5 Little-Known facts about life as a Med student
I am in the somewhat-unique position of technically being a medical student. Although I do not not have any medical knowledge or experience, the title itself seems to come with a certain cachet. 

1) The "Med Student" card goes over big in banks. First, walk into RBC and say "Hi, I was just accepted to med school and I want to open an account". Then watch as they reschedule meetings with other, lesser people, get you in with the "medical professional account manager" and offer you "VIP banking", an offshore account, and a line of credit approximately 3 times what your parents have. 

2) The "Med Student" card goes over big with doctors. If you email an attending physician and ask to follow them for a day as an undergraduate student, you're brushed off as an annoyance. If you do the same thing as "someone who was recently accepted to McGill Medicine", they will get all excited, congratulate you, and let you in to follow their team. They will look at you and talk to you and explain things to you. 

3) The "Med Student" card goes over big with other med students. When the attending you're supposed to be following passes you off on them after rounds, they get all excited and give you advice about med school. Then, they let you help them. As in, actually say "Can you go in there and check how much oxygen that patient is on" or "Here, take my stethescope and see if you can hear this heart murmer" or "Listen to the lungs, they're all crackly!" or "Go in there and get her resp rate." or "Where is that thing, because I'm not sure if I see it" or "This is how you see if this dude has fluid in his abdomen. Here, try it". It's fantastic. The patients are apparently used to this, and play along happily as I fumble with a blood pressure cuff. 

4) The "Med Student" card goes over big with family/friends/members of wherever you grew up. Suddenly, you are no longer the awkward little kid with the hardcore braces. You are A Success. They all want their children to be Just Like You, and will despair about Little Jimmy's lack of drive and commitment via long verbal diatribes. 

5) The "Med Student" card goes over big with the general public. Unfortunately, this normally results in a long-winded explanation of Every Health Problem Anyone They Know Has Ever Had. Since I know nothing about medicine, I nod and look concerned and occasionally say some version of "that must have been very difficult for you/her/him". This also goes over big, and people then tell me that I'm very personable and kind, and will make an excellent doctors (insert doctor-with-no-people-skills horror story here). This is a nice ego boost. 

So there you are. If you ever need a fancy bank account, you know what to say. You didn't hear it from me. 

I've heard you can wish on shooting stars, and eyelashes, and the tips of pie.

On my 20th birthday, surrounded by friends and cake and dirty dishes and wine glasses and laughter, I wished for the one thing I wanted most in the world. I watched the sparkler on my cake burn out, and I wished as hard as I could. You can probably guess what it's for, and yes, it was a really lame wish. 

I don't care. It came true. 

Soon, if I'm human, I'll start to wish for something else. 

How to get over CaRMS, Part I
I just quit my solid summer jobs. I had a high paying summer teaching job with Kaplan, and a job as a research associate (which normally requires a masters as qualification) with the lab I've been with for a few years. Now I have half a job, because the lab wants me to stay on part time for half the summer. 

I realize that this makes me an idiot. Most of my friends can't even get jobs, let alone good jobs that relate to their fields, require qualification and pay over 20 dollars an hour. 

Why did I quit? Because I want to run away on vacation for a chunk of the summer. Then I want to spend the rest of it following doctors around writing up clinical research for no pay. 

Actually, none of that pays. In fact, anywhere but Nelson costs me exorbitant amounts of money in rent. 

I've been worrying about affording higher education since I was 12. But you know what? I'm going to be a doctor. A fucking DOCTOR. When I enter medical school in September, I will promptly be awarded a free financial advisor and a 150K line of credit. I can afford a little debt. 

But I'm only going to be young once, right?

What you do when it hurts.
This morning:

Brian: Wanna go to Israel?
Marns: Yep. 
Brian: OK. (Books tickets). 

When I get really really sad, I can't get upset until I talk to someone calm. Once everyone around me is calm, I will cry about everything sad in the entire world.

Dem Boys.
I realized today that I'm much more comfortable around guys than girls- that most of my close friends are guys, that the people I go to with my problems are guys, and that the people I hang out with are guys. Stark contrast to as little as two years ago, where I would go bright red in the face if a guy so much as looked at me.

I love the guys, I really do- and I'm definitely a huge tomboy at heart. That said, I miss having female friends. Most of mine seem to have either moved or discovered the joy of studying. It doesn't help that I find it much harder to bond with girls in the first place. I've got "cute shoes" and "how was the exam?" and I'm out. When I'm stuck in a new group, I gravitate towards the guys. My teaching course is two guys, two girls, and me. Guess whose names I know. 

I've also realized that I'm a pathological flirt. Actually, I didn't realize that. I've known for awhile, I'm just ashamed of it. I suppose it would be better if I wasn't very much in a relationship. 

I have to go and teach a passage mapping strategy now. 

PS. I do like cute shoes. 

What I've Learned in Undergrad
Most days, I think that the four years it took me to obtain my Bachelor's have been an incredible waste of time. Nowadays, there's not a whole helluva lot you can do with a BSc - kind of like an extension of the BA phenomenon. I don't know anyone who isn't going on to pursue another degree - grad school, dental school, medical school, graduate certificate in something-or-other, teachers college, on and on it goes. With a BSc, you can be a lab techie - basically do everyone else's grunt work, an overqualified scientific secretary - doing everyone's bureaucratic crap, or... well... that's all that immediately comes to mind. I knew going in that I'd probably be in school for years after I'd gotten my hands on my science degree.

What's more, to be perfectly frank, you can get a BSc from a whole lot of places with a whole lot of different requirements. We haven't all been put through the rigorous programs that are McGill - we haven't all gone to research-intensive universities that groom us for a future in science - and that's fine. A lot of us have "liberal" degrees that allow a LOT of electives- and that's fine too, my overly ambitious program requirements and lack of ability to take electives are something I seriously regret about my undergrad experience. There are people wandering around with BScs (and, of course, university degrees in general) that, quite frankly, are not too bright. Every so often, I hear of someone I knew back when who has gone into science, and I can only sigh and shake my head. I know I'm by no means the only one who has worked hard for a BSc at an intensive university, but when some stoner chick who nearly dropped out of high school gets a science degree off the internet, or even when someone goes off to UBCO and parties a lot and takes four electives per semester in basket weaving or something it feels like a bit of a bastardization of what I've been through (Nothing at all against UBCO- I know a lot of people who go there, and most of them are very smart, have worked incredibly hard, and deserve all the recognition they get. It was just the first smaller canadian university with a rep for "liberal programs" that came to mind). 

I've spent the last four years memorizing the names of proteins, disecting signalling cascades, using my hands to depict the way organic molecules move in space, and pipetting stuff into other stuff - in the case of organic lab, watching it boil and occasionally turn a color or collapse the complex glass apparatus we had to assemble to put it in, in the case of Microbiology lab, not caring and watching Josh do my work, and in the case of the real lab, getting frustrated when it doesn't show the result I want. I've skipped more classes than I've attended, downloaded more lectures than my internet plan permits me to, and mastered the art of packing in useless information, regurgitating it onto an exam paper and forgetting about it immediately afterwards. 

Brian says that it's a waste of time - but then, he doesn't have a Bachelor's degree. To some extent, I think he's probably right. I haven't learned anything academic that's worth learning - yeah, I can recite the RIG-I cascade, but that's not going to come into play in medical school or the actual treating of patients. Beyond the whole exam thing, it's pretty much a boring party trick. I've had the occasional course (Physiology, Biochemistry and lower level Biology and Genetics come to mind) that will probably help me out during the first lecture or so of med school, but I don't think I'd be too far worse off for not having taken them. And so, with three months left till they hand me my diploma and send me the accept/ reject/ waitlist letters that will determine my future, I'm left asking "Why?" Why did I do this?

The answer to that one is, of course, to get somewhere else. I hate the term "stepping stone", because it's stupid and cheesy, but that's what this was. This was a checklist item. Like the MCAT was a checklist item. Like extracurricular activities were checklist items (no, I don't particularly enjoy the hospital volunteering experience, although my latest one has been about as great as they come). Like writing my personal statement, and filling out the forms, and scheduling interviews were checklist items. At the end of the day, though, I like to think that this has gotten me somewhere. There are things I've done that haven't been checklisted. There are things I've learned that haven't been related to protein. 

I've learned that you need people. You need to have fun, you need to go out, you need to do stuff. You can't hang out in your apartment and memorize proteins all day. You have to find friends. This doesn't seem like something huge - but after my grade school experience and the mindset I was in coming to McGill, it's massive. 

I've learned that studying isn't fun. Maybe some people "love this stuff", but I'm not one of them. I've learned that I can't learn for the sake of learning. I have to learn because what I'm doing means something. 

I've learned that people who are fake, or seem fake, or who suddenly start to act fake, make me really really angry. 

I've learned that I get very depressed if I'm not busy enough, and that I also get very depressed if I'm doing something "just to get into med school", and that procrastination makes everything worse. 

I've learned that you have to go to the doctor when you're sick. Yeah, it's a pain in the ass, it costs money, and there are long long looooong lines. But you gotta do it. Similarly, I've learned that if I'm going to live in a city, I need an optho, a dentist, an orthodontist, and some means of accessing a family doctor without the usual 2 month McGill wait time. 

I've learned that if I have more than six or seven drinks in a night, I start puking (yeah, I have a pathetic alcohol tolerance). I've learned that vodka potentiates this effect. And I've learned that I only start to feel bad after I've stopped drinking- so I have to stop sooner than six or seven drinks. I've also learned that you feel a lot better after you puke. 

I've learned that a bad grade, an angry friend, a frustrated colleague or a disappointing day isn't the end of the world. 

I've learned that you can't survive on Mac and Cheese, Ramen noodles, or Cliff bars. I've also learned that I dehydrate really easily. And that spending all your money on jeans is a really bad idea.

I've learned that I really, really hate parasitology. Mostly because it's not really clinically relevant anywhere near here. So yes, I resent learning the life stages of Leishmania (Amastigote. Promastigote. Sand Fly.) and Malaria (I don't even know. Mosquito). 

I've learned that every so often, you just have to go off and smuggle some corn across the border to Vermont and go camping. 

I've learned that putting off the laundry is a bad idea, and that nothing feels better than clean sheets. I've learned that you have to study at your desk, not lying down on your bed. And I've learned that I can't stand clutter. And also that Brian is a walking cluttery disaster. 

I've learned that I'm okay on my own. 

I've learned that sometimes, things are really really horrible. I think this year I had my first real experience with actual grief - and it was the most terrible feeling I've ever, ever had. Watching that horrible money-grubbing vet inject my baby kitten with barbituates was completely and utterly awful, and the week afterwards was honestly the toughest I've ever had to go through- at least in recent memory. But I've learned that things always get better.  

I've learned that the profs haven't read the textbook. They test you on the material in the lectures. 

And on and on it goes. I can only hope that this is what's made my Bachelors worthwhile, because it sure as hell was not the proteins that made the degree. When I walk across the stage on the lower field this May and shake the hand of Heather Monroe-Bloom, along with 700 others like me, I know it's not going to mean a whole lot. I won't remember anything I learned in third of fourth year, and probably will only know some of the basics from first and second- no more than what I need to teach an MCAT course, most likely. I'm not going to remember the RIG-I signalling cascade, and I'm sure as hell not going to regret forgetting it. 

But I'm going to be excited, because when I shake Heather Monroe-Bloom's hand (and probably pick up a fatal bureaucratic disease) it will mean that I finally get to move on. It will mean that all my excitement about the future, which quite frankly is all that has kept me going this last year and a half, through mono and kittens and proteins, has come to something. When I shake her hand, I'll know where I'll be in September of 2010, and I'll know that the last four years have been what's got me there. 

I don't know if it will make it worth it. But it will definitely mean something. 

 I just got H1N1'd. Not the virus, the vaccine. 

First of all, for God's sake, everyone, get the vaccine. People die from the flu- real people, people like us, not just the old and weak. People don't die from the vaccine, unless they're seriously allergic to eggs and go into anaphylactic shock. THE FLU IS DANGEROUS. THE VACCINE IS NOT. Are we clear here?

After the same kind of token, the flu is everywhere- the vaccine is not. I got it early because I'm a fake health care professional (ie I work in a lab that happens to be attached to a hospital via the world's most annoying door system.) Theoretically, a feverish, delirious H1N1 patient could come into my lab, decide that I'm a cat, and cough all over me. It could happen. But it still isn't available to civilians. This is stupid because a) it takes two weeks even to take effect and b) it is already EVERYWHERE. My brother's school has a 40% absentee rate right now, for God's sake. 

The real health care professionals, Brian included, got vaccinated last week. I was warned that I would probably have a very sore arm for a couple of days. True to form, I now cannot move my left shoulder. Joy. I love intramuscular injections. 

My Nicotine
For some reason, today, I've been craving cigarettes.

Just to clarify, I don't smoke. I wouldn't even go so far as to classify myself as a social smoker. The number of cigarettes I've smoked in my life can probably be counted on one hand. I've never bought a cigarette, I don't particularly like smoking, and I only tend to do it when a) I've been drinking and b) all the cool kids are doing it. Honestly, if I liked smoking at all, or even felt any of the effects of nicotine (some people claim they get a rush. I get nothing.) I wouldn't do it. 

Oh, get off your high horse. I'm a cancer researcher, I've shadowed rad/onc doctors, I volunteer with cancer patients, I've taken entire courses on this shit. Yeah, smoking is bad for you- I know that much. I also know how much you have to smoke to be in danger of harming anything at all, to be in danger of becoming addicted, or even for your body to register that you've smoked at all. I'm in no danger whatsoever. I've never so much as coughed. 

I don't know what it is about today specifically. Weird. Maybe because I haven't felt like eating. 

Of course, now that I want cigarettes, I refuse to allow myself to go out and buy a pack, and will probably not smoke ever again- even if I've been drinking and all the cool kids are doing it. Such is the paradigm of my life. 

Vouloir, c'est Pouvoir.
I've been in a strange mood lately. Now, while I'm normally one of those people that says "I'm depressed" or "that's depressing" as a means of expressing that I'm sad, but I don't think that's it. I figured it out when I started randomly freaking out about my kitten (one month later- not too late to be sad, but certainly too late to randomly become hysterical), and then I wasn't even cheered up much when Evan came by for a surprise weekend visit and bought me books, which normally can brighten up an entire month for me. I also haven't been eating or sleeping much (which normally means I'm either stressed or upset).

It was a weird call, if only because it's a weird situation. I'm completely functional, I'm just hating my life right now. Most people, when depressed, sit around in bed and are unable to do anything. I become a productive whirlwind in hopes that I can pull myself out. I finish all the menial tasks that are dragging me down -in this case, med school applications- yes, they are done, some random journal crap (that stupid journal is much more trouble to me than it's worth and can curl up in a corner and die for all I care. Unfortunately, my boss would not be pleased), midterms (marks above 90 on all three, thank God) and medical appointment shit (I pulled out one of my teeth the other day- a remaining baby tooth that was supposed to come out, but still.... Now I have to get it replaced. Ow.) Hell, I went so far as to start going to the gym. I am now more muscular and ten pounds lighter (and I certainly wasn't even remotely fat to begin with), but feeling no better. 

I considered all the usual stuff, of course. In case you were wondering, I have absolutely nothing to complain about in the deeper sense of the word. I have a pretty great life. I can go anywhere I want to, I have a good GPA and a fantastic MCAT score and I'm getting into medical school, I have a great boyfriend/ fake husband and an awesome group of friends, some world-famous researcher from the Mayo clinic tried to recruit me for graduate studies the other day, I'm at the top of my honors class without any significant effort, I seem to win most of the competitions I enter, I know without question what I want to do with my life. And this all comes completely naturally to me. Like breathing. Reflexive and effort free. And I'm grateful for that, I really am. 

Nothing. This resulted in some introspection, which yielded the following conclusions.

1) I hate my perfect, perfect life.

2) This is because, despite my vows to the contrary, everything I do right now is med school/CV focused. If I were to be completely honest with myself, I would have to admit that my promise to myself to only do what I wanted to do, regardless of whether it would help my applications or not, has been broken time and time again. 

3) Doing an entire freaking BSc on shit you don't care about just so you can get somewhere else where your degree will be suprisingly irrelevant is draining, to say the least.

4) My "serious relationship" (and fake marriage) is most probably going to be ended, not of its own free will, in July when I am uprooted and sent to one place and Brian is uprooted and sent to another place. Not that I'm co-dependant or anything, but I've invested a lot of emotional whatever in this and having it end for as stupid a reason as the medical residency matching people wanting to place Brian in Saskatoon and me being far too stubborn to compromise my education by getting my MD from USask is... well... a little cruel on the part of the Karmic forces of the universe. And I'm not doing the long distance thing for seven years. Sorry. 

5) I've come to the point where I really, really want another kitten, and I can't have one, because the fatal virus that the last one had stays in the house and on the furniture for a year. 

6) My fake husband that I probably won't be with one year from now due to evil Karmic forces of the universe told me a few weeks ago that he thinks things are going to work out, that we'll end up together and have kids in six years. Uhh. WTF. I want kids and all, but only when I can afford a nanny to raise them for me... and I'm 20 years old, and realistically, no, that's not gonna happen.

I could go through to 20 or so, but I'm not going to bore you. When I introspected further looking for a solution, which is usually where my sessions of feeling sorry for myself wind up, I drew a blank. Nothing. 

While searching Facebook for inspiration (while another tab was harvesting Farmville crops - I figured out the intricacies of Farmville in about 35 seconds and am currently letting my little animated farmer rack up points and brightly colored ribbons and ducks on her own, which annoys the shit out of my little brother, who is very competitive about that sort of thing), I came across this quote on the page of one of them 100% personality-free premed types. 

"Vouloir, c'est pouvoir."

The english translation isn't so elegant- basically, it means that you are capable of doing whatever you want- assuming, of course, that you want it badly enough. To want is to have the ability to do. On this particular page, it was followed by a quote involving "yo momma" and "fat" and "Jabba the hut" (who?).

If you want it, you can work for it. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened. 

Which begs the obvious question- what do I want?

Well, I want the skin to peel off the bottom of my foot like in that gross picture Evan and I saw this weekend. That would be cool.
I want a CMA backpack, and I want my relationship to end on my own terms, not on the terms of the Canadian Residency Matching Service.
I want to stop doing office bitch work for my volunteer job, and for my real job, and I also want to quit my real job, because I hate it.
I want to feel like I really help someone sometime when I volunteer, rather than just feeling like I annoy the patients by begging them to let me bring them coffee.
I want to be better at violin, because lately I feel like I kind of suck, and lately I also feel like I COULD be fantastic.
I want a dress for Brian's cousin's wedding. I want Modcloth to restock the dress I want for Brian's cousin's wedding and for them to ship it to Canada within the next three days.
I want the honors post-lecture dinner that I've been roped into giving a toast at to be cancelled.
I want Brian to either decide to stay in Montreal or to stay someplace else, but for God's sake to stop going back and forth between cities because it's driving me nuts.
I want a nature paper. I want a New England Journal of Medicine paper. I want a review paper. And I want all of them now. I want my real-time PCR to work. Hell, I just want my preliminary EXPERIMENT to work, forget the RT for the moment. I want to switch with someone's next week so I have time to include the theoretical RT in my presentation data. 
I want to learn to ride a horse. 
I want to become actually trilingual, not just fake-bilingual and able to get by in Spanish.
I want to do a triathlon. Just to prove I can. 
I want to go on my theoretical BC ski trip with Brian right now, instead of in January. I want to stop for longer in Nelson on said ski trip. 
I want someone to fix my teeth for good. Like, tomorrow, if not sooner. 

And I will. It's easy to know what you want, and it's often easy to get it. Vouloir, c'est Pouvoir. 

I want to know where I'll be this time next year and who will be with me. I want a sneak preview. A spoiler. What's gonna happen to Marnie? And as much as I want it, I can't do it. Vouloir, c'est inutile.

The only advice the Facebook page can offer me is "Yo momma is so fat Jabba the hut said Dayyyyym"
I can wait it out. But only because I have to. 

I'm what can only be described as a random insomniac. Occasionally- based on no stimulus that I can figure out - I just quit sleeping. I'll lie in bed all night, and just won't be able to go to sleep. I'll read a medical textbook, and THAT won't put me to sleep. I'll study, I'll watch TV, I'll read- and nothing will happen. I'm buzzed and energetic and productive.

The above has resulted in a grand total of eight or so hours of sleep in the last four days. I have a midterm today. From 7-9 pm. OH JOY.

I'm really not one of those people that goes around saying "OH I'M TIRED"- partly because I rarely get tired (I tend to move pretty fast, which means that tiredness doesn't really have time to set in), and partly because those people offend the logician in me. You're tired. Okay, cool. Would you like some coffee? There's a Tim Hortons over there...no? Caffiene pill? I have some in my bag... no? Okay, would you like to go home and sleep? No? Okay, stop complaining then. You lose.

This morning, I sat down to learn everything there is to know about Blood. Mainly because it's on my exam tonight.
About 20 minutes in, I was hit by this wave of exhaustion. The kind that can't be stopped with coffee or caffeine pills (oh shut up. One caffeine pill is the equivalent to a cup of coffee, and ever since I had mono and drank nothing BUT coffee for three months, coffee makes me nauseous. I'm a health science student, I live with a doctor, I know what I'm doing.) The kind where you need to go home and sleep for a hundred years.

I drank some water. It's waking me up a little.

Okay, Marnie. Erythropoitin. Go.


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