The Trouble with Love is

5 12 2011

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The trouble I have with love is how to strike the balance between not having expectations so that I can let myself go with the natural flow of the relationship and let myself be surprised, and not letting my own desires and even beliefs go completely in the process, getting washed away by the tide.

When is it being flexible and spontaneous?  And when is it losing the grounding of who we are?

The dance, this push and pull, the force of the moon on the tide – it’s all so difficult to navigate…

 





I Am Changing

12 02 2011

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As I wrote a few blog posts ago, January was a month of change and clarity for me.

I’ve deleted the word psychiatrist from the tagline of this blog, not because I no longer consider psychiatry to be one of my top potential medical specialty choices, but because it shouldn’t be the only one.

I took a test on the AAMC’s Career in Medicine website meant to help students explore what specialties might be a good fit for us depending on what type of practice you prioritize (e.g., Do you prefer a practice where you…obtain consultation from other physicians in arriving at a diagnosis?…deal with incurable diseases?…use treatment concepts and procedures that undergo rapid change?).

This test is a little silly in some ways, in my opinion, because often we answer these questions with preconceived notions of what we might want to be, so in some ways the answers we choose are based on certain specialties that we have in mind, so the results that we get are self-fulfilling prophecies based on what we went into the test thinking about.

Regardless, I still think there is value in this online assessment, and here are the results of my test:

47 % Psychiatry
22 % Internal Medicine
19 % Pediatrics (…this is apparently not a word, according to Google spell check…)
5 % Family Medicine
3 % Anesthesiology

After you take the test, the Careers in Medicine website gives you a summary of each of your top recommended specialties, and an interesting part of these summaries is that they actually include what Myers-Briggs personality types tend to be found in each medical specialty!  The funny thing, though, is that understanding myself and reflecting through Myers-Briggs and my friends in December was what helped me realize that I often love planning too much, to the point that I am in danger of being inflexible when it comes to my career and life plans.

But not wanting to narrow my options so early wasn’t the only reason why I decided to keep more of an open mind.  The truth is there is a lot I do not yet know about psychiatry.  I know that I love noticing the speech patterns, paralanguage, and behavioural cues of people around me to infer what’s going on in their minds, and I genuinely want to help those I care about in dealing with personal issues.  What I do not know is whether I would want to get involved on a similarly intense personal level with patients (i.e., not my friends) on a regular basis, but be forced to maintain only professional relationships.  I think that I would be good at empathizing with patients while maintaing emotional and mental distance, but it’s hard to say whether I could maintain it without burning out, or whether I would get bored.

Of course, psychiatry still fascinates me, because ultimately, I believe treating the mind in an individualized and holistic way is what truly heals a patient, and I think individual cases would be fascinating and challenging.

Another consideration, though, is that I think I would be interested in the possibility of moving upwards in the hospital hierarchy, but I’m not sure whether certain specialties are more prone to being promoted to administrative positions.

Finally, internal medicine and pediatrics both fascinate me tremendously.  Internal medicine, because internists figure out what patients have (i.e., diagnose) and they regularly deal with most branches of medicine, so the diversity and puzzle-solving aspects would certainly keep it interesting for me, I think.  Meanwhile, pediatrics involves complicated legal, ethical, and social issues that may often include interactions with parents and social workers to determine the best course of action to take care of a child holistically so that she or he can be in the best shape to live out his or her life, which hopefully will last a very long time.  I think I would love the complicated decision-making that happens with pediatric medicine, but more importantly, I think I would be grateful everyday for the opportunity to give children quality of life that will allow them to become future community and world leaders, making an impact in the world because their health affords them to do so.

I’ve recently even started considering gastroenterology, but I’ll write more about the beauty that is the GI tract in a future post…

In short, my opinion of medicine, and how I relate to it, changes everyday, so pigeoning myself into a corner won’t do me any favours.

So yes, for now, I do not know what type of doctor I’ll become, and that’s more than ohkay.

I am a-changing, indeed…but that wasn’t even even the biggest change that happened in my life in January…

To sign off, I leave you with one of my favourite songs from the musical Dreamgirls, about the beauty of renewal, growth, and the recognition that we need our friends to help us get there…

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The End of an Era

30 01 2011

A promo shot for our musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman

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The reason I love theatre is because of the consistency of flux.  No two rehearsals, performances are ever the same.  Theatre is the capturing of a precise moment in time, a fleeting exhilaration and reflection of the human experience never to be seen in the exact way again.  There is a rush of highs, as you get excited by the script for the first time, as you discover the nuances of your lines for the first time, as you play off the brilliance of your colleagues, as you dive deeper into the motivations of your character(s), as you do your first full run-through, as you realize four months in that you’re still learning new things about your own show every time you watch it, and as you take it to full dress rehearsals with beautiful set/make-up/lighting/costume/orchestra and press.

I love theatre because it is a constant self-discovery and mutual learning process.  I love the essence of theatre: put in your all, enjoy your moment, share the beauty, and then move on.  As someone who needs to constantly be doing different things, theatre is perfect, because there is always an upwards trajectory, always a path towards the climactic experience that is the performance.  And yet, through my journey in Kiss of the Spider Woman, I realized that the end product was really never the climax for me.  I mean, it was, but only because it was the culmination of everybody’s hard work, and it was indescribable to feel the vibe of the cast and crew, work off each other, and celebrate our journey together by putting on these six great shows.

For me, the process was much more important than the “goal”.  Getting to know and being inspired by my amazing cast mates and the stellar production team, falling in love with dancing and acting for real for the first time in my life, realizing the true power of the arts to convey important messages and provoke thought and emotion (and realizing that I have the ability to be part of this process), and using this experience as an intense training ground for my acting/singing/dancing/understanding of how theatre operates.  These are the cherished gems that I have received from being part of this production.

Thus, although I really loved being able to share the product of our journey with my dear friends who came to see the show, the greatest highs from the show were really in rehearsals when we were told for the first time to be a pile of dead bodies or a zombie wall, and when I rehearsed a dance 10 times in a row in my apartment and finally got it, and when we are backstage in the theatre making strange noises and actions before we go on stage.

My point is: I love theatre because it’s like a drug that keeps giving higher highs, that is, until you go cold turkey, and withdrawal hits you like a brick wall.  You go from seeing your comrades every single day to suddenly not.  And even if you do get together, it’s not everyone, and it’s never for the same purpose ever again.  Never to create a work of art together in the same way.

And the interesting thing, in my opinion, is its resemblance to a traditional Chinese funeral.

In a more Western funeral, there is often time for the beloved to publicly share memories of the dear one who has passed away.  Contrastingly, in one type of traditional Chinese funeral, the extended family of the loved one is kept extremely busy keeping a fire going, chanting, performing ceremonies for the dead, and essentially keeping so preoccupied that there is no emotional or mental or physical energy left to grieve.  All energy is focused on the ceremonies that need to be done and the proper respects that need to be paid.  In some ways, I think it reflects a little bit on how certain cultures deal with mourning differently, but that’s neither here nor there, at least for today’s post.

My point was: maybe this metaphor is a little morbid, but last night (after our last performance), we worked on striking the set (i.e., taking down the entire set/lighting and properly organizing/storing props/costumes/etc.), which took until 1 AM, and then we went to an awesome cast and crew party, which I only stayed at until 3 AM, but the entire night was so busy and exhausting and wonderful that I never got the chance to process the fact that I’m going to miss these people so much.  I think everyone processes change differently, but I needed time to be away from them before I realized that it’s finally, actually over, and what that really, truly means…

The end of an era.

So, all my ranting here today is a result of the fact that I didn’t get to grieve at the end of our show last night.  I guess this post serves as some attempt at closure for myself, as the reality finally sets in.

Theatre can be beautiful, and my experience with theatre these past few months has been nothing but.

To my beloved Kiss of the Spider Woman family, thank you for the memories.  I love you all and better see you all ASAP!

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There’s Going to Be Good Times…(Nothing But Good Times!)

18 01 2011

Photo Credit: Eric Chad

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This is, in part, a letter of apology to my friends, who must be wondering whether I still exist. The truth is a solid “kind-of”. As in I kind-of live in the theatre until the end of January.

The reason?

Kiss of the Spider Woman: the musical journey that started when I auditioned in September, is now finally, actually opening.

The show was the 1993 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, and it’s being put on by the McGill Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society.  Kiss of the Spider Woman is set in a Latin American prison, where Valentin, a Marxist revolutionary, is put in the same cell as Molina, a homosexual imprisoned for allegedly corrupting a minor.  Molina escapes the real world of the jail cell by imagining movies starring his favourite actress, Aurora, who Molina loves in all roles except when she is the Spider Woman, whose kiss kills.  The show is about how Molina and Valentin change the course of each other’s lives, leading towards the inevitability of the Spider Woman’s kiss.

My life since the beginning of January has centred around this show, as we’ve had 4-hour to 8-hour rehearsals every day, and we rapidly evolved from just rehearsing in our sweat pants in a fitness room to working in the beautiful Moyse Theatre, figuring out lighting cues, trying not to lean on (i.e., break) our mic packs, learning to put on mascara (I really just needed an excuse to learn…=P), discovering how short a time we have to change costumes between scenes, and tonight we are doing our press preview before we open for the public on Thursday!

All of that happened in the span of about two weeks, and I’ve had the privilege of getting a taste what it’s like to do musical theatre full time.  And you know what?  It’s exhausting.  I get home every night and all I can mentally afford to do is sit and watch old Chinese tv dramas.  I’m too energized from the show to sleep and too drained from it to do anything productive.  And then I sleep later than normal so that I can wake up later so that by the time the show starts I can try to be in peak condition.  I force myself to eat better and more regularly so that I hopefully time it right to have the perfect amount of energy for the show without taking in so many carbs that I feel bloated or sleepy during the show.  Some of the cast is sick and we have to balance between putting our all into the rehearsals and holding back our voices to save it for the performances.  I’ve been prioritizing sleep and exercise above all else so as to hold sickness at bay (and also to try to look the best I can!).  On top of that, there are notes (i.e., feedback and changes about the show) every night, and every day there are new cues to remember and new scenes to tweak, and I constantly worry that I’ll forget something that we changed yesterday.

And let’s not forget the fact that the show is supposed to be extracurricular, as in in addition to school (and not instead of =P), of which I have a midterm for next Monday, in between the two sets of three shows that we do.  There are nights when I freak out because I don’t know how I’m going to find the time to actually study for this exam.

All of that, though, just to say that I’m having the freaking time of my life and I wouldn’t have changed the experience for the world.

The cast is such a joy to work with, and we really rely on each other as a team.  I’m inspired by them every day.  The production team is absolutely ridiculous, and I cannot wait to talk to my friends who come to the show about whether they noticed some of the nuances of the set, the costuming, the lighting, the choreography, the music, and the direction that are absolutely beautiful, in my very biased opinion.

As I sit back to think about it, I cannot believe how fortunate I am to be able to be part of such a big and serious production, on top of being able to follow my dream of becoming a doctor.  It gives me hope that I can balance both of my passions in the future as well.  The craziness that is school is completely different from the intensity of doing a show, and I think I need both in my life.

The show is finally opening, and I’m so excited for people to see it, and to find out what you think!  I’m so very proud of the work that we all did together, and I’m so very thankful for the personal emotional and mental journey that I took with the serious themes in this musical, as well as the fun and intellectual one that I took with my amazing colleagues.

So, as the beautiful Aurora sings in our show:

“There’s going to be good times…Nothing but good times…”

So don’t miss out!

P.S. Check out the clip below of a class presentation we did! We are prisoners who have been tortured for days, so Valentin tries to find his escape by thinking about his beloved Marta.





Happiness Is…

24 12 2010

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“Happiness is two kinds of ice cream.
Knowing a secret.
Climbing a tree.
Happiness is five different crayons.
Catching a firefly.
Setting him free.
And happiness is being alone every now and then.
And happiness is coming home again.

Happiness is having a sister.
Sharing a sandwich.
Getting along.
Happiness is singing together
When day is through,
And happiness is those who sing with you.

Happiness is morning and evening,
Daytime and nighttime too.
For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That’s loved by you.

— From You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown

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One of my favourite musicals reminds me that happiness can be derived from something as simple as sharing a meal or singing out loud, as long as you’re doing something you truly enjoy, and with people you love.  It reminds me that success, ambition, and complexity do not necessarily equate to happiness.

Thank you to all of my superrific friends for making me feel the love in Vancouver, making me feel at home despite the fact that I have no house here.  Your generosity seriously takes my breath away.  Thank you for showing me that I will always have family here, and for reminding me of what true, simple, genuine happiness feels like.  I hope you all know that this love needs to be reciprocated, so please start booking flights to Montreal as part of your New Year’s Resolutions!

The holiday season is when many of us seemingly strive to regress to childhood innocence, decidedly returning to the family dynamics that some of us normally run away from (sometimes screaming).  I think we do this during the holidays because at least once a year, we want to forget about our complicated lives and embrace the simplicity of pure happiness that is derived from being yelled at, taken care of, ordered around, and stressed out by our family – the people that at the end of the day were the ones who formed our childhood, significantly impacting who we have become.  The ones who love us unconditionally (only because they have to, though, right?) even though you may vehemently disagree with them about pretty much everything (just a note that this is not a comment on my own family!).

At least once a year, I think it’s nice to be able to be kids again, in the comfort of a home that can feel as secure as a bomb shelter, knowing that there is temporary reprieve from the craziness that is the real world…

Merry Christmas, everyone =).





The Art of Hunkering!

28 10 2010

The following is an (unpaid) testimonial advertisement for the great art of hunkering.

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Rehearsals for the show I’m in are in full swing and it’s so much fun to get to partake in these passions of mine so regularly and with such wonderful, creative, talented, and energetic people. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always so much fun. The themes in the musical can be quite serious, and for a long time, the lingering emotions and headspace from the rehearsals would be carried with me into my daily life.

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That’s when my vocal coach introduced me to the technique of hunkering as a way to end my rehearsal session and leave the emotions and frustrations and worries in the room so it doesn’t come with me as I leave the rehearsal space.

Hunkering literally involves squatting down on your haunches by yourself at the end of a rehearsal and mentally congratulating yourself for the things you did brilliantly, giving yourself the one or two specific things you will work on for next time, and then letting the rest go by putting them into an invisible box, putting on the invisible lid, and placing it on a high invisible shelf in the room so that it can be taken down and opened only at the next rehearsal.

For me, this technique is valuable because it can be applied to every aspect of my life: at the end of a rehearsal, after a long day of class when I think I barely understood a thing, following a social situation when I wish I would have done things differently, after a day at the lab when nothing worked, or even at the end of a session at the gym when I feel like I wasted so much time being incredibly lazy, unmotivated, and weak.

The key for why this technique is so successful for me is because it forces me to learn to give myself credit for the things I do well.   I never really know how to do that.  The other trick with hunkering is that it breaks down all that you have to do into bite-sized pieces that you can focus on only those few pieces for the next little while.  Hunkering also works so well for me because it forces me to have a physical routine to represent the end of an event.

Now I know what you’re thinking – June, that’s all nice and dandy, but I’m not going to squat down after class or after work like a crazy person!  Well, you don’t have to physically squat down on your haunches (although that position is strangely comfortable); you could stand facing the wall for a minute instead if you want, or walk around the room while thinking, or do a yoga pose, or do whatever other physical routine you want that lets you find closure to whatever activity was going on.   For me, it gives me permission to cut all of the strands of webs that usually follow me around from one activity to the next, weighing me down and holding me back so that I can’t concentrate on the task at hand because I’m worrying so much about everything else.

So if you find yourself carrying your worries and frustrations with you, try the art of hunkering, and let me know how it works out for you!

If you act now, I’ll even throw in a lifetime guarantee of anxiolytic powers!

So don’t wait!  Try it today!

*Today’s ad was brought to you by the letter Om.*





Walking Around Like A Med Student Zombie…

23 10 2010

Warning: This post has nothing to do with Halloween…

This is probably going to sound bad, but I’m going to say it anyway.

I’m bored…of school…

It’s probably not great to hear a doctor-in-training complaining about his lack of motivation in med school, but it’s true.

Just to clarify, there are some really bright moments when I am reminded of why I dived into this profession, such as when I get to hear the stories of physicians who have been working for 20+ years, or when I got to explore firsthand the intensity of a psychiatry emergency room and meet a patient who has persecutory delusions.

During those rare moments (they are truly few and far between in first year), I get so excited, and I cannot wait until I get into hospitals and clinics and get to interact with patients and hear their stories on a daily basis.

But until then, the truth of the matter is that we have to get through a lot of lectures on physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, cell biology, histology, embryology, and so on.  There are some hands-on labs and small group sessions with the intention of spicing things up and making lessons more relevant, and from my experience thus far, McGill plans the course extremely well and makes every effort to engage us in learning, but I still find a lack of motivation to study (despite some fantastic and passionate professors).

The truth is I feel guilty for being this way, because I feel like I am almost letting my future patients down, but the other side of me has listened to so many senior students, residents, and physicians tell me that a lot of what we learn in the first year and a half will not be used in actual practice, and what we do need to know, we’ll learn again in practice and in residency anyway.

So I’m feeling this way, not only because I’ve learned some of the material before, not only because the material is not always taught in the most engaging way, but most importantly, because I feel that what I’m learning now has no direct relevance to my future practice as a physician.  If it has no real relevance, isn’t this entire exercise another hoop-jumping spectacle?

I understand that the Basis of Medicine (BoM) is exactly that – trying to teach us the basics of medicine so that we have a fundamental grasp of the different bodily systems and how they work in isolation and synchronously in entire human beings.  I guess part of my frustration is that I had a lot of these types of classes in my undergrad years, and I kept telling myself that all of this will become much more stimulating and practical when I get to med school, and so I kind of set myself up for disappointment.  I just sometimes feel that it was a lot of hoop-jumping to get into medical school, and now it feels like even more hoop-jumping to become real doctors.

I was really looking forward to medical school because I was excited to get to take classes that I cannot wait to go to every day.

I think I’m just overly idealistic and impatient, but it doesn’t change how I feel right now.  For so long, getting into med school (and later, specifically so that I can become a psychiatrist and have those conversations that can help change lives) – that drove and directed me.  Now that I’m in, I still want to become a doctor, but the journey seems long and tedious, and the material we’re learning seems far removed from actual practice of medicine.

Until I get there, I need to find a new drive, a new motivation to keep me interested, a constant reminder for why I need to keep my head in the game and focus.

I need to find a new purpose.

“Purpose…it’s that little flame that lights a fire under your ass.”
— Princeton (Avenue Q)

Am I alone in feeling this way?  Or have you also felt, at some point, like you lost focus in something you’re supposed to be passionate about?  What did you do to get back on the horse?

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