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Laundry On Sundaes

Every beginning is only a sequel, after all, and the book of events is always open halfway through.

Tag Archives: career

It’s been such a long time since my last post! But currently I am writing this in Yufei’s and my new apartment in San Francisco! After a couple of weeks, we finally have all of our furniture (almost entirely from IKEA), appliances, and other stuff. We were lucky to secure this apartment the first day I arrived in the city. It’s on a beautiful quiet little street in the Lower Haight neighbourhood:

We live in a small townhouse with only 7 units, and our apartment is bright and airy with lots of light from the south-facing bay windows in the bedroom:

The living room:

And the view from the other side (you can see the fireplace and the French doors separating it from the bedroom):

And I finally have my own kitchen!

Some more details… the walls in the living room conveniently have this shelf built into it, which is perfect for displaying photos…

…and Yufei’s every growing shot glass collection:

In keeping with the green and neutrals color scheme and to make use of a badly super glued broken bowl, I made this centerpiece for the coffee table with a candle and some seashells I have:

And there you have it, our first apartment! But before we moved into it, we spent a week in a hotel in North Beach, and the weather was amazingly beautiful and summery, so unlike the typical chilly San Francisco summer. We took the opportunity to explore some more of SF.


On the way to Coit Tower:

Coit Tower:

Ghirardelli Square:

Our adventure time was cut short last week because Yufei has started working at Twitter. They’ve moved to a new office in Mid-Market and I had the change to visit a couple of times. It’s in a beautiful Art Deco style building:

(Speaking of Art Deco, I am so so excited for the release of the Great Gatsby film later this year. It’s one of my favourite books ever and the trailer looks amazing. Cannot wait til December when it comes out! I will also probably want to host a Gatsby party then too!)

Back to Twitter. They also have this lovely rooftop garden:

And that’s where we had lunch one day. The cafeteria is AMAZING. Check out my lunch:

Chicken and waffle, salad from a great salad bar, grilled veggies, roasted swardfish, and tofu. Everything is all organic and gourmet and there are a ton of choices. We also had breakfast where I had a ton of frsh fruit, scrambled eggs with cream cheese, potatoes, 2 kinds of sausages, and freshly made banana pancakes (needless to say, I was stuffed that day). Twitter really spoils their employees.

Anyways, although I’ve been loving this beautiful city so far, it doesn’t seem to love me back quite as much, as it seems to refuse to give me a job. Sigh. This is the only thing that’s been putting a damper on my time here right now. Let’s hope things will turn around soon… come on, show me a little love and mercy, San Francisco!


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Senior year has been pretty hectic so far. I’ve got a lot on my plate: 5 classes, a part-time job, extracurricular duties, studying for the DAT, preparing for dental school applications, trying to find a job for my gap year, and in the middle of it all, trying to enjoy my last year in college (and possibly in NYC).

I know some of this information is new, as in I haven’t shared them on this blog yet. Namely my decision to pursue a career in dentistry. I had wanted to write a larger post on this topic, but I simply don’t have the time right now. But yes, I’ve finally decided on a path for my future, and I’m very happy about that. It certainly wasn’t an easy or straightforward rout getting here, but this time I think I’m set on it. I’ve bought the prep books and signed up for the DAT (which I will be taking in January) and started preparing for applying to dental schools. Anyways, I’m very excited for this whole endeavor, even though I’m sure soon enough the pressure and stress will start to outweigh the excitement, ha.

And since I came to the decision to go to dental school rather late in my college years, I’m forced to take a gap year after graduation. And finding something to do during that year has become quite a stressful issue on its own. I want to move to San Francisco, but it’s so hard to find a job there, especially when I’m all the way across the continent and don’t know how to program. I’m trying to just focus on doing well on my DAT right now, but it’s still a looming problem in the near future.

So with all that, plus classes and the other stuff I mentioned, I haven’t been able to update this blog as much as I’d like to, and I probably won’t be updating it very much this semester. I will still be posting stuff once in a while, just not every other day like I would like. Hopefully I will ace my DAT and next semester will be a little more relaxed and I will have more time for this blog. But until then, I have to go back to my DAT study guide and Biochemistry notes!

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So, this was pretty much my final presentation for my internship. Yeah, I drew comic panels as slides :)

1. Being a doctor can mean many different things

Throughout the summer, I shadowed many different doctors in different specialties and settings. And I realized that even though they all have the title of MD, what they do every day can be vastly different.

2. Surgery is really awesome

During my internship I observed 2 kidney transplant surgeries, a laparoscopic nephrectomy, and a coronary artery bypass surgery, and all of them were so cool to watch! I still find it amazing that we have the ability to do all these things to fix our bodies.

3. And so is tissue recovery

I had the opportunity to go on a tissue recovery case and I was so glad that I got to see it. I was completely eye opening! They recovered the heart, the aortic bifuracation vessels, the bones in the arms, the bones and tendons in the legs, and the costal cartilages. Awesome anatomy lesson!

4. Kids make everything more fun

I also shadowed 2 pediatricians at a private practice and a pediatric nephrologist at the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, and let me tell you, it’s a totally different environment. Much more relaxed and fun!

5. The human mind is fascinating

As a Neuroscience and Behavior major, 2 of the medical specialties I was interested in were Neurology and Psychiatry. And as I expected, I saw a lot of interesting cases. For example, I saw a lady who had conversion disorder, which means that she has neurological symptoms (slurred speech, paralysis) without any neurological cause – super interesting.

6. Dentistry is actually really cool

So as I’ve mentioned before, I spent quite a lot of time shadowing a dentist during my internship. Before now, I’d never really considered dentistry as a career option for me, but as I was browsing through the VUMC directory looking for things I was interested in, I came across dentistry and thought, hey, why not? Dr. Rezk, the dentist I shadowed, and the rest of her team, turned out to be so wonderful and informative that now I’m actually starting to look into possibly becoming a dentist!

7. I’m really lucky to be healthy

After seeing so many patients who have to take 12 different medicines day, come into the hospital because of a rejection, etc, I’m starting to appreciate what a gift it really is just to be healthy. This experience has really shown me how health really is the most fundamentally important thing in your quality of life and this has inspired me to really take care of my body.

8. There is a real sense of community in medicine

I was so happy to see that everyone I met was so nice and helpful, even though I’m just an undergrad. All of the doctors, residents, fellows, and medical students I met really welcomed me with open arms and genuinely wanted to make this a good experience for me.

9. I have a lot of options than I had thought

So before this summer, I’ve been feeling kind of bleh and constricted about a career in anything science-y. Since I’ve decided that I didn’t want to do research, I felt like my only other option was to be a doctor. But this internship exposed me to many other options that I never even considered – or knew existed. I think it was the most valuable thing I got out of the internship – the feeling that I do have choices and the renewed confidence in a career in healthcare!

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What better words to describe this winter break so far but disenchantment and disillusionment?

Part of it has to do with my ongoing struggle with the question of what to do with my life career-wise. A discussion/argument with parents ended with me in tears on Christmas Day and even more lost and confused and desperate. Through their brand of tough love, my parents have made me realize and consider, although very reluctantly, the realities one has to face in choosing their life path. However, this has not made things any easier for me; instead, they’ve probably become even more difficult as I increasingly realize just how limited my choices are when taking into account everything, and I mean EVERYTHING: whether or not I’m interested in the profession, how much more training this will take, how much money this training will cost, how competitive it is to get into the right program, what are the job prospects for the field, how much money will I be able to make, whether or not that income level justifies my expensive Columbia education/further schooling, when will I actually be able to go into the work force, would my training/job allow me to have time for my personal life, etc. etc. etc.

None of this is new and I haven’t reached any kind of conclusion as of now, so I won’t bother writing more about it. But over the holidays, another issue has been on my mind a lot.

I’ve always been kind of enjoy-the-present-and-worry-about-the-future-later when it comes to my relationship. Sure, I think about the future from time to time, but mostly about where Yufei and I should go for spring break or whether we should both stay in New York for the summer. The times I do think beyond college, I’ve always just assumed that things will work themselves out somehow. My parents have been asking what our plans are after graduation, and I haven’t been able to answer them properly. “So you’re just going to have fun during college and forget about it and break up after?” My mom inquired one day. No, I replied, we’re not planning to do that. But what ARE we planning to do? How can we plan anything when nothing about either of our future is settled?

My parents told me that if we try to stay together, one of us will have to follow the other to wherever they end up, and one of us will end up having to make a sacrifice. They don’t seem to consider long distance an option, of course, it’s not an ideal option anyway. A well-intentioned family friend advised me the other day that it would be better for me to go to grad school close to where Yufei works. Am I ready to do that? I don’t know. Of course, it’s hard to know anything when you don’t even know WHAT you want to do, so much the less WHERE.

There was a total overdose of engagements this holiday season. Not just celebrities like Hugh Hefner (super disturbing), Reese Witherspoon, Jason Mraz, Lily Allen, Natalie Portman… you get the gist, but also random and not-so-random Facebook friends, which is to say, normal people of my age. Now, I have no intention of getting married before I’m 25 and (hopefully) have a steady income, but a thought occurred to me nonetheless.

These friends and acquaintances, I never thought of their relationships as so different from mine. But I realized that they are in fact very different. They might have been born in place A, have family in place A, go to school/work in place A; their significant other probably also have family in place A, go to school/work in place A; and they will probably continue to stay in place A, work in place A, get married in place A, start their own family in place A. There is nothing in terms of geography holding them back. This is not so in my case. My family is in place A, Yufei’s family is in place B, we both go to school in place C, we may head off to places D and E, respectively, after graduation, and maybe even move on to places F and G and… who knows. The point is, by making the first step to move away from home for college, we’ve already set ourselves up for a life of no fixed address, at least for some time. While I’m perfectly fine with that, as I’ve already grown used to constantly moving during my childhood and adolescence, it’s different and significantly harder when there’s another person involved, especially when that person is someone you care about and want to stay together with.

It’s things like these that make me feel so disenchanted. Even something I always thought of as my constant, my anchor, is in fact not anchored anywhere at all. There’s a quote from a movie I’ve always liked: “Life is full of coincidence, even two parallel lines might someday meet”. But are we like two straight lines, where our paths can cross once, only to be separated forever after?

My parents are right; it’s going to take sacrifice and effort if we want to be together. We are still young, still full of hopes and dreams and ambitions that can take us anywhere. Are we willing to sacrifice these things to be with each other? I don’t know. Will we need to? I don’t know. Things aren’t going to magically fall into place, but I still believe that they will fall into place one way or another. Because at the end of it all, despite all the questions and uncertainties, I remain optimistic that one day, we will find a place, be it place X or Y or Z, a place we can be together and call our own.

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(Continued from Part I and Part II)

Questions like these abound, and answers were not easy to find. But a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon something that quite possibly changed everything.

While searching for something loosely relevant, I came across the website for the Association of Medical Illustrators. This was only slightly intriguing, since I knew that the profession’s existence since high school. In fact, my art teacher even suggested that I look into it, him being one of the few people who supported me having a career in art. I never followed his advice, probably because I was too wrapped up in preparing for my then-supposed illustrious scientific career. But this time, out of sheer curiosity and convenience, I decided to look around the site.

When I click on the Education page, my heart stopped and I sat in awed silence for at least a full minute. I have heard of the profession alright, but I knew next to nothing about what it takes to actually become a medical illustrator. As it turns out, it actually requires training that is way more specialized than I thought. Currently, there are only 5 institutions in North America that offer an accredited graduate program in the field. And the coursework includes not only classes in illustration, design, etc, but also biomedical science classes such as anatomy and and pathology alongside medical students.

Could it be? It’s possible to have a graduate education, and a career, in both art and science? This sounded like something I wanted, and needed. And since the prerequisites include a slew of science classes, my coursework for the last 2 years have not been a total waste. But on the art side, I was sorely lacking. I have not taken a single art class since high school, and I have no respectable portfolio to speak of. But that’s ok. It’s not too late yet. I still had 3 semesters left, and if I still don’t feel like I have enough skill and a good enough portfolio before graduation, I’ll take a year off and work on it and apply the next year. Because for the first time in my life, I felt like I’ve found something I can do for the rest of my life. Something that would make me feel happy and fulfilled and… excited. I was actually excited about the possibilities that this future hold. For the first time in my life, I felt like I’ve found my calling.

What a refreshing sensation. This is what it should feel like when you’ve found the right path for you. Not dread or despair or constant doubt. Almost miraculously, the fog that had been obscuring my future suddenly lifted. Now, not only do I clearly see what my past had been, I also see concrete, realistic, steps I can take in order to achieve a goal that I actually care about. Of course there are still questions and uncertainties, but these fill me with not fear or apprehension, but excitement and passion. Of course this is a departure from what I had originally planned for my life, but isn’t it finally time to take a leap? To take a step for the sake of my own dreams that I’ve neglected for so long?

Some people might think me foolish for abandoning such a noble, prestigious, and lucrative career opportunity as medicine. My parents would probably fall into this category. When I had expressed the slightest interest in art therapy 2 summers ago, their reaction was that of extreme discouragement and disappointment. Anything less ambitious than medicine would seem to them as me not fulfilling my potential. I’m so brilliant and talented, they tell me, and if I give up now and choose to do anything else, I would be wasting what’s been given to me. But you know what? Sometimes giving up is the bravest decision.

So I fully recognize that I may not get the support that I would like from my parents, emotional, financial, or otherwise. But that’s ok. I can turn to other people for support. I can get a loan to pay for school. It’s not their life. It’s mine. And I need to do this for me. Even if I fail, even if I find out that maybe after all, I want to change my mind again and do something else, I need to do it so that I won’t be regretting it for the rest of my life.

I don’t need anyone else’s permission to do what I feel is right for me. Sure, my new goal my not be nearly as ambitious in the conventional sense as my previous one, but that’s not what matters. I may have been ambitious before, but that ambition lacked the passion to drive it. My heart was not in it, and the resulting misery is something that I would rather not experience ever again.

What is ambition without passion? Nothing but an empty chase after a dream that’s not your own.

This time, it’s going to be different. On the verge of turning 21, and with that, of growing up, I think I’ve finally found a good answer to the question we’ve all been asked so frequently as children. This time, the answer fills me with both ambition and passion. And that’s the way it should be.

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(Continued from Part I)

Sometimes, it would be painful. The classes were tough, the stress of getting research experience gave me headaches, the MCAT was always looming on the horizon, application process itself, the insane competition, and even after all that, medical school and actually being a doctor… it would all make me incredibly upset. But I still believed that it was part of the process, that really, it would all pay off in the end. So what if I had to slave away to get perfect grades, be stuck in a lab every summer, put my life on hold to be in school for another 8 or 10 years? I was ambitious like that.

It wasn’t until this summer that I began to honestly question my decision. I was working in a lab, as any good pre-med student should be. And I was miserable. I was so miserable one weekend that I left as soon as I arrived at the lab and went home crying. I began to question everything. Why was I doing this? Why was I working in another lab when I didn’t even like last summer’s lab experience? Because I needed to do it for med school. Why did I want to go to med school? Because… I didn’t know. I didn’t know why I had been working on a goal for the past 2 years. I did not like many of the pre-med classes I had taken, doing research in a lab all day is not appealing to me, the idea of taking the MCAT and the whole application process sickens me, and I definitely do not want to stay in school until I’m nearly 30. Besides, as an international student, the chances of getting into a top American medical school is pretty much nil. And at the end of it all, to be a doctor? A noble dream; but it was not my dream.

My life felt so wrong. This was not what I was meant to do. This was not what I wanted to be when I grew up. Finally, I was seeing my life more clearly than ever before, but it was not a pretty picture. I had been carried away from my center for too long. I had lost sight of what I truly wanted in life. I really had believed that becoming a doctor was what I wanted, and everything that came along with it, I had to endure. But I was wrong. Now I understood why I never felt as enthusiastic as the other hopeful future doctors, why my voice grew weaker each time I told someone that I was pre-med, why I did not look forward to the life ahead of me for the next 10 or 20 years. This was not what I was meant to do.

I took a wrong turn somewhere along the road, and now I was lost. I didn’t know where to go, what step to take next, who to turn to. I’ve long lamented the fact that I probably should have gone to art school, but it’s too late now. And to be honest, I do feel incredibly luck to be at Columbia; I just haven’t been doing the right things here. But what now? I’ve already come this far down a path I knew was wrong, is it too late to start over? And if not, how and where? And has everything I’ve done so far in college just been a waste?

(Continue to Part III)

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This is perhaps the most asked question of all when we were children. My parents often tell me of such a story: around the time I was 2 or 3, my answer to that question would be get my PhD and become a professor. They are fond of recounting the story year after year, as if it were a sign that I was destined to have a great and noble profession, in academia or otherwise. In reality, we all knew that my odd response was a result of constantly hearing my dad talk about his job as an academic; no one would expect a two year old, no matter how precocious, to understand what it means to obtain a doctorate.

By the time I actually begin to comprehend the concept of having a career, my answer changed. An artist, I would say; I wanted to study art in Paris and become an artist. Grown-ups would think that it was cute, probably picturing a little six year old Chinese girl in a beret in front of the Eiffel Tower. No adult took it seriously, but to me it was all very real. In the yearbook of my kindergarten, under “dreams for the future,” I had written: “I want to go to the Central Academy of Fine Arts and become an artist when I grow up.” (I guess Paris was going to come later). It was a veritable dream alright; I remember watching outside the window on tiptoes each year when the time came for the art students to take the entrance exam to get into the Central Academy in Beijing, thinking that one day I would be on the other side of the window. My parents were supportive enough. After all, it was good to have some kind of extracurricular talents; all the other kids were doing it. So I was enrolled in art classes in some form or another since I could remember. And I was happy with that.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, art fell by the wayside. Academics took over my life because people told me that it was what mattered. I had always been good at school, but now it was actually Important. The people that surrounded me didn’t help much; I was drawn into the hysteria of getting the best grades, of doing all the toughest classes just because, and later, of the craze over getting into a top American university. I had a science heavy course load; why not? That’s what all the other smart kids were doing, and I had to keep up, I was ambitious. Besides, Biology class was always interesting. My answer changed once more: I wanted to do something with science. My parents were glad. Being the daughter of a chemist and an engineer, this was exactly the path they wanted me to take.

Art was not entirely forgotten, though. I still enjoyed it tremendously, and I took art classes throughout high school. Every time I even considered doing art as a career, nearly everyone told me the same thing: it’s better to just keep it as a hobby; I was more ambitious than that; I was too good at science to give it up. And so I listened. I went ahead and worked hard. And all my efforts paid off: I got into Columbia.

I was happy too. Look at me! I’m an Ivy Leaguer now. I’m going to be successful. Sometime during freshman year, I became a pre-medical student. Look now! I’m going to be a doctor. People regarded you with awe when you told them that, and I enjoyed it. I never stopped once to ask myself why I came to that decision; I can’t even remember when or how it happened. Wasn’t that like just THE thing to do? So I shrugged and forged on, driven by my ambition, never looking back.

(Continue to Part II)

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