Interview Excitement (with a dash of neurosis)

So technically, I’m status post one interview, but as it was my home institution and felt more like chatting with friends, I’m still feeling considerably anxious about my first away interview next week. Cue that cute scene from The Parent Trap, where the mom asks, “Anxious-nervous, like he’s totally, completely dreading it? Or anxious-excited, like he’s looking forward to it?” In this case, my answer is a resounding “Both.” Hah!

My next stop on the trail is a program where I could really see myself and also happens to be in a city that works well for my currently long-distance fiancé to move to. Needless to say, I’m freaking out a little! Given my type A over-planning tendencies, I’m trying to keep calm and focused by figuring out all the details, large and small, that someone like me could ever possibly stress over. I also encountered a few unexpected snags when preparing for my home interview last week, so I’m trying to fix those as well.

Me being me (i.e. neurotic), here are some of the things I’m obsessing a little too much over (and what I’m doing to manage it), ranging from the practical and reasonable to the less so:

Having enough thoughtful questions to ask about the program. Based on my last interview, there were WAY more opportunities when they stopped and asked for questions than I expected. I actually found myself running out of questions, especially when some of the other interviewees asked my question before I could. Part of this may be because it was my home program and I know a lot about it, but I won’t be caught in that situation again. I’ve been using this website as a launching off point to brainstorm types of questions, then picked out areas I was particularly interested in. Using the framework of my own background (non-trad, former teacher), I dressed up the questions to be a little more exciting.

By the same token, knowing enough about the program from its website not to ask stupid questions! Even fancy-sounding questions like, “How are your residents involved in advocacy work?” can sometimes be easily answered by a webpage illustrating the program’s Advocacy elective. Oops! Even if you do your homework, these programs can still blur together, making it hard to keep them straight. My plan isn’t anything groundbreaking; I’m just going to study what I can in advance and make sure I have notes with me to cram with the night before (probably cut and pasted from each website into a word document in case of a no-internet emergency).

Researching transportation between the airport/the program/my hotel. It’s looking like I’ll have to pay for Ubers and taxis (and my wallet is weeping) in most places, but I’m holding out hope that in some cities I’ll be able to use public transit, yay! As much as I’d love to take a bit of time the night before or after the interview to scope out the area a little by car, renting one just doesn’t seem worth the money or hassle. I’m hoping some of the neighborhoods (and the weather) will be walking-friendly and that I won’t be in such a rush to get to the airport that I miss out on this opportunity.

The right outfit for the pre-interview dinner. Had no idea this would be a problem until I started getting dressed for my first one and realized that my standby silk shirtdress suddenly looked too short if I wore heels but I didn’t have a pair of flats that matched (a tragic misstep from overzealously Marie Kondo’ing, whereby I trashed all but the most beloved ankle boots and oxfords that I wear to work every day).

After vetoing my dress, all my remaining options–especially in light of my newly discovered lack of non-grubby flats–either seemed way too business-y and formal, or else far too casual. I managed to muddle my way into something relatively appropriate and got some much-needed inspiration from the girls at that dinner, finally splurging on a great dress that works in a variety of settings that I’m pretty sure I will wear to every single one of these events! Here are a few pieces I think would work for everything from happy hour to dinner at an attending’s house: budgetmoderate (plus, in-store student discount!), or splurge.

How much to pack and what to carry it in. I don’t really have a proper suitcase, and the one I do have annoys me for more than a few reasons, mostly due to it being larger than I’d like. It is still a carry-on, but since I try to pack light, I either have to resign myself to objects rattling around in the half-empty thing or stuff it with more than I need and pay the price when it comes time to heaving it into the overhead compartment.

Which brings me to my second problem relating to its size–it’s kind of difficult to fit it into the overhead compartments. In order to be guaranteed a spot for this monstrosity, I have to be one of those people who loiters and inches and shoves to get onto the plane early (or risk the plane’s storage space filling up, leading to the airline checking and inevitably losing the thing when I make my connection…side note, take it from a friend of mine who was once forced to interview in her travel clothes–pack something interview-appropriate in the purse or bag that will for sure make it on the plane with you).

Anyway, I hate having to be one of those people who crowds the gate. I’m going to be a huge whiner for a minute here. I hate wondering if I’m cutting the line as I creep forward or if I really do have an earlier boarding zone than the other people rushing the gate, I hate being on the plane for longer than I have to be as I wait for everyone else to board, I hate being stalled in the aisle while everyone tries to stow their suitcases overhead, and I especially hate waiting forever in the jetway, which is always either far too warm or far too cold. In my ideal world, I’d be the last one to board, stepping on just as the traffic in the aisle cleared and moments before the plane pulled away from the gate. And of course, my bag would have a nice little spot waiting for it. A girl can dream.

All this to say that interviewing, cheap flights with connections, and the stinkin’ airline industry are literally cramping my spoiled travel style. So, I took it upon myself to find a new suitcase. My dad, a frequent flyer, advised me that–while infinitely attractive given my significant plane-boarding needs–the 15″ wheeled totes intended for stowing underneath seats just won’t have enough space for me. Maybe for an overnight, but not for some of the multi-stop trips I have planned. Alas.

So, off I went to Macy’s the other day to see some options in person and I found this little baby (then promptly went home to purchase it online for $50 cheaper on Amazon). It’s probably still too big to fit underneath a seat, but far more compact, far more functional, and–if I’m being honest, here–far cuter than my old option. I’m excited for it to arrive today, to test packing it up and see if it has enough room to travel for 1-2 weeks. Yes, I’m already planning exactly how much can come with me on a five-interview-long run. Yes, I have a problem.

Anyway, enough with the ranting–I promise I’m not usually so negative. How are you preparing for your interviews? Any tips, concerns, or thoughts to share?

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Reading for Pleasure

For the first few years of medical school, I was overwhelmed by the feeling that there was always something else I could be studying. Whether I was making the decision to stop for the day or taking a weekend off to visit my long-distance boyfriend-now-fiancé, it always felt like I should be doing more. Like I was being really lazy, and what on Earth was the matter with me? My school has a very self-directed curriculum, by which I mean we spend very little time in lecture, slightly more time in problem-based learning small groups, and the vast majority of our time outside of school altogether, depending on our own initiative to learn and study the material. Needless to say, reading for pleasure fell by the wayside.

Even if I wanted a distraction, reading became too much work and I defaulted to mindless TV-watching instead. Don’t get me wrong, I love mindless TV shows and even (embarrassingly) count myself among the numbers of people who still watch Grey’s Anatomy all these years later. I think it’s probably even more tragic that I’m a medical professional-to-be who watches Grey’s, but I can’t bring myself to stop.

All that aside, I realized it took a concerted effort on my part to bring reading for pleasure back into my life, but that it was something that was important to me. There were so many great books out there and it was a much better way to unwind at the end of the day than staring at my TV or computer. And it turned out that even though studying during the first two years and reading up on my patients during clerkships left me too tired to read (especially since I’m not as speedy as a reader as I used to be), there were a few ways I could trick myself into loving books again.

1. Audiobooks. My local library has tons of eBooks to borrow from my iPad, but it also has a lot of audiobooks you can download as well — who knew? I struggle a little with insomnia, so my nightly TV-watching and habit of playing on my phone before bed weren’t really what you’d call model sleep hygiene. I found out that these audiobooks had timers, so I could get in bed and have the thing read to me for 30 minutes without having to strain my eyes or stare at a screen before bed. Another option is to listen to these books from your phone when you’re out on a walk or going for a jog.

This way of reading books was actually pretty life-changing for me. And so much more soothing than my previous bedtime rituals. I even managed to get through some intimidatingly long books I wouldn’t have otherwise read, like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

2. Books on CD. Are you noticing a trend? After so many years of medical reading where I try to absorb every detail I read, I’ve sadly found that I’ve become a much less efficient pleasure-reader. So in addition to the audiobooks, I really like having a book on CD in my car. Whether I’m driving to different clerkship sites or to visit my fiancé, the books on CD are not only a great distraction for long trips but another chance to get reading.

Plus, it can be really entertaining to hear the reader(s) do different voices. Long ago, I listened to a Harry Potter book I’d already read on a family trip, and it was wonderful to hear all the characters and their particular manners of speech come to life. These days, I’ve listened to everything from silly Meg Cabot chick lit to suspense novels on my drives. Right now, Laura McHugh’s The Weight of Blood is in my car. It’s sort of a creepy mystery set in the Ozarks, and it’s so great to hear all the Missourian accents read aloud.

3. Make it easy on yourself. Choose books you’re going to want to read. This encompasses a lot of genres for me, but the books I can most count on are the psychological thrillers. They aren’t going to win any literary prizes, but they keep me so interested in figuring out what’s going on that I can’t help but want to read. I have lots of favorites, including:

  • Sister by Rosamund Lupton. I also really enjoyed her second novel Afterwards and have a hold placed at my library on her most recent one, The Quality of Silence.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling. This is more of a mystery than a thriller, but I couldn’t put it down. I keep forgetting to read the next one in the series, The Silkworm, but it’s on my list!
  • All the Gillian Flynn books, though Gone Girl is actually my least favorite of the three. Sharp Objects was super creepy and I totally loved it.
  • The Julia Heaberlin books, which are a little sillier than the others I listed but still entertaining. I liked her first book, Playing Dead, better than her second, Lie Still, but I am still excited to read her new one, Black-Eyed Susans.

Also, it was mentioned above, but The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh is so far a great suspense novel.

There are other books I enjoy a lot that don’t fall into the mystery/thriller category but are so up my alley in other ways, that it’s super easy to get into them. I grew up loving Judy Blume, so her new book for adults, In the Unlikely Event, has been really fun for me and it also happens to be a truly good book, not just fluff or suspense. I also read a lot of blogs on simplicity and minimalism and about a year ago, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was all the rage. More on my love affair with the (sometimes crazy) genius Marie Kondo later.

4. Blogs. As mentioned above, I’m a big fan. Small, digestible posts on everything from fashion and natural beauty to more serious topics that are important to me, including women’s health issues and systemic injustice. A few of my favorites are listed on the front page. My simplicity guru is Reading My Tea Leaves‘s Erin Boyle and feministing.com keeps me up to date on the world, particularly in terms of badass women. The Hairpin is all sorts of amusing.

So, how do you get your reading in? What’s on your shelf/iPad/bookmarks tab these days?

Hi, Fall!

October, how I love you. Leaves changing colors, a slight nip in the air, and best of all, this is the first autumn since…2011? that I have the free time to enjoy. As is becoming apparent with the increasing hoopla surrounding each year’s unveiling of pumpkin spice lattes, fall is the rest of the world’s favorite, too. But for me, fall means chilly walks with a warm cup of coffee clutched in my hands, tall boots and my favorite cozy knit cap, pumpkin and squash EVERYTHING, woodsy candles, and of course, the vampy lipsticks and nail polishes that come with the season.

In that vein (womp womp…bad vampire joke), one of my favorite ways to unwind, when I have the time, is to paint my own nails. I find it cathartic to methodically clip, shape, buff, and polish them over the course of a fluffy TV show (more on that later…I have a serious addiction). Not only that, it’s a cheaper option for a poor medical student than going to get a manicure, and it gives me the freedom to find polishes that are a little healthier for my nails. Unfortunately, the clean brands do tend to be a bit more expensive — but way more bang for your buck than paying for a one-time manicure.

Today, I thought briefly about a pretty milky hot chocolate colored polish (Tenderoni by Smith & Cult) before inevitably settling on my favorite autumn shade, oxblood.

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I used Garnet by Mineral Fusion, a relatively affordable brand that I often find on sale at Whole Foods for about $7. It goes on super smoothly and with the base and top coats of the same brand, I find it lasts very well for me, even on days when I’m Purell’ing the hell out of my poor hands at the hospital.

Here’s a shot with one coat on all fingers except the middle one, where I did two (my usual):

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And here’s the finished product, base coat + 2 coats polish + top coat: IMG_3440 (1)

What are your favorite fall nail polish shades? I know it’s super similar, but I’ve got my eye on Scandal by Kure Bazaar. Also, Royal Navy by Butter London.

Livin’ the Dream

Livin’ the dream. One of the most frequent phrases you hear on the wards — usually said sarcastically by the busiest, most sleep-deprived resident, who at that moment is feeling particularly disillusioned by his or her chosen career path.

But as a fourth-year med student…I really am living the dream! Minus all the fun of working in the hospital, that is. Still, after the craziness of third year clerkships, I can’t say I really mind sitting in my PJs and sipping coffee in front of my computer at 10am. I have more time on my hands than I know what to do with, which means I end up refreshing my email a thousand times a day in hopes of another residency interview invitation.

So, in great need of a hobby and some focus, here I go with this blog thing. Introducing: a [medical] lifestyle blog complete with med school tips and stories, cooking, fashion, beauty, relationship stuff, you name it. Stay tuned!