Monthly Archives: July 2013

Cauliflower, Floorboards, and Other Fascinating Things

The other day, I got to thinking about a fun game I like to play called “Everything is more fascinating when you should be studying for an exam!” It involves appreciating the little details in life (so I like to think). OK. That’s not true. Really, it’s about a funny shift that happens when you have so much to do that all you want to do is not do that stuff you have to do. (Err…. You know what I’m talking about, right!?) In short: the world becomes a completely intriguing and exciting place when it is anywhere but in your notes.

Goucho. Dolores, Argentina.

Goucho. Dolores, Argentina.

I wouldn’t call it plain old procrastination. It’s much more proactive than that. I have actually learned some very valuable information when studying for science midterms, like how nutritious cauliflower is (I know, right?! I mean, it’s white — so what the heck is going on in there?!), and what the average summer temperature in Iceland is (in case you were curious, it ranges from 50-77 degrees F. You’re welcome). I also find myself totally and suddenly fascinated by things that never piqued my interest before, like the plant on my desk (what are plants?? Think about that…), or the way the my floorboards line up (wait, I think I see an image of a dolphin in the wood!). I also come up with incredible, useless to-do lists when I’m studying that involve a combination of things I can check off and things I will never check off. For example: organize book shelf, buy figs, donate clothes, study for histology, check flights to Argentina, MOMA Rain Room,  Tanzania (yes, just “Tanzania” — no verb)…

I do a lot of Googling flights the night before exams. I also enjoy reading the news. Ok, this is more like the time when I start reading the news-that-doesn’t-matter thanks to CNN… but I’m reading! Every now and then, I enjoy catching up on other people’s lives via Facebook. Actually, I sometimes like to choose the most random friend in my newsfeed and thoroughly investigate what they have been up to in life. (WHAT?! Don’t tell me it’s just me!) You might be that person, actually…

Hike in a cloud forest. Mindo, Ecuador.

Hike in a cloud forest. Mindo, Ecuador.

I’m just over four weeks into grad school, and I have already had four monster midterms, with each one comprising at least 30% of my final grade for each course. Let’s just say this isn’t my first rodeo. In fact, I’ve spend the last two years studying for monster midterms upon which my future career somewhat depended (must I remind people that it was all just to be able to APPLY to grad school?! And now, here I am… MORE STUDYING!). The amount of studying that has been required of me is really hard to describe to the outside world, but we can all relate to having to study at some point in our lives. It’s not the same as having work. It’s much more… limitless. When there are no boundaries to where the work starts and ends, you just have to fill the space in. Sometimes anything will do!

Studying is like stuffing a sleeping bag into its case. Basically, you know you can make it fit [“it” being the massive amounts of information you don’t totally understand yet — much less comfortable than a sleeping bag], but unless you have a systematic way of getting it in there, it won’t work. The first part isn’t too hard to get in there, but then you really  have to start smashing those corners in one piece at a time. This is, of course, when you realize there are things like zippers and drawstrings that aren’t in the right place. (And what’s the deal with that waterproof flap at the end there?!) You basically just give it your best and hope that it stays relatively contained until the moment you need it. Think that sounds easy? Try removing a sleeping bag under a time constraint using multiple choice options and a #2 pencil! Ok maybe studying is not like a sleeping bag at all. Sigh.

Mexico sand. Cancun, Mexico.

Mexico sand. Cancun, Mexico.

It’s fun and easy to complain about studying. But maybe there is a sick part of me that actually enjoys it. There better be a sick part of me that actually enjoys it, because I have several more years of intense studying ahead of me. If nothing else, there is a little thrill in feeling prepared for an exam, or walking out of a test and realizing that, hey, you know a lot of random shit (pardon my language). And of course, there is the joy of commiserating with classmates afterwards, all over an ice cold beer.

Well, today represents a very brief breather in between exams. If you, too, play the game “Everything is more fascinating when you should be studying for an exam!” feel free to share some of the fun things you do, or the random tidbits you’ve learned that have nothing to do with what you’re studying…

It’s a fascinating world out there. That’s not our fault! Luckily, having two exams a week for the next five weeks should give me plenty of time to explore it a little more thoroughly.

And yes, I thought up this blog post while I was studying.

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Firefly Under the Sea

Whew. It’s been almost three weeks since I began grad school, and all I can say is: WHOA.

As expected, it’s been pretty intense. For anyone who’s ever gone scuba diving, this morning feels a little like that moment when you come up out of the water, remove your mask, and take that first breath without a pressurized system actively pushing air into your body.

Galapagos coast. Ecuador.

Galapagos coast. Ecuador.

In three weeks, there have been two midterms and almost 7 hrs of daily lectures. We’ve covered epithelium, embryology, cell biology, and pathology, and next week it’s midterm #3, covering bone, cartilage, connective tissue and the integumentary system. This post isn’t so much about me telling you what I have been doing in school (because, let’s be honest, that would be pretty boring… unless you’re interested in things like phosphotidlycholine, mannose-six-phosphate, and syncytiotrophoblasts — and, really, who isn’t these days?!). Rather, this is just an opportunity for me to take a little break, enjoy my coffee, and flex my wanderlust muscles before they atrophy.

Rooftops. Old Town Quito, Ecuador.

Rooftops. Old Town Quito, Ecuador.

Per usual, all this science and studying makes my wanderlust light up like a firefly in a glass jar. I try and keep it contained most of the time, but if I do that too long it begins to expand around me like a too tiny wet suit. My little soul is boiling over with travel cravings — particularly for Southern Spain, a place I crave constantly (I like to think it’s because my ancestors, who were from there, are trying to get me to “come home”), or for more foreign-to-me places like Thailand, Zimbabwe, and Israel. Where does all this wanderlust come from? Sometimes I wonder…

Sea Lions. Glapagos, Ecuador.

Sea Lions. Glapagos, Ecuador.

While I am very happy and grateful to be where I am, doing what I am doing, studying what I’m studying, working towards what I am working towards, I can’t seem to ditch that little flickering light of wanderlust. Although it must be quieted for now, it doesn’t seem to get dimmer no matter how much science I bury it under. In a way, all the science has heightened my appreciation of other things; I find myself more touched, more affected, more grateful for the littlest beautiful things I see, hear or read about.

As far as my wanderlust goes, I don’t know when, I don’t know how, and I don’t know where, but that little tiny glow is going to take me somewhere, eventually. It will get its chance to light up more than just a jar again soon, and I genuinely cannot wait for that moment. But until then, I’ll  enjoy the dark blues of being under this (sometimes overwhelmingly) vast new sea. There is some pretty cool stuff down here, too.

Thank you for that breath of fresh air. It is now time to put the scuba mask back on…

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