Day Eleven: Make a Prompt Personal

For first-timers stopping by my blog: welcome! I am currently participating in a course offered by WordPress’s Blogging University called Blogging 101: Zero to Hero. Each weekday, I’ll be writing based off of an assignment posted for the class. 

Today’s assignment: publish a post based on your own, personalized take on a blogging prompt.

I clicked refresh a number of times, and found a couple of prompts from The Daily Post that caught my eye. I settled on All Grown Up, because it had the most responses, by far. It made me curious as to why this prompt was so popular, and I thought I’d try digging up my own answers to its question: when was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?

I’m not sure how valid this statement is, coming from a 20-something year old, but I wonder if anyone is ever a grown up. Also, is realizing that one can never fully be “grown up” part of growing up? After all, once you’re old enough to look back at an age with wisdom, the moment has long passed. You’re also your exact age for the first time, every second of every day, so we can’t dictate much about the present. Ah, the irony. The topic has made my head spin on more than one occasion.

I remember parts of my past where I thought to myself, “This is it. This marks the beginning of my grown up years.” Age 13: watching a movie without parent supervision. Grown up. Age 15: getting my permit. Grown up? Age 17: moving away from home and living alone in a dorm. Surely, grown up..? The more I age, the more I question what being a grown up even means.

It’s odd. I feel as though I was surer of things when I was younger. Yes, I know more now, but gaining knowledge and experience has somehow made me skeptical of the things around me, of the opinions I hold, and of who I am. I’m constantly questioning everything, and wondering if this is for the better or for the worse. As I grow older, I catch myself yearning for the seemingly uncomplicated days of youth. Can ignorance be bliss, after all?

But one of the good things I believe I’ve gained from aging (I’m still not sure I can call myself a grown up), is the flexibility. I think you begin to realize things like:
A) Your way is not the only and/or right way.
B) You have undergone a very specific set of experiences that caused you to formulate a certain opinion; these opinions may not always align with those of the people you meet, but they have a right to their opinions, as much as you do to yours.
C) You make plans that are, more often than not, subject to change.
And these are all okay.

I’m not suggesting that I’m zen about everything I’ve listed. These are all things I struggle to come to terms with on a daily basis (ESPECIALLY with C. You should see some of my spreadsheets… Deciphering them probably takes longer than actually doing what they list). Is anyone truly at peace with the knowledge that so much is beyond their control? That we live in a world full of variables and unpredictability? Or perhaps, that’s the fun of it. Perhaps, there will come a day when I can live life simply for the sake of living it, without worries and demands and plans of what life should be. Perhaps then, I will know the answer to what being a grown up means.




Day Nine: Get Inspired By the Neighbors

For first-timers stopping by my blog: welcome! I am currently participating in a course offered by WordPress’s Blogging University called Blogging 101: Zero to Hero. Each weekday, I’ll be writing based off of an assignment posted for the class. 

Today’s assignment: write a post that builds on one of the comments you left yesterday. Don’t forget to link to the other blog!

I’m still here! I’ve been pretty swamped with work at the lab (it’s grant season, y’all), but I’m hoping to make more quiet writing time this weekend.

Before I move onto the next five assignments, I wanted to make sure I gave some love to Day Nine’s. It took me a while to decide which post to elaborate on, but I ultimately chose the one by Journey of a Tired Heart. Having been over two weeks since I last read the post, I went back to read it again. This time, I also read the post by Heart Sisters in order to fully understand the context. I’d really recommend both reads, as they include interesting perspectives from both sides of the coin: patient and physician.

I recently visited my own primary care physician. I waited a little over an hour to see her, but was in and out of her office within around 10 minutes. As soon as my physician entered the room, she apologized for the wait and explained that she was behind schedule that day. She immediately started going down a literal list of routine questions, and I remember feeling both intimidated and apologetic about asking any further questions.

I don’t blame my physician at all. I understand that a single appointment can cause the others behind it to back up in a nasty domino effect. It was my problem, feeling as though I was burdening her with my check-up; I’m likely healthier than a lot of her other patients, and she was clearly in a rush. It wasn’t until I was on my way home that I wondered why I felt this way. Was I doing a disservice, not only to myself, but also to my physician by not asking the questions I needed answers to?

Physicians are our partners in health. Why do so many of us become ashamed and/or reserved when we meet them? We go to them for help, yet we don’t always fully voice what we need help with. They certainly can’t read our minds. On the flip side, should physicians understand the difficulty that their patients feel in engaging with them, and make an extra effort to present themselves or phrase statements differently? Does the problem stem from both ends of the relationship?

I had the pleasure of attending one of Dr. Peter Ubel’s seminars that really highlighted the existence of these sorts of issues. He also revealed a lot of interesting data from his research that pointed out similar topics mentioned in Heart Sisters’ post. For instance, how you present survival rates of a procedure could drastically change a patient’s decision in receiving it:
A) There is a 90% survival rate.
B) There is a 10% mortality rate.

They both mean the exact same thing, but guess which sentence individuals were more receptive to? It’s A. Incredible, isn’t it? Who knew that simple syntax could come into play when making some of the most important decisions of your life? It’s both fascinating and terrifying. By the way, you can learn more about Dr. Ubel’s book here, which I also thought to be a thought-provoking (and bonus: also humorous!) read.

I still think there’s a long way to go, both with myself and with patient/physician relationships, in general. But I’m very happy to see that people are being mindful of these issues and continuing to ask questions about them.

Blogging 101: Zero to Hero II

For first-timers stopping by my blog: welcome! I am currently participating in a course offered by WordPress’s Blogging University called Blogging 101: Zero to Hero. Each weekday, I’ll be writing based off of an assignment posted for the class. 

I’ve been bad. I meant to post about each assignment throughout the week, but it’s come to writing another one of my SparkNotes versions:

Day Six: Make an Irresistible “About” Page
Today’s assignment: create and publish your About page, then either adapt it into a widget on your home page or add it to your menu.
I’ve already published my “About” page, and it can be found on my menu above. I’m considering adding more information about myself in the future, but I think I’ll keep things anonymous for now.

Day Seven: Keep Personalizing
Today’s assignment: create and upload a simple header, background, or both. Already done? Try a widget.
I’m going to continue playing around with personalization, but I’ve added a new widget for now. There’s a “Follow via Email” button, mainly for my friends/family who don’t have a WordPress account. WordPress users are more than welcome to sign up as well!

Day Eight: Be a Good Neighbor
Today’s assignment: leave comments on at least four blogs that you’ve never commented on before.
I really enjoy these community-related assignments. The number of bloggers I followed used to be a cozy, single digit number, but I’m well on my way to doubling that. I’ve left comments on the following bloggers’ posts:
A Sample of Life from Here on Out
Any Idiot Can Run
Journey of a Tired Heart

Day Nine: Get Inspired By the Neighbors
Today’s assignment: write a post that builds on one of the comments you left yesterday. Don’t forget to link to the other blog!

Day Ten: Build a Better Blogroll
Today’s assignment: create a blogroll to share links you love with your readers.
I added a “Posts I Like” widget. Since the widget displays my five most recent “likes”, the links will update and change as time goes on. I liked the idea that this would help readers get a better sense of who I am, as well as help me continue to build that sense of community with readers and fellow bloggers.

Onto the final week of Blogging 101!

Day Four: Identify Your Audience

For first-timers stopping by my blog: welcome! I am currently participating in a course offered by WordPress’s Blogging University called Blogging 101: Zero to Hero. Each weekday, I’ll be writing based off of an assignment posted for the class. 

Today’s Assignment: publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element in it.

I created my blog without a particular theme in mind, so it was difficult for me to think of who my “ideal” audience might be. As mentioned before, I started writing as a method of self-reflection, for both my current and future self. So, perhaps, it’s me? There was something written in our Day Three daily task, though, that made me do some further thinking:

Blogging is a communal experience; if you didn’t want anyone to read your posts, you’d keep a private diary.

I still don’t have an “ideal” audience, as that would suggest that I mind what kinds of people are reading my blog. However, it did make me give some serious thought into the fact that you, my readers, are very much a part of my audience. I’m not always going to be the only person reading these things. This made me a bit more mindful of what it is that I want to share with you all, since I have a “you all” to address. I don’t mean this in a sense that I want to censor things. I want to reorganize and prioritize what I put up here, so that it’s not a jumble of words and thoughts that only I can understand.

There are still moments when I’ll stop and marvel at the fact that I’m connecting with someone in another continent from the comfort of my own home. In my PJs. Before breakfast (sometimes way after breakfast, still in my PJs…). I realize that there are things I will never be able to understand or experience that I’ve had the pleasure to read about through your words. I hope that you might be able to do the same here, and that we’ll be able to share and learn in all things offered by life together. And with that, I’ve fulfilled my cheesy cliche quota for the day.

As for the “new-to-you element”, I thought I’d share some of my own photography work. I’m a complete amateur, but am planning on spending more time changing  that throughout the next years. I would very much appreciate any insight or advice on how to make it better!


Blogging 101: Zero to Hero

A week or two ago, I clicked on an ad for these Blogging 101 classes from my Reader. I started receiving the to-do e-mails on January 4th, but felt hesitant about getting started. Was I ready to make my posts truly public? I primarily created my blog for myself, but I’ve found such an amazing, supportive community through The Commons. Seeing others’ posts gave me the courage I needed to openly publish my own.

As I’m also brand new to the blogging world, I’ve been a bit sluggish with getting started. I thought the daily tasks would be a good way to motivate me to work towards a single goal and/or post everyday. So, without further ado:

Day One: Introduce Yourself to the World
Today’s assignment: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post on your blog.
I recently edited my “About” section, which includes a link to my first post and a bit about who I am.

Day Two: Take Control of Your Title and Tagline
Today’s assignment: edit your title and tagline.
The title of my blog also happens to be my blog’s address. I explain why this is of significance to me in my first post.
The tagline is something I’ve been debating about. I eventually decided that I valued the simplicity of my blog’s look, but am still unsure about whether or not this makes my blog too vague. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think.

Day Three: Say Hello to the Neighbors
Today’s assignment: follow five new tags in the Reader and five new blogs.
This was a bit of a challenge. Browsing through the countless blogs of talented and seasoned writers, photographers, athletes, etc. made me feel intimidated. There can’t be growth without challenge, though, so I’d like to say hello to these fellow Blogging 101 neighbors:
Any Idiot Can Run
Culturetastic (huge shoutout to Milena here, as she inspired me to write this Blogging 101 “condensed version” post today. It’s never too late!)
Dreamer9177’s Blog
The Other Science Blog

It was also a challenge in a sense that I actually don’t know how to use “tags”.  I’m also unsure if I’ll like them, as they remind me an awful lot of hashtags. They’re useful in categorizing and searching for specific topics, but I’ve never found the need to use them myself. I’m sure you’re thinking of the cliche old man/woman, resistant to change, shaking their fists at the naive youngin’ on their lawn. I think it’s because I’m still having war flashbacks from the constant changes made on Facebook. I’ll try to set that aside and keep an open mind here. Maybe I’ll end up loving it and use it to the extent of being crowned some tagging version of royalty (they do this, right?).

Day Four: Identify Your Audience
Today’s Assignment: publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element in it.

Day Five: Love Your Theme
Today’s assignment: try out at least three other themes — even if you’re happy with the one you first chose. Try one you’re drawn to, and one you would never use.
I started out with the Penscratch theme, assuming I’d find something better when I had the chance to browse through the entirety of WordPress’s “theme pantry”. I’ve since tried multiple themes, but I keep coming back to this one. You know when you try something new that’s pretty good (I’m thinking food, but it can really be anything)? You go in search of things similar that can meet or exceed your newfound expectations, but keep finding yourself favoring the original version? It’s not necessarily that the things out there aren’t better. I think you develop a sort of biased “standard” for comparisons, which makes it difficult to beat out said original. My friends and I have had many a heated debate about In-N-Out vs. Shake Shack, and I’ve noticed that each one of us sides with whatever we’ve had first, regardless of regional affiliations/loyalties. Point being: I’m sticking with my OG friend, Penscratch.

I choose you, In-N-Out! Photo credits to this article.

To 2016

I just wanted to drop by real quick to wish everyone a very happy new year! I always appreciate that despite our differences in culture, religion, and/or ethnicity, the world welcomes each new year together. I think we all share in the bittersweet nature of saying goodbye to our past and looking ahead, usually full of hope, towards our future.

I look forward to all the challenges, changes, and new milestones that the new year has to bring. Cheers to 2016!

MMI: The Experience

I started this post back in October, and really meant to post it sooner. Here’s the promised MMI post:

Huzzah! I popped my MMI cherry and wanted to share some insight on it, while it’s still (somewhat) fresh. [Side note: There’s an episode of Brain Games where “witnesses” are asked to recall details of the people involved in an acted crime. I was equal parts shocked and disturbed by how much I misremembered things. I could have sworn the lady had a hat *shakes fist*] For those of you who are unfamiliar, an MMI involves around 8 or so stations of short interviews, lasting anywhere from 6-10 minutes. You’re also given 2 minutes to read the prompt and gather your thoughts before entering the room where you’ll interview.

I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to ask a bunch of neurotic pre-meds to do something they can’t prepare for. I spent hours scouring through SDN and YouTube, looking for any helpful anecdotes and/or examples. I actually sat and watched an 8+ minute video of an applicant doing an MMI. Twice. The entire thing was about why she wouldn’t give her apartment complex’s gym code to her best friend. I’m not proud to admit that I also frantically took mental notes on how she shook the interviewer’s hand and if she repeated the prompt back.

Please don’t do this. I, too, scoffed at all the “just relax” comments floating around the Interwebs. Having finally completed one, though, I see why this has primarily been the advice. Bad news: you really can’t prepare for this. Good news: you really can’t prepare for this. When you look down at your prompt and your brain goes as white as the Antarctic tundra, take a deep breath, and remember that everyone else around you is just as unprepared for the interviews they’re about to have. Unless you’re clairvoyant and can somehow predict the prompts, in which case, we need to be friends.

I’ve heard from fellow interviewees that each school does it differently, but I was fortunate enough to have my first experience at an institution that didn’t require you to monologue the entire 8 minutes. It was extremely conversational, and the interviewers had plenty of follow up questions to ask after each one of my spiels. I didn’t even have to repeat the prompt back, because the interviewers would take the initiative to ask if I’d read and understood it. Again, this was my personal experience at one particular school, so yours may be different; however, rest assured that you’ll get a sense of what you’ll need to do after your first station.

Speaking of which, I did horrendously at my first station. There’s this moment when you’re standing in front of a door, waiting for the cue that tells you to pick up your prompt. It felt simultaneously like an instant and an eternity. I looked around at all of us interviewees, standing in a line of neatly pressed suits in front of a row of identical doors, and a surge of adrenaline kicked in. The cue came on, and all I remember from those 2 minutes is the pounding in my ears and shaky hands. I also broke out into a bad case of cold sweats. I’m talking just-shoveled-an-ambitiously-spicy-burrito kinda cold sweats, guys. I have no idea how the interviewer interpreted my blank, doe-eyed stares and clammy complexion.

this is fine
Photo credits to KC Green.

The beauty of MMIs, though, is that you get 4-5 times more interviewers than you would in a traditional one. You really can afford to forget and move on. Clearly, easier said than done, but this is a brand new person, who’s most likely never interacted with you before (or witnessed your recent episode of excessive perspiration…). It’s an opportunity to make another first impression. Despite stumbling a bit (or a lot) in the beginning, I found my rhythm, and made an effort to clear my mind of anything that had happened in a previous station.

I think the only method of “practice” I might advise is to look up some example prompts. Practice talking out loud about them with a stopwatch nearby. I noticed I struggled to formulate my thoughts into words. I had a lot of ideas as to why I thought an issue was good, bad, or neither, but it’s a different story trying to thoroughly and accurately convey these ideas to another person. I gave myself 2 minutes to read an example prompt and make an outline of what I wanted to talk about in my head (i.e. pros&cons, pick a side, give process of reasoning, stick to it). Then I tried to discuss the topic for ~5 minutes. My issue was trying to fill up time, but I know some people have the opposite problem. Use the stopwatch!

Here’s a list of some of the sites that have prompts to practice with (you’ll see some crazy examples in there, which you can probably ignore):
1. This was actually fairly close to the kinds of questions I received on my interview day, and they even have 10 “stations” to practice with!
2. I liked this one, because it also gave me some perspective of what the interviewer might be looking for:
3. Tons of questions, neatly organized under specific categories:
4. I didn’t click on every link this PDF provided, but the ones I did happen to explore were very helpful:
5. I didn’t use this source myself, but found it recently on a Reddit browse:

You probably won’t get the same prompts during your actual interview day, but I like to think that the act of treating them as “real” prompts helped me (if only to calm pre-interview nerves). That’s the extent of my experience and knowledge of MMIs. I have another one coming up with another school, so I’ll update with any differences I see there. I hope this was somewhat informative, and best of luck to present/future interviewees!

P.s. If you haven’t seen it already, here’s the video with the gym code situation: click. For kicks and giggles. Again, please do not take notes. Yea, I see you, fellow overeager pre-med.