In Limbo

Grief is a funny thing.  It’s something I think everyone has whether it’s the symptoms of a recent loss or a loss that happened a long time ago.  Everyone faces it at some point.  Everyone learns to live with it.  It’s not a hurdle you need to jump over.  It’s a burden you carry with you.  But this is life.  Constantly moving.  Constantly changing.  Life can be great at times.  It could be painful at times.  We’re human.  We feel joy.  We feel pain.

One of my favorite lyrics from an Ingrid Michealson song is “All I know is I’m breathing.  All I can do is keep breathing. All we can do is keep breathing.” That is how you continue on, you just keep breathing.  Sometimes, It’s not as easy as it sounds.

At the end of this month we are having a Celebration of Life for my uncle.  It’s something we’ve been planning for what seems like months.  It has only been a little over a month since he passed.  I am looking forward to this event.  I will be able to spend time with my family.  Family and friends will gather and show support and love, share memories and condolences. There will be laughing and crying, and we will come upon some kind of closure that everyone wishes to seek after a loss.  Usually after a death of a loved one, you have the services almost immediately.  That can give you a sense of closure quickly but it also doesn’t give you a chance to breathe.  My family and I have been busy the last 6 weeks preparing for this celebration.  It’s going to be so incredibly difficult.  But a much needed gathering of friends and family.  When it’s over, then what?

I just kind of feel like I’m in limbo. I think part of it really has to do with the weather being so bad and being stuck inside a lot.  I’ve been working really hard on my school work, I try to give the best care to the kids I nanny, and I’m trying to learn as much as I can in Practicum.  All welcome distractions.

I sometimes still can’t believe it happened.  Since I am in charge of the slideshow for the memorial, I have been forced to look at pictures.  When I look at them, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry.  But I think in doing that, it has helped me remember him how he should be remembered.  Most importantly though, I often see him in my dreams.  And that is most special to me whether it makes me happy or sad.  I still get to see him that way.

“You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”-Peter and Wendy


 

 

 

Resisting the lull

♪♫♪ Hey, don’t write yourself off yet, it’s only in your head that you feel left out or looked down on…

As a sophomore looking back on my freshmen year, I would say that the lull between early February and late March was easily the most challenging time period for me last spring semester. And recently it seems like that awful lull is trying to make a reappearance this year as I begin to struggle to stay focused and mentally sharp for all of my classes. When I’m really doubting myself, I think that my ability of a student used to be sharper when I was back in high school when I was somehow able to juggle what seems like a countless APs, clubs, badminton team, and applying to college all at the same time; if high school Sarah was able to do all that back then, what’s wrong with college Sarah that she can’t keep up? And then I beat myself with the irony of how everything I do now bears much heavier significance on my future than it ever did before.

In those times of doubt, I struggle to re-motivate myself and reorient my goals so that I can remain steadfast in my work. I have a few strategies to do so, but I actually find some of my strongest motivation might be a little strange–I find it from the people around me and the people I see or think about. This is from my family, friends, or even just acquaintances I know in passing. I am so easily inspired by many of the people I see day to day in my classes. I see hard workers who voraciously take notes and push themselves day and night to be the best student that they can be in hopes of being a physician, pharmacist, lawyer, engineer, etc, etc…leaving nearly no time at all for themselves because they are always busy with school, or a job, or another activity with duties to take care of. Thinking of them — even though I might not talk to them– inspires me to work harder. It helps that many of my friends are just such amazing, accomplished people. All I have to do is step into the Honors College lounge to see that. I find motivation from thinking about their hard work, and it makes me want to persevere so I can do something I’m proud of as well.

Finally, I think about my family. I think about all that they have given me and how much they believe in me. I am really lucky to have such caring parents who have instilled a strong value in me for learning because it has always driven me to try to do better and better. In the end, I think that it is this strength and gratitude toward them that becomes one of the prime motivating factors for me to resist the lull that comes from being mentally weary from all that goes on around me. Although it seems most prominent around this time of year, the lull seems to be able to reemerge at any other time as well. It’s easy to become overwhelemed with all the thoughts to balance, but I am reassured through my strategies to reorient myself and combat those feelings with motivation.

It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride ♪♫♪

(The Middle – Jimmy Eat World)

It’s so cold!

Is anyone else as freezing as I am?! When is it going to warm up?

I officially have the winter blues and am absolutely over this. Walking to BSB twice a day from my room is getting really old really fast, and I’ve been staying inside the building for entire days at a time when I don’t have class. The weekends have been filled with wasting time and feeling my cabin fever get worse and worse. I don’t know about you, but I need to do something about this before I go crazy…I need to be more productive so that when the time actually comes for us to go outside and enjoy the weather, I can. Here are my goals/ideas for making the most out of being stuck inside:

-read books (not just textbooks…good books, too!)

-redecorate your room by moving furniture around/add small accents

-go through your closet and look for clothes to donate

-craft! There’s nothing like a good old DIY

-watch a new tv series or movie genre

-make Valentines for your friends/family

-plan spring/summer trips or vacations

-learn a new instrument

-get completely caught up with your homework and studying

-get ahead on your studying ;)

-deep clean/spring clean your room in the winter!

-drink tea or hot chocolate or coffee- and lots of it! At some point later in the year, these hot drinks will sound gross.

-work out in your room! There are lots of household spaces and items that are great for a workout.

-try on your bathing suit

-cook/bake new recipes and try them out on me!

-learn to do something productive with your computer

-apply for jobs/internships online

-enjoy a nap under a nice, warm blanket

Stay warm! Until next week…

Too many meetings, exams and quizzes

Normally, I’d look forward to my weekends. For one, I wouldn’t have to work. Two, I could catch up on studying and homework that I badly need to do for each of my classes and MCAT. And three, I can effectively plan for the future during this time (like if I need to plan an event for my pre-medical club, etc).

Well, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to enjoy the weekends, especially this month. I mean, it should have been worst last semester when I started the ER scribe job (those 5pm-2am shifts were definitely something to get used to and I can’t afford to do those at this time), but after hording almost all of the weekend 9am-6pm shifts just to meet my minimum of 8 shifts per month…I’m kind of toast with managing my time to fit every need that I hold. I have only been able to go to research once a week for only like 4-6 hours…barely going to my campus housing job as I am doing only as needed basis (they’re so amazing with flexibility, thank you Campus Housing)…I consistently go tutor and work at the desk at the Writing Center, which has provided me relief and stress at times (the stress comes from me lolly-gagging during my few moments of free time with colleagues when I could spend it locked up in a cubicle studying for MCAT and my other classes)…and here I am trying to blog so that I can rant and still stay sane throughout all of this.

Well, looks like my break will truly come post-MCAT. I took a practice test this past Sunday and I told myself if I get the same score or lower than what I did on the real thing, I’d move my test to April or May. Well, to my surprise I scored 4 points higher than what I got on the real thing…so I decided to keep the date! I can’t tell if I scored high because I took the test before (it was one time and in May or June 2013…and I only went over the test once) or if my brain was actually thinking in the correct manner to help me score well. Perhaps it was both that contributed…but we’ll see how I do on my next practice test! It definitely gave me a HUGE boost of confidence and showed me what areas I desperately need to improve on (physics and chemistry…math is not my thing). So, instead of studying a different subject each day like I was doing, I’m just cramming all the physics and general chemistry topics this week and the next and then hopefully  once I hit biology and organic chemistry it’ll be easier (verbal is a crapshoot so I’m not even going to bother even though it was my lowest score on the real thing…but only by one point compared to the other subjects…).

Ah, well I am hoping for the best. It’s difficult to study for the MCAT when you’ve got to attend a gazillion, million meetings and study for anatomy and physiology or Polish (if only I was a native speaker I could sleep through the class…but I’m totally not!!!). I have weekly quizzes for anatomy and physiology and 2 quizzes a week for genetics lab. Let me tell you, they’re easy, but super annoying to study for! I don’t mind doing all the homework and quizzes, but with the MCAT looming over my head and all this pressure of needing to be in a million places at once has got me in pieces.

Luckily, my brain and heart are still keeping me alive, one day at a time. That is really the key to keeping your sanity. When I open my Google calendar and see my schedule, it makes me want to bang my head against the table. But instead of moving around stuff and pushing things back even more like I normally do in my scary panic mode of trying to make things work out, I just use the time I would normally spend panicking with actually doing what I planned! Whether it’s studying, attending meetings or writing this blog…the work gets done efficiently with this pressure.

Too bad my skin isn’t cooperating very well, especially around my eyes…but I’ll save that for another time because all I want to do is sleep and dream MCAT success at this point (but I have an exam in anatomy and physiology looming so I better dream about that too).

And this cold weather isn’t helping the mood…ah well what do you expect? Struggles are here for a purpose and you just got to keep moving forward.

Best,

Milie

Great schedule gap fillers!

Throughout my entire undergraduate career, I have learned the true value of time. This means maximizing every free second throughout the day. Many times, undergraduates have gaps in their schedules. What do you do during this time? Here are a few of my favorite things to do on campus to take advantage of your schedule gaps!

Power work out: So you have an hour-and-a-half gap – who says you can’t workout during that time? Lately I have added in quick power workouts during my gap. I go to the Student Recreation Facility to get a 30-minute cardio session and a 15-minute abdominal workout, followed by a warm shower to get clean and ready for my next class. Sure, this requires a bit of a hassle with extra bags and limited time, but you will feel rejuvenated and healthier after a quick workout.

Eat at a random restaurant: I always love spending one afternoon a week at a restaurant around campus. I usually try to eat at different places each time because there are so many options around UIC! Go out with a friend, or even by yourself, to a new restaurant whenever you have an afternoon break. New restaurants equal new experiences, which then equals new conversation pieces and cultural/social benefits.

Explore new parts of campus: After eight semesters of being at UIC, you think that I would have visited every part of campus. Wrong! Every now and then, I like to take a walk with a friend around campus, exploring unfamiliar buildings and lounges throughout campus. It’s always refreshing finding a new spot on campus — they usually make for great secret study spots!

Just sit and relax: Forget Facebook, BuzzFeed and your textbooks. Sometimes it’s just nice to just find a spot to sit and simply relax. Let go of any other worry in the world and just sit and let your mind wander on about what is going on around you. Or carry a book around that you can read during an hour break or so. No matter what you desire, make some time to step away from the hustle and bustle of school and focus on reenergizing yourself within.

What are some of your favorite things to do during breaks? Let me know below!

Until next time…
Mike

A love letter

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and complete and utter disdain for this winter, here is my open love letter to….SPRING.

Dear Spring,

I love you.  I miss you.  That groundhog is stupid.  Winter is stupid.  Winter in Chicago is stupid.  Please come soon. It snows like 10 inches a week.  It’s like -40 degrees all the time.  My toes are always cold.  I wear 4 layers every day, which means I have more laundry.  I’m crabby.  Everyone is crabby.  I drink so much hot tea to stay constantly warm that I have to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes. I have to warm my car up 15-20 minutes before I leave my house.  Walking through the back porch to get to the basement is like a death sentence.  My face hurts from the air.  When I swing the door open, I get hit on the head with icicles.  Every time I wear my glasses outside, they steam up when I go inside.  My skin is dry. My back hurts from shoveling. I hate when I hit a crack in the sidewalk while shoveling and the shovel gets jammed in my abdomen.  Children are infested with germs.  Children who are infested with germs cough and sneeze on you.  I can’t run outside.  Working out inside is kind of dull.  Going anywhere is a chore.  Going anywhere with children is an even bigger chore.  Do you know how long it takes kids to get their jackets, boots, hats, scarves and gloves on?  A REALLY long time.  It’s a process.  People drive like idiots in the snow.  Every street is an obstacle course of potholes.  There is no where to park on any side street because they’re mostly not plowed.  The money I save by not going out is spent on the food I sit and eat staying in.  Which causes my pants to fit tighter.  I have a constant fear of my space heater blowing up.  And most of all, I find that in winter I complain a lot.  Please come soon.  I’m begging you.

Lauren

 

One day at a time…

♪♫♪ Careful child, light the fuse and get away / ‘Cause happiness throws a shower of sparks…

It’s been a busy week getting accustomed to the regular feel of my schedule for the semester. So far my classes seem to be going alright, although organic chemistry II is definitely no joke. Not that I expected it to be at all, but I’ve been re-doubling my efforts to keep up for the weekly quizzes. Our first exam is already on February 6th, which floors me because on the one hand, it feels like we just started, while at the same time we have already covered so much material already. Every lecture feels a little bit like a marathon, both mentally and for my hand trying to copy my professors’ lightning fast notes. The other day during lecture, my pen actually half exploded as a result of my efforts…ink was leaking everywhere on my page and fingers!

Physics is also going well so far, but I know that’s because we’ve only covered the basic material that I can still recall from high school. The moment we enter unknown topics, I’m going to have to really kick it into gear. As for psychology, it feels a little redundant to study some of the material we’re covering right now because I think I know it pretty well already from taking other science or statistics courses. I’ll be more interested when get into material I haven’t encountered before.

For the first time in a while, I feel rather lost in Russian class! The professor speaks only Russian for the majority of the time, and I don’t think my level is quite high enough to keep up with all the directions and grammar. Most of our class is comprised of native speakers, and I’m pretty jealous that they seem can converse in Russian so easily! It’s been taking me more efforts on my part to translate more material on my own and learn grammar from the textbook, but I still love the language as much as ever.

In the meantime, I’m so excited to celebrate Chinese New Year with my dad! My mom is still in Taiwan at the moment celebrating the holiday with the rest of our family and my brother is in Cleveland for his grad program, so my dad and I will be celebrating on our own this year. I miss them all very much, especially my family in Taiwan. The fact that I just saw them makes me miss them even more. Thank goodness for modern technology that allows for free video chat and international phone calls!

And the recent freezing cold makes me wish I was back in Taiwan too! On these cold winter days, it makes me really thankful that I live on campus and my room is just a few minute’s walk away from my classes. Even if I have to trudge through mushy snow, I know I have it pretty easy compared to those who have to rely on trains and busses to remain on time despite treacherous conditions. Besides, since I have 8 AMs every day (I actually prefer it that way believe it or not!), I have the rare chance to enjoy the peaceful snow-blanketed campus of the early morning before everyone comes bustling in. It’s a strange cathartic feeling to feel the crunch beneath my boots as I tread through the quad, making the first set of footprints leading all the way to SES. So even though it’s been frigid, I feel like I can’t really complain – there are still little beauties all around me that I am thankful for.

So you tell yourself that’s enough for now / Happiness has a violent roar ♪♫♪

(Happiness – The Fray)

What am I doing?!

12 hours.

That’s it. That’s how many credit hours I took this semester.

So why do I feel just as (if not more) stressed out as last semester?

That is by far the least amount of credit hours I have taken on my 6 semesters here. The first semester of my freshman year, I took 14 credit hours and didn’t have many other responsibilities besides academics.

12 credits leaves me with three classes each Tuesday & Thursday. I am hoping to start my internship within the next couple of weeks, so I will be there Mondays and Wednesdays (so excited!)

Regardless of the large amount of time spent not in class, I am still desperate for a break to relax. You’d think I’d have a lot of it, but I feel like I’m always on the go.

I’ve been trying to figure out what is eating up all of my time, or at least what is so time consuming RIGHT NOW………………

…………….I think the biggest thing is currently my returner portfolio. As a resident assistant, peer mentor, or any other Campus Housing student staff member who wishes to return to their position for the following year, we have to put together a portfolio of some sort. This showcases your efforts and successes during the year as well as features your ideas on what you would do differently next year. Having already made a scrapbook portfolio my first year applying to return, I wanted to do something different, so I made a movie. It’s been quite the challenge, but I’m really happy with the “finished” project. I turned it in earlier today and am impatiently awaiting my returner interview where I will show my video.

I’ve also been really busy with just overall more difficult classes than I am used to. I’m taking two 400-level courses, which is the highest I’ve ever had, and they’re pretty tough. It’s nice to be in such challenging classes, but it can, of course, be a little intimidating from time to time. I’m also starting to learn to code (in the absolute simplest form) for my Communications class. This is completely new to me, and I’m really hoping I can keep up with the assignments.

I’ve also been working really hard for my position on the executive board of NRHH- the National Residence Hall Honorary. We are a chapter comprised to the top 1% of student leaders, and the four pillars that we are held up by are leadership, service, recognition, and academics. I take care of the recognition aspect of the chapter, and I have been trying to take on a lot of new initiatives for the position. This can be a lot to do while being an RA, but I really love the chapter and working on the executive board.

NRHH E-board, along with their sister organization, RHA, are hosting a leadership retreat this weekend where we work to further develop younger student leaders’ skills. I will be giving the presentation that I did at CASCHA at this retreat, only with some changes made to fit the Disney theme (my favorite!).

Immediately after the conference (seriously-a half hour later) we are all heading over to the Flames basketball game to watch them play Valpo. I have word that the NRHH e-board as well as the RHA e-board are taking part (maybe even competing) in some sort of game during halftime.

The night before all of this craziness is my grandma’s surprise 90th birthday party. I’m really excited to see her reaction to all of her friends and family in one place for her big day. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ll leave you with a picture of me and the new pooch:

Now, about that break…………………………

A handle on this

I recently received an email regarding my Fulbright scholarship status, and I was recommended for a grant! I’m so happy, even though I still don’t know if I actually got the grant yet (but now I know I am so much closer than I was before!). I remember I started working on my application near the end of the summer of last year and thought I’d be done right before school with it, but I was totally wrong! I probably went through at least ten drafts each of my personal statement and statement of grant purpose with many visits to the Writing Center and the amazing Beth Powers (if you haven’t met her yet, you absolutely must!). I worked right up until the due date (October 15), so in total that was a good 3 months of preparation.

I will keep you posted on the final decisions made by the host country, but I probably won’t hear back until late April or May. It’s grueling to wait, but in the meantime I’ve got to focus on studying for this mother-loving MCAT! I am terribly behind in my studies for it secondary to my scribe job, research, tons of quizzes and homework each day for all of my classes (it’s unreal), duties for the clubs I am a part of and my other jobs I dabble in (and I must say I do not regret keeping the Writing Center as part of my daily  routine! Tutoring has been so wonderful.).

Well, you  can see where my time goes, and unfortunately if I want to keep up my grades, MCAT studying will have to suffer a bit again. I know it’s my main priority (everything else for my application is great per the pre-health advisors…just need that nice high score), but I feel compelled to not put it there. It’s like the only thing standing in my way of pursuing an MD/PhD! >:O GRRRR. My parents even told me last semester that I should just take genetics lab only and quit all my jobs so I can spend like 10+ hours studying each day and beast on the MCAT.

But, I can’t torture myself like that. I’ll probably kill myself first (and my mom thinks the opposite–she thinks I’ll kill myself with my scribe job, although hilariously I counter her comment by saying at least I’ll be in the ER when it happens and hopefully they can save me beforehand). I hate giving things up (for obvious reasons, those things make me happy…and MCAT does not make me happy). I should really change my mentality on this test since it’s so important, but with how I am right now I can’t help but be negative at this moment in time.

On the bright side, I got an A on my first Polish test last week and I have been getting perfects on my genetic lab quizzes. Anatomy and physiology is decent…I’m definitely going to cram the week of the exam, which is coming pretty soon! I am also getting my premedical club back into gear with speakers, events and such. I hope I can attend more meetings with the committees that we have, but priority should be MCAT so we’ll see. ><

Research is going well too! My cousin has been shadowing me and improving his pipetting skills. Hopefully once I graduate he can take over my work and carry on the legacy! LOL just kidding (but seriously dude, don’t mess up). No pressure, haha.

I also need to think about starting my Honors Capstone thesis! It’s due at the end of the semester, but I will be presenting at the UIC Student Research Forum in April and need to have an abstract submitted before spring break. It’s totally doable, but again that cuts out of MCAT studying time if I am still aiming for the March 22 date. Something tells me March 22 isn’t going to work out, but for now I am keeping an optimistic tone and striving to take it that day so I can enjoy my spring break and worry about finishing touches on my personal statement.

I can’t believe it’s only the fourth week and so many things are happening and so many things need to be done within a short period of time. This is really what cramming / college is all about! Thank goodness we are adaptable creatures! Appreciation, for sure. Happy February everyone!

Most difficult part of starting the semester?

After seven completed semesters, I think I realized the most difficult part of getting adjusted to a new semester: personal scheduling.

Sure, you have to schedule your classes and get used to going to and locating the classrooms. Yes, you have to buy books and empty your college funds for new classes. However — the hardest part about getting adjusted to a new semester is in fact scheduling your personal life. What time do I have to start waking up? What route should I take so I can avoid heavy traffic? How much time can I workout for before I have to shower and run to my next class? What time should I eat? What time should I start homework at after classes? Can I really fit in all of these classes? These are all of the questions I’m finding myself asking, and then some.

I just landed an internship, so that will take up a good amount of my free time during the week. This means I can drop a class due to the internship credit – but should I? I truly enjoy all of my classes – acting, human nutrition, communication pop culture, religious thought. But with my new addition of the internship, I keep debating internally if I should drop a class. Thinking ahead, as tests start and paper season begins, I’m thinking about all the juggling I’ll have to do. I did this all of my academic career, but I’m graduating in May. I still have to fit in job hunting and career planning next to my daily class schedule, homework, USG, internship, and other social and extracurricular activities. Maybe I should lighten up my load?

I know much of this was a rant…but in a strange way, ranting to a blog helps me make sense of my thought process. It is a blog, right? I’m positive many of you readers have related or can relate in some capacity. I just finished making a weekly planner for the rest of the semester. All of my activities and such have been counted in so that I can be more prepared for the semester load. I’m still debating about whether to drop a class – but I know that either way I can manage any path I take. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m maintaing my cool until then.

Until next time…

Mike

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