner and a theme.

I’ve been to the Moth a few times now and listened to people share narratives about love, dirt, collaboration, and control. You never know where the evening will end up. You might find yourself in a backyard while a man gains the trust of a wild dog, or with a couple as they race down a mountain trail while lightning strikes all around them. Each one unique and captivating.

In Bob Goff’s latest book, Everybody Always, he talks about the power of extravagant love and excessive grace. It makes me a little sad because when I look around, I see that we have too little of this. We have too little compassion and empathy for one another.

It’s all about ourselves; how can we be better, how can we make more money, how can we climb the ladder a little higher. We are so tired from the constant focus on self-improvement that somehow we don’t even have enough grace for ourselves.

In medical school, we talk a lot about becoming compassionate and empathic doctors. We have communications sessions where we “practice” talking to patients. These are supposed to help us refine our language to include open-ended questions, to demonstrate empathy, and to learn to listen to the patient’s concerns, think of how all their symptoms come together and know what comes next. I struggle with this a little bit because we can practice saying the words, “that must have been difficult for you” instead of “I’m sorry”, but as much as we practice, it won’t help us be authentic when we find ourselves in a patient room. In order to do that, we need to pull from within our own experiences of hardship or loss, celebration or joy.

This is where our stories come in, as they shape our identities and our actions. They allow us to relate to one another, to stretch our minds to consider another person’s point of view, and to be true to our hearts when we speak.

There’s something so powerful in the words “Me Too”. They say I hear you, I see you, and I know you. In “Me Too” there is an overflow of extravagant love and an abundance of grace, but we can’t get there is we don’t know our own stories first.

Welcome to Phase 2

Last Monday morning, Carley drove up to my house and handed me a pink T-shirt. The back read, “Camp CU SOM” and featured an image of a fire amongst the trees. We were headed for Estes Park, Colorado where we would help welcome 184 new students to the first phase of their medical education.

Contrast orientation from this year to last year and you get a different impression. Nervous, anxious, doubting and self-conscious are all words that you could use to describe me 365 days ago. This year, I was excited, relaxed and carefree. It was refreshing to catch up with classmates after 9 weeks, knowing that we had made it this far; we are MS2’s [medical student, year 2].

As time passes and we reach these arbitrary milestones, it’s comforting to know that we’ve successfully made it over some of the hurdles. I’m not saying that we’ve done it all cleanly. There have been a few times when I’ve crashed hard into the ground, stood up and brushed it off. There will be a few scars by the time medical school is over. Maybe a few extra lines in the furrow of my brow from the late nights in the library and early mornings in lecture, but you know,  we made it past anatomy.

At orientation, I looked around at all of the new faces, knowing that people were nervous, anxious, doubting and self-conscious. I felt for them, but I also felt relieved that I wasn’t in their shoes anymore.

Today, on my first day of the second year, I spilled coffee on myself in the car. Then I walked into the full lecture hall and was immediately overwhelmed by all of the people. I felt alone and short of breath. What happened to the confidence from only one week ago?

Today, on my first day of the second year, I spilled coffee on myself not once, but three times. Is that a sign for the year to come?

Phase 2 is a doozy of a year. We start off with the Nervous System, before moving on to Digestive, Endocrine, Metabolism. Finishing with Life Cycle, Infectious Disease and a 7-week dedicated study period.

This morning I was humbly reminded of the hurdles still out there on the course. Turns out, being a year further in medical school doesn’t mean I’m any less nervous, anxious, or self-conscious.


I’ve decided to write myself a mantra to meditate on this year. A simple reminder of where I have come from and where I want to be in 9 months.

This year will be marked by fearlessness and perseverance. This year will continue to be about showing up and leaning into the challenge of being present. This year we will dare to dream a little bigger and set our sights a little higher.

I challenge you to take a look at your life – Where have you been? Where are you going? Who will you be in 9 months?

Hello, London

I’ve always wanted to travel somewhere by myself. It would be a grand adventure!

So, during the spring I would dream in between practice question sets and had google flights on speed dial – or actually automatic alerts. Flights to Paris, London, Barcelona, I was tracking them all. It didn’t really matter where I went, the only requirement was that it was a place I had never been before.

Ultimately, I found an affordable plane ticket to London.

– confirm payment –

I had a vacation to look forward to.

Naturally, my solo travel would start with an empty row of seats on the trans-Atlantic flight.

To be completely honest, I romanticized the whole thing, from start to finish. I dreamed a vacation in my mind that was straight out of the movies. Sort of like Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love where she goes to Italy, India, and Bali to find herself. She learns Italian and eats pizza with her new-found friends. I thought I would meet people in my hostel, or at the park, or while visiting the museum. Yet, I found myself being seated at the one person table in the corner of a restaurant, a look of pity on the waiters face.

I didn’t come here for your pity, sir.

So, I woke up each morning and armed myself with my book, the map, and my water bottle and would head out for the day. Going to the places I had only seen from the computer screen. I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum (twice), the British Museum, Hyde Park, St. James Park, Regents Park, Oxford University, Westminster Abbey, the Shakespeare Globe, Notting Hill, East London, Buckingham Palace. I ate fish and chips in a pub, I ate Thai food in a pub, I drank a very large glass of wine in a pub.

I wouldn’t change anything about my time in London because I learned a valuable thing in that big city. I think it’s something I’ve known all along because if I look back on old blog posts and journal entries, the thing I keep coming back to is the relationships I have with the people who wind up in my life.

It made me sad to think that I would return to the United States and there would be no one to remember the trip with me.

Somehow there’s still grace and beauty in this. Maybe the next time I am lucky enough to travel to London, I’ll tell a story, over the high tea that I never tried, about the time that I stood in the yard during a Shakespeare play, or rode on the upper deck of the iconic red London bus, or sat in a rented lawn chair to read my book on a Sunday afternoon.

I didn’t come here for your pity, sir. But go ahead, pour that glass of wine.


After some lengthy deliberation, I decided this wasn’t going to be a travel blog.

A play-by-play of my trip to London.

I think travel blogs are fantastic ways to share tips and tricks for navigating new cities (I’ve used plenty of them myself), but I think I have more to offer than the research that I did before jumping the ocean.

However, I did think it would be helpful to share some of the things I really enjoyed about my time in London… in case there is someone out there that’s looking for a tasty latte, free bus tour, or restaurant with a rooftop pickle statue.

Stay: 

Astor Hostels – I booked through Hostelworld, their Hyde Park location is large and in an excellent location.

Eat: 

EggBreak – I recommend the Levantine Eggs and Matcha Latte.

Farm Girl – If you love avocado toast then this is the place for you.

Churchill Arms – Iconic pub paired with “the best” Thai food in England.

Piculpeper – For rooftop pickle statues.

Do:

Victoria and Albert Museum – Created to celebrate beautiful industrial design.

The British Museum – Read: The Rosetta Stone is here.

Go see as many Royal Parks as possible – Regents Park is my favorite.

Try out this free London bus tour – Buy yourself an oyster card and hop on and off.

St. Pauls Cathedral – Expensive, but well worth it

Get tickets to see something at the Globe

Sleep Under the Stars

At least once in your life.

A few weeks ago I was up in Winter Park and we decided it would be the perfect weekend to hang up the hammock. With the gentle sway I fell asleep between the trees and under the stars.

There is a short list of places that I have felt vulnerable, but also at peace. There’s something about opening yourself up to the things that scare you, but will leave you wanting more.

As I’m typing this I’m sitting in the airport. Not that abnormal, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to fly places because there are a lot of people in the world who only dream of this.

I’m going to London. By myself.

I’m scared, excited and desperately trying to soak everything in. I’ve wanted to solo travel for the longest time, but I’ve always been too chicken. This summer the chance presented itself and I jumped. Or, cautiously dipped my toe in the water and then jumped.

I feel vulnerable. I feel at peace. See you when I get back.