India Showed Me How Toxic American Independence Is

As an Indian American, I used to once love the American lifestyle that vehemently promotes independence, hard work, and an equal starting ground for all: all elements of the so-called American Dream. As I got older and became more aware of the world around me, I realized that the U.S. is not as amazing as I’ve been conditioned to believe. Just like any other country, the U.S. also has its own flaws – flaws that have been constantly nagging at me since I’ve returned from my month long trip to India recently.

I have grown to love the sense of community and belonging in India. Unlike the U.S., India imbibes more of a collectivist culture. Majority of an Indian’s priority revolves around their families. For example, in the U.S., we’re taught and made to believe that we need to leave our home and be independent by the time we’re 17. In India, on other hand, it’s common to live with your family for the majority, if not all, of your life. Thus, interdependence rather than independence is emphasized in India.

As a result of this interdependent lifestyle, India creates a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart every time because it feels like the entire nation is kinda rooting for me. It’s no longer the idea of ‘you’re on your own and only your hard work can get you to the top of the tier.’ It’s more-so an idea of ‘we are all here to support you.” Note: I recognize that this may be the experience of someone who is extremely privileged in India; the same experience may not be true for others.

An excerpt from “What Italy Taught Me About America’s Toxic Independence Culture” perfectly encapsulates my thoughts:

“The first time I stayed with my boyfriend’s Italian family, I discovered privacy isn’t an Italian priority. His mother snatched our dirty clothes from our bedroom to wash, iron, and fold the first night. The following day, I found my underwear arranged neatly in squares waiting on the bed.

I swear I appreciated it, but I didn’t expect it. I quickly learned the words “mine” and “yours” don’t exist in an Italian family. Everything is “ours.”

As another example, my boyfriend’s extended family — aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends — are also given unlimited access to his time and services. My boyfriend’s cousin needs him to drive 4 hours to pick him up — done! His aunt has a friend who wants him to book her train tickets — No problem!

In an Italian family, boundaries don’t exist, even when it comes to finances. I can’t imagine my boyfriend declaring to a family member or close friend, “you’re asking too much.” or, “I’m sorry, I’m not available.”

At the risk of sounding evil, I have to admit my boyfriend’s can-do attitude initially infuriated me. I grew up in a family that didn’t ask for special favors since, in America, to be a “real adult,” you must take care of yourself alone.”

During my prior visits to India, I hated this idea of having someone do everything for me. Need my clothes washed – give it to the maid. Finished eating and want to wash the dishes – don’t, the maid got it covered. Need to go to the store to pick something up – don’t worry, the driver will go scoop it for you. Need to get a wax, but are too lazy to leave your house – all good, the salon employee will come straight to your home. I’m so used to washing & folding my own clothes, washing my own dishes, cleaning my own house, driving my own car, and literally sometimes even waxing my own legs; so experiencing all of these ‘luxuries’ or amenities was initially frustrating and uncomfortable. It made me feel like I wasn’t in control because America taught me that I must be in control of my own life and I must do everything on my own in order to succeed.

Now that I’m back in the U.S. after a month of immersing myself in the Indian way of life, I feel a disconnect. In fact, I feel a sense of deep loneliness that I believe stems from America’s promotion of toxic independence. I realized that this isn’t just me.

Even before the pandemic, more than 3 in 5 Americans have reported feeling lonely and the percentages have only increased since the pandemic. The remedy or cure that is often offered for such feelings is meditation, exercise, reducing social media usage, get out in nature, etc.

Why is no one understanding that maybe the real cure is to shift from independence to interdependence? Maybe we won’t feel so lonely and disconnected if, as a culture, we promote the idea that living with your parents for the rest of your life is okay; not being financially independent from the age of 16 is okay; taking a break from your job and not always running around to ‘work hard’ is okay. We do not have to do it all on our own.

India taught me that living in harmony with others and using the help & love from others is where the true beauty to life exists.

“If you’re successful in achieving independence, you may fulfill the American ideal. Regrettably, in the process, you’ll extinguish the beauty of life: to live in communion and collaboration with others. Moving to Italy taught me that navigating the world on your own isn’t an accomplishment. It’s a tragedy.” – Isabella Martin

‘b****’: let’s unpack it.

Those of you who have been here a while know that I am a podcast fanatic. I have recently been hooked to Meghan Markle’s Archetypes, which dissects and explores the tropes and labels that have been or are still used to hold women back.

In her recent episode, Meghan sat down with Andy Cohen, Executive Producer of the Real Housewives franchise. Andy mentioned in the episode that one woman in the Real Housewives franchise wanted to use the b-word in her tagline. The word was not approved, however, Andy mentioned that the woman did make her case for why she does not feel offended by the use of that word. On the other hand, Meghan analyzed the b-word and how it was used to belittle women in the past during one of her previous episodes. She was shocked to hear that people from the current generation don’t mind the b-word because it’s used so often. Some also claimed that the b-word is easier to bear compared to all the other words/labels being thrown around today.

I was first introduced to the b-word in elementary school. In fact, I was considered to be one of the “late users” of the word. I didn’t begin using it until around eighth grade because at that point I had heard all of my fellow classmates use it so regularly, so obviously my 14-year-old self adapted to her social environment.

Here’s a confession: Today, I tend to use this word more often and with many of my friends. The b-word is a common vocabulary term that we use to sometimes greet each other, express anger, describe something, etc. However, I don’t think many of us realize that there is such a deep-rooted sexist history to the word. Thus, hearing Meghan Markle describe the b-word as a demeaning label for women was a shock to me, prompting me to research all about it.

what does it mean.

A “bitch” supposedly means a female dog. I’m not sure if this was common knowledge or not, but I simply had no idea or I was just oblivious to the fact that there is an actual definition of this word in the dictionary.

a quick history lesson.

The use of the b-word originates back to the 1400s (Hodgson, 2008). Apparently, calling a woman a b**** was used to accuse her of “being worse than a prostitute because at least a prostitute stood to gain financially from the broad distribution of her sexual favors” (Hodgson, 2008). Let’s pause really quick. Coffee date #5 is a strong advocate for substituting the word ‘prostitute’ with ‘sex workers’ or ‘sex professionals’ because it accepts/validates their labor. Therefore, it is crucial to note that the b-word is seen as something worse than, yet another, sexist, belittling label.

There’s also a link to the b-word and the Greek Gods. Supposedly, the Greek goddess Artemis-Diana, who was the goddess of the hunt, was often depicted as being in the presence of dogs. To spread Christianity and suppress the idea of a female being idolized, Christian Europe used the phrase ‘son of a bitch’ to criticize those who believed in Artemis-Diana (Kleinman et al., 2009). Therefore, this showed that the term ‘bitch’ was used to eradicate images of powerful and capable women by “equating them with sexually depraved beasts” (Kleinman et al., 2009).

why it is used.

Kleinman et al. states that “feminists analyzed that preference [the need to use ‘bitch’ over any male-associated terms, such as ‘jerk’ or ‘dickhead’] as internalized oppression, whereby members of an oppressed group learn to enjoy using the dominant group’s term for them” (2009). *jaw dropped. eyes bulged. gasped for a hot second.*

how it is used.

As mentioned previously, my friends and I tend to use this word nonchalantly. Some of us even use it to describe objects or events. For instance, let’s say we take an incredibly hard exam. Many might say that that “exam was a real bitch.” Others who still struggled through the exam, but felt that they did well might say “I bent that test over and made it my bitch” (these example quotes were taken from the Kleinman et al. paper).

In the former example, the b-word is being associated with “difficult” – yet another label often used to belittle women. In the latter example, the b-word is being associated with something that can be controlled, dominated, or conquered (Kleinman et al., 2009). And for how long have women been controlled and dominated in our largely patriarchal world?

Therefore, the paper noted that using the b-word over any other terms associated with men or masculinity (for example, people rarely say ‘that exam was a real jerk‘) to describe objects is further indicates just how abusive the b-word is towards women and how its use is fueling sexism.

The b-word is also often used in the political space, especially during heated debates and in media articles. During the 2008 primaries in the United States, Sarah Palin was supposedly “viewed as emasculating John McCain, who was then labeled a “bitch” in a comedic YouTube clip titled, “Is McCain Palin’s Bitch?”” (LisaNova, 2008). The fact the b-word was being used to describe a man, a white man nonetheless, immediately displays that its purpose was to ’emasculate’ him. It was also intended to insult the man for allowing himself to be dominated by a woman *insert dramatic eye roll* (Kleinman et al., 2009).

the conclusion.

Honestly, Kleinman et al.’s paper Reclaiming Critical Analysis: The Social Harms of “Bitch” has been incredibly insightful and eye-opening (2009). It shed light on exactly why the b-word is so offensive and why Meghan Markle was so confused as to why this term is such a normal part of millennial vocabulary.

Words hold so much power. They can be healing, grounding, and therapeutic. Yet they can also be sexist, demeaning, and continue to fuel all the labels and stereotypes attributed to different genders, races, classes, and people in general. Thus, we must choose our words carefully and accept it when we are oblivious to terms that are harmful and degrading. From acceptance, we must move towards change and that change can stem from something as simple as conscientiously removing such terms from our vocabulary.

Here are some other related articles and resources I found for any of you interested folks:

  1. Use of the word “bitch” surged after women’s suffrage (Zhou, 2020)
  2. What’s so bad about being called a ‘bitch’? (Taylor-Coleman, 2016)
  3. The Harmless-Sounding Phrase That Is Terrible for All Women (Rinaldi, 2017)

podiatry. what is it?

a quick end of shift selfie with Dr. Heidi Godoy!

I was first introduced to the field of podiatry through Dr. Heidi Godoy’s presentation to our AMSA club a couple weeks ago. One of the things she said that stood out to me was: “a lot of people do not understand the importance of our feet – they help us walk and move.” Thus, I emailed Dr. Godoy and asked if I could spend a day shadowing her in her office, to which she immediately agreed! Fun fact: Dr. Godoy is a TCNJ alum!

Dr. Heidi Godoy, DPM, practices at the Alps Family Foot & Ankle, which is a family (and women) run practice composed of Dr. Heidi Godoy and Dr. Johanna Godoy (and previously their mother, Dr Irma Godoy) – girl bosses!

When I first entered the office, Dr. Godoy handed me a white coat (rather casually) and I remember hesitating to take it from her for a quick second because that’s the coat that so many pre-meds hope to wear one day. To be able to wear a white coat, enter a patient’s room, and just be on the other side of medicine was such an insanely wholesome feeling.

Dr. Godoy is simply amazing! Her energy is just so positive and inspiring. Our conversations were fun, educational, and easy. She taught me to not put so much pressure on myself. Everything will work out. Relax.

She also truly is such a boss. Along with handling the clinical side of medicine, she also (rather effortlessly) handled the administrative duties. She was answering patient phone calls, retrieving materials from the storage unit, scribing her charts, responding to emails, and so much more. What a queen.

This shadowing experience taught me more than I thought it would, hence why I wanted to wrap it all up into one blog post so I have a place to refer to this experience.

There are a diverse group of patients that come to a podiatrist. In the 5 hours that I spent at the office, I saw Dr. Godoy interact with patients with all sorts of different conditions that affect the entire lower legs. I’ll recall some patient interactions below and reflect briefly on what their complaint, diagnosis, and treatment plan was (note: the patients are named with letters of the alphabet to abide by HIPAA rules).

  • Patient “A”

Our first patient was an elderly person, who presented with Athlete’s foot and some left foot toenail discoloration. This patient came in with the intention of just getting their toenails trimmed. However, once Dr. Godoy saw the patient’s feet, she recognized that Patient “A” had Athlete’s foot. Luckily, Athlete’s Foot is not a serious condition and is very much treatable. The patient was instructed to apply an anti-fungal cream and ensure that they were wearing shoes that weren’t so tight-fitting.

Afterwards, Dr. Godoy explained to me that some of the older patients come in to get their toenails cut because they are physically unable to do so themselves. This also enables the doctors to examine their feet to ensure that there isn’t any sort of infection or problem with the feet. Watching Dr. Godoy interact with people like Patient “A” was very humbling because it showed me that medicine is not always about the ‘life-changing, cancer-curing’ treatments. Medicine is also about making the ‘everyday’ things more accessible to every single person.

  • Patient “B”

Patient “B” was another adorable older person, who appeared to have mildly painful pressure calluses at the bottom of her foot. It was during this patient interaction that Dr. Godoy taught me about the two pulses that are present in the lower legs. One is called the dorsalis pedis (DP) pulse, which is palpable at the top (or dorsum) aspect of the foot. The posterior tibial pulse is palpable at the intersection between the ankles and heels. Dr. Godoy explained that the latter type of pulse diminishes over time with age due to a lower amount of blood reaching that area (Patient “B” had strong DP pulses, so there appeared to be no concern).

  • Patient “C”

This patient was the first pediatric patient I saw at the office (Dr. Heidi Godoy is also specialized in pediatric podiatry)! Patient “C” came in as a ‘post-op’ and received an XR at the office. This was cool to watch because as a scribe, I only go into patient rooms with the physicians during the initial consultation. I don’t get to see the patients follow through on the orders placed by the physicians. Therefore, being able to see this patient receive an X-Ray was intriguing as I was able to piece together everything from my scribe job. It was also interesting to see the patient get scanned in the office and have the results pop up immediately on the screen. Dr. Godoy pointed out that the area that looks mildly indented is where the patient sustained a trauma injury and fractured that area.

I also learned that toenail fungus is a rather common result of trauma. This patient suffered from a foot injury and as a result came to the office with an obvious fungal infection around the area of trauma.

  • Patient “D”

Patient “D” presented with a fungal toenail infection – their entire big toe was discolored. The patient explained that they get a pedicure regularly and has never seen something like this before. Dr. Godoy explained that nail salons are the main places where people can acquire such fungal infections (wild!).

Nail salons do not sterilize their materials enough (they usually just drop them in some alcohol). Since fungus loves to travel in areas that are moist, dark, and metal, nail salons provide the perfect environment for fungus to grow. Thus, when one gets a gel manicure, the fungus loves to thrive in the darkness under the gel on our toes. *irky*

The cool part about this patient interaction was that I watched Dr. Godoy literally cut off the entire fungal toenail! Not gonna lie, that was a bit difficult to watch because nails, in general, just freak me out. However, the process of actually removing an entire toenail to treat this condition was awesome!

Dr. Godoy then proceeded to explain to the patient that there are usually two forms of treatment for fungal infections: (1) an oral pill or (2) a topical ointment. The patient ended up choosing the topical ointment. Dr. Godoy further explained the process of applying that ointment: it must be applied from the nail bed and cover the entire nail in order to ensure that any residual fungus is being killed.

  • Patient “E”

Patient “E” also presented with a toenail infection. The difference between “E”‘s fungal infection versus “D”‘s was that Patient “E”‘s toenail was not discolored – the nail was just growing thicker. I had no idea that thicker growing toenails could also be a sign of a fungal infection!

Dr. Godoy explained that the treatment for this infection would involve softening the nail first to allow for the antifungal ointment to be able to reach the fungal infection.

Before prescribing the ointment, Dr. Godoy checked the patient’s insurance company. Based on the insurance company, Dr. Godoy offered the patient a different antifungal ointment, which has essentially the same effects as the usually prescribed one. The only reason why Formula 7 (i.e. the antifungal offered to those who do not have insurance that covers Jublia) was the better option for this patient was because it is a lot less cheaper. This showed me that it is crucial that doctors are not single-minded. If multiple patients present with the same symptoms, treatments must be tailored to not only their own somatic needs, but also financial needs.

  • Patient “F”

Patient “F” presented with an ingrown toenail. Dr. Godoy had to perform a partial nail avulsion to treat this patient’s ingrown toenail. She needed to anesthetize the area, for which she mixed a short-acting anesthetic (i.e. lidocaine) and a long-acting anesthetic in the injection. She then proceeded to use a cold spray before injecting the patient’s toe with the anesthetics. Cold sprays are used before the injection to “provide transient anesthesia via evaporation-induced skin cooling, which reduces pain. Results from studies of earlier vapocoolant sprays indicated that they reduced pain due to vaccine injection in children and adults.” Dr. Godoy then injected the patient with the anesthetics. She took a sterilized metal tool and was able to maneuver inside the toe and very elegantly scooped the entire ingrown toenail out. EPIC!

  • Patient “G”

Patient “G,” who has a history of uncontrolled diabetes, presented with a ‘pins and needles’ feeling in their foot. This patient was the perfect example of someone who had fallen through the cracks of the American medical system. They explained how after selling their business, they could no longer afford insurance. Thus, for almost a decade, their health practically deteriorated due to their unfortunate financial constraint.

Upon Dr. Godoy’s examination, it was seen that the patient’s condition is more so a neurological problem than a podiatry related condition. Along with diabetes, the patient explained to Dr. Godoy that they also have history of chronic back pain. Dr. Godoy replied that back pain can also be related to foot pain.

This patient interaction taught me two main things:

(1) Everything in the body is connected to everything in the body. Pain in one area can result in pain in the other area.

(2) Health is often put on the backburner for those who cannot afford to consult a doctor until their conditions become unbearable. How can this situation be better handled so that people are not afraid to go to a doctor during the early stages of their pain/conditions?

  • Patient “H”

Patient “H” presented with heel pain. With a quick examination, Dr. Godoy was able to diagnose the patient with plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis “occurs when the plantar fascia, a strong band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot, becomes irritated and inflamed.” A common sign of this condition (along with heel pain) is having a tight calf.

There were 2 parts to the treatment plan:

  1. Dr. Godoy administered an injection consisting of a corticosteroid (e.g. an anti-inflammatory), short-acting anesthetic (e.g. lidocaine), and a long-acting anesthetic.
  2. The patient was then provided a “Night” splint to help stretch out the calf and release the pressure placed on the heel.

Conclusion

I am ecstatic that I was able to connect with Dr. Godoy and learn some details about podiatry. More than the actual diagnosis and medical part of the learning process, this experience taught me that I have to be open-minded when entering the field of medicine. It sounds so trivial, but I don’t think this is emphasized enough for pre-med students. A lot of us who want to enter the medical field already have this pre-set idea of what medicine ‘looks’ like. However, we do not realize that medicine is so much greater than what we know – it encompasses fields and people from all sorts of different backgrounds.

Note to self: Be open to learning and exploring. Thankful I got to do just that with Dr. Godoy 🙂

A Colored Person’s Invisible Insecurity

There’s a familiar lump in my throat and weird squiggles in my stomach as I am writing this post. The content in this post has been largely unspoken about or said to any of my friends or family. Thus, knowing that once I finish, I’ll hit the “Publish” button is absolutely terrifying.

This post is about a colored person’s insecurities.

The insecurities that arise when you’re in a public place, such as your workplace, and you start having pounding palpitations when it’s time to open your Tupperware because you’re worried that the smell of the warm, cozy rasam rice will ‘offend’ the white folks near you.

The insecurities that arise when you’re at a restaurant with your white friends and you notice how their body language is different from yours, so you change yourself. You notice the perfect angle at which they placed their napkins on their lap, so you abide by the same ‘rules.’ You notice their eloquent nature when using a knife and fork, and force yourself to not use your hands to eat that taco.

The insecurities that arise when one of your white colleagues asks to see your Spotify because you’re almost embarrassed that your Spotify is only filled with ‘brown’ music.

The insecurities that arise when you pronounce a word wrong and fall deep into a pit assuming that the white people around you will ultimately blame your color and ancestral origin for your failed attempt at pronouncing a word the ‘American way.’

It’s as if the country expects you to erase your non-American culture and only embrace the American culture.

It’s suffocating.

These insecurities can be largely subconscious or conscious for many of us. For others, the lucky few, these insecurities simply may not exist.

The point is though that the burden to acclimate to the environment and society is placed on colored people. Instead, there should be no such burden. People, specifically white people, should be educated about the way colored people MAY feel around them and it is naturally their duty to ensure that they do not continue to uphold such stereotypical notions and ideas of minority groups.

For the longest time I thought it was my fault that I wasn’t as comfortable around white people as I was around colored people.

“It wasn’t until I was in PoC-only spaces that I realized how much of myself I had cut off to fit into white culture,” one person of color in Shambhala recently told me. “So being in PoC spaces allows me to reclaim those forgotten parts of myself.” – Citation

Thank God for the way media has allowed for more space amongst marginalized communities. Organizations and companies like Live Tinted are changing the face of diversity in the U.S. and knowing that children are growing up during such a revolutionary time is encouraging and comforting.

An Interesting Debate Over ‘Purpose’

The other day a doctor I was working with said to me:

“Many people don’t know what their purpose is, so they make their work their purpose.”

This stuck with me.

I thought anyone’s purpose would be embedded within their work because, at least for those of us who are privileged enough, they will choose to enter a profession that brings them the utmost joy and value. Becoming a surgeon has been my ‘purpose’ for over a decade, and that’s because I believe that this profession will enable me to build on my strongly held values, such as service and compassion.

However, when a doctor said that to me, I was forced to stop and reflect. If work isn’t my purpose, then what is? How do I find it?

The doctor was talking about how we, as students, should not take academics as seriously as we do being premeds and even as we grow older. This is because he believes that work should never engulf one’s entire life.

I agree with this wholeheartedly, however, I have a slight problem. I can’t even envision myself as having any other purpose. I don’t want my purpose to be limited to family, friends, or any one sector of my life. I want it to be more, and being a medical professional fulfils that desire for me.

Because I was so deep in confusion over what my purpose would be if I can’t rely on my future profession, I googled how we can find out our purposes.

According to Richard Leider, who is “a nationally-ranked coach and purpose expert…the equation for purpose is G + P + V = P.” (gifts passions values = purpose)

Let’s break this up.

Gifts

I’m not sure what my gifts are yet, but I’m sure I’ll discover them as I progress further.

Passions

My passions are deeply rooted in service, specifically in helping & advocating for children and mental health rights. I am also passionate about the performing arts. As a dancer and someone who grew up watching way too many Telugu/Hindi movies, I believe the performing arts has the ability to change one’s perspective on various occurrences within our world.

Values

This one is tough to reflect on as I have never actually sat down and thought about them.

Using the list from this website, I would say that these are my current values that I hold very dear to me:

  • family-orientedness
  • leadership
  • service
  • self-actualization

Purpose

Combining all three of these aspects, I would ideally find my purpose. However, we know that discovering what we truly want in life is not as simple as cracking down on an equation. I feel like our purpose can only be found by either experiencing a lot in life or by having a life-changing experience.

And maybe we don’t need to settle with having just one purpose. Maybe we’ll have more than one purpose and that’s okay. Maybe we won’t discover our purpose(s) until we take our final breaths and that’s okay too. And maybe one’s profession does become their purpose, while for others it’s just something that they’re passionate about but it’s not their true calling. It’s our life and we get to shape it in whatever we want to.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers was the most thought provoking and intriguing book I’ve ever read.

Quick Synopsis: Gladwell takes a look at a person’s background, culture, ancestors, etc. all to explain how they became who they are. For example, Bill Gates is who we know as a successful and wealthy entrepreneur, making him an outlier. However, his success is not attributed to him alone. It’s due to his family, the school he went to, the hours he spent with computers. It’s even due to the year he was born in.

I had so many moments of utter shock while reading this book. Here are some of the things that I learned:

  • It takes 10,000 hours to reach the level of mastery.

Bill Gates reached his level of mastery with computers because he supposedly used his wealthy school’s computers all the freaking time, starting from a young age. Therefore, by the time he developed Microsoft he had already covered or was near to covering 10,000 hours of work.

If we all put in 10,000 hours solely for our passions and into our desired professions, we too would be on the Forbes List.

  • Privilege and power play a large role in your success.

Gladwell talks about Chris Langan, the smartest man in the world. Chris Langan did not have much power or privilege, causing his intelligence and “success” to go largely unnoticed. Gladwell talks about the moment when Chris’s high school teachers didn’t engage him with more challenging work as he was always 100 steps ahead of all of his peers due to his high IQ. Thus, he spent most of his high school time self-studying and eventually earning a perfect score on the SAT.

Langan proceeded to receive scholarships from 2 colleges. He attended one of them and was subsequently kicked out because his mother did not send in his financial information in time. Gladwell even mentions that Langan was denied his request to attend class at a later time because he had a broken down car.

Chris Langan’s opportunities were bare and few, and even when he wanted to act upon them, he couldn’t because of his social background.

There are A LOT of interesting stuff in this chapter that I can’t summarize here, but I HIGHLY recommend reading it so you get as equally shocked!

  • Culture impacts the type of person you are.

There’s this AMAZING chapter about plane crashes and pilots in this book that absolutely blew my mind. In essence, majority of the plane crashes that have occurred can be understood by taking a look at the ethnicities and cultures of the pilots.

Pilots from countries who value elders and authority, tended to not stand up for themselves and the state of their plane minutes before a crash. For example, Gladwell talks about a Colombian pilot who was unable to clearly state to the headquarters that they are out of fuel and needed to land ASAP because he was primed by his culture to never disobey or raise your voice against authoritative figures.

However, an American pilot may have spoken up immediately and demanded that they find a place to land because American culture claims that “all men are created equal.” American culture does not preach the need to bow down to all elders and people of power.

Hence, culture plays a large role in the type of person we are and could become.

Gladwell also talks about how our ancestors and what they did for a living impacts us today. He uses Asians as examples to explain this topic and why they are so good at math. It was incredible. I don’t want to spoil anything hehe 🙂

  • The time and era you were born in can determine your success.

This concept was simply astounding for me. The year and era you were born in can set you up for success or failure. Gladwell talks about how national-level hockey players tend to always be born in the earlier months. He also gives the examples of how all the multi-billionaires were born in the 1950s. Obviously, Gladwell goes more in depth and explains this idea of time to you in this book.

Overall, EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK to understand that a successful person is not someone who is incredibly different from the rest of us. They are the result of numerous factors that we often overlook.

‘Inaction Is A Slow Death’

“Inaction is the holiday of fools, who trade temporary comfort for long-term existential suffering…. Action is a life-giving breath. Inaction is a slow death.” – Better Ideas

Throughout the pandemic, I worked super hard to set a routine for myself – especially in the mornings because I love my mornings. I’d wake up bright & early, workout, get a lot of work done, not look at any social media until after my workout. I was happy with spending time with myself and not having so much stimuli enter my world.

However, college forced me to change my routine and since then I have not been able to get back to the same level of routine I had built during the pandemic. I now struggle to wake up to my alarm. I still love mornings, but it has become increasingly difficult to begin those mornings. I open Instagram right in bed to urge me to get tf out of bed. However, by doing that, I’m allowing an incredible amount of external stimuli to jolt my brain first thing in the morning. Working out has become an inconsistent action. I’ve started to rely more heavily on my morning cup of coffee. It’s just different.

As a result of this change and the weird feelings associated with it, I wanted to highlight this video. It was breathtakingly shot and addressed the mental rut that I’m currently in. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did 🙂

‘Empty’ Time

My Dad is currently in India on a work trip. When he calls me to check-in, he often asks “What are you doing? What are you up to?”

My go-to reply, with actually anyone who asks a similar question, is “Nothing.”

However, I’m never actually doing ‘nothing’ because doing ‘nothing’ starkly goes against the American Dream: the idea that one must keep hustling in order to achieve their goals and dreams. Doing ‘nothing’ is also terrifying because then that means all the thoughts that I’ve locked away can come back – with full force. Thinking about those thoughts is emotionally draining, so the best solution would be to just go-go-go.

Once you’ve been go-go-go-ing for quite some time, you start to notice how depleted and overloaded you feel. Many define this as ‘burnout.’ A lot of people (and information on the Internet) claim that the cure to burnout is to do things that bring joy. The thing is, though, many people actively schedule those joyful things into their day-to-day lives. The act of scheduling joy may be helpful for some, but I found that it was actually more detrimental for me.

“According to the Western perspective, filling every moment with “value added” activities is a sign of virtue and significance….The archetype of the virtuously over-busy person is so ingrained in our societal mind-set that it takes strong language to knock it loose.” – Martha Beck

When I schedule joy, I start to look at joy as a task that I need to check off. For example, let’s say I schedule “write a blog post at 2:00pm.” Writing and posting on this site is one of my creative passions that brings me lots of joy. However, it only brings me joy when it’s not a structured part of my life. Therefore, when I try to structure this passion of mine into my day-to-day To-Do list, I found that I actually begin to not like writing as much as I used to.

The key to prevent such backward healing is to schedule ’empty time.’

“Empty time is a powerful medicine that can make us more joyful and resilient, but it’s strangely hard to swallow.” – Martha Beck

Schedule ’empty time’ into your calendars. Do not title that block of time with anything – just write ’empty time.’ When you reach that period of time, then decide what you want to do. Do you want to just sit on your ass and stare at the walls? Do you want to journal all your crippling thoughts? Do you want to go out for lunch with your best friend? Do you want to go downstairs and chat with your family? Decide what to do in that moment. Lean in to the things that feel like home. For someone who likes to be in control and plans everything well in advance, this idea of being spontaneous during her ’empty time’ is an uncomfortable, but refreshing feeling.

Martha Beck does an incredible job of conveying the importance of having empty time here.

A New Anxious Discovery

Every time I sit down to begin a project, MCAT practice, or even to write an exam, I begin excessively yawning. In the moment, I used to wonder why I was suddenly overcome with fatigue when I’m actually shitting myself and extremely nervous to complete whatever task I’m about to begin. Yesterday, I was fine all morning and then the excessive yawning began again when I tried to an MCAT practice passage. Curious to see if yawning was somehow related to anxiety, I swiftly googled it. To my surprise, yawning can be a result of nervousness, stress, and anxiety (Wired).

This behavior of excessive yawning is common to almost all of us living beings (i.e. reptiles, animals, humans, fish). According to the article Big Question: Why Do I Yawn When I’m Nervous or Stressed?, researchers found many studies that link yawning to stress. They believe that our hypothalamus, a part of the brain that maintain’s our body’s homeostasis, triggers the behavior of yawning during such stressful situations.

“In one study, male Siamese fighting fish were observed yawning multiple times during different aggressive encounters with one another. Similarly, numerous studies have shown that macaques will yawn in response to various male threats, bouts of sexual jealousy, and anxiety. In a recent study published in Neuroscience Letters, Japanese researchers used classic fear conditioning to successfully induce yawning in rats.” – Wired

One specific reason for this behavior that I found particularly interesting is that yawning can act as a mechanism to maintain our body’s temperature. Under stressful or anxiety provoking situations, we tend to sweat more because of our rising body temperature. Therefore, yawning helps to combat this temperature increase by keeping “the brain at its optimal 98.6 degree temperature.”

“In a 2010 study on the impact of yawning on brain temperature, Gallup implanted probes in the brains of rats and found that even a rise in temperature of 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit triggered yawning. He also found that the skull temperature fell immediately after the rats finished their yawns—sometimes by as much as 0.7 degrees.” – Wired

The next time you catch yourself excessively yawning, instead of reaching for another cup of coffee (like I naively used to do), just check in with your body and note any signs of stress, anxiety, or nervousness.

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies

In all honesty, I was terrified to draft and publish this blog post because it’s forcing me to write down and reflect on my CURRENT thoughts. All my other posts are generally things that I’ve dealt with and thought about in the past, so it’s easier to reflect because I moved past that stage already. This topic, on the other hand, seems to always be a part of me no matter how hard I try to move past it. Thus, I was prompted to draft this post because I’ve been feeling this way since the beginning of this year. I hope it resonates with those of you who feel a similar way.

TW: body image issues, eating disorders

To begin, my first exposure to the Eurocentric ideas of a woman’s body began in eighth grade (which is, unfortunately, extremely late compared to children today). Up until eighth grade, I ate whatever and whenever I wanted to. I balanced nutritious food with possibly less nutritious food. I didn’t spend so much time thinking about food, my body, or anything related to my appearance.

Once in eighth grade, my athletic friends began to speak about how they have to go for a run to burn the calories from their unhealthy lunch or my aunts would comment on my supposedly ‘large love handles’ or I’d only see certain types of bodies being represented on TV shows I’d watch. Being around such stimuli began my so-called ‘fitness journey.’

I’d stop eating an actual meal during lunch and would rely on a pack of spicy Doritos or an ice cream bar to sustain me throughout the day. Once I came home at 4:00pm, instead of feeding my starving body, I’d force myself to run 2 miles on the treadmill nearly every day. On the days I skipped the running, I’d brutally criticize myself and would even sometimes punish myself by not eating dinner. When my mother would ask or try to force me to eat, I’d brilliantly win our arguments and claim that I was full and could not eat anything.

This same mindset trickled into my freshman year of high school. I’d eat an ice cream bar for lunch and proceed to go home and run a couple miles on the treadmill. Starting sophomore year, I started sharing my lunches with my friends, which worked out better for me because I was actually eating proper meals (chicken tenders, french toast, wraps, etc.). However, I kept trying to run every day.

Moving onto junior year of high school, the first few months I’d wake up at 4:45am to go to the gym with my dad. I’d do some cardio and abs while my dad did his own routine. We’d make it back home by 6:00, and then I’d stuff my face with some breakfast and hop on the bus to go to school. Though this time of my life taught me how to set a disciplined routine, I wasn’t able to stick with it for a long time because I was getting so drained while at school. I still remained pretty inconsistent with my ‘workouts’ during this phase.

Starting senior year, I was sick of my inconsistent running and bored of doing the same thing all the time and still seeing no results. That’s when I began getting more involved with fitness. I added some resistance training, Youtube workouts, and attempted to eat ‘healthier.’ I believe this is when I started to become more strict with labeling food as being either ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Therefore, my body image was still nowhere near perfect because I’d continue to get tempted and eat the ‘bad’ food. I’d binge on food and would proceed to absolutely hate myself and my decision making after.

Finally in August 2020, during the pandemic, I begged and convinced my mom to get me a personal trainer. My trainer’s name was Harrison James and he singlehandedly changed my life. He changed my perception of food, fitness, and bodies. I spent a year training with him for about 3-4 times a week and that will forever be one the most important and life-changing parts of my life.

He taught me that food is fuel. Food is essential to ensure our bodies function the way they’re supposed to. Most importantly, he taught me to eat until I was actually full. Before, I used to eat for the sake of eating or not eat anything at all. With Harrison, I began eating 3-4 eggs every day for breakfast, added more brown rice for lunch, drank a smoothie every day, AND also continued eating the ‘bad food’ when I wanted to. My labeling of food began to dissipate. I ate until I was full and that was such a unique and satisfying feeling.

Harrison also taught me that fitness is not about becoming skinny. It’s about feeling strong. Before, my goal was to look like a stick. With Harrison, my goal became to tone up my body to be able to survive my days for a longer period of time, lift things with more ease, and overall, appear to have a bigger personality so that I could radiate my confidence better.

Unfortunately, once in-person college began, I could no longer continue training with him. Therefore, I transitioned to working out in my college dorm room throughout the fall semester. I would say that I was consistent enough and also maintained a pretty balanced diet.

It’s when spring semester began that I started to revert back to pre-personal trainer days. I became so much busier with extra-curriculars, academics, and social events that I no longer had the time or energy to workout or eat with as much balance as I used to. I was eating random food at random times, sleeping at wack times, barely working out. Even when I did workout, I’d get tired so much more easily and lacked the normal amount of motivation that I used to have. I noticed how my body changed (and in my eyes, it was not in a good way). I’d spend so much time thinking about my food consumption and waste so much more time hating myself for the way I looked.

At the time of me writing this post, I feel uncomfortable in my own skin because I’ve spent years trying to undo the damage that I and society have caused to it. However, I’m in this constant seesaw battle where I hate the way I look, BUT I also hate that I’m reverting back to defining myself based on my appearance. I want to go back to the times when I would be able to consistently work out because my goal, at the time, was to feel strong and release those endorphins. I was not focused on getting chiseled and looking a certain way. I want to go back to the time I could eat whatever I want and still respect my skin, my body, and myself. I want to go back, but in order to do so, I need to move forward and understand that bodies change. Bodies change so much throughout a single day, so imagine how much they’ll change throughout the years.

Camila Cabello does a much better job of putting my exact feelings into words here:

I want to end this reflection with a note to myself and all of you:

Let’s work tirelessly to replace all of the teachings of our patriarchal world. Let’s just be kind to our strong, beautiful, curvy bodies. Let’s not let anyone (including our parents, best friends, significant others, and anyone else) make us feel as though we are only defined by the way we look. Let’s give ourselves as much permission as needed to eat – whatever we need to fuel our bodies. Let’s make a vow to ourselves to seek for resources to help us heal because we are worthy of healing. Let’s love and allow ourselves to be loved. ❤️