Category Archives: Thoughts

Changes to be Made

A question was posed to me, “Name one thing you wish you could go back and change during your education.” One thing, out of all those years of medical school. The hours spent studying alone, hunched over a three-volume set of neurosurgical textbooks. The stress of each day during my first surgical rotation and the anxiety that came with prerounding. As an introvert (INTJ), I was torn between my need to assert my dominance over the rest of my cohort and the paralyzing social anxiety I have dealt with my entire life. It was this common occurrence that I settled on as the one thing I would change. My social anxiety. The social awkwardness and antisocial behavior that has been both helpful and harmful, but ultimately reared its ugly head during my years at university.

Throughout medical school, I was an exemplary student. I rarely missed class (save for the complete mental breakdown that occurred during my second year), turned in perfect work and spent the majority of my free time studying. Since I had so recently graduated high school, I didn’t realize that I should be using some of my free time at university to socialize and instead spent it travelling down the proverbial rabbit hole that is medical education. 

The further I tunneled, the less time I spent in the “outside world.” My friends saw me less and made frequent comments regarding my absence. As my time was limited, I started distancing myself from those around me and only saw my friends once a month. When I did spend time being social, it felt so awkward and I was filled with anxiety. I started to withdraw, spending the vast majority of my time doing solitary activities. My mornings were spent running solo, followed by studying, then class. When my classes were over, I immediately started studying again. This went on for the entirety of medical school, save for the odd trip to see family or time spent in ballet.

I began to notice changes in my behavior around year three. During a group project in medical microbiology, I suddenly became aware of how uncomfortable I was around the rest of my group. Looking around, I saw how happy the majority of my peers were while conversing with each other and yet I was miserable. I excused myself from the group (I had already finished my part of the project) and went for a long walk. The walk allowed me to collect my thoughts and return to the group where I hurriedly helped them finish their work and left.

That evening, while I was alone in my room studying, I realized that I might just do my best work alone. Having other people around was distracting and I never quite felt myself around other people. In a weird way, I felt like my body was doing what it thought was best for me, protecting me in a way.

To this day I feel awkward around other people. Though I have ultimately gotten better about how I deal with those I interact with, I still prefer to be alone. For the longest time I tried to change, to become something I’m not. I put myself out there, forcibly building relationships that were doomed from the beginning. Now that I’m older I realize that all the energy I spent trying to change myself would have been better spend focusing on making myself happy. I no longer force myself to be social if I’m not feeling up to it and I make sure that I’m comfortable in situations before I commit to anything.

It’s hard for me to admit things like this publicly. Letting anyone, even random strangers know a weakness makes me feel terribly vulnerable. Try as I might, I don’t think I will ever be truly comfortable letting others into my life and that is something I need to work on. Going forward  my hope for myself is that I can learn to let down my guard and allow a few people to get to really know me. One of these days I suppose. Until then I just have to continue to throw myself into my work and keep myself busy in other ways.

Question(s): How do you deal with social anxiety?

It’s Halfway-ish!

It’s halfway through the year and you want to check on how I’ve done with my 2012 goals?!

Oh, ok. Yea, we can do that…

I mean, I have been very busy, extremely busy even.

Am I stalling? Me? What makes you think that

I’m right on track to completing my goals! I really am. I promise.

I’ve been strengthening my personal relationships. I talk to my mother at least once a day and I have emailed my father a few times since the beginning of the year. As far as my relationship with my friends, I still struggle with that. I’ve always been loner and medical school did nothing to improve upon that. I prefer my alone time and I think that my quirkiness can sometimes overwhelm others.

As far as writing more letters, emails and thank you notes I have done that! I write letters to my babcia once a week, purchased lots of awesome thank you notes from Papersource and I have even tried to send emails to family members on a fairly regular basis. I need to do better though. I would be happy to send more emails, but my friends just text me. So it’s their fault!

Plans to take a real vacation with someone haven’t panned out yet. It’s only half way though the year though! I have been to Tahoe, NYC, Toronto and Missouri. Sadly they were mostly business trips, though a few were to see family.

My novel has been shelved. I have yet to find the time to write, nor have I felt particularly inspired. So that goal is…not happening.

I’ll just say it, I have yet to learn to sew. Moving along.

The reading goal I set for myself is working out nicely. So far this year I have read:

The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy
By Light Alone by Adam Roberts
Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan
Behind the Beautiful Forever by Katherine Boo
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
India Becoming by Akash Kapur
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

With a little over half the year behind me, I am on the right track to hit 20 books by the end of the year.

When it comes to making a blog post 2-3 times a week, I have fallen way behind. This year as been incredibly busy and there have been a lot of stressful situations. I haven’t really felt inspired to blog, but I will try to do better.

One of the goals I decided to carry over from 2011 was to take more cooking courses. I have signed up for a few through the South Bay School of Cooking, and plan to attend a Thai class, Chinese Dim Sum course and Spanish class which centers around making paella.

Running fifty (50) miles a week has been an easy goal for me to keep and I think I will up my distance to 60 in 2013. I still want to squeeze in at least one (1) marathon by the end of the year!

As far as completing a detox plan, I have done a small one over the course of two weeks. I would like to try to complete a longer one during the winter, possibly in between Thanksgiving and the new year.

Onward and Upward

A few days ago I was discussing with a friend our futures. Would we ever get married? Be parents? Where would we be living in 10 years? It was a little disconcerting, considering my preference for planning my life in advance, that I didn’t exactly know what my future had in store for me.

I asked my much more laid-back friend, “Would you want to know exactly how your future is going to unfold?”

“Nahhh, I kind of like surprises,” was his response.

This threw me for a loop, because I would want to have a detailed itinerary emailed  to me every week. Knowing the minute details of my daily life would be something of a thrill for me. Being able to plan well in advance for situations would be a life saver! The orange juice commercials, where the consumer is sitting at the table with all of their “problems” for the day, is an obsessive compulsive planners fantasy.

I wondered if my friend was in the majority. Do most people want to keep an element of surprise in their day-to-day routine? How many people would choose to gaze into their future, if they found out the exact circumstances of their death? Perhaps that is the kicker, death. If you know when and how you’re going to die, you might live your life differently. I would assume that being privy to that sort of information might drastically change your personality and the way you interacted with people. This sort of information could be the reason that certain people would choose not to have their future unfolded before them.

As a planner, worrier and obsessive compulsive, however, I am practically frothing at the mouth for a chance to look into tea leaves and divine my future. I would ultimately hope the tea leaves showed something positive and in-line with how I anticipate my future will be. If everything goes according to plan, I would end up divining a future like:

2-3 years: married to the love of my life, work towards a 4 day work week, discussing adoption
4 years: completion of contracted work in California, quick sell of my current home, purchase a vacation home on Catalina Island, move back to NYC or Toronto,  begin renovation on the West Village building in NYC, begin the adoption process
5-6 years:  adopt a child/children (hopefully male twins), work towards a 2-3 day work week
7-8 years: complete the renovation on the West Village building, spend a year living abroad with my family, begin the transition to open my bakery (test recipes, research supply companies etc..)
9-10 years: begin consulting for hospitals 1-2 days a week, finally open my bakery, enjoy being a mother/wife/small business owner

An idyllic plan that will hopefully be put into action within the coming years!

Question(s): What about you? Would you choose to view your entire future if given the chance? Is there anything you wouldn’t want to know?

A Re-Blog: Date a Girl Who Reads

I was just linked this and I thought it was amazing, so I thought I would post it for everyone!

Originally from nonamerah.wordpress

A GIRL YOU SHOULD DATE

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Planning Ahead and Not Giving Up

At the beginning of the year, I promised myself that I would complete a set of goals by the end of 2011.

So far I have finished 4/10 goals in a 10 month span (almost 11). Now that it is the beginning of November, I decided to look back at my list of goals and see how I can improve upon them, complete them or realize that I have failed.

The problem with this is that I don’t feel like it’s ever alright to quit. The thought of not completing my goals upsets me and I really want to find someway to finish all of them by the end of the year!

Goals Completed:

-Read thirty (30) books in 2011 (officially completed 10/16/11)

-Buy a house in California (completed 7/19/11)

-Volunteer with Doctors without Borders (9/23/11, placed in pool for matching)

– Allow myself to be more artistic (blog posts, baking, sketching, began writing novel)

Goals I Have Partly Finished:

-Run fifty (50) miles a week following Runners World MPW Target Goals (Target: 2600;  Completed: 2300 -20 for sick days = 2280;  To Run: 320 miles in 7 weeks + 6 days)

-Complete two (2) detox plans (first plan completed on 6/20/11, second plan tentatively completed 11/25/11-12/16/11)

-Set aside time everyday to write (I have not been writing creatively everyday, but I have done it almost every other day. Between blog posts, writing a novel and writing a few short stories, I have really tried to complete this goal!)

-Take a cooking course in one of the following cuisines: Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Persian (Middle eastern), Spanish, Latin American
(signed up for an Indian cooking course held on 11/29/11)

Goals I Have Yet to Complete:
-Travel back to Poland to see family
-Learn to say “No” 

These last two goals have been the hardest for me to complete. I have been unable to find the time to fly back to Poland during the year, but I have seen family members periodically. I really want to travel back home to Łódź, but this goal may have to wait until I have more free time.

The second goal, which seems easy, is terribly difficult. I can never seem to find it in myself to say no to someone. I always volunteer for everything and it has worn me very thin. I will continue to work on this, but I have a feeling I will just resign myself to tacking this on my goals for 2012.

Speaking of 2012, I have thought about the goals I want to set for myself. So far I have come up with:

Possible 2012 Goals
-Strengthen my personal relationships by spending more time with those I care about.
-Finish my novel
-Keep a “365 Food and  Exercise” Journal for a year (make it a page on my blog)
-Take an actual vacation with someone
-Complete at least one (2) marathons (shoot for 4) or six (6) races (shoot for 10) in 2012
-Read Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series
-Learn to do one of the following: sew, knit, screen print
-Host a dinner party once a month to meet new people
-Get back into photography
-Write more letters and thank you notes (emails do not count)
-Make a substantial blog post once a week or a small post once a day
-Try something new once a month
-Read 40 books in 2012
-Watch AFI’s 100 Best Movies in 2012
-Learn a programming language
-Take a course in something I know nothing about (and get an A!)
-Build a computer (desktop)
-Learn to surf, snowboard or ski
-Meditate once a day for one (1) hour

Goals to Continue
-Take more cooking courses (Persian, Latin American, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish)
-Read at least a book a month (shoot for 20, hit 30 if possible)
-Allow myself to be more artistic
-Write something, creatively, each day

Obviously I will not use all these goals. I need ten (10) solid goals, which do not include the goals I would love to carry over into the new year. I really need to make sure that I understand the time I have to invest in each to complete them on time. Setting the goals I did this year, really pushed me into trying some new things and I enjoyed the feeling of completion when I finished a goal!

Questions: Are you going to set goals for yourself in 2012? What are some of the goals you have in mind? What do you think of some of the goals I have in mind for next year? Have you completed a similar goal? Do you have any advice on completing any of the goals above?

 

The Pie is a Lie

The “Cake vs Piedebate has been going on for some time. I have never taken a side because I tend to fall into the “whatever is being served at
the time is my favourite dessert” category. While driving my aunt to the airport, she told me to stop by a particular bakery on the way back and get cannolis for everyone. When I arrived at the bakery, they had a yummy selection of goodies and I bought an eclectic mix of things to take to my remaining family.

Upon my arrival home I was greeted by eager young cousins who saw that I was carrying a cake. Before I could even make it into the door, my youngest cousin looked up at me with the biggest puppy dog eyes I have ever seen and said, “No pie?” I hadn’t gotten any pie because I had decided on cake/cannoli/biscotti/cookies.

My lack of pie was apparently more than my cousin could handle and he stomped off in a huff. I laid out an array of baked goods on the counter and then told my cousin we could go pick out a pie. I drove back to the bakery and he picked out a “Torta di Tagliatelle.”

It made me wonder: What dessert is better? Is there a clear winner in the “Cake vs Pie” debate?

The researcher in me wanted to know, so I sent out an “official” text to everyone on my contact list. I learned two things from this:

  1. Don’t send out a “Group MMS” on the iPhone because it confuses people and they blame me.
  2. There really isn’t a clear winner in this conflict!

The results came back:

Cake: 65
Pie: 64

Even though cake was the winner by a single vote, I can’t decide if that is a large enough margin to consider cake the winner. I have to take a lot of variables into consideration (mainly the fact that many of my friends don’t take anything seriously) and even I can’t really decide which side I’m on!

Trying to decide between the two desserts is difficult, because they are really quite different. I think I will always be one of those people who is just happy to have a piece of whatever amazing confection is in front of me. As far as my friends, it would be a lot of fun to have a “Team Cake vs Team Pie” challenge and see which group can valiantly defend their choice in a “Winner Bake All” fight to the finish.

Question: Which side are YOU on? Why? Share a recipe?

Lake Tahoe Worked Miracles

The weekend I spent at my parents gorgeous home at Lake Tahoe was sorely needed. Not only did it offer up a stunningly gorgeous view, but it allowed me time to relax. I tried to keep my phone buried away in my room, but I ended up packing it around with me more than I wanted. I extended my stay by an entire day when I found out that I did not have to work on Monday. A few of us stayed until later in the day and drove back in the afternoon.

By far my favourite part of the entire trip was curling up in the Adirondack chaise lounge by the water and reading my Nook. I was able to finish an entire book and started a second one while I was there. It was absolutely divine. I am now in the process of finishing The Magician King and will start the Gormenghast series soon. Peake’s series is an undertaking and I hope that I can finish it on time.

Another wonderful aspect of the mini-vacation was the food. Practically every meal we ate was prepared on-site. We spent a lot of time preparing food and each time was an exceptionally positive social experience. Each one of us contributed to every meal. One of the tag-a-longs was a bartender my cousin knows from LA and he created some fabulous cocktails to pair with meals (and to drink whenever!). Thankfully the kitchen was enormous, so we were all able to move around fairly comfortably and it was fun to watch the dancing going on in front of the stove. My favourite meal was a “Red Snapper Crudo w/ Watercress Pesto.” One of the couples had found the recipe in Food & Wine Magazine and thought we should try it. I dare say that I was not disappointed and I will definitely prepare it in the future.

I think that the weekend was something my mind and body were craving. The moment I relaxed, and I mean truly relaxed, I felt a huge weight removed. It is certainly a cliché to say, but I felt so much better being surrounded by calm. Coming back to Los Angeles was a bit of a shock to my psyche, but it was wonderful to feel focused again. After Monday the week is scheduled better and I will be able to cut back on my hours, starting on Thursday. Since I have been back, I have found myself daydreaming about relaxing and reading. I will hopefully be packing up again and heading to Tahoe rather soon. Perhaps the next time I visit, I will accidentally forgot to come back home!

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!