Sunday, December 15, 2013

Plead for respect

I thought I had a fear of disagreements. I suppose by nature I am a very agreeable person, and I absolutely despise insults (giving and receiving). So for the longest time, I assumed that the fear I have of engaging in a debate with people, or even stating my somewhat controversial opinion, stemmed from my fear of disagreements.

But recently, it's come to light that it's not the disagreement I fear. It's two separate fears in one.

First is the fear of miscommunication- I am terrified of being misunderstood. I worry that my thoughts won't flow well enough and will confuse others. I flush at the thought that I accidentally misuse a word, or that the way I'm defining a term is different from others. I also worry that I approach many topics and situations differently from others, and as a result everything I have to say will be completely foreign to them. And I realize that many times it's not just my own inadequate communication, but that some people will simply have a harder time seeing things through my lens. But I end up feeling responsible, because the only thing within my control in such a situation is the way I phrase my words.

And combined with that fear is the fear of misinterpreting what someone else says. We're all different people and certain to mean things differently after all. While I fear confusing people, I also fear being confused by other- except I end up seeing this as my own lack of comprehension rather than their lack of fluency.

Second comes the fear of competition. My opinions are always my own, I will try to convince people that they have merits though. However, when talking about a controversial topic, my ideal conversation would not be two people's competing opinions at war with each other. I always enter these conversations with the hopes that, perhaps, it'll turn into a group effort whereby we can reach a conclusion that is somewhat satisfactory to all and allows everyone to rethink their own opinions. It's a journey where all sorts of interesting thoughts are put out there without fear of ridicule, no matter how extreme or unsound the thought might be. In fact, half the time I think we should explore opinions that we absolutely disagree with just for the sake of approaching topics from another viewpoint.

Some key people I'd love to have these conversations with:

  • An orthodox religious person
  • A mormon
  • A creationist 
  • A terrorist
  • A radical liberal/conservative
Sadly, a real life conversation with any of these people is likely to fail my standards of a good conversation. But one can always hope. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Being Pretty

Standards of beauty and what not. Do I agree with them? I haven't decided. But do they exist? Definitely.

In a tutorial some weeks ago objections were raised on a feminist idea- mainly to do with the fact that women and men are treated differently in society and that may have adverse effects on who seeks euthanasia. Someone was confused about why gender would be a concern- because gender differences shouldn't exist.

But they do. And I take a risk in saying that some of them can't be changed (though quite a lot of them can). I mean, aside from the pregnancy and the erection locations and the menstruation cycles (that men possibly have [citation needed]). If there were no gender differences then our species would have only one gender.

I've been raised in a liberal family, in a liberal environment, and I'm in one of the most liberal cities in North America. I don't consider myself a feminist for fear of being categorized with the extreme feminists, but I do believe that women deserve respect and should learn to be confident in themselves. 

Some months ago I read a dreadful blog where a man openly expressed his desire that women have no self-esteem. This to me is silly- sounds like a desperate and clingy girlfriend in the making. Sounds like a girl who won't know how to handle difficult situation. Sounds like a girl who won't know how to raise children, if she goes down that path. Sounds like a girl who'll end up in a relationship for her own need of some approval rather than for love. 

My idea of a confident woman is one who is comfortable with herself, knows her own flaws and either is able to look past them to love herself or is actively aiming to better herself to achieve her own ideal. 

Where am I going with this? I feel like I've started to ramble. Ah yes, being pretty. Do we really have to?

Well yes, there's lots of benefits to be had in maintaining oneself (for both genders I mean). Statistics tell me that looking good means people often trust you more, think you are smarter, more likely to hire you for a job, more likely to date you, more likely to look at you. But the real dichotomy here is that females get more of a pressure to look good than males. I don't want to focus on the morals here, but biologically and evolutionarily speaking, we can understand why. That whole hip-to-waist ratio and such. Making babies- it's always to do with babies. 

But really, how important is the make-up and the hair-do and the looking perfectly flawless? Especially when we talk about relationships. I mean, love is all about personality compatibilities right? Oh but yes, the looks are the first thing. And physical attraction does have some role to play I should think. Personally, I think taking the time to look awesome is important. (I also know that when I see a well groomed young man I take my time checking them out) Best part is, it's really easy for us to control how well we present ourselves to the world. But something that might be more important than beauty is time.

I know friends who do their make-up every morning, that's a lot of time in their lives. And the hair, I'd have to pick that over breakfast if I really wanted to do it up every morning. There must be a trade-off here in terms of time spent looking awesome and time spent gaining awesome traits and awesome skills. I really hope I reach a good equilibrium here such that the amount of awesome I can look naturally portrays the amount of awesome I really am. And I'll gussy up on occasion to give the added guise of even more hidden awesomeness. 

So standards of beauty- I don't feel like whether I agree with them or not really will effect how I act. Because I like to be pragmatic, and in this society, it can be an advantage to look attractive. But I'm also not keen enough to trade off equally valuable time for it if I don't have to (or if I don't feel like it). No, I don't think women are obligated to focus on their looks in this society, but there are quite a lot more perks if we do. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

My brain confuses my heart

Graduate schools. Supposedly the backup for medical school. Not so sure about that really.

It seems the only reason they've gotten the title of "backup" for me is because my chances of getting into them is much higher than my chances of getting into medical school. But I should also be clear that I have no more intentions of pursuing a career in academia.

So why graduate school? Because I found a great Biotechnology Masters program that is two years, including a one year paid internship with a biotech company. My end goal has always been translational medicine- leaning more towards diagnostics currently (though that can change). Really, to end up there, I can either take the medical school path, or do graduate studies.

The issue is that everything in the future will be made easier with that MD behind my name. I feel like that's a common reality. If I want to do medical affairs, doctors prefer talking to peers. If I want to do clinical trials, it's easier to get patients on board if you have access to them. Even if I just want to get tissue samples for molecular research, having the MD would help.

Not to say that things are too difficult if I take the graduate studies route, I'm quite confident I have the interpersonal skills and the technical knowledge to excel there. But if I finish with a Masters, or even a PhD, the perks of the MD don't come with either of those. In fact, if I do graduate school, first I need to get that masters- then what? If I go straight into the workforce with just a masters, well... in science it becomes very hard to move up the ranks. I could go into the sales path, but that just takes me further and further away from the basics of the science.

Do I do a masters then try again for medical school? That seems like a very valid path right now. So what will happen if I do get an acceptance from a medical school? I wonder if I'll end up deciding not to take it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What's the point of blogging anyways?

I actually can't answer this question.

I do it because I know strangers and friends read it. Friends can read it and sometimes we chat. But there's an allure in knowing strangers are reading these words. Hi stranger, hope you are well.

Interestingly, people seem to differ in their idea of blogs. Some maintain that it is for publicity, others for social networking, and some use it literally as a journal. But I guess in the end we're all just trying to connect with people in a different way.

I used to write random thoughts down on paper. But it seems weird to just give that piece of paper to people to read, and at the same time I felt like the paper was all lonely just sitting in my room. So then I started blogging. (I also type faster than I write so this helps since I tend to just type down whatever is going on in my mind at the present time- my hands can't keep up with my mind)

But I always need to keep in mind that because people are reading this, I have to be careful what I write down. Some things I wouldn't mind letting out, but thoughts are quite private some other times.

Time and time again, I thought it would have been nice to never have told any of my friends about this blog- and to just write to strangers each time. But there's always this gentle hope that one of your friends will see you one day and mention to something you wrote- and golly, what a nice feeling that is.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I can't do this. I am weak. I force myself to sleep because it is my only escape from these feelings. I am haunted by daydreams.

I miss you already. But I cannot tell you this- it would ruin the perfect composure I've managed to maintain. Just the right amount of sadness showing, so that people will not look at me and worry. Yes, I've stopped the tears. They want to come out but yet they don't offer me that relief. I'm not sure if that's better or worse.

There is no confusion. No regret either. What had to be done was done and now I simply face the consequences. To be honest, I don't think it could have been done any more smoothly, and I thank you for that. But it still hurts, as I knew it would.

When I held you that night all I wanted to do was to whisper the words "Please don't go", and somehow I felt that you would listen. But that woudn't be right, because you had to go, and I was being selfish trying to hold on to you. So I sobbed and said nothing. And I think over and over again that this is the decision that will allow us both to gain more out of our lives. At least for the present.

The present is difficult. I lay awake remembering the feeling of your body pressed against my own, and I try to imagine every detail of that time if only to comfort my heart. But when I turn around to see that teasing smile I now face the emptiness.  You kept me awake then and you keep me awake now.

But I knew this would happen, and I prepared best for it though I knew there would never be enough preparation. And there are times when I think back and smile, because I know the sadness I feel now is only because there was so much joy I had to let go. And I think upon the future and have faith that this is not for nothing. Because I will be happy again, and at least now I can be confident that you will be as well.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Years ago, in a moment of anger before having to start studying for a test, I typed these letters into the Google. The first search result made me smile.

Years later, in yet another moment of anger before having to start studying for my finals, I again typed these letters into Google. I was reminded again of why there are just some great and unique people in the world.

If you haven't searched "asdfjkl;" on Google yet, this is the site I keep referring to:

I think it's cute. I considered writing little updates on my life every week to whoever would receive these messages. But considering I'm not so great at doing that on my own blog, you wouldn't be surprised to learn I didn't follow through with that plan.

But I always marvel that there exists people who try to extend out of the norm, and manage to do so in such an encouraging and simple manner. I find it adorable that there exists this website where I can type away to a real human person and know that it will be read but never replied to.

It's that same feeling of throwing a message in a bottle out into the waters at a beach, or carving an inspirational quote on a park bench, or even scribbling out your thoughts with permanent marker in washroom stalls.

This is all, of course, if you ignore the cruder messages regarding human genitalia and depressing world issues that people send out under cover of anonymity.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The actual first world problem

This winter break I went with VIDA to Costa Rica and Nicaragua to volunteer by providing healthcare in under-privileged communities. I'm talking about places where they had no access to basic health and dental services, none of this fancy internet access we take for granted... and even as far as no running water.

But wait, in actuality I expected a lot worse than what I saw, which really goes to show just how arrogant one can get growing up in the Westernised culture. In truth, I felt like although it was clear that the standards of living for the communities we volunteered in were below what I was personally used to, I have no other negative opinions about the communities. In fact, I found the people there perhaps more mature and polite... and overall much more pleasant to deal with than many strangers I encounter every day at home.

To give an idea of the places I mean by "no running water" let's start with the generally more economically well off country I visited, Costa Rica. Note: these are the bottom line of economic areas in the country. Any of you who've been there will know that it's actually really pretty and full of electricity and running water and tourism.

A small store in Costa Rica

The blue building on the right was where lunch was served

Not what you see every day is it? But over all Costa Rica had quite a lot more of a Westernised flare in the bigger cities. In fact, it was so similar to back home that it would appear I chose to not take any pictures.

During the middle of the trip we crossed the border into Nicaragua. There we stayed with a home-stay family (with whom communication was greatly mediated by the universal language of Charades). My home-stay took us out around the town to check out the local scenes. I snapped a few pictures of course.

The road

Every door and window of every home had a gate-
it was very beautiful (and probably efficient too)!
Did I mention there are volcanoes there?
This is a volcano. Active. Far away.

In Nicaragua our clinic locations were set up in the school of a neighbourhood that was much poorer than that of our home-stay families. I should note at this point our home-stays were rather well off in Nicaragua. I snapped a few photos of this school, the children were on their "dry season vacation"  (not sure what it would be called...) because that's technically their summer break.

Tiny little chairs! 
Classroom used a whiteboard! 

So I returned home and started remarking on the various "first world problems" that we make fun of everyday. And I think I've started to look at things with a bit of a different angle. Mostly, I wonder what most of us mean when we say "first world problems"? Do we pride ourselves that we're in a position to have these problems or are we using irony to try to guilt ourselves? I wish I understood exactly how my own perspective on the matter has changed, but that'll require a bit more self thought. 

I do remember talking to an former (rather cynical I think) teacher, arguing that she should be allowed to move up her own ladder to self fulfilment before she helps others approach the first step. And while I do think that's a bit too much, I also know that saints are rare in number, and I certainly don't have the predisposition for sainthood. At the same time, I don't see why one has to stop their own climb in order to help pull others up. 

Oh, and no trip to Costa Rica can be complete without a sunset picture (ruined due to my horrendous camera).

Sunset at El Coco Beach, Costa Rica

P.S. Free panorama software online