Stormy Commute

Why did you stay at work until 7?
Why didn’t you get to work until 10?

Both of these questions have the same answer: a commute from Hell.

Ironically, I was trying to get to work early today.

Let’s start with the morning. I’m dragging my sleepy self out of bed and trying to get washed up in 10 minutes so I can leave my house and catch the train. I like taking the train because I can really relax; whether I sleep or read, the last stop is in DC so I don’t have to worry about moving until the train stops for good.

The first hitch in my commute happens when my nose starts bleeding. Fun fact: I get a lot of nosebleeds. You may remember me complaining about them during my trip to Harbin. I also get them almost daily during allergy season. I usually get them in the morning shortly after waking up. This is inconvenient when I am trying to be on time for work. (I have already been a little late twice because of ill-timed nosebleeds.

Well, it’s a good thing I’m already bent over the sink washing up when my nose starts bleeding, I guess. Unfortunately, this is a big one and not a minor one that goes away quickly. I’m in the bathroom for about 15 minutes, including my crazy-fast re-washing of the face and attempts to style my hair into a sock bun. (It wasn’t very successful but it was much less of a failure than those of the past!)

Okay, well, I think the blood is off my face and hands and sink, my hair is up, I have my things and I’m out the door. In the car and, of course, with great flooding comes great amounts of traffic. What ordinarily is a 30-40 minute drive to the metro station — since I can no longer try for the train — wound up taking over an hour. UGH. Ugh ugh ugh. I call my coworker and ask her to put a sticky note on my desk and to tell my manager that I will be running a few minutes late.

Finally, I make it to the metro station and board the train. I thought I could relax.
Obviously, since my 3 hour total commute has 2 hours unaccounted for, this is not true.
There are many many stops and a transfer before I can start walking to work. My train passed ONE stop before it was stopped in-between two stations. The conductor comes on the speakers telling us that the train is not receiving signals so he has to get off the train to try to fix it. We end up sitting between these two stations (aka we were trapped underground in our train) for over 30 minutes. Just sitting there. At the very beginning of my journey. I’m realizing that the message I asked my coworker to pass to my manager was going to be quite wrong. I was going to be way more than just a few minutes late.

After over half an hour, we finally get moving yay! We reach the second stop on the path into DC.
There, we are dumped off to wait on the platform for another half hour. It would seem the train ahead of us is also not receiving signals and is stopped on the tracks. We now have to wait for that one to get fixed before we can move forward again. Eventually, they let us back onto the train and the rest of the trip goes relatively slowly.

Where’s the last hour? you’re asking.
The metro trip + walking to work takes an hour. Yes, even after overcoming all these frustrating delays, I still had a looooong commute to go. And I stayed late to make up for lost time.

Dang.

But you know what? My anxiety management has improved over the past 2 years. Even a year ago, I would have been panicking throughout each delay. Panicking through my nosebleed. Panicking while stuck in traffic. Panicking while trapped underground on the subway. Panicking during the “smooth” part of my commute knowing I’d be over an hour late for work.

And you know what, when I got to work, I forced myself to find the bright side. This wasn’t the worst commute I could’ve had. A lot of things didn’t happen that could have!

  • My car battery wasn’t dead. (It was dead before work yesterday, so I’m just glad my car started today.)
  • I didn’t get into a car accident.
  • I didn’t get pulled over by a mean cop.
  • My train’s lights and air conditioning remained on (while I was trapped underground).
  • I didn’t have to deal with invasions of my personal space.
  • I didn’t get creepily hit on by anyone.
  • I didn’t slip and fall.
  • I wasn’t mugged.
  • I wasn’t splashed by a passing car or truck.
  • I didn’t get hit by any cars or trucks.
  • I didn’t lose or forget any of my belongings throughout this entire ordeal.

If all of these things happened, plus my above struggles, then that would most definitely be in the running for worst commute ever.

But you know, all things considered… it could’ve been worse?

I am truly amazed by how ill-prepared Washington D.C. is for stormy weather. DC was built on a marsh! (Basically.) And yet, if we get more than an inch of rain, there are guaranteed delays on the metro. In a city built on wetlands. UGH WHY.

My coworker, who takes the same train (although usually on a different schedule from me) had a similarly difficult ordeal trying to get home on the train this evening. She was trying to take the 6:40 train home. The trains before were all delayed, and so was this one. She was originally trying to take the 6:23, so the passengers for that train were just corralled onto the 6:40. They were allowed to board, and were stopping and going for over an hour before even reaching the first stop. Apparently, there was some kind of police incident in the city of the first stop. And they kept checking the brakes of the train. (Not very comforting…) Also, apparently someone had been hit by a train earlier in the day, a tragedy that had the unfortunate ripple effect of creating even more severe delays.

So maybe I lucked out by not making the train this morning.

Tell me about one of your most frustrating commutes? We can commiserate together.

Lemony Snicket Would Approve

I’m leading an Alternative Break trip this spring (shameless plug asking for donations in return for silly challenges like speed-eating ramen, challenge of your choosing!) and I had two mandatory meetings related to that today. The first was by the organization at 4:00, and the second was my own meeting at 6:30. Both were so we could bang out the final logistics before leaving next weekend.

Since I normally don’t even get back on campus until 6:30, I left work early to take the earliest train back, which would bring me to campus at about 5:00. I checked my saved PDF of the schedule, checked the schedule again on the website, and arrived at the train station at 3:35 PM, ten minutes early for the train. No one was there, but 10 minutes is pretty early, I guess, and I’ve seen the train roll in late.

But by 3:50, I’m suspicious that something has gone terribly wrong. The marquee keeps telling me that the 5:20 train, my usual train, is on time. But what about my train? Isn’t it late?

I go inside the little station to find a phone number to call.

It is there that I see an updated schedule. Not even SUPER recent, but from January.

The first train to leave now leaves at 3:30 PM. I was not ten minutes early but five minutes late.

😦

This was pretty upsetting, especially because I really thought I had taken every precaution to not miss the train. I trudged back to work and then left at my usual time to catch my usual train.

Despite my best efforts, I fell asleep on the train. Just like I always do, but half the time I don’t mean to! I had a late night last night and my morning commute is always very early, so I was sleepy and I knew I’d probably fall asleep. I set an alarm for 6:00 PM, which is a few minutes before we arrive at my usual stop.

My alarm rings, I see that we’re 2 stops ahead of mine, and I wait patiently. I see a stop, and I get ready for the next one.

Somehow… the next stop turns out to be the one AFTER my stop.

What in tarnation?!

I either blacked out when we reached my stop OR I blacked out for the stop before mine and mistook my stop for that one.

Either way, I was stuck going to DC and taking the metro back to school, adding an additional hour to my commute back to school.

Remember, I’m already late missing the first train. If I hadn’t missed my stop, I would’ve been just in time to make it for my second meeting. This is the meeting that I AM RUNNING and IN CHARGE OF.

I dash out the train and to the metro station. I know I don’t have my SmarTrip card on me, so I get in line to buy a farecard.

Among about a million billion tourists. During rush hour. Goodness gracious.

I finally get to the machine. “SMARTRIP ONLY”. WHY?! I get into another line, even longer. At the front of this line is a group of Chinese people who seem very confused and, more importantly to me at the time, very slow. I offered them help in Mandarin and helped them get on their merry way out of the line.

Of course, as soon as I get on the metro, I realize that actually… I do have my SmarTrip with me. At some point in my life, I decided not to be a complete moron and put it in my wallet. Genius.

I make it to school without a hitch after that point. It’s 7:15 and I’m running to my meeting. I get there just in time to see the last person leaving and my co-organizers cleaning up.

After all that, I completely missed both of my meetings.

Needless to say, I am not a happy camper. Even catching up The Big Bang Theory isn’t helping things much.

(Shameless plug: It might cheer me up if you helped donate to my cause! I’m curious to see how many people would donate just $1. Don’t be freaked out by them asking for your address and stuff; they just like sending thank you letters to you afterwards.

I definitely WILL do something when I reach $200, so leave a challenge suggestion when you donate!)

Too much fun, too little weekend

I have a very jam-packed weekend awaiting me after I come back from work on Friday. Specifically, a jam-packed Saturday. I will be leaving campus at 7 AM to go to the ODK Drive-In at University of Richmond. The road trip to and from Richmond and a fun day of networking are penciled into my planner.

But wait, there’s more! Immediately after coming back from Richmond, depending on how soon we can return, I jump into dance mode, preparing for our senior formal and getting ready to attend that with my friends.

It sounds like I’m going to gripe, though, doesn’t it?
Yep. Grab your cheese, here comes the whine.

There are a LOT of fun things going on this weekend, especially this Saturday. There would be no way for me to attend all of them, but with me being in Richmond for most of the day and embarrassing myself for most of the evening, I can’t attend any of them. Here’s a list of just a few things that I will be missing out on this weekend:

  • The Wizards vs. Rockets game, which gets everyone excited for Jeremy Lin and they’re doing some special stuff for all us DC-area Asian-Americans

  • ECAASU, which is going to be Columbia University, has had the fee waived thanks to our Asian American Studies department, and will feature some of my favorite APA Youtubers like Jason Chen, David So, and Clara Chung

  • UMD vs. Clemson game, which I would’ve had the chance to sit in the CapitalOne box in thanks to my supah cool connections
  • Going home to have a belated Chinese New Year celebration with my family, whom I haven’t seen since the semester started

That’s to name a few that I’m particularly sad about missing.

I hope my festivities this weekend are super fun and worth the time!

Terrible Doctor’s Visit

Now that I’m old, I can’t visit my pediatrician for physicals and check-ups anymore. I’ve been putting off getting a grown-up primary care physician for a while, but now that I’m officially too old for a pediatrician to be allowed to treat me, I had to go out and get a family practice doctor.

FINDING THE DOCTOR

My pediatrician did refer me to a doctor, but it was a male physician and I’m not really comfortable having a man do my physicals right now. So my dad and I went through our insurance company to find a doctor. I told my dad my only criteria was “female”, but then he wanted to find a Chinese doctor. I don’t need a doctor who speaks Mandarin… since I can communicate more effectively in English. Would I be more comfortable with a Chinese doctor? Maybe, if only because all of my physicians have been Chinese, so that’s what I’m used to. Anyway, we found one, I made an appointment last week, and I was just glad that I could see her so short notice.

THE OFFICE

There were a lot of ominous signs before going:

  • My GPS wasn’t working, so I had to try to remember the directions. Luckily, it wasn’t very far, so I managed to get there.
  • The suit number was listed wrong, so I thought it didn’t exist in the building… but it did!
  • When I got my call for a conformation, I’m pretty sure it was the doctor. Why didn’t she have a receptionist?

It’s a small office, because she has… 3? That’s kind of confusing, but okay. Small office, and she said it’s new, so I guess that’s why she has no employees?

While I’m there, she’s weighing another patient. “Oh, you definitely gained some weight. I guess you ate too much over the holidays, huh?”

THE PHYSICAL

My big problem with my physician is this: She’s extremely proud of her accomplishments and spent most of my check-up talking about them.

Also, a quick note: Yes, she is Chinese, so most of this conversation was in Mandarin.

“Are you very active?””
“Unfortunately, not really. You know, lots of school work.”
“Hm, well I had a lot of school work and I still stayed active. Look, I climbed the tallest peak in Africa. Do you know which mountain is the tallest peak in Africa?”
“… Mount Kilimanjaro.”
“Yes. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. That’s a photo.”
“It’s a very nice photo.”
“Yes, and I took this one on the African safari.”
“Wow, you took it yourself? That’s really nice.” (Me trying to humor her.)
“Yes, and I took this one of the peak.”
“… okay.”
“Yes, you should be more active. Okay, here’s your date of birth so that makes you…….?”
“I’m 21.”
“Oh, okay so you’ve graduated college?”
“Um… no I’m a senior.”
“You’re graduating in May? Did you start school late? Because you came here from China?”
“Um, no, I was born here. I actually started school relatively early? Most people graduate when they’re 22.”
“Really? Because my daughter had already graduated when she was 21. Oh that’s right, she graduated a year early.”
“…”
“So what’s your major?”
“Psychology.”
“Oh, being a psychologist is kind of hard though, right? It’s stressful?” (Says the doctor.)
“Well, yeah, I don’t want to be a psychologist, I’m pre-med.”
“Ahh, good. Being a doctor is good. My daughter doesn’t want to be a doctor. You should go to Hopkins, I teach there.”
“Oh really?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty… intense over there. I also teach some of the University of Maryland interns. It’s really busy because you know, I’m am MD and a PhD, but I don’t research anymore because well, I have 2 daughters. And I did my post-doc at Harvard, so I didn’t want my daughters to have time with me. You know all that research is wasted now.”
“…?”
“Well, not wasted. I have a LOT of publications.”
“………….”
“Okay, last question, are you sexually active?”

Let me tell you something.
I have never been happier about someone asking me if I have sex in my life. It meant the end of my physical and I could get the heck out of there.

Needless to say, I will not be listing her as my primary care physician. No thanks. I don’t need my doctor humble-bragging during appointments.

You know it’s bad when it makes my first appointment with my last pediatrician look good. On that appointment, I was referred to a cardiologist, a radiologist, and had a breast cancer scare. (Spoiler alert: It was a sparkly thing on my cami.)

She wouldn’t even let me take proper deep breaths. What the heck.

MCAT Scores & Identity Crises

The AAMC decided to release my MCAT score in the middle of my first round of midterms. I found out the score was being released via a text from a friend. "Any good news for me? :)"
… and I was so enjoying my day, too.

I got the score I had been getting on my practice exams. I improved from my previous score by 5 points. I wasn’t surprised by my score, nor was I crushed and convinced that it was time to activate Plan B, abandoning my ambitions to pursue medicine.

I accepted my score. I sort of accepted that somehow I lost a point since last time on my essay, the easiest part to me.
And I was so sorely disappointed.

It’s a good enough score to apply next year.
Looking at just numbers, there are a few schools I would be happy at that I stand a shot at getting into. I won’t be a shoo-in or their top pick, but I have a chance.

And yet.
I’m really disappointed with myself. I really wanted my MCAT score to go above and beyond to make up for my average GPA. Average MCAT, average GPA.

I have a hard time accepting that I’m just average.
I spent my younger years being super duper exceptional. I was a gold medal taekwondo tot. I sang the only solo given in choir. I was the equivalent of the prima ballerina at Chinese school ballet. I was the best student in my class my FAR.

Now, I’m supposed to accept being just average? Slightly above average?
I’ve surrounded myself with people who are really exceptional. Smart, athletic, beautiful, kind, ambitious, talented people with whom I am really entitled to be friends.
I’m starting to feel like they’re not my peers anymore. I cannot compare my achievements with theirs anymore. They have nothing to congratulate me on when I am congratulating them.
“Congratulations on this terrific accomplishment!” I’ll say.
”Congratulations on being adequately above average?”

I know I shouldn’t be as bummed as I am. I can apply to medical school. I made progress. My family was proud of me. My pre-health advisors congratulated me on my score. (I didn’t realize they would get my score, or that they would get it so soon.)
It’s not bad.
I’m just used to more. I’ve been spoiled by my own previously-set standards for achievement.

I’m used to winning gold, and I’m barely scraping by for bronze. Yes, I’m still medaling, but you know bronze doesn’t taste the same as gold.