:: eye of the storm ::

About Me

A 27-year-old PA student who wants to visit all seven continents, write a book, work at a pediatric clinic in Africa, and basically meet as many of the world's challenges as possible.

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current mood:
current mood

Life List

(already accomplished)

Become a PA

Visit all 7 continents

Take a SwimTrek trip

Bike through Western Europe

Raft the Grand Canyon

Improve my Spanish proficiency

Go on safari in Africa

Trace my roots at Ellis Island

Vacation in Hawaii

Work on a hospital ship in a Third World country

Celebrate New Year's in Times Square

Visit all 50 states (29 to go: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY)

See the ruins at Pompeii

Swim in Capri's Blue Grotto

Tour Mt. Vesuvius

Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain

Tour the Colosseum

Visit the D-Day beaches

See the Mona Lisa

Visit the palace at Versailles

See the Acropolis and Parthenon

See the Egyptian pyramids

Hike the Inca Trail

Walk El Camino Santiago

Take an Alaskan cruise

View the Taj Mahal at sunrise

Hike Table Mountain in South Africa

Climb through the Amazon canopy

Walk at least part of the Great Wall of China

Get laser hair removal

Learn to surf, ski, and snowboard

Learn to drive a stick-shift

Learn to play the piano

Go on a tropical cruise

Ride horseback on the beach

Ride in a hot air balloon

Get tickets to the Olympics

Go to adult Space Camp

Witness a shuttle launch from up close

Build a full-sized snowman

Sew a quilt out of my old race T-shirts

Update and continue my Life Scrapbook

Become the oldest person to ever do the River Run

Live to be a happy, healthy 100 years old - at least!

(unlikely dreams)

maandag 29 juni 2009

So we're back from Charleston, and it was one of the nicest weekends we'd had in a long, long time. Usually, we come home from a supposedly "fun" weekend feeling as though we need "a vacation from our vacation"... but this time we were totally relaxed. Christine is a fantastic hostess (not to mention, she has one of the comfiest king-size guest beds on the face of the planet) and her boyfriend Joe is one of the coolest guys I know. L and I were on our own on Friday while Christine worked, so we had fried green tomatoes and seafood at a local restaurant (omg, delicious), visited MUSC's PA program (more on that in a minute), and picked up some breakfast supplies at the grocery store. When Christine got home, the three of us chatted and caught up a little, then met Joe at an out-of-the-way restaurant that just happened to have gnocchi with shrimp (yum!!!), then had after-dinner drinks at an outdoor bar. The next day, L and I made breakfast for Christine (scrambled eggs with peppers, tomatoes, and green onions, plus hash browns and veggie sausage) and then the three of us went to the beach on Isle of Palms... which was absolutely overrun by tiny crabs! I thought they were kind of cool, but L and Christine weren't amused, so we only stayed there for an hour or so before heading over to Joe's (gorgeous!) apartment and his (crab-free) pool. In the early afternoon, the girls started getting hungry, so we went back to Christine's place, showered, ate some pizza, and watched part of Juno... until we all fell asleep. When I woke up, it was late afternoon and thunderstorming (welcome to every coastal town in the Southeast) and L and Christine had gone to get groceries for dinner. When they got back, Joe came over and he and L commandeered the kitchen to make dinner (among other things, roasted red pepper bruschetta... this was a weekend for great food!) while Christine and I retired to her balcony to watch the rain and chat. When we reunited for dinner, it turned out that Christine's and my conversation had covered such mundane topics as work, school, our health, children, future plans, etc.... while L and Joe had leapt from quantum physics to anthropology to sexuality to a dozen places in between. We wrapped up the evening with wine and board games. I love it that L and I aren't the only (relative) homebodies around... most people would have been like, "yeah, dude, let's go out clubbing!" Christine and Joe aren't really into that scene either, which is one of the many reasons they're so much fun to hang around. We had way more fun playing Sorry and laughing our butts off than we would have had yelling at one another over dance-club music. I hope they come visit us up here in NC soon.

Anyway, so, MUSC. I liked it. The entire student body is only about 3200, which is microscopic after UF (50,000!) and which I think I'd enjoy. The health professions building is beautiful; the lobby is reminiscent of a Washington D.C. museum, with soaring ceilings and echoing footsteps, and the technology in the classrooms and labs is state-of-the-art. The library is similarly modern and beautiful (complete with a Wii on the top floor, "for study breaks", the guide explained with a smile), and there's a renowned children's hospital on property -- a perk for me. There aren't many opportunities for international rotations (almost everything is in SC), but there are apparently a lot of sites where exchanges have been worked out so that students can live for free for the duration of their rotations. I was told that they usually accept about 60% of their student body from within SC, and the remaining 40% are out-of-state students. Their class size is also expanding this year, up to 70 or so ("because of the economy", the guide explained... which could have meant "because the demand for PAs is so high", but which probably meant, "because the school needs money".)

As far as drawbacks, I see only two, but they're biggies: (1) living and transportation arrangements, and (2) cost. Their proposed budget, which looks pretty reasonable, totals $140,000 for the full program, and the coordinator I talked to said that almost everyone goes the route of loans; it doesn't sound like they give much aid. As for the living arrangements, well, to avoid a long, multi-stage (car plus bus) commute, one has to live in downtown Charleston, right by the school. The problem with living in downtown Charleston? See above... cost. Sigh. Anyway, we'll see. Their application cycle opens on Wednesday... I'll keep you posted.

(Oh, and I submitted my Duke application and also got confirmatory responses from UF and ECU, so I am officially done with every aspect of CASPA and the 4 schools that utilize it. MUSC is the only one left to work on.)

One last thing: I just signed up for another marathon. I'm finally sufficiently recovered from the Marine Corps Marathon that I can face doing another one. The 26.2 with Donna (the only marathon in the country solely dedicated to fighting breast cancer) takes place in my hometown, out at the beach -- part of the run is even on the beach itself -- and I think it's going to be a great experience. My dad volunteered at one of the water stations last year and brought home a bag of swag for me, and I've been wearing the shirt, rereading the brochure, and thinking it over ever since. So I took the plunge today and signed up. The thing I keep telling myself is, since it's a February race, the bulk of my training will NOT have to take place during sweltering heat (as it did last year)! :)

(I signed up for a half marathon too, in November... but that one's sort of immaterial compared to the other, since it's right here in Raleigh and only (only!) 13.1 miles. I figure I can use it as part of the training toward the full marathon.)

Guess that's all for now...

donderdag 25 juni 2009

Well, I just finished my Duke supplemental application -- haven't turned it in yet, though; I'm still in the stage of letting it 'marinate' to make sure I'm satisfied with everything I've done. We're leaving for Charleston in an hour, as soon as L gets home from teaching, so if I still like it when we get back on Sunday, I'll hit the magic button.

I also got an email from Pacific today saying that they had received my CASPA, so my application is complete. Interview decisions will be emailed to us. Cross your fingers... I know it's the 'dark horse' of the pile, since it's on the West Coast, but something about that school is really drawing me to it. We'll see. I might get an interview and totally hate it. Who knows?

Speaking of visiting schools -- I'll be at MUSC tomorrow as part of our Charleston trip. I'm excited to see a school I've never been to or even seen in person. Better think of some intelligent questions to ask...

Not much else new in my life except for the fact that I will not in fact be bouncing from doctor to doctor over the coming two weeks... I'll be doing nurse visits and camp forms. Every day. And I've peeked at the prescheduled appointments, so I can say with certainty that I will be single-handedly vaccinating approximately half the kindergarten population in Chapel Hill. Sigh. Somewhere, there is an army of five-year-olds out for my blood.

Guess it's time to start loading up the car. See you all in a few days!

dinsdag 23 juni 2009

I'm sitting at the dining room table of a friend's house in Cary; she and her husband have gone to Greensboro for the evening (she's a CPA and there's some sort of event taking place there), and I volunteered to stay with her four-year-old daughter, Isabel. And what a charming child! Only about twenty seconds of shyness when I first walked in the door, no separation anxiety whatsoever when Mommy and Daddy left, and good as gold throughout the entire evening, with no whining or drama about anything at all. She had every detail of her evening routine down pat, from flossing her teeth to taking her multivitamin, and seemed to enjoy prompting me through it all ("And now you wrap the towel around me and pick me up like a baby and drop me on my bed and say 'boom!'"). The part that melted my heart was bedtime, when I was asking her how she wanted her lights to be (bedroom light off, hall light on, and bedroom door cracked, for the record), and she showed me, then sat up in bed and said, "And now you give me a hug and a kiss and tell me you'll see me in the morning." Which I did, and she promptly laid down, snuggled up with her blankie, smiled, and closed her eyes... and I have not heard a peep out of her ever since. Easygoing as can be... and absolutely adorable. *sigh* It was really nice to be able to just hang out and play with a child for a change, without the obligations of having to get him/her to stand on the scale, do a vision test, lie down for vaccines, etc.

In other news, I got an email from Duke today confirming that they have received my CASPA application... and linking me to their supplemental application!!! I didn't think I was going to get that email for another three or four weeks, but I got it today! It's pretty long -- sort of a less complex version of CASPA, to tell you the truth -- but there are only two additional essays and they're both very short. And after I submit it all, the only thing left will be the MUSC application (which is separate from CASPA, and will be available on July 1st). The process really is almost over; the ball really is almost in 'their' court! I am so stoked.

Also, L and I are going to Charleston this weekend to (a) spend some time with our friend Christine, (b) tour MUSC's PA program, (c) possibly go to the beach, and (d) eat the (supposed) world's best fried green tomatoes, among other escapades. Should be fun. I'll keep you posted.

Today was my last day of work for 'my' doctor until he comes back from his trip (running a marathon, among other things), which kind of stinks. I really like the routine we've established (ha, sort of like Isabel, I guess... LOL), not to mention just plain liking him as a person, and will be sorry to spend two weeks 'bouncing around' from doctor to doctor the way I did when I first got hired. It's more difficult when you don't know exactly what's expected of you... or exactly what liberties you can take (i.e. ordering vaccines ahead of time, going through baby questionnaires with parents, making 'executive decisions' as to what kinds of sore throats do and do not warrant a strep test...) Ah, well, maybe it'll be good for me. :)

I am so freakin' tired you wouldn't believe it. I haven't gotten to sleep until almost 1:30am for the past two nights, and it's catching up to me; I was hopeless today. Pretty much the only reason I'm sitting here typing this is so that my friends won't come home and find their daughter's "responsible adult" babysitter passed out on the couch in a puddle of her own drool. :)

Aha, I hear the garage door. Time to go home...

maandag 22 juni 2009

I'm starting to get really, really nervous about paying for school.

As an undergrad, I didn't have to worry -- I was an IB graduate (meaning my full in-state tuition was paid by Florida Bright Futures) as well as a National Merit scholar (meaning UF and FSU fell all over themselves to offer me even more money). Needless to say, PA school isn't going to be like that.

I've been checking out the financial aid sites for the schools I'm applying to, and almost everything is contingent on the FAFSA. Which shouldn't be a problem, because I'm no longer a dependent student, so I have pretty darn significant financial need, but what worries me is HOW the schools will fill that need... through scholarships or through more loans? ECU is pretty cheap to begin with, and UF has a ton of medical scholarships available, so I might make out pretty well even as a (now) out-of-state student... but Pacific and MUSC are oddly closemouthed on the issue of financial aid (which is rather scary) and Duke -- well, Duke is just royally pissing me off, because the College of Medicine's website has pages and pages of how the aid is calculated and awarded for their medical students, but appears to give NO internal aid to their other health professions students (PA, pharmacy, etc.) whatsoever. That's right, NONE. *angry growl*

Sigh. I've known all along that I was going to have to take out more loans; I was just hoping they wouldn't have to be in the six-digit range. What am I going to do if -- for example -- UF accepts me and offers me a sizable grant, and Duke accepts me but gives me NO aid? How important is the money aspect to me? Sometimes when I think about it, I think it's hugely important, and at other times, I feel like picking the RIGHT school is more important than picking the CHEAPEST school. I mean, I made my undergrad decision based on money... but is that a smart strategy for a *graduate* decision? I'm not sure it is. I need some input here.

zondag 21 juni 2009

Knowing that I'm finally counting down my final year before PA school makes me so happy. Depending on where I end up going, I might start in June or I might start in August, but either way, I plan to take at least a month off from work and "life" before it all begins. These programs are so rigorous that students practically have to ask permission to take a shower, let alone have a day off, so I want to make sure my "relaxation tank" is as full as it can be before I embark on that particular journey. And although I really like my job, I'm also really ready to feel like I'm "moving forward" again. I made the decision to go to PA school in January 2007, so I've been in "pre-PA" limbo ever since -- doing prerequisite courses, finding jobs to rack up medical experience, researching various programs, taking note of deadlines, writing essays, and so forth. This will have been a three-and-a-half-year "layover", and I'm ready for my next flight to arrive.

Anyway, so either April or June 2010 will be my last full month at work. As I said, Duke (which starts in August) pretty much has to be my number-one choice -- if they take me, I'd be insane to turn them down -- and I really think I meet or exceed all their expectations, judging by the website. My GPA and amount of medical experience are around the 75th percentile of their usual class makeup, and my GRE scores are even higher. That would mean an August start... but if Duke doesn't pan out, a June start would probably be more likely. No way to predict at this point.

July - submit MUSC application and Duke supplemental application

August - buy new laptop (*cue heavenly music*!!!)

September - interview at UF (if I'm lucky) and start final prerequisite course (Orgo I)

October - final deadline for all application materials to be submitted

November - interview at Duke, Pacific, and MUSC (again, if I'm lucky)

December - finish Orgo I

January - interview at ECU

February - final decisions issued (although hopefully I'll have already heard something)

March - final deadline for application decisions

April - last month at work

May - take a month OFF

June - START PA SCHOOL, if I go to Pacific or UF or Medical

or, depending on the school:

(July - take my month off)

(August - START PA SCHOOL, if I go to Duke or ECU)

Anyway, there's obviously still a long way to go. But knowing that this will definitely be my "last July" at my current job, that there is less than a year to go, is a big morale boost. The image in my head is that of a pie graph with a small slice taken out of it, which will grow larger as the days, weeks, and months roll by. Again, I truly like my current job and I've been very, very lucky to have it -- but I don't want to work for $13 an hour for the rest of my life, always being the "support player", never getting to diagnose and treat. Pardon my arrogance -- but I'm better than that. And I can't wait to prove it.

zaterdag 20 juni 2009

I'm really enjoying blogging again. I've been reading through some of my old posts, especially the ones written while I was living abroad, and realizing exactly how much satisfaction I got out of doing this -- it was sort of therapeutic for me. Even though most of those old entries are totally pointless ("Today I woke up, ate breakfast, went to the store...") and mean virtually nothing to anyone but myself (because who really gives a crap about my boring daily routine?), *I* at least still get a kick out of reading them months or years after the fact.

More than that, I'm realizing exactly how much I've grown as a person since I started this blog at 19. I wouldn't exactly call myself "naive" as a 19-year-old -- largely because of my travels, I was very independent and had a fair amount of experience with the ways of the world -- but emotionally I was still pretty "flat", if that makes any sense. By that I mean that I rarely felt true, strong happiness or sadness (I'd cry maybe one or two times a year), and that I tended to float through my daily life without really being touched by it, always looking forward to the next big thing that was (supposedly) going to make me happy, without really trying to "live in the moment". In reading back over these entries, I can see a few instances where that wasn't the case -- for example, the time right after my LASIK surgery when I realized that I was driving by myself, no glasses or contacts, and couldn't stop grinning with the joy of it... or when Princess Diana died (I was in eighth grade) and I felt actual grief for several weeks (which actually made me think something was wrong with me, for feeling so strongly about someone I'd never even really known existed before her death). But most of the time, I was less focused on my immediate experiences than on my plans for FUTURE experiences. A certain amount of that is good, I suppose -- it makes people refer to you as 'driven' and 'motivated' and 'determined', all of which I guess I am -- but I feel like I kind of missed out on some things because of it, because the balance was off between present and future.

L is a very emotional person -- not in the stereotypical 'female' way, but in the sense that she is extremely intuitive as to others' emotions; she can walk into a room and immediately know what everyone there is feeling. She is also the queen of living in the moment; every once in a while, when she sees a beautiful pink sunset or when the sunlit leaves of an autumn tree flutter in a particular way, she sighs in pleasure, breathes, "Look at that," and stands still for three or four minutes, just drinking it in, thinking about nothing except the beauty before her. That's not something I ever knew how to do before I met her. I used to stand there in confusion when she had one of those moments; now, I'm learning how to happily join in.

She's also one of the kindest people I know, especially when animals are involved. In the past three years, we've rescued two kittens and a puppy (all of which now have permanent loving homes), a turtle, and a baby squirrel. And when it comes to people, she's similarly compassionate, but without being naive. Early in our relationship, when she saw a homeless man in Chapel Hill begging for money, holding a sign that said 'Hungry', she ducked into a Starbucks and bought him a muffin. Note that she didn't simply give him the money -- because goodness knows where it would have gone -- "but if you're hungry, I'll feed ya," she said to me with a shrug, by way of explanation as I stared at her in confusion and wonder.

Purely by example, she has taught me a lot about appreciating what I have, learning to enjoy each individual day, and truly caring about other people and things. In a social situation, I used to ask questions "just to be polite," smiling and nodding but not really caring about the answers. Now, I'm learning to truly care about what's going on in the lives of my friends. And yesterday, I was coming back from a run and saw an earthworm squirming helplessly on the hot sidewalk; without thinking twice, I picked him up and put him in the dirt under a shady tree. As I walked on, I started thinking. When I first started this blog, I don't think I would have been the type of person to do that. In fact, I think I would have internally rolled my eyes at the person who did something like that. Funny how our priorities change.

I spent most of my first year in the Netherlands feeling like I had a void in my life, and -- unable to come up with any other way to deal with the situation -- responding like a typical teenage girl and looking for some guy to fill it. It never felt right, not with any of them -- but by meeting people online (thus being able to mentally shape them into whatever I wanted, since I didn't really have to deal with them face-to-face very often) and by getting involved with only Dutch guys (so that I had a linguistic challenge to keep me excited about being with the other person), I was able to continue lying to myself. I did eventually get frustrated and reach the point where I said, "No more -- if I'm meant to be with someone, that person's just going to have to find me, because I'm done looking!" and was happily single for two full years, but I still never made the conscious leap of admitting an attraction to women. I have always been very good at mentally 'blocking out' things that I don't want to think about or acknowledge (thus the emotional 'flatness'), so I managed to lie to myself about my sexuality until I was 22 and met L. Looking back through the lens of adulthood, there were so many clues -- the Shania Twain obsession, the constant feelings of being 'different', the lack of interest in guys, my multiple crushes on camp counselors and female teachers that I convinced myself were pure 'admiration' -- but as a college sophomore, at the time, 'swinging the other way' was so clearly NOT an option that I didn't even acknowledge it as a possibility. Although there are several posts from the early days of this site where I vehemently defended gay rights with the casual argument of "who cares who you want to love?", I still had a mental blindfold on as to that option for my own life. I spent a large part of my adolescence metaphorically crouched down in a corner, with my eyes squeezed shut and my hands over my ears, rocking back and forth chanting, "I hope I'm not, I hope I'm not." On the rare occasions that I had a guy in my life, there was strong relief mixed in with the awkwardness -- "Oh, thank goodness, I must be straight, because I'm holding a guy's hand!"

I am so much happier now -- and so very, very grateful that I figured this out at 22 and not at 32, or 42, or 92.

L isn't the only thing that has led me on this emotional journey, of course. I'm still growing up (I hope I never completely grow up!), and we all know that people don't stop changing and maturing just because they've passed a certain age. But knowing and loving her has helped me see possibilities that weren't really there for me before, like shifting from black-and-white TV into color. She has opened me up, so to speak, and I can't wait to see what the rest of our lives -- and my life as an individual -- will be like. This blog has been a great tool for me to appreciate how far I've come in the past six years... and I'm already anticipating what I'll be thinking at age 30, as I reread today's post. :)

vrijdag 19 juni 2009

L has been at work all day, so I've been having a 'random' day at home: ran five miles this morning, then came home and showered, ate, cleaned the apartment a little, did some laundry, made myself an iced chai tea (nowhere near as good as the ones you can buy...) and worked on my Life Scrapbook for a few hours. I'm almost done with it -- only three pages left to go until it's up to date, including the one for my sister's wedding last October. Though I realized that I accidentally skipped 4 pages right in the middle of the book... so I guess I can stick some random stuff into those pages when I run out of space (which won't take much longer -- I've already covered pretty much all the major milestones from my birth up to the present). Anyway, so after I got sick of that, I finished reading the fourth Twilight book (for the second time) and now I'm lying on the living room floor watching Return to Oz (yeah, blast from the past :)). I'm trying to soak up as many of these "lazy days" as I can, since they'll be nothing but fond memories once PA school starts next year.

On tap for tomorrow: a weightlifting workout, grocery shopping, paying the phone bill (oh, thrills), and maybe a trip to Interact. My car is still full of all the old clothes and junk I cleaned out last weekend, all of which needs to go to Goodwill or somewhere similar, and L likes the idea behind Interact (support for battered women and children) better than Goodwill. Last time we tried to take things there, they were moving to a new building and thus closed; hopefully we'll have better luck tomorrow.

donderdag 18 juni 2009

OMG!!! My CASPA application got mailed out today!!!

I started the application process over two months ago, and now it's finally on its way to the five schools I'm applying to!

DUKE is my first choice... I would be able to stay in the Triangle, and who turns down the Duke reputation? They invented the entire profession of PAs, for goodness' sake! They have some awesome facilities and even offer a few international rotations during the clinical year.

PACIFIC is another top contender. They're a small private school -- an atmosphere I've never experienced, but think I would love -- in a fantastic location (just outside of Portland, OR). They also have lots of cool international rotations during the clinical year (everything from Costa Rica to Kenya). In my head, this program feels very funky and 'colorful'. Scary as such a drastic move might be, it's really appealing to just toss most of our stuff in storage and spend two years among the redwood trees, biking to class every day and wearing jeans and L.L. Bean all the time.

MEDICAL University is another of my favorites. Located in Charleston (another great location!), the school does only medical programs (MD, PA, RN, OT, etc.) They've been awesome about communicating with me about all my questions. And, as a bonus, they have an amazing fitness center.

FLORIDA, my undergrad institution, makes the list, too, of course. They use actual cadavers in their dissections and supposedly have the very latest equipment, simulators, etc. Plus I'd love to be back in such a liberal, familiar town... and I'd be back on my swim team! :) The only drawback is that, since I'm now a North Carolina resident, this would actually be the very most expensive option on my list.

EAST CAROLINA University is my fifth and final school. By the same token as the above -- the fact that I am now a North Carolina resident -- this would actually be the very cheapest school on my list, ($18k tuition for the entire program, compared to a minimum of $60k for the others). That's really its only pull for me (no international rotations, a small conservative town, very few jobs available for L, etc.), but it's admittedly a strong one.

Anyway, I won't hear anything for months yet, so we'll see what happens... but today was an exciting, important step!

dinsdag 16 juni 2009

After more than a two-year hiatus, I've decided to start blogging again.

I stopped in 2007 for a number of reasons, but mostly because there was so much I felt like I couldn't say. I was doubting my choice of graduate degree -- feeling deeply unhappy in my linguistics program and not seeing a clear way out. Not only that, but I was inching toward the decision to become, not only NOT a linguist, but a physician assistant (PA) -- realizing with trepidation that such a move would involve practically starting my academic career over again. And, of course, I fell in love with my partner, L, and figured out that I'd been lying to myself about my feelings for other women ever since that first camp-counselor crush when I was 14. All of that made for a lot of stress, and I've never been one to discuss something out in the open until I'm fairly sure of my own thoughts and opinions on it. So, rather than spill all those messy emotions all over the Internet, I clammed up.

Unfortunately for all of you -- now that I'm comfortable with this new life, and secure, and happy -- I'm back. :) I'd like to think I'm better for having made the journey, though.

I figured out that choosing to stop something that isn't working for you doesn't necessarily qualify as quitting. (Though the $20k in loans will never stop sucking.) And I learned, cliche though it may sound, that it's never too late to figure out who you want to be and how you're going to get there. Walking away from UNC was, pride-wise, one of the hardest things I've ever done. But I did it. I still almost can't believe it. In the past two years, I have completed ten community college science courses -- all the necessary prerequisites for PA school -- while working full-time. In 2007, after a nerve-wracking summer of unemployment, I found a job as an EMT, hauling (mostly) elderly folk from hospitals to nursing homes and back again. I hated almost every minute of it, but it was the only job I could find in the medical field. I missed my camp counselor days, the days of working with kids and actually enjoying what I was doing, but I was trying to make the best with the cards I'd been dealt.

Then, one day in January 2008, when I'd sadly resigned myself to just "sticking it out" for two and a half more years until I could start PA school, I was waiting for a patient at the wound clinic and happened to glance down at the newspaper on the couch beside me. It was folded open to the job section. Under the 'Medical' heading was a single listing: for a medical assistant in a pediatric practice.

I literally felt a shiver down my spine.

I e-mailed the practice manager that night, trying to strike the right notes of honesty and work ethic. This is who I am; this is what I want to be. This (short list) is what I know; this (much longer list) is what I don't know, but very much want to learn. I have tons of experience with kids, I'm a hard worker, and I'll try my best to learn anything you ask me to. Could I have a shot?

She called me in for an interview, talked to me for a while, called the president of the practice in to talk to me for a minute... then raised her eyebrows and asked, "So when could you start?"

I practically swallowed my teeth.

Now, a year and a half later, I still consider myself incredibly fortunate to have the job I have. That's not to say I'm tap-dancing when I drag my tired self out the door at 7:00 every morning, or that I have a secret passion for sticking needles into shrieking kindergarteners' thighs... but in terms of combining one of my main lifelong interests (working with children) with the medical experience I need for school, you can't get much more perfect. Aside from my long list of duties (and there are a lot of them... I work alongside R.N.s, doing the same duties for less pay), I'm working in a huge, successful, well-known practice with a dozen different doctors and thousands of patients. Even better -- I've spent the last year of my time there assigned to one doctor in particular, a fantastic, easygoing guy whom I very much admire and who makes me feel like a valued member of the team, despite my comparative lack of knowledge. He trusts me, respects my opinion, and -- even better -- teaches me. He knows I'm trying to become a PA, so if a kid comes in with, for example, the hallmark crackly lungs of pneumonia, he'll tell me to take a stethoscope and go listen to his chest so I can hear what it sounds like. It's been a year and a half, and I'm still learning new things every single day.

(Sometimes they're sad things, though. Without breaking any confidentiality laws, suffice it to say that one of the kids we saw today, who presented with a stupid, seemingly benign complaint, is most likely going to end up spending time in the oncology ward. Not good. Not good at all. But a powerful lesson for someone like me.)

Anyway, so that part of my life has fallen into place. And after nearly three years together, L and I are stronger than ever. (She's asked me to identify her only as 'L' when I talk about her on this site, but I think pretty much everybody is going to know who I'm talking about!) She has taught me so much, about everything from spiritual views to how to use Microsoft Excel. I find myself wanting to be a better person because of her -- often thinking, "What would L say in this situation?" -- and I'm still so excited to come home to her every night. I knew from our first couple of weeks together that this was forever, and although I know there will be countless bumps in the road still to come (heck, we've already weathered a veritable tsunami, why should the rest of our lives be any different?!), I know that we'll face the obstacles together and that it really will all be okay. I can't wait to see where life takes us.

Also, I'm most of the way through my PA application process -- I've submitted my CASPA application (which goes to four of the five schools I'm applying to) as well as two supplemental applications. There is one 'base' application and one supplemental application still to go, and after that it really will be just a waiting game. I won't know any decisions until Christmas at the earliest, but I'll have interviews (if I'm lucky!) scattered throughout the fall and winter. I'll keep you posted.

Oh, and I've had some pretty great adventures in the interim, too. Let's see... I stopped blogging in April of 2007. In May, L graduated from her first master's program; in June, we took the Maid of the Mist tour at Niagara Falls. In August, we visited the Netherlands and England, and I swam a successful relay of the English Channel on 8/7/07 with five teammates from UNC. In September, I completed my first (and last!) half Ironman triathlon. In 2008, I ran my first (and probably not last) marathon. And so far in 2009, I have gone to Disney World, swum with dolphins, and posted my fastest time yet for the River Run (1:46)... although it just about killed me, so I think I'll knock it back to 'just running for fun' next year! :)

I think that's long enough for my first time back. :) And rest assured, it will not be another two years before you hear from me again! :)

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