Five things I accomplished in (late) 2017

The end of 2017 was rough for me. I've been trying to move forward and think positively, but honestly I'm still processing some of the things that have happened and I haven't come to a conclusion about anything yet.

I wasn't ready for the start of 2018 and I'm not ready to say I'm looking forward to what the new year will bring. But at least the new year provides a point of reflection for the year back. Here are five things I accomplished in the end of 2017 (as that's when I really started trying to focus on myself and improve my life again).

1. Rediscovered a healthy lifestyle. I don't think I've ever eaten out so much as I do living in SF, but I swear it's a city-wide epidemic. It's a constant struggle to try to take advantage of all the Michelin starred restaurants and delicious food available in SF versus try to cook and eat healthy at home, and I think I had a little too much of the former recently. In medical school in Baltimore, I cooked all of my own meals and ran 4 miles a day on the treadmill and was in the best shape of my life. But I also didn't live in a city that I constantly want to explore and eat out in.

When I stayed in SF alone over the holidays, I went on a kind of forced detox. When a few friends came to visit, I spent more of my time making food so a) I could feed them when they visited and b) so I could save my money and my stomach for more special nights out with them. I ended up hosting a holiday potluck, cooking Korean food for the first time, and going back to my med school roots where I cooked up a big batch of curry or stew for the week ahead (these past few weeks have been Thai food and Indian food). I also kept up with workouts consistently over the holidays which helped reduce some of the holiday pounds, running three times a week and doing BBG workouts semi-regularly. I've loved cooking (usually while listening to a new obsession, podcasts) and I've felt lighter than I have in months.And on the plus side I've discovered some new beautiful running routes.

 The park outside my house that I just started taking advantage of

2. Transferred my money into investment accounts. My relationship with money has changed in the past few months and years. Not only is residency the first time that I've made a salary, albeit a measly one, but I'm finally getting close to that attending light at the end of the tunnel, the prospect of making real money for the first time in my life. While my spending habits have definitely loosened up, I was always super frugal growing up, and have always saved more than I've earned or spent. As a result I found myself with some extra money in my savings account at the end of the year that wasn't accumulating much interest, so I transferred my money into another investment account and funded my IRA a little more last month. I also tried to read a few beginner investing books, such as The Millionaire Next Door and the only 3 investment tips you'll ever need which basically reinforces the principles of frugality and saving and only sticking to mutual funds that will net you long term profits instead of actively trading short term stocks. So I decided to buy another mutual fund (the reliable S&P 500) and am happy that my money is growing already instead of just sitting in my savings account. If you have some extra time and money on your hands, I definitely encourage you to look into investing more! And stick to the long term, tried and true investment vehicles where you set it and forget it with long term profits.
Checking some things off the SF bucket list at the 16th Ave Moraga tiled steps with my friend J

Oh, the perks of winter in California
3. Invested in a skincare routine. I've always been blessed with good skin. When people ask me what I think my best feature is, I kind of default to my skin (is that a weird answer?) since it's naturally mostly blemish free except for the occasional (and by that I mean maybe biannual) single large breakout. My father has good skin and it's one of my proudest features that I've inherited from him. However as I approach 30, I've become more aware of the importance of preserving the quality of my skin. Blame marketing but I've been convinced that skincare is one of the most important investments we can make as you'll reap the benefits for the rest of your life. So I've subscribed to the korean double cleaning method, adding a toner, started using AHA/BHA for chemical exfoliation, added a serum, and using retinol. While it is a multi-step, involved process, it makes me feel good that I am doing something to preserve the quality of my skin and maybe the time and energy I invest now will help me reap benefits down the line. Honestly I don't know if the steps that I've taken in the last 2 months have manifested in real results in my skin (sometimes I think my skin does best when I literally do nothing) but I'm going to put my trust in the process and continue to invest in my skincare for the sake of my future wellbeing. It can't hurt (other than my wallet).
 Exploring the Marin headlands and Muir beach with E, who came to visit from NJ again!

So glad I've seen her so often this year
4. Become more intentional in my purchases. This one is a big one for me. As a child, my parents really instilled the importance of frugality into my core being. I came from a family that, in their early days, would share a basket of fries for lunch and ride the subway from one end of the city to another for the price of a subway ticket. As a result, I grew up never spending more than $30 on an article of clothing, and usually bought clothes from Ross and Marshalls or the sale rack of stores in the mall. I remember being so envious of my classmates who's parents bought them full-price jeans at Abercrombie or Hollister or shop at Nordstrom. I remember for my senior prom I bought a dress that was around $120, which I thought was reasonable since I had never been to a junior prom or homecoming (so this would be my only formal dress in all of high school) and I loved it on first sight, but getting a scolding from my parents for spending so much on one article of clothing. I want to reiterate that my parents were never poor, and they have relaxed their spending habits recently, they just felt like it was foolish and impractical to spend so much on a single item of clothing.  While I will carry some of those principles with me for the rest of my life (buying things on sale and not full price), my spending philosophy has also relaxed over the past few years. Growing up, even into college and medical school, I believed in quantity over quality, favoring a large wardrobe with plenty of choices to suit my many dressing styles. As a result, I've collected a large number of clothes from fast fashion stores like Forever21, H&M, American Eagle, etc. Not to say those stores are inherently bad (I have a number of clothes that have lasted years from these stores that I still wear regularly). However I started to notice that most of the clothes I bought were fast fashion and I would tire of them after only months of use, or they would never quite fit right despite me liking the pattern or the color and thinking I would grow into it. And so I would donate piles and piles of these cheap clothes every year. In the past few months and years, I've really tried to pay attention to more of the quality of my purchases so now I won't buy something unless I love it, it fits well, and I think it will last me a long time. I've tried to stay away from those $10 cute but poor quality tops from discount stores and buy clothes that fit well and be versatile for both work and play. It's still a struggle, as I tend to gravitate towards things that are on sale for a lower price, but I'm also trying to pay attention to the materials used and the process that goes into making those clothes, and willing to pay a premium for higher quality, sustainable clothing. I don't think you could have ever convinced me to pay more for an organic, fair trade product a few years ago. But since these things are so much more accessible to me in San Francisco, it's really made me think twice about those cheap items. I'm proud to say that I barely shopped over winter break (whereas in the past I would have gone shopping multiple times a week and bought a large number of cheap clothes) and only bought clothes that were a necessity (some thermal tees from Uniqlo due to how cold my house is) or from thrift stores, where I feel like you can buy recycled clothing at a fraction of the price of new. I've gone shopping at more thrift stores in SF (I go to Buffalo trading Co. in the haight or Goodwill in the haight or Richmond) and have found some of my favorite purchases from those stores. One of my goals in the new year will be to focus on quality, not quantity, and be more intentional in my purchases, not just in clothing but in all aspects of consumerism.
Sunset at Muir Beach
5. Matched into fellowship! This is one of those things I alluded to I am not quite settled with yet, and has led to a lot of thinking about my career path and life direction.

I am very fortunate and grateful that I have never had many doubts about my career. I love being a doctor, I find it a challenging and fulfilling career and could never see myself doing anything else. In oncology, I've found an ever higher sense of purpose with helping people at the lowest, sickest point of their lives and being able to make a difference where it really matters. I know I am lucky that I have had a very clear career path and never faltered in my decision to pursue medicine or oncology.

However, since I've moved to California and the Bay Area, I've fallen in love with the area and could really see myself putting down roots here. In medical school, I was focused on getting out of Maryland, where I grew up and spent college and medical school, and spreading my wings to explore a different part of the country. I love the electricity and buzz of San Francisco and being among peers that want to make a difference in the world. I love being at the heart of Silicon Valley where start ups test their products and services on a willing populace, and where I feel like I'm in the loop with the newest innovations in the country. Even though I was set on hematology/oncology fellowship, I wanted to stay in California to continue this grand adventure that I planned for myself after growing up in Maryland. I interviewed all over the country, with slightly over half of my interviews in California, and ranked programs in LA first so I could be close to the Bay Area. Last month, I got the news that I matched for fellowship in Richmond, Virginia. I was shocked. This was not a part of my career path or the future that I envisioned for myself. I wanted to stay in California for the near future where my friends and family were and put down roots here. Matching in Richmond, Virginia, meant cutting my grand adventure short and truncating what would have been the start of a new career and life on the other coast. I know that I will be fortunate to be closer to my parents (only 1.5 hours away). I know it will help for training as I will be working in a large academic center with a variety of patient pathology. But I am still disappointed that my grand adventure has to come to an end, because it will be all that much harder to come back and uproot my life yet again if I move to Richmond for the next three years.
My "what are you looking at face" on Muir Beach
I am still trying to come to terms with this fact, but in the meantime, there is nothing I can do about matching at a less than optimal program. In fact, the program is wonderful and the people that I meant on interview day were welcoming and friendly. Richmond is an affordable, semi-urban city that is up and coming with a large population of young people including students, residents, and fellows. I know I am fortunate to have matched at a good, academic program close to my family back in Maryland. But still, I am disappointed that I will not be in California anymore. No matter what anyone and everyone says, I still don't know quite how to reconcile my imagined career and life path with the reality of the situation. At least not yet.
Sunset at Muir Beach
So there you have it. A few things that I have reflected back on at the beginning of 2018, and some things that I am still working on and have not quite packaged up in a neat tidy bow. For better or worse, my time at CPMC and San Francisco is coming to an end, and I am going to take full advantage of the time I have left here. All things good must come to an end, or they would not be treasured or precious in our minds. So look forward to more posts and travels documenting the last few months I have on the west coast! I sure will miss it.


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