Monday, August 15, 2011

Back in town

It’s been almost a year, a year that has passed by like a gust of wind, but a year that has also past leaving its mark on me like patterns in the desert. A year that has passed like a single wave breaking on the shore, receding once more only to break again, but never the same.  Some waves crash loudly and rise far up the shore, others simply lap peacefully at the sand.

This past year has left me with a number of reflections, fond moments, late nights, new friends. I have come to know what it feels like to spend an entire day without seeing the sun. I have come to know that an organ normally the size of a small fist can grow to the size of a football. I know the feeling of being responsibly for 3.5 foot tall stack of knowledge yet feeling like I know nothing. I know the feeling of exhilaration after finishing a year that has shaped me faster than any year I can remember. Who would have thought that this is where I’d be right now? Living in Chicago, biking around like an authentic Wicker Park hipster, with a summer one month away from ending, flying back from my perpetually green state, ready to press ‘resume’ on my summer jobs and the planning for the new (academic) year to come. Businesses are on a fiscal calendar, retailers are on a holiday calendar, and me: I’m on the academic calendar which I have known for too long to count (18 years?!) One of the biggest deterrents of going to medical school to a 14 year old was the thought of still being in school over 10 years in the future. 10 years!?!  All I wanted to do was be outside, free, away from homework. Somehow living it is never as scary as it sounds in the abstract. Life goes on.

Being back in Washington and seeing my friends as they are growing older, as my family as they grow older, the landscape change, it’s quite an interesting life that I’ve chosen that every time I go back, the change is noticeable. My sister stands maybe an inch taller, my brother a little broader, my mother and father a little grayer, my dog fatter.  I feel the same, but pictures tell me that’s a bold-face lie. My sister was kind enough to pull some black-mail pictures from my awkward ginger-child years. I’ve definitely come a long ways. Thanks goodness. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The End, or a New Beginning

Sometimes I blink and suddenly realize where I am. While I am ever present, sometimes it takes a certain set of circumstances for me to get the feeling like I've just snapped out of a dream, or for those of you who have watched Inception, a dream state (yes, I am a nerd). I write this as I am flying on my final leg of a 3 stop flight from Seattle to Chicago. I have known for about 5 months now that I will be attending medical school this fall, committing the next four years then many years after to a profession. A profession which I've wondered if I am capable enough or 'good enough' for. However, as I am flying from one place to another, it has just begun to set in. This is it.

I'm writing this as part of an end to an era, the last year of my service in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. In that year more has happened than I could ever describe in words. I've been changed, as a person and I wonder if I could have ever imagined years ago that I would end up here. This moment, sitting in seat 3A on Southwest flight number 2209 service from Phoenix to Chicago. This moment, feeling an entire year of my life shift over to uncharted territory. This life, now a 'former' Jesuit Volunteer, a title that I will retain and represent for the rest of my life. This sounds all mushy and all, but in all seriousness, I owe a lot to my past year of service. While I was back in my Woodinville home, my mom had come upon a project which I had done many years back. Around the 7th or 8th grade, I was given the task (along with my classmates of course) to visualize on paper the rest of our lives, up into our 60's. We were to list all the milestones we hoped to achieve, goals we expected to accomplish, little boxes we were able to check off from the bucket list. I'll have to be the first to say, my project which despite receiving perfect marks for organization, effort, and quality of work is hopelessly boring. Yes, boring. My goals, for example, were to:  at the age of 25, be married; at the age of 27, have bought my first 'new car;' at the age of 28, have had travelled to New Zealand….so on and so on. I was first impressed with just how many things I had come up with that I had set to do, however keeping some of them in mind, forgotten about the majority. However, I wonder what would have happened if I had stuck to that oh-so-concise list. For one, I wouldn't have graduated and volunteered for a year. That did not fit with the grand plan. By the end of college, I was supposed to know WHAT I WANTED TO DO WITH MY LIFE, and have gone out and gotten a 'real' job. I wouldn't have gone to Santa Clara, being that one of my goals was to graduate from a Pac-10 school. I wouldn't have done many things which I can say today that I have done. It is these things which are now part of how I define myself and how I see who I have become.

What I took from this moment wasn't all of the ways that I didn't live up to what my 13 year old self wanted for his 23 year old self. No, I came once again to affirm that life is unscripted. Looking back on my goals, I realized I'd be what any kid wants to be, what they've been taught to aspire to. As a kid you grow up wanting to emulate what you've already seen, and when you get older, it is a difficult and sometimes painful process to realize that some of those things you've been taught to believe, are not meant to be. I was not meant to have a family and kids by the age of 25, as much as I would have wanted that to be true 12 years earlier. And while this process is hard, its something that I think we all do. We all have to come to find ourselves, and come to terms that our lives can not be defined, they cannot be perfect, they are gritty, messy, fun, full of mistakes, successes, and are beautiful. Yes, beautiful. As one of my housemates posted so wisely all about her room, it begs the question,

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do. With your one wild and precious life?"

Now where is this blog going to go you may ask. Well, I think it is due for a title change. No, I'm keeping the main name, Some Answers, More Questions, but I'm now a former JV, current med student. The blog will stay alive, stay tuned kids, there's more to come.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sunny goodness. California.

So here's an update, much has happened in the past month or so that I've been neglecting my blog, and like before, I'll start with what's going on today.

For the better part of the year, I've been planning a trip to make my way back to my roots - California. Since graduating, I had promised many of my friends that I'd suck it up, and make a flight back to Cali to see those who I'd spent up to four years with at Santa Clara University. What with all the excessive amount of traveling I've done this year, and the amazing gift that is frequent flier miles, I could actually afford the 'free' trip across the counrty.

So today, I write from the library on campus, in the midst of chaos, stress, sleepless nights, excessive caffeine intake, and nostalgia that comes with the last finals week of the year. Today begins the end of an era for 1/4 of the undergraduate population at SCU. Just one year ago, I was sitting here in the library, stressing out about my own exams. Now I've returned one year later and feel almost awkward being here without feeling like I have a test to study for. However, it isn't as weird as the feeling that I got immediately after graduating.

After graduation, everyone pretty much took of. Within 24 hours, the group that had coelesced 4 years prior, suddenly split apart. While everyone knew it was coming, there's something quite jarring about the world that you've created for yourself suddenly coming to an end. Oh, there's a bit of transition in the graduation ceremony, the parties, but once all that is over, and you're left wondering where the time went, you realize just how fleeting that entire experience was. The same thing goes for this past year, it makes me miss JVC already, despite having another 1.5 months of it left.

So back to today, and the trip. The plans for today are to go to Santa Cruz, with my friend Brian, in about an hour, to go surfing at Cowell's, the beginner's area for surfing. Brian has managed to buy his own board so we'll take turns on it. After that, I've invited a few friends to hang out on the beach to just relax, kick it, and just take in the rays (or just enjoy the warmth beneath some sun shield, as I will do).

I arrived here on Saturday, was picked up by my friend Alison and her BF. We visited Santana Row, checked out the Apple store (so I could scout out my prospective laptop for next year), ate some delicious Thai food, and played Apples with our friend Geoff and Kate. Yesterday I woke up pretty early despite getting maybe like 4 hours of sleep, went for a run, came back and had breakfast – exhausted, I forfeited my plans of going to the Sunnyvale Wine and Art Festival. Instead, I took a 1.5 hour coma. I woke up, and headed out to a surprise birthday party, and saw a few more friends. Alison and I sat for a good couple hours on the lawn outside the library, sipping on our cold beverages we got from the cafĂ© in the library, and I almost didn’t buy a drink because it just felt so weird to be paying for food on campus with cash.  Despite this feeling, my thirst prevailed. On the grass, we read, I journaled, we people watched, it was so relaxing.

So anyhoo, that’s an update on things so far, maybe I’ll be a bit more on top of this blogging thing as my year comes to a close. We’ll see, no promies!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Back in Chicago

So after my first venture to Chicago in January, I'm back, this time quite a bit less stressed than before, for good reason. I've been accepted to Rush Medical College as well as Temple School of Medicine, and have the opportunity to make a choice as to which school I will go to in the fall. Most schools offer a "Second Look Day" where they wine and dine those who've gotten in, and sometimes those also on the waitlist.

I'm looking over the schedule for today and it looks packed with talks from people all the way at the 'top' to those who were in our shoes only a year ago. I've been fortunate enough to be staying at a medical student's apartment, an M2 (for non-medical speakers, that's a second year medical student) and because he has 6 finals he needs to study for, along with the first step of the USMLE (United States Medical Licencing Examination) he basically gave me the keys to his apartment so I could do whatever I wanted before today.

I'll admit, that's a pretty big deal, giving his only set of keys to me, trusting that

A: I won't lose them
B: I am a good guest who won't mess up his clean apartment
C: I won't get such severe hunger pangs that I raid his fridge
D: I won't set fire to said apartment
E: I won't invite like 20 people over and party all night
F: [Insert anything that I could do to mess things up]

So needless to say, I think that speaks for the type of student that comes to this school.

On the plus side, now that it is almost May, and NOT JANUARY, it isn't like 20 degrees below zero. On top of that, on this trip I have some time to hang out with friends in Chicago and not feel like every minute of my trip is managed time.

In the cards for this weekend:

Today: Rush Second Look Day
Tonight: Going out on the town
Tomorrow: Exploring Chicago (downtown)
Tomorrow night: Repeat plans for tonight.

Sunday, I'll be taking off early in the morning and heading back to DC. Updates to come later, now that its almost 9:30am, its time to get my butt over to registration!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It makes me think...

Last night our community did something that we do every week. We have a "spirituality night," where we talk about anything from Islam to passages from the Bible to where we see ourselves being challenged. Last night we reflected on a number of things happening in our lives.

I think most 'outsiders' to JVC, Jesuits, or spirituality would scoff at the idea that we spend a night a week talking about spirituality. I mean, what does God really have to do with life, if you don't recognize the concept. To me, while I'm not a firm believer in anything at this point, these nights, especially the one last night, add a great deal to my life.

Last night, I was able to enjoy the company of my house, as we talked about our struggles, our joys, our desires, and just be real with each other. When others spoke of difficulties they were having, I echoed those feelings. We reinforced each other as well; when someone spoke of how they were just plain scared of what would come next year, another was quick to point out that person's strengths and to just say that things will, despite how they seem now, work out.

I realized that this year is quickly going by, and that before I can blink, I'll be sitting in a classroom once again. In a foreign city, in uncharted territory.

However, I have also realized that the friendships that I've formed this year through nights like this will continue to exist for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

School is pricey...

Recently, I've been trying to figure out the rest of my life. Wait... that's a lie. I've always been trying to figure out my life. What I have been doing recently is looking at the incredible cost of attending medical school these days.

I came up with a budget, which makes me think: "Hoolllllyyyy &*#@*#(@, I'm going to be in debt the rest of my life."

Here's what it looks like:

Estimated Cost of Attendance for 2009-2010 (Including tuition, room and board, books, transportation, insurance...)

Loyola Chicago $60,734
Temple                                             $67,278
Rush                                $62,472
NYMC                                    $65,312

Multiply these numbers by 4..... and you get a range from $242,936 to $269,112.

Talk about a mortgage on my brain!

With that kind of money you can.....

Buy a house, buy a really nice car, put someone through state college many times over, live comfortably for quite some time (I know, I'm being really scientific here... but cut me some slack, the point I want to get across is that this is a lot of money we're talking about)

The question of paying for school has been nagging at me for a while, and I have a few options:

Scholarships including...

Health Care Service Provider's Scholarship through the US Army (which would pay for all of my medical school costs and provide me with a living stipend. In return for that residency would be done at a VA or other army affiliated hospital (tend to be more competitive for specialties than civilian residencies). The payback terms seem to be a bit complicated, my understanding is that it is a year for year payback program so for each year of medical school, I serve a year active duty. That service would begin after I have finished my residency. I'm still a bit unclear on how it works so I'll have to ask someone.

Other scholarships: Through various organizations, write an essay and provide letters of rec for each, only would cover a fraction of med school cost.

Loans: Pay em back once I'm making the dough.

Its a tough call, I'm going to need some more time in weighing out the pros and cons, trying to determine which path would probably make me happier. Who knows!?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Its the most wonderful time of the year...

....with the cherrys a-blossoming, the sun a-shining, there lots of good cheer......

So its been a while, yet again, since I've posted an update on all the goings on in my life. Well, not to disappoint, much has happened.

I'll give a few brief high-lights

This week, at work, a man at the front desk pulled a knife. We had to move to a lock-down status as police responded. The back story with this is that the man had been banned from the clinic and all SOME programs for allegedly breaking a window the week prior. When the front desk informed the man that he needed to leave, he became irate, and pulled the knife. It was pretty obvious that this guy was dirranged, he didn't seem like he intended on going after someone, he just pulled the knife so people would take him seriously. When I was listening in to him, he was pretty nonsensical. I'm just glad that nothing eventful (other than that the guy drew a knife) happened.

Last weekend I played in an indoor soccer tournament in New York City, in one of the most interesting tournaments I've been in yet. Each game was 12 minutes long. Count it, 12 minutes. 12 minutes of the fastest soccer you've ever seen. Subs were run every 3 minutes. That's right, you play 3 minutes then the entire side subs out, with fresh legs coming in. However, the freshness of the legs got progressively worse the more games we played. In all, we played 6 games over the course of the day, and came in 5th place out of about 20 teams, so not so bad! While in NYC I also got the chance to just blow some cash on doing something that's been on my 'bucket list' for a while. Going to the top of the Empire State Building. Makes you wonder if the people who invented the idea of a 'bucket list' aren't in on some big capitalist conspiracy. Seriously, it costs $20 MINIMUM to go to the 86th floor of the empire state building. I think it probably costs an additional $10 to go to the observation deck that's a few floors higher.... whhhhat a rip! But despite the cost, I thought it was pretty worth it. Pictures to follow!

In other news, most of the family is coming into town for the weekend, I have two soccer games lined up, and oh my gosh, I'm supposed to run 10 miles in a week for the annual Cherry Blossom 10 mile race! I'll admit, between having my wisdom teeth pulled out, semi-injuring my knee, and being a general lazy person.... I haven't gotten around to doing a whole lot of training. I'm pretty sure I'll at least be able to finish the race, in what kind of time...who knows.

Well, I'm off to bed for now, hopefully more updates coming soon!

.......its the most wonderful time... of the year!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Back in the Big Apple

This weekend was a whirlwind, if I could use one word to describe it, I couldn't. I'd need three: On the go.

Friday I made it out to go clubbing with some friends I have made in DC, which was a first for me in quite some time. It felt great to get out of the house and just let loose for an evening. I came back fairly late, after all had retired for the evening, then got up the next day and got myself packed for the weekend away.

Backpack - check
clothes - check
interview attire - check
deodorant/antiperspirant - most definitely
cash for expenses - check
computer + iPod - check
all necessary interview materials including AMCAS and thank you notes - check

I was ready to go

With that done, I got myself ready for the afternoon soccer game, which was the first one since the beginning of the season, due to our snowmagedon. It was a perfect day for soccer, sunny and brisk. I managed to fandangle a goal by shooting from beyond the penalty box, it was the only goal our team had during the game, which isn't to say we didn't have chances to score. Oh boy, did we have chances. I think about 5 shots either hit the crossbar or barely missed the net, it was a little difficult to watch. We ended up losing the game but I had a good time.

I got back home, showered, and finalized a few things before our car headed out, for the long trip to Raleigh.

It was a long ride, I'll leave it at that.

We made it, and I forgot to mention this earlier, but the reason for the trip in the first place was another one of the infamous JVC parties. We have a soft spot at the DC house, at least I do, for the Raleigh girls. They're a ton of fun and its just such a good time when they're around, plus they're just so sweet. It was great to see everyone again, well, not everyone, but a good number of people. Raleigh is the farthest south house that the JVC has in the east, and is a bit isolated because of its location. Its hard for people to make the drive out, being that just for us going from DC, the closest city, the ride took around 6 hours (partly due to traffic, but still). Thought with the people who went, we had a blast. I by no means feel like I got to know the city, I barely got to see it during the day.

While I did have a great time there, I got a healthy dose of what reality is like for a number of people in this country. Prior to this trip, I did not know many people who had been over to Iraq, or who were in the armed forces. I thought all that I needed to know about the lives of soldiers who went to Iraq came from The Hurt Locker. I was wrong. A few of us made the walk from the house to a local club and on that walk, I heard this guy's life story. For the sake of maintaining anonymity I'm leaving him nameless.

He grew up in the foster care system, never knew his parents, doesn't have anyone to call family. He struggled growing up, barely got by in school, didn't see much of a future for himself besides the army. He may have suffered abuse, been given a rough start to his life.

He joined the army. He was shipped to Iraq and described a number of horrific scenarios that I wouldn't wish upon anyone. He saw another soldier commit suicide because he couldn't take it anymore. He saw much more, and now has PTSD. He has two children at the age of 23, he divorced his wife who he married a few years ago because she cheated on him.

He asks me, why he can't seem to get a break meeting women when he tells them that he has kids. Why it seems like he can't really get anywhere. I didn't have a good response at the time, I was a bit to struck by his story to feel like I could offer any advice to him, being that I can't imagine what he's gone through. He asks me what he did wrong, where he messed up. From what he told me, I don't have an answer for him. I wish I did.

After hearing his story, it changed the tone for the rest of the evening so I headed back from the club right when I got there

Back at the house, I grabbed some blankets and a sleeping bag and slept on the floor.

The next morning, I was up pretty early. I had to catch a flight to New York City, so said my goodbyes and flew to the Big Apple, the excuse this time being another one of those medical school interviews, this one at NYMC.

After arriving and navigating the public transit from JFK International to Manhattan, I hung out with a good friend from high school, who I hadn't seen in AGES. We stopped by Columbia University, ate some amazing Gyros from a street vendor, which, despite what you may think about street vendors, was amazing and I can say that I have not had any gastrointestinal issues yet, knock on wood. We then attended an evening mass at her church, heard some of the most beautiful choral hymns I've listened to. I got goosebumps listening to them, they were that good.

I boarded the Harlem line, destination White Plains.

I arrived, was picked up by the medical student I was to stay with that night, and after picking up some much needed sustenance (Doughnuts and coffee), we drove to the campus.

I spent most of the evening watching the Oscars, then crashed on the couch.

The interview today went pretty well, I enjoyed the tour, the people, the campus. The sky was blue, the sun was out, and until I had finished my interview, I was unaware of it all. Only after, did I feel the relief.

Now, I'm on the Megabus, on my way back to DC, reflecting on my weekend. It'd been fun being on the go for the past month, but I'm getting a bit tired. Traveling is fun, and is all well and good, but after the high of meeting new people has gone, I find myself longing for the people who are back 'home.' I say 'home' because the term has changed so many times for me, as to where now I don't really associate 'home' with a physical place. Its a feeling. I have 'homes' in Washington State, Santa Clara, and now, Washington DC. In each of those places I have a network, people with whom I share a history. At each of those places, I felt (and feel) like I belonged. For better or for worse, I have many places that I call 'home.' I miss a great deal about each of the places, but mostly, I miss the people.

Like the Counting Crows say,

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got till it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parkin' lot

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekend of friends

    I write from the metro, yellow line, on the way to Greenbelt. From Greenbelt I will take the bus to BWI, then the light rail to the convention center, then will finally walk to the Hyatt Regency hotel in Baltimore. Why, you might ask, would I be making the trip to some hotel…in Baltimore? Well, its that time of year, when hundreds of EMT’s from all around the United States (primarily the east coast) congregate for the national EMS conference. We gather to network, to learn, and to party. I’m going there to meet a few good friends of mine who I spent a good amount of time with during my tenure at Santa Clara, as an EMT. The conference brings back nothing but good memories for me, the first and second years, the planner for the trip. This year I am going as a graduate, who just happens to be in the area. I’m so excited to once again see the group that meant so much to me, and still does mean a lot to me. Some of the EMT’s have already joking called me as their ‘bed mate’ but we’ll see how the sleeping arrangements shape up J. I almost feel spoiled for having such a good time these past few weeks, with the trip to Seattle last weekend, the trip to Baltimore to see the EMT’s this weekend, and next weekend I’ll be going to Raleigh for a party (to be following up with a med school interview in NY). This following picture is taken from Agua Verde in Seattle, WA on an uncharacteristically gorgeous day. 

Update: (return from B-More)
Once again, I write from public transit, as I head back to DC after spending the weekend in Baltimore. I had a blast! It was so good to see my friends who I hadn’t seen in ages (well, since last june) and to hang out a bit with them. I did attend a few lectures: Blunt Trauma, Burns, and Shooting Incident Management but did find myself passing out yesterday afternoon for a good 3 hours after taking some meds to help with my mouth pain. Oh ya, I had my wisdom teeth yanked from my mouth on Thursday. All four of them. And yes, I did it without being knocked out. Yes, I was awake for the whole thing. Yes, it sucked. Yes, I saw a lot of my own blood. Yes, I would do it again, 1: because it was cheaper, 2: because I felt like my awareness of the situation made the oral surgeon’s job a lot easier. I still am a bit swollen at this point on my left side, it seems the lower left wisdom tooth extraction was a bit more complicated than the others. For the first two days I only drank protein shakes and took pain meds every four hours, otherwise the real pain that was being masked made life pretty horrible. I hope that all the pain and swelling has resolved by next week so I don’t look like an idiot at my next interview. At least the surgeon said the procedure went well and that I should be up and ready to go in a week or so. I just find it a bit difficult to eat and to fully open my mouth. Also, I’m hesitant to move my tongue around lest it happen to find the sutures that are holding my gums together. My apologies to those of you who are squeamish.

Back to the weekend, I had a great time hanging out at the hotel, going to the aquarium, watching the hilarity of college partying that happens at these conferences, and the drama that goes along with it. I spent Friday and Saturday nights in Baltimore, sleeping on a nice ottoman (I think), it looked like a very long chair. It was actually quite comfortable, maybe I should consider one for my room…

Now as I head back to the house and get ready for the week time just seems to be slipping by so fast, before I know it I’m already doing the next thing. Who knows what the next week will bring, and hopefully I’ll be a bit better about updating. Until next time!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I thought it would be helpful to people applying to JVC or people considering it, if they read a bit about my application for a second year. The application itself was very helpful in figuring out what I would like to do next year. Below are two of my essay responses for the second year application.

If you're in a rush, and only read one thing, read the section about spirituality in BOLD found in Essay #2

Essay #1

 This year has been a year of transformations. I look back at where I was a year ago and it’s startling to see how far I have come. About this time last year I was clueless, lacked direction, was scared of the ‘real world,’ and in utter disbelief that my college experience was coming to a close. I didn’t want it to end, and I didn’t feel prepared to go out into the world. While I had been pre-med my entire life, I was still unsure if medicine was what I wanted to do with my life. From hearing about others positive experiences in JVC, I was led to apply to the program. With that pretext, I semi-blindly stepped out from college, hoping that JVC would catch me. More realistically, I was hoping that JVC would open my eyes and I would be able to have a better vision of the path ahead. Today, I can say that JVC has not disappointed me, for my vision is much clearer than at my graduation.
      As a Jesuit Volunteer I’ve been encouraged to continue questioning the status quo. With living a simple lifestyle I have realized that it is possible to live simply and in solidarity. Our house has successfully survived off $75 a month for each person for food. When I tell my coworkers about our style of living, they are amazed. It seems so ‘counter culture’ for six people to be living in an intentional community, making the decision to live simply, to live in solidarity, to live with a sense of spiritual direction. I have found myself continuing to find solace in my housemates, in the feeling that this year I have stepped through a door, challenged myself to feel uncomfortable and to do something about it. My year has solidified my commitment to pursuing a career in medicine, and I say this in a different way that I have said it before in years past. When I say that I want to be a doctor, I say it with confidence, knowing that I am excited to go to work every day in the clinic, that I’m having a direct impact on the well-being of others, and that I’m working to change a broken system.
      I’ve seen the impact my work has had, and want to do more. I’ve seen myself grow in my spirituality, and want to grow more. I’ve given myself to my community and want to give more. I have challenged myself in living a simple lifestyle and want to challenge myself more. This year has been one of my most formative years and I’m excited to see what the next year brings.

Essay #2
      Going into this application, I am not certain that another year of JVC is the right path for me. Earlier this year I was accepted into medical school and these past few weeks have been a struggle. I’ve discussed this on many occasions with my support people, my house, and my family. The reasons why I struggle over this are my apprehensions about next year being a JV as well as my excitement for beginning my career in medicine.
      I fear that given another year in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, my mind could change about medicine, though I doubt it will. I fear that another year of being out of school will make it more difficult when I return (assuming I defer acceptance). College is still fresh in my mind and I feel that I am still at the top of my academic game. I think what I fear the most is losing the drive that I feel at this moment, the excitement that I feel about being accepted into medical school, and the enthusiasm which I have for being a doctor. Before reorientation, another year of JVC wasn’t on my radar, I was expecting that if I got into medical school, the decision would be easy: I would simply enroll that fall and that would be the end of it. What I am realizing now is that this decision has been anything but easy. I am constantly grappling with it, questioning my motives, trying to envision what path would be in my best interests.
      I don’t know a lot about what the next year will bring in terms of community, whether or not we’ll be able to get along as well as our community has this year. Like a few of the second year Jesuit volunteers said at reorientation, a big challenge is how to approach the year. Is it a continuation of this year or a whole new experience? It seems that it is a mix of the two, that in some ways I am continuing to commit myself to the four tenants, to community, to the program, and to my work. In other ways, it is an entirely new experience. The community will be different, the people that make up our house will be replaced by new ones. The tough discussions that we had this year will need to be brought up once again, and throughout it all, I will need to be open to letting things be different. I see a great challenge in keeping myself from assuming that the next year will be the same as this year, ie, having expectations about how next year should be. I also see a challenge in the transition from this year to the next. When we pack our belongings, say our goodbyes to our community members, and then are thrust into Orientation where there are new faces, how am I going to react? It will be very difficult to let go of this year so quickly and to begin a new one.
      This year, in living a simple lifestyle, I have come a long way. Simple living was one of the areas of JVC which concerned me the most. I’ve been a pretty technology oriented person my whole life, buying the new gadget as soon as it comes out or spending a lot of time on the computer. Technology has always been a part of my life I haven’t lived without. As a house, we came up with rules early on to answer the questions of how much technology we wanted in the house. We ended up coming to a resolution that everyone was comfortable with, we chose to get Internet access but to try to limit our use and to hold each other accountable. The transition to using the internet less was a difficult one for me and I saw that sometimes I would find myself going up to my room and checking email instead of spending time with the community. I wasn’t completely aware of how my habits were affecting those around me until the issues were brought up and since then, have been much more sparing with my internet use. In regards to the other area of simple living (simple fiscal living), I struggled at first staying on stipend. A few occasions during the first couple months I would use personal savings to supplement my income when there was something I felt that I needed to have, or do.  While today I can’t say that I am perfect when it comes to staying on stipend, I have come a long ways in being honest with myself and questioning my purchasing decisions. I feel that I have benefited from my changes in lifestyle, I feel connected with those that I live with, and have continued to maintain relationships with friends from college along with family. This Christmas I hand made Christmas cards for the first time and sent them out to 40 of my friends and it was so rewarding to get mail back from my friends with updates on how they were doing. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle maintaining relationship with friends before JVC but I have found that if I am intentional about staying in contact, it will happen. My efforts to living simply have made my time spent with the community all the more meaningful. I can now say with absolute certainty that I have made friends for a lifetime.
      Spirituality, I’ll be honest, was the one tenant I was not excited about when I decided to join JVC. I have a complicated history that has led me away from being a spiritual person. The churches that I was a part of going up did not preach a message of acceptance. Through college I found that I was content without spirituality. However, this year has led me to question my stance on spirituality and its value in my own life. My community has been understanding of my views and has allowed me to grow at my own pace. One conversation I remember having with another JV helped me discern spirituality and made me think in a new way. My argument to her was, how can we truly know if there is a God out there. We say that God is responsible for all these things, but where is he? Where is God in natural disasters, where is he in injustice, where is he in the wrong, where is he? How can you prove the existence of a God you can’t see, that only truly exists in your mind and in the mind of others who also believe the same thing? My feeling was that believing in a God is a cop out, giving up on truly discovering the reason for why things are the way they are. We can just say to anything, “Well, God made it that way, it is God’s will.” This was the reason given for so many things in history, until we found out how it works, through logic and science. I have seen people use religion as a justification for hate, justification for continuing a trend of injustice, justification for immorality. “God” was the justification for the Crusades, for terrorist attacks, for oppression, and so many other bleak spots on our history as a human race. I found it hard to get behind a God who had been used as an excuse. Her response was fairly simple. Believing in a God isn’t being absolutely sure. It’s about acknowledging that there will always be .1% of life that is unexplainable. That fraction of a percent of things we don’t know, that we can’t explain, is where God exists. Faith, is about having hope, because if you don’t believe in something, life can be very bleak. Faith is about how you want to live your life, how you see yourself fitting into this world. Her words have resonated with me and I’ve realized that there is a place for spirituality in my life.
      My work has also been a growing experience for me. When I came in, I was fairly confident that I would quickly get accustomed to working in a clinic because of my prior experience as an EMT. However, on my first day and during my first week, I felt like a fish out of water. While I did know how to take vitals, I had never used an electronic medical records system. I had never had a 7:30 to 4:00pm job. I had little experience with the homeless population. I had no idea how to order diabetic supplies. I could go on with all the things that I didn’t know how to do, but was expected to do. I’ve found that now, I am very successful in my job. I have a great relationship with my boss as well as all my coworkers. I feel like a part of a team. In addition, I have come to have a greater appreciation for work in the medical field and this year has been extremely formative in my decision to pursue medicine as a career. I know patients by name, I know their stories, their histories, the injustice that they have felt. I see that not all are treated equally by our medical system. There are those who have and those who have not. I see there is much work to be done and want to be a part of that change. The work that I do is work that gets me up in the morning. It is work that I feel is necessary and that I am called to do. I would love to have the opportunity to continue serving.