Monthly Archives: July 2011

I love Spotify

I recently decided to try out Spotify and I have to admit that I love it. I was so excited that it finally came to the US, as my friends living in the UK had been raving about it for some time now. One of the things I like most about Spotify is my ability to make playlists from their catalog of songs. I have been playing around with making a few different lists using my music library and Spotify’s extensive catalog.

Spotify Playlist

High for This” – The Weeknd
Avril 14th” – Aphex Twin
Sweet Disposition” – The Temper Trap
Hero” – Regina Spektor
Swans” – Unkle Bob
Assassouts” – Plaid
Slow Life [with Victoria Legrand]” – Grizzly Bear
Kaskaskia River” – Sufjan Stevens
“The Barker of the Dupes” – Skeleton  Key
All at Sea” – Richard Walters
Last Words” – The Real Tuesday Weld
Ghost Under Rocks” – Ra Ra Riot
This City is Hell” – Plaid
The Bird and the Worm” – Owl City
Her Morning Elegance” – Oren Lavie
I Didn’t Speak the Language” – The One AM Radio
For Real” – Okkervil River
Pick Up the Phone” – Notwist
Open Kastle” – Plaid
Gifted (Treasure Fingers Epicwave Remix)” – N.A.S.A.
Uprising” – Muse
River” – Mountain Man
Tiny City Made of Ashes” – Modest Mouse
Televators” – The Mars Volta
Simple Math” – Manchester Orchestra
Snakeing” – Plaid
String Quartest No. 3 (Mishima): Blood Oath” – Kronos Quartet
Dat New New (Viking Remix)” – Kid Cudi
Light Through the Veins” – Jon Hopkins
Lost In The World” – Kanye West, Bon Iver
Caroline” – John Butler Trio
Believe In What You Want” – Jimmy Eat World
House By the Sea” – Iron and Wine
Beginnings‘ – Plaid
Ali in the Jungle” – The Hours
The Razor” – Head Automatica
Generator (First Floor)” – Freelance Whales
The Beacon” – A Fine Frenzy
Grand Theft Ecstasy- Original Mix” – Feed Me
Butterfly” – Plaid
First Breath After Coma” – Explosions In The Sky
Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare) [feat. MGMT]” – Kid Cudi
Disintegration” – Jimmy Eat World
Blood Red– Original Mix” – Feed Me
Little Motel” – Modest Mouse
Oasis” – Plaid
Plus Ones” – Okkervil River
Glorious” – Muse
Figure 8” – Elliott Smith
Apple Sugar Cider” – Facing New York
Let’s Get Lost” – Elliott Smith
Lights- Bassnectar Remix” Ellie Goulding
King’s Crossing” – Elliott Smith
Brothers Chase” – Plaid
How It Ends” – Devotchka
Comfort Eagle” – Cake
Between The Bars” – Elliott Smith
Transatlanticism” – Death Cab for Cutie
Where?” – Plaid
Raise Your Weapon (Madeon Remix)” – Deadmau5
Some Boys” – Death Cab for Cutie
Like Eating Glass” – Bloc Party
Beautiful People- Felix Cartal Club Remix” – Chris Brown feat. Benny Benassi
Rat’s Step” – Plaid
Signs- Armand Van Helden Remix” – Bloc Party
You Don’t Know Me (feat. Regina Spektor)” – Ben Folds
This Modern Love” – Bloc Party
Safety in Solitude” – Plaid
Pumped Up Kicks” – Foster the People
The Luckiest” – Ben Folds
Lights- Single Version” – Ellie Goulding
This City” – Plaid
Electric Feel” – MGMT
Timebomb” – Beck

Yes, I linked to every song (save “Barker of the Dupes” because it is not available….anywhere). It took a fairly ridiculous amount of time, but thankfully WordPress has this nifty thing where you can schedule posts. By scheduling it for later in the week, I was able to find songs little by little.

After reading/listening to the songs on the playlist above, you may be thinking, “That is an incredibly eclectic playlist.” In fact, I am very proud of my eclectic musical taste. I have found that I listen more to the song and less to the genre, which means that I often choose songs because of their uniqueness.

I will also try to post other playlists, but I am still learning all the in-and-outs of Spotify. Currently, I’m in the process of creating a playlist of house music and another for independently produced tracks (mostly my friends of mine).

Hope you enjoy the songs! Leave me some feedback on the ones you enjoyed the most. I am open to anything and love to listen to new music.

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This May Be Uncomfortable to Read

It was uncomfortable for me to write, but I felt the need to move past a subject that was regarded by my parents as “taboo.” Growing up, we were never allowed to speak about it. We were restricted from discussing it with friends, family members outside of our immediate circle and even significant others. The fact that none of my family (save one brother) know that this blog exists, is the only reason I can even begin to consider writing this post. It has taken me 10 years, at least three blogs and countless hours of fighting with myself to put “pen to paper” in regards to the subject of money.

I would rather discuss sexual conquests, bodily functions and past indiscretions than talk about money. My parents made broaching the subject around the dinner table forbidden and went so far as to declare it “off limits” in the company of others. It was the one topic we could not pick and the single most awful word we could utter. To this day I believe that my parents would rather us discuss sexual acts at length, than bring up our finances.

My parents went to great lengths to hide their wealth. Traveling to Europe/Asia became “visiting family on the East coast.” Large purchases were hidden and spread between multiple properties. When people asked about our life in Poland we were told not to talk about the people who had worked for us. It became some sort of Anonymity Game, one that forced us to lie and hide our lives from those we trusted.  I grew up terrified that I would let slip something that would get back to my parents and I would quickly change the subject if anyone asked about something remotely related.

I have always wondered why my parents were so uncomfortable with the subject. I tried to discuss it with my father when I was in college, but he told me that it wasn’t something he wanted to discuss with me when I was older. After I completed my residency, I asked him again and this time he told me that he was too busy. The way he was unable talk about our finances made me feel ashamed and embarrassed.

Sitting around a table with my friends from medical school, they would freely discuss their student loans. They even went so far as to mention the raw figures and how they planned to pay them off. Not a single one of them was finishing medical school without debt. Except me. I had not been forced to pay a penny for my education. It wasn’t because of scholarships or some mysterious benefactor, it was because my parents had simply taken out their checkbooks. When my turn came, I offered a quick, “To hell student loans!” which garnered laughter instead of more questions. With their attention diverted, I went back to contemplating how they were so comfortable discussing their financial situations. I envied them and I wanted to take part in the discussion, but I didn’t want to seem privileged.

When I was 14, my parents forced me to get a job over the summer. Not a job with a family member in an air-conditioned office, but a job where I actually worked. It was miserable and I hated it, but each time I was paid my parents would ferret the money away in an account they had set up for me. This continued throughout high school and only stopped when I applied to medical school.

The year I turned 16, my parents gave me the keys to my first car. All of my friends expected that I would be given whatever car I wanted and I have to admit that I was kind of hoping that was the case. Instead, when they opened the garage door, there sat a beat up 1987 Camaro. I don’t know why, but I was ecstatic about my car. When I drove it to school the first day after break, my friends were more surprised than I was. They asked me why parents hadn’t just purchased me a new car. I would respond, sounding like a clone of my parents, “Because I don’t need a new car for my first car, I need to learn how to drive.”

After coming back from a trip to Europe over the summer of my junior year, I was telling my best friend about all the places we went. My mother overhead me and called me downstairs. She told me that I wasn’t suppose to tell people what we had done. By this point I was fed-up with the situation and I told her that no one believed me when I said we just went to New Jersey. She told me that I shouldn’t act so privileged and that it was time for my friend to go home.

What it boils down to is that I have never wanted to be viewed as privileged, but I also want to be able to talk about my experiences. I have always felt there is such a stigma toward children from families who are considered wealthy. We are often stereotyped as lazy, arrogant and, more often than not, unintelligent. We are constantly told that we “just don’t understand” because we were raised differently. We are made to feel bad about enjoying what has been given to us, that which our parents have worked so hard for. It makes for awkward, uncomfortable social situations and I would usually just try to avoid them all together.

Writing this post was extremely uncomfortable. What should have only taken an hour to type, ended up taking several hours. I was constantly deleting anecdotes and rephrasing things because I didn’t want to offend anyone. I feel like I should write a post apologizing for having money and begging forgiveness from those who are not as fortunate as I. The thought of posting this made me anxious and I considered deleting it entirely. I didn’t even allow myself to go onto the kind of detail I wanted, due to some sort of psychological barrier my parents installed when I was younger. The only reason I am able to click the “Publish” button is because I know that the internet offers some anonymity.

So I guess that, in some respects, I am still playing the Anonymity Game with myself.

Obsessed

I love to read. I’m not even really sure why I love it so much. Most people say, “Reading transports you to far off places!” or something just as cliché, but I don’t read because I want to pretend I’m somewhere else. Reading helps me forget, I suppose. It helps me forget that I just worked 85+ hours over the last week, or that I have to scrub in by 5:30 a.m. the next morning. But that isn’t why I read, at least I don’t think it is. For me, reading just feels right and it helps me relax. In addition to its ability to relax me, I also made reading 30 books part of my yearly list of challenges.

Since I like to make lists (I really do, I’m surprised this entire blog isn’t just a series of lists), I keep a list of the books in my reading queue. I thought it might be interesting for those who do read this blog to have the chance to comment on my “To Reads.” I really do welcome suggestions, especially if you have read a book on this list and thought it was terrible. This list is in the order I plan to read them, but if you think I should move a book to certain spot tell me so!

To Read 2011:
A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Embassytown by China Mieville (I was reading this at the same time as the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but I decided to focus on one book at a time. I am about half way through it at the time of writing this post.)
The Map of Time by Felix Palma
Saved by Beauty by Roger Housden
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake
Titus Awakes by Mervyn Peake
Busy Monsters by William Giraldi
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities by Ann Vandermeer
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan ellison
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

After all of those, I plan on reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but I have heard it is a massive undertaking to read in its entirety.

Several of the books are “Young Adult” books, but I decided that I needed to make the goal attainable by choosing some “fast” reads, that way I could actually finish the goal in 365 days.

There are two books from the list that I am not counting towards this goal of 30 books. Since I have already read eight books, I need to read 22 books to complete the goal by December 31, 2011. The books that I am not counting towards the goal are:

The Night Bookmobile
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

The reason these two don’t count is because The Night Bookmobile is a graphic novel (only 40 pages long) and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is a 146-page collection of short stories. This means that I need at least two books to replace them in order for me to reach my goal.

In order to qualify for the goal, the book must not be a graphic novel (even though I have read Logicomix and Asterios Polyp, which most would consider novel length), it must not be a collection of short stories and it can not be something I have already read.

Suggestions?

Oh Brother(s)

My family has always been important to me. They have supported me throughout the majority of my life and I always knew that I could count on them if I needed help. That isn’t to say that they were always physically there, as I spent the majority of my childhood raised by my niania, Aija and my older brothers. My mother traveled for most of childhood and was only home 3-4 weeks out of the year. I grew up around my Aija, my grandmother and my two older brothers. My brothers, Sven and Jakob, were from my mother’s first marriage. Their father had died soon after Jakob was born and my mother had been forced to raise them herself. Like me, they had a nanny (niania) who was with them every day since my mother could not be.

Sven and Jakob were very close to each other, they were only two years apart and similar in a lot of ways. When I was born, they treated me like a younger brother and I provided them with hours of entertainment. My brothers loved to torment me and I am still surprised I survived my childhood.

Around the time I was 4-5 my mother began to take frequent trips to the US. She had met a fellow attorney on one of her trips and they soon began a long distance relationship. After a year of “dating” they flew to Italy, married and when I was seven they had my youngest brother. When Nikolas was born, they decided that it was time to move my older brothers to New York City so that the boys could grow up together. At the time, I was in Vienna so that I could attend the Wiener Staatsoper Ballettschule and when I went home during a break; my grandmother informed me that my brothers were now in America. I was fairly upset at the idea of being the only member of my family left in Europe except for family in Kraków and Świnoujście, whom I rarely saw. I went back to Vienna, upset and missing my family.

I lived in Vienna/Łódź until I was 11, at which point my mother moved me to the US as well. Even though I had missed my family, the thought of leaving Europe was terrifying. My mother had decided that it would be best for me to not know that I would be moving and for the weeks leading up to my flight my grandmother was very sullen. The day of my departure, my mother picked me up at school (which was very rare). I was so excited to see my mom that I didn’t even realize we weren’t headed back to the house until we arrived at the airport. When I saw the airport, I excitedly asked my grandmother, “Are we visiting family in Krakow?!” It was at this point that my grandmother burst into tears and I realized something was wrong. Our driver unloaded luggage from the car and we began to head inside. I kept asking my grandmother what was going on, but she just kept shaking her head and shushing me. By the time we boarded our flight I was terrified and visibly upset. My mother had still not told me where we were going and my head was swimming with possible destinations.

The flight from Łódź landed in London and it was then that my mother told me I was moving, permanently, to the US. I cried for the first few hours of the flight and then fell asleep halfway to NYC. My mother woke me up right before we landed and told me that I was going to see my brothers (my youngest brother for the first time).

Seeing my older brothers was amazing. I realized how much I missed them when they were asking about my flight and our grandmother. From that point on, they were the two most important people in the world to me. With my parents traveling, my grandmother still in Poland and my inability to communicate with my youngest brother, they were the only people I could actually converse with. They began to teach me basic English phrases and we went to see English films together. They showed me around NYC, walked me to school every day and taught me where to get “American” food. The three of us became very close and remained that way until we moved to Missouri a few years later.

The move to Missouri was really the catalyst for a lot of change. It was the point that I realized I had been raised differently, that my language was a huge barrier and that my family wasn’t typical. The move to Missouri happened after my father was offered a job in Kansas City and my mother had decided to quit her job. Missouri was a huge change for all of us, as we had always lived in urban areas. We moved over summer break and my mother enrolled us all in the same school district. We spent the summer getting acclimated to the humidity and I thought the heat might kill me before school even started. My older brothers became quite popular with the Midwestern girls. Both of them were much taller than the rest of the boys at school and they still retained enough of an accent that girls found it “exotic.” Being several years older than I was, they became more interested in having girlfriends then helping their younger sister. My mother, seeing that I was being left behind by my siblings, enrolled me in summer ESL courses. I became obsessed with learning English and by the time school started I was far enough ahead to begin taking courses.

Both Sven and Jakob were adored by the majority of the school. Teachers loved their tenacity, every coach wanted them to go out for their sport and they had amassed quite a following of their peers. I was known as “Sven/Jakob’s sister,” but I also attributed this to their inability to pronounce my first name. My relationship with my older brothers, especially Sven, began to become strained and we spent less time together as they prepared for college.

The year before Sven’s graduation, he began to distance himself from our family as a whole. He spent the majority of his free-time with his friends and only came home when my parents forced him. He began to dabble in drugs and alcohol, eventually requiring my parents to send him away for the summer. Jakob was less interested in partying, but the loss of his older brother caused him to withdraw and he turned to music. Over the summer he used the majority of his savings to buy audio equipment and records. He began producing his own songs and writing music on his guitar. When Sven returned from his “vacation to Arizona” (which is what my parents told everyone) he and Jakob immediately bonded over his new hobby.

When Sven graduated he left for the University of Colorado to study aerospace engineering and only came back home for major family events. After Sven graduated, Jakob and I became close once more. I was terrified about Jakob graduating and leaving home so I tried to get him to apply to schools in Missouri. Despite my best efforts, he ultimately decided to go to Duke so that he could apply to law school there. With both of my older brothers gone I was left to fend for myself as my youngest brother was too little for me to spent time with. It was difficult for me and I missed by brothers terribly. I begged my mother to let me visit them, but she would never let me go and I resented her for it. I kept in contact with my brothers and every once in a while one of them would venture back to Missouri. When I left for college, both of them returned home and helped me set up my dorm room. This was to be the last time I saw Sven, but I didn’t know it at the time and I wish I would have spent more time with him.

After I was moved in, Sven left to head back to Colorado. He had fought with my parents almost the entire time he was home and told them he wouldn’t be coming back to visit them any time soon. I assumed he was just being dramatic, but he never came back to Missouri and in early 2006 he called to tell me that he would be moving to Japan in September. I was devastated to have him move so far away. Apparently he has wanted to work with JAXA for a while, but couldn’t until his contract was up. At the end of 2006, Sven moved to Tokyo and then began working with JAXA in mid-2007. A few years ago he got married and now has two children. None of us were invited to the wedding and we have yet to meet any of his family. I have not seen him since the day I was moved into my dorm, but I’m hoping that he will visit in a few months.

When Jakob graduated from Duke, he moved to Colorado to live with Sven and anglicized his first name (Jacob).  He then purchased a house and the two lived together for a while until Sven decided to move to Japan. Jakob still lives in Colorado and I get to see him once every year or so. He has yet to distance himself from the family the way Sven has and since converting to Buddhism he has been better about communicating with my parents.

My brothers will always be important to me. They were my first playmates, the two family members I talked to almost every day and an integral part of my support system as I was growing up. Both of my brothers helped raise me and I can attribute a lot of personality traits to them. I do wish that they were more involved in the family and that they didn’t feel the need to distance themselves from us. I keep hoping that they will come around at some point so that I will be able to hug them and tell them, “Thank you for all that you did for me.”

Baking my way through medical school

Medical School: Learn to Live Like a Zombie

Medical school is stressful. Not the “busy schedule,” kind of stressful either. It’s the “life-consuming, soul-destroying, completely overwhelming,” kind of stressful. There were days when I just didn’t want to deal with life in general. In the mornings, my alarm would go off and I would plan my run. Part way through my run, I would consider not going back to my apartment and contemplate skipping my classes for the day. This happened every day for almost six years.

I had always attributed my lack of interest in medical school to my

My room was much less depressing....

parents. They had forced me to go to medical school, even though I told them I would be miserable. Of course I had been right, I disliked medicine intensely. It was easy enough, I found that I was good at it and I continued to drag myself to class everyday. By third year, I was so depressed that I had (what I would now classify as) a nervous breakdown. I stopped running, eating and only left the apartment for class. I spent an entire break from school in bed, leaving only to use the restroom or shower (sometimes). It was awful. I kept visualizing my life and in my head it was the most depressing future I could ever imagine. I pictured myself going to work everyday, dealing with patients and never being happy. It was too much to bear, so I just shut down.

At the end of several weeks, I finally decided enough was enough. I drove to see my parents, I was going to tell them I was done with

My grandmother is so much cuter

medical school once and for all. When I arrived home my grandmother was there. She was in the process of baking babka wielkanocna for the holiday so I asked if I could help while I waited for my parents to return. Perhaps it was speaking Polish with my grandmother or maybe it was licking delicious gooey batter off my fingers, but by the time my parents arrived home I had completely forgotten that I was there to tell them my life-changing news. Baking has always been an important aspect of my life, but at that moment I realized that I could take out my frustrations on cupcakes. It was a game changer.

I spent the weekend at my parents, planning my baking shopping list. My mind was finally off of medical school and instead it was thinking about how many Meyer lemon’s I needed for tarts. When I got back to the city I headed straight to the store, I bought over $300 worth of

The best kind of mess.

random ingredients and then stopped by a kitchen supply store for extra accessories. Back at my apartment, I baked for hours. My counters that had once been covered in nothing but medicine, were now covered in flour. I kneaded dough until my fingers cramped and rolled it until my arms were sore. It was wonderful. After I took the last cake out of the oven, exhaustion took hold and I slept for twelve hours straight. I woke up feeling oddly refreshed, went for a long run and then delivered the baked goods to my classmates.

For the rest of my time in medical school, I took plenty of time out to work in the kitchen. My friends and classmates loved it, so much so that they began to request certain recipes more than others. The favourite ended up being my Black Forest Cupcakes, which were requested on a weekly basis. It quite literally got me through medical school and made me realize that I would ultimately survive the experience.

It seems like a silly thing, to think that baking cupcakes could really have such a profound impact on a person. To me, it has always been the act of baking more than the finished product. Even though I enjoy tasting my creations, it is ultimately the pleasure they bring others that makes me so content. Once I found that I enjoyed baking, it became an outlet for my anxiety which helped me through medical school.

So, would I have still been a physician if I had not discovered my love of baking? Probably. My parents would have forced me to finish school and if I had decided to drop out, they would have pushed me toward engineering. Baking didn’t save medical school for me, but it did help me find some sort of balance in my hectic life. To this day I continue to bake for my family and friends. I think they are glad I had a nervous breakdown, because without it they never would have been able to taste what they consider “the most amazing cupcakes ever.”

Whole living

Religion is a touchy subject. Some people are fervent about their faith, sometimes to the point of being militaristic. My parents never forced us into any religion or told us that one particular faith was more “right” than another. When we were younger they would take us to a variety of religious services or ask friends of theirs to take us. I can remember going to a Hindu temple, which was quite the experience. The inside of the temple was covered in art work which was gorgeous, vivid and full of life. Everyone I met at the temple was incredibly friendly and I ended up going back several more times. I thoroughly enjoyed the cultural experience I had there, but I still felt like too much of an outsider to go on a regular basis.

After the Hindu services, I was taken to Catholic Mass a few weeks later. I had gone with several friends from school and my mother had graciously bowed out of attending this particular service. I didn’t mind the sermon and the people were nice enough to me. At the end of the service, however, when everyone went up to the altar to take Communion, I was told that I had to stay seated. I was left in the pew and, being 6-7 I was upset that everyone else got a snack and not me. I went home to tell my mother I didn’t want to be a Catholic. Even though I had specifically told my mother I disliked the Catholic services, she took me to a Roman Catholic Church a week later. She had explained to me that, just like Judaism, Catholicism was divided into different “groups.” I fell asleep during Mass and my mother was forced to carry me out. Thus ended my brief exploration of Catholicism, both in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Having gone to Catholic and Hindu services, my mother farmed me out to Pentecostals, Christian Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists and various Protestant friends around the city. Each time I returned home, I told my mother I just wanted to go with my grandmother to the synagogue, but my mother told me that I could not make that decision until I was older. When we moved to the States, I was told to go to Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, RLDS/LDS, Episcopal and even Unitarian services. The only religion I wasn’t able to go to services for was Islam and that wasn’t from lack of trying on my mother’s part. Then we moved to Missouri and everything changed.

When I was sixteen, my mother had told me that, “Since you can drive now, you are allowed to choose whatever religion you want.” I had told her that I wanted to continue going to the synagogue with my grandmother and she let me go. She had done the same with my older brothers and was in the process of chauffeuring my younger brother around as well. My two older brothers decided to attend Lutheran services, as they had enjoyed the community in NYC.

Growing up in Missouri, I was surrounded by a lot of Catholics and Baptists. I didn’t particularly mind either of those groups, but they seemed to think that Judaism was about two steps away from Satanism. Throughout school, when a new student would come into our ranks, they would always make sure to introduce like, “This is RO and she’s Jewish.” Apparently my identifier was “Jew” and I was constantly reminded of the fact that I was the only Jewish kid in school.

It hadn’t always been like that. When I was growing up in Poland I had visited the same synagogue my grandparents went to on numerous occasions. I knew a lot of other Jewish kids and was friends with quite a few of them until I moved. Even the majority of the Catholic kids in Lodz didn’t care that we were Jewish and would socialize with us outside of school. It wasn’t until I moved to the Midwest that I realized I was in the minority.

After we had moved to Missouri, my mother renounced Judaism, began going to a Christian church with my younger brother and threw away any decorations that dealt with Jewish holidays. For the remainder of our time in the Midwest, she made sure to distance herself from Judaism. The kids I went to school with would constantly ask, “Why aren’t you a Christian like the rest of your family?” I never quite knew how to answer that question. It wasn’t because I thought they were wrong, I didn’t even think I was particularly right. What it boiled down to was my level of comfort and I felt the most comfortable going to the synagogue with my grandmother.

As the years continued, I became less annoyed by the “Jew” label. I had begun to realize that I drew some sort of pride from being the “only Jewish kid” and I felt more exotic in a way. It had been difficult enough trying to fit in, as not speaking English made befriending other kids quite a task. I had consistently invited close friends to the synagogue and many asked if they could come back. Throughout high school, I maintained a fairly close relationship with Judaism. I went to services, participated in cultural activities and even presented during community meetings. I enjoyed the feeling of being with people who did not consider the term Jew a negative thing.

When I went away to college, I stopped attending services with my grandmother. I began to question Judaism and ultimately decided to leave the congregation. It was hard on my grandmother; she was the one remaining member of our family who still practiced Judaism. She had been so proud of me, her one practicing grandchild and I crushed that pride so selfishly. To this day I only go to the synagogue when my grandmother begs me to go and I don’t really follow any of the central tenets of Judaism. I don’t eat pork, but more so because I’m a vegetarian. That is about the only thing I took away from Judaism and my time spent in the synagogue.

It does make me a little sad. I was given the opportunity to choose, what should have been, a very important part of my life. In a way, I feel like I have failed myself by not allowing me to maintain a sense of balance in my life. Everyone always says that you should find balance in mind, body, spirit and yet I don’t feel like my spirit is well-balanced at all. Perhaps I will continue to grow in every aspect of my life, the spiritual aspect as well. When that time comes, I will try to remain open to the idea of allowing myself to stray from the very scientific path I have been following for years now. There will hopefully come a time when my beliefs are challenged and I have to make decisions that are outside of my comfort zone. As of this very moment, I don’t feel well equipped to deal with any sort of spiritual change, but I am hoping to change that. The more I realize that religion and spirituality don’t necessarily mean the same thing, the more I will be able to open myself up to the possibility of trying to balance myself spiritually. Until then, I must continue to question and strive to find balance within the life I have built for myself.

Setting goals and reaching them…sometimes

Each year, my friends and I set goals for ourselves. We normally gather around a table in a restaurant we have all (amazingly) agreed upon, lists in hand and give each other an overview of what we hope to accomplish in the coming year. Goals range from the mundane (I want to clean out the guest room), to the ridiculous (I want to travel to every continent), and anywhere in-between. We share our lists with each other in case someone is able to offer some advice or even help with accomplishing the goal. In the past my goals have been about “keeping it together” throughout medical school/interning/residency, but with that behind me I had to look toward the future in order to come up with my yearly goals.

In the weeks before I went to Boston to visit friends for the New Year, I agonized over what I wanted to write. I didn’t want to make a list of safe, easily attainable goals and I also didn’t want to place my goals so far out of reach they weren’t attainable. After much deliberation I came up with the following list:

– Read thirty (30) books in 2011
So far I have done well with this goal. I have read eight books since the January gathering and I am working on my ninth book at the moment.

Books

Can I do it? Can I read 30 books in 2011?

If I complete the goal earlier than December 31, I will consider aiming for a higher number next year. I just have to remember that I currently work ridiculous hours and maintain a home on my own.

I am always open to suggestions regarding what I should read. Have a look at my Goodreads account and make a recommendation!

-Run fifty (50) miles a week following Runners World MPW Target Goals
Since starting this I have hit the 50 mile mark each week, substituting an elliptical work-out on days when I could not run on a track or outside. I have definitely enjoyed this particular goal, but I don’t think I would want to run more than 50 mpw as long as I am working my current hours.

-Complete two (2) detox plans
So far I have completed one 21-day detox and plan on doing another later on in the year. The first detox was moderately difficult to

Detox staples

I learned to love tea, cayenne pepper and citrus

follow, but I want to challenge myself more with the second. I was able to follow the detox for the full 21-days and would like to try a month-long detox in the future.

The 21-day detox plan was taken from an issue of Natural Health Magazine. I did take recipes from different detox sites to make the detox “my own.”

-Buy a house in California
This goal has been fully completed and I am currently in the process of fully moving in/unpacking. Buying this house means that I now own my first home (was never in one place long enough to consider purchasing a house) and adds even more responsibility to my already heaping plate.

-Set aside time to write every day
I have been working on doing this, but I have to admit that I have not written every day. Even though I have been keeping a journal

Hospital board

Yea, this doesn't count as writing

(a practice I learned during the detox plan), writing blog posts and using Twitter more frequently it hasn’t been something I have done daily. I also don’t think I can/should count Twitter, so that means I have been writing even less.

I think the reason it is so difficult for me to write when I get home, is because I write on charts and CBC’s all day. When I get home I just want to relax and not make my brain work any more than it already has.

-Learn to say “No”
Since I was young, I have found it very difficult to tell people no. I would end up working shifts I didn’t want, driving for hours to pick up a friend and generally not looking out for myself. I have completely failed at this goal so far this year. I continually agree to work extra hours and see patients well past their scheduled appointments. By doing this, I have put myself in a place that is further away from where I need to be. I should be working fewer hours, enjoying what I have worked hard to attain and traveling to the places I want to visit before I no longer can

Volunteer with Médecins Sans Frontières
Working with MSF has been a dream of mine since I decided to go into medicine. I have always wanted to help those dealing with endemic disease and living in war ravaged countries. When I finally completed my residency, I kept looking forward to the day I would be able to travel with the organization. Sadly, my life has gone in the other direction and my specialization makes it more difficult for me to leave my current job.

-Allow myself to be more artistic
A little known fact about myself, I originally wanted to attend SCAD and major in sequential art and photography. In high school, my father set up a dark room for me in our basement and I spent hours developing photographs. I became obsessed with photography and began creating

Super Doc

I think I may change my name plate to "Super Doc"

comics that were a combination of photographs and pen/ink drawings. My sophomore year of school, I begged my parents to send me to a summer program at SCAD. After much protesting, they finally relented and I spent the majority of the vacation in Georgia. I learned that I adored the creative process, but loathed being told what I could and could not create. I came home, told my parents I wanted to attend art school and began applying to schools all over the country. My parents flat-out refused and told me that I would choose either engineering or medicine. They signed me up for an MCAT program at a local college and I took the test the following year. When I was accepted to medical school, I burned all of my drawings and most of my photographs, as I didn’t want anything to remind me of what I had originally wanted.

-Take a cooking course in one of the following cuisines:  Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Persian (Middle eastern), Spanish, Latin American
I have yet to actually sign up for a course (mostly because I don’t know where to sign up in Los Angeles), but I still want to improve upon what I have already learned. When I was in NYC, I was lucky enough to take cooking lessons from Italian, Thai, Chinese, French and Korean chefs.

-Travel back to Poland to see family
This goal will probably have to wait until later in the year, as I will be busy for the majority of the summer. I would really like to travel back home to Łódź and visit with friends/family, it is definitely something I miss.

After I had read my list there was much discussion about the time commitment some of my goals would take. Many of my friends didn’t think I should try to take more cooking courses or write every day. I told them that I understood why they thought I wouldn’t have time, but that I wanted to challenge myself this year. In the end they agreed to help me in any way they could and many said they would even try to follow the detox plans as well.

I think that setting these goals for myself, even if I don’t complete every one of them, allows me to see just how much I am capable of. They show me that I can fail at certain things and life will still go on, even if I’m not perfect in all aspects. I wonder how many other people set goals for themselves and actually stick to trying to attain them. It makes me happy to know that I am continually setting the bar higher, striving to enrich my life and make myself a more interesting person.

I would be very interested to hear the goals other people have set for themselves! Leave a comment with a past/present goal that you enjoyed completing or hope to complete at some point in the future.

Also, if anyone can give me tips on how to format pictures better within the paragraphs (so that there is less spacing) let me know!

Post Moving Apocalypse

While I was trying to fall asleep last night, my mind kept going back to the fact that I start work again on Monday. This wouldn’t be so terrible if I had the majority of the house set up, but doing this all by myself has been a trying experience. When I moved from NYC to KC, I took only what was necessary since I was keeping my NYC apartment. Moving from KC to LA was fairly easy, as I was moving first into a small house and it didn’t allow for much “stuff.” However, moving just a few blocks away has been a nightmare.

To start with, the holiday weekend meant that the streets were packed with drunk college kids and out-of-towners. Navigating as you got closer to the beach was pretty terrible and it stressed me out even more. Once we got to the house, the movers were quick to get everything inside, as I’m sure they also wanted to start their 4th of July celebration early too. Not all of the furniture was delivered on Friday, so I had scheduled the movers to come over three days (July 1, July 2 and July 5) so that way they would be around to help me move furniture from room to room. I also had a delivery scheduled for the 8th, but the 3 men who delivered the chairs were more than happy to move them around for me. Since the days were spread out, I had to try to set-up as much as I could over the holiday weekend. I did take some time out to see friends, but got right back to organizing boxes.

Unpacked boxes

So much time spent opening boxes

The problem I have with unpacking is that I feel the need to sort through everything as I take it out of the box. I have been going through my books, deciding which get the privilege of residing on my shelves and which ones will take a trip to the Hermosa Beach Public Library. I have yet to even tackle my clothes which are still hanging in the boxes. I have turned one of the bedrooms into a closet, thanks to custom cabinetry. This means I have to go through my clothes and will probably donate some of it*, but I have to sort through it first. This whole process is going to take forever and with work on Monday, I don’t see how I will ever get any of this done.

The only rooms that are completely done are the master bedroom, the master bathroom and the kitchen. I knew that I had to have some sort of sanctuary in the house and I figured my bedroom was the best place to start. My cat has been staying in the bedroom as well, since she appears to be terrified of the new house. I have yet to bring the dog into the house and my old neighbors are still taking care of him. They told me that they would watch him for as long as I needed. I knew that bringing Jasper into the house would be a disaster, since he loves to chew up cardboard boxes.

I know that moving in takes time, but with my schedule it is difficult to see the “light at the end of the tunnel,” or in my case the bottom of the empty moving box. I can only hope that I get as much done as possible in the next two days and that I’m not in the OR for the majority of next week.

*Any suggestions on where to donate clothing in LA?

It’s been a long time

After a long weekend of moving in the madhouse that was Hermosa Beach during the 4th, I am finally able to start setting the house up properly. The last of the major pieces of furniture were delivered today, all of my art has been hung and I have all the boxes unpacked.
It has been an exciting move, but it definitely sapped my energy. To be completely honest, all I really want to do is curl up in bed and sleep for a few days. The first room I set up was my master bedroom. The bed is new, the sheets are new and the room is completely unfamiliar. When I was falling asleep last night, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a hotel room somewhere.

Clean bedroom

Your bedroom should be a place of peace and serenity

I have yet to feel completely comfortable in this house and I hate the elevator so very much. I keep thinking I should just have it removed, but I don’t really know anything about that entire process.
I am going to end this post early, I’m tired. I will write a meaningful post later. Bed calls.