grade me…evaluate and rank me…

In the days following clicking “Submit” on my primary med school application, that initial sense of accomplishment has been increasingly replaced by a sense of dread, realizing that, by having done so, I am subjecting myself to critique and judgment orders of magnitude beyond the yearly employee performance review. I suspect this may not be so bad for the more typical med school applicant, who hasn’t had time enough to develop not only a significant body of experience but a sense of…well, I guess it’s entitlement. Not so much the “I’ve had everything spoon-fed to me and I expect it to continue” unjustified sense so much as the “I’ve paid my dues and then some–to reject me is an injustice” unjustified sense of entitlement. But, in line with not self-identifying with the “entitlement generation,” any feelings of indignation I might feel are subsumed by worry–worry that I didn’t market myself well enough on my application, that I might be judged unqualified or unprepared; and then where would that leave me? (“Oh, yeah? Well, I’m gonna build my own med school. With blackjack. And hookers. In fact…forget the school.”)

Humility. I should keep that in mind.

And there’s so much waiting. Waiting for my transcripts to be verified, waiting for secondaries, waiting for interviews… one foot is moving towards the future, but the other foot has to stay in the present and take care of present responsibilities, despite all desire to continue moving forward, making the wait more intolerable. Oh, and the uncertainty. None of what I’ve done so far is guaranteed to result in the outcome I want. (Amusing thought: does the uncertainty principle imply that if I knew that I made it into med school, I would have no idea what I did to get there?)

Maybe I need an actual vacation…especially before the secondary applications start to kick my ass.

there but for the grace of god

The unique perspective that being an alum provides for serving on the admissions review committee cuts both ways. The first-hand experience is an asset, as it allows for a particular insight on the type of student who would thrive in this setting. However, it’s also a burden once you realize that same privilege you were afforded could have just as easily been denied, and presumably, since you’re serving on the committee, you know what a Big Frakking Deal that would have been. When I think about that–and not only that, but that this had to happen for Every Single Person There–when, try as I might to avoid it, my mind attempts to ponder a life not having become friends with these Wonderful People… I can’t.

what’s in a name, and in a similar vein.

At tonight’s FAST orientation, I did something I haven’t done in awhile: introduce myself as “Tony.”* It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment choice occurring while filling out a stick-on name badge; a question not normally asked but nonetheless answered, in the blink of an eye; an action ostensibly with no consequence, though, in retrospect, laden with symbolism. It was a small gesture that signifies, I think, by its nature, a new beginning; the anticipation of not just a new decade but a new path in life; and at the same time, harking back to a distant former existence, a return to what was.

Oh, and the orientation was rather inspiring. I am now booked for something like 25 hours of training and at least as much of actual service–and wishing I had found this team sooner.

* * *

The name of a blog that Saralyn, a fellow Northwestern SCS pre-med survivor, is rebooting, “Med School Maybe,” reminds me that this whole becoming-a-doctor thing isn’t written in stone…being accepted to a med school somewhere isn’t guaranteed at all, and there is a ton of crap yet to be done just to get my application ready. Hell, when was the last time I actually applied for anything? Must have been my job interview…six years ago. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the panic and worry over college apps. With grad school apps, or even the job interview with GE, there was less of a concern since I had fallback plans, so you’d think that should be the case here, but I’m really waiting for the other shoe to drop. Med school admissions committees: I should think that going through the hell of applying to med school when I’ve got a reasonably secure** job that allows me to contribute something to society shows some level of commitment.

* Ever since I graduated from high school, I would always first introduce myself as “Anthony,” answering “either is fine” if then asked if I preferred “Anthony” or “Tony.” During high school, though, it was pretty much “Tony.” And if I met someone through a high school friend, or if someone were associated with my high school, I would introduce myself as “Tony.” Come to think of it, it might have been a mixed bag during college.

** No doubt that, by stating that, I’ve now jinxed it.

study-ousness progris riport

Before the start of this quarter, I said to myself that I was going to be better about studying, especially for organic chemistry. As I waste time on the night before class, time that should be spent doing study problems from the chapter but instead I am spending pounding out this blog post…I can say that, so far, I’m failing miserably: I opened my chem textbook and, after skimming through some scintillating reading about the reactions of alcohols, I decided to do something else.

I can maybe claim some small amount of success, first having actually opened the textbook, and second not running towards the TV after abandoning hope of school-related progress. Maybe.

My working theory at the moment is that my apartment is not at all conducive to doing homework. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good solutions to this particular problem…

And so, the journey begins.

As I begin to execute parts of my exit strategy from my current job (engineer) to points unknown (med school), I thought I might start to chronicle on this site my journey out of the desert.

It all started with an informational session at Northwestern University for their pre-medicine professional development program–well, to be really honest I guess it started back when I was still applying for the job I have right now. I was pretty up-front then when I said I intended to stay only for a couple of years before transitioning to med school. Now…it’s been five years (six since graduating) and I figure I’ve put in my time (woot–three weeks of vacation!) and can move on now. Only problem is those pesky prerequisite courses I need to get into med school, and the question of whether my undergraduate credits still apply. (Do I really need to take physics all over again? I aced it back in college, and I’ll do fine it if I have to take it again… but that would be such a waste of time and money.) So I figured the program at Northwestern was the best option as it is structured and offers guidance for a career-changer like me.

Knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (for this stage of my life, at least) and seeing that light have an effect on one’s outlook in life. Admittedly, I’ve gotten myself into a comfortable rut, but I could definitely do without corporate politics and the general malaise that accompanies life in an office. Were the years I’ve spent working a waste? I don’t think so. I think I’ve grown and matured a lot since I started and has given me a bit of perspective. But I can’t help but think… when I finish my prerequisites, I’ll be close to 30, then in my mid-30s when I finish med school… a part of me thinks that that seems so… old. (I know it’s not necessarily old, but still.) Shouldn’t I be settling down and raising a family by then? It’s trains of thought like that that give me pause as to whether I should be doing this at all, but deep down I am confident this is for the best.

So, here I am today, in the middle of taking a biology course at Northwestern (I’m a student again! Haha. STUDENT DISCOUNTS, BITCHES.) and trying to juggle work at the same time. Challenging? Definitely. The long commute from WI makes things interesting (and makes me question whether I shouldn’t just quit my job right now and move to Chicago) and is a strain on my wallet, to be sure. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to pull this off without too much financial hurt.

If nothing else, the trips to Evanston have infused a part of my weekly routine with the environmental stimulation you can only get in a big metropolitan area. And it’s made me remember how much I miss living in a big city.

beauty and trepidation

I grew up in Chicago and I never once caught a sunrise over Lake Michigan until Sunday morning. It was incredibly beautiful…and incredibly worth staying up for.

The weekend was beyond anything I could have ever predicted. It is a brave new world in which I set foot…

linking neighborhoods together

Being a mile and change from the nearest El station, it’s a wonder I manage to hit up locations outside of my home neighborhood. Well, locations that typically don’t have plentiful street parking, anyway.

I was just thinking about some of the up-and-coming neighborhoods, areas that you really didn’t want to touch with a fifty-foot pole back when I was growing up, like Bucktown and Wicker Park, and the increasingly revitalized districts just outside of downtown like Near North/River North. The vibe in any of these places are incredibly reminiscent of their counterparts in New York, which is no small feat considering the population advantage the city holds over Chicago. Time was when even those neighborhoods shut down to rest, but now it seems a jolt of energy has been provided by the gentrification of these neighborhoods.

And you know what? I really have little motivation to go to any of these places. Okay, so maybe what I really am is just lazy, but I like to give some credit to the layout of Chicago’s rapid transit system. It’s too…commuterish, I guess? What I mean is that it’s obvious that the system was designed to funnel workers from the outlying neighborhoods into the central business district and that’s it. Combine that with coverage that in my opinion doesn’t adequately fill the city and what you have is a system that works great for the people who live near it but everyone else pretty much has to take the bus (hardly a rapid transit solution).

If I wanted to go to Wicker Park (for instance) I’d have to take two buses. If I wanted to go to Wicker Park to drink then I’d have to take two buses that already run infrequently enough at night that it’d be a long ride home. It would be slightly better if I lived near the Red Line; then it’d be two trains, but I’d have to ride into downtown to switch to the right train. Or I could do a bus/train combo, which is still not exactly an ideal solution.

I suspect that I was spoiled by the incredible convenience (for the most part) of New York’s subway. Take a look at the system map and at first glance it might seem like a tangled weave of lines, but the practical upshot of it is that you can take the subway pretty much everywhere. I felt no hesitation about taking the A train to Inwood all the way from the Village, or moving all the way out to Jamaica* and commuting to school. The ride was long, but the bulk of the ride was spent on one train and trains are frequent enough during rush hour anyway so transfers aren’t really much of a slowdown, especially compared to the total trip time.

There are parts of Manhattan that can seem worlds away even though they’re really not. This illusion is in no small part caused by the lack of a direct subway path from point A to point B. The classic demonstration of this is the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. All that separates them is Central Park, but they can seem like they’re on opposite ends of the earth just because you can’t get from one to the other by subway! (Easily, anyway.) If you wanted to, you could take a crosstown bus, but they tend to get very full very fast (on the East Side anyway) and they positively crawl along.

That’s pretty much how it feels for me here back at home. There are perks to this location, like being a stone’s throw away from the lake, but going anywhere by public transportation is a bit problematic. Or, at the very least, rapid transit options tend to be less…rapid. There’s the initial hurdle of getting to the El station, which is a fifteen-minute walk minimum (a bus will take the same amount of time or worse if you factor in wait time and traffic). But then, in order to keep the trip reasonable, you’re limited to destinations located on a rail line, for which fortunately a good number of major attractions qualify, but a lot of neighborhoods still feel like they’re worlds away.

By the way, I hate buses. It always seems like I’m waiting forever for a bus.

* The F train goes all the way out to Jamaica, and I can get to Manhattan for a buck fifty. Or, at least, I used to. It’s two dollah now.

(Totally unrelated, but came up while I was doing research for this entry: Queensboro Ballads by Levi Asher. Wonderful read–at least, I think so.)


So I’m thinking hey it’d be cool if I got the job with GE after all the interview seemed to go pretty well and I have a shot but I really don’t want to get too attached to things that haven’t been decided yet not only that but they’re also out of my control so the only thing to do is to keep on keepin’ on but really there isn’t much to do in my life so I think about the coulda-woulda-shoulda’s and also the could-be’s including but not limited to “wouldn’t it be nice if I got the job with GE” though it’d be pretty stressful but at the same time I am really enticed by the opportunity to put some hard work in some real tangible projects and then I think but I’ve been back in Chicago barely a month and I’m just starting to get readjusted and starting to actually put down roots which I haven’t done since maybe ’99 or 2000 back in New York and if I get the job at GE then I’d have to uproot myself to Wisconsin which really isn’t that far from Chicago but the majority of my days would be spent there so it would effectively be moving out of Chicago and do I really want that?

Well, yeah… I do believe that the position with GE would be more rewarding, and I’m not just talking financially. But I’m sure that God will tell me what I am supposed to do, in a directive that takes the form of a job offer with GE, or lack thereof… I don’t recall the last time that I really had choices… most of the major decisions I’ve had to make have been no-brainers for the most part.

the world beyond new york

“And now, here’s a look at the world beyond New York.” Pat Kiernan, morning anchor at NY1. It was very easy to succumb to the New York-centric mentality (New Yorker cover). “There’s a world beyond New York?” After 11 September 2001, even my old friends back in the Midwest knew everything that was going on in the city. The effective world was New York. That soon faded, and I’d talk about various city-related things but I’d remember, oh, I guess the national news is back to being national. These days, I still can’t muster up the interest to read the local papers because I like to believe I still have a vested interest in New Yorkslanted news.

To a great extent, us Americans are a little too preoccupied with ourselves, even now. Thomas Friedman talks about the reasons for 9/11, and I admit it’s eye-opening for me, even though I like to believe that I’m already aware of such things. But it always comes back to a single statement: “There’s a world beyond New York?,” even though it is plain that I’m surrounded by (hills|mountains) and more greenery than in the NY Botanical Garden, but more to the point, I’m still a Chicagoan at heart.

Fact of the matter is, I prefer illusion to despair, to paraphrase the great Nelson Muntz. The world continues to turn, the old adage “never get involved in a land war in Asia” still resonates, but March Madness reigns supreme. Only now, Pitt fell to Marquette, so there will be no joy in Mudville. That’s one less distraction from “the world beyond New York,” which means it’s back to such middling concerns as the war on Iraq, not to mention signs of the impending collapse of civilization and the inevitable Stand-esque showdown between good and evil. “M-O-O-N. That spells ‘stop this ride, I want to get off!'”

They Were Here Before Your Grandparents Were Born

Every so often, I’m reminded of just why I liked New York and why I find myself missing it every so often.

Tell the truth, I get a kick out of commuting. In New York, it’s especially fun. Your train gets delayed–watch everyone whip out their phones to let people know they’ll be late. The stupendously long line for a taxi at Penn Station. Sidewalk maneuvering. Pre-walking in the subway. I miss it–but I am comfortable with the way things are right now.

The streets and sidewalks just pulse with life, all hours of the day every day. Some people might see the dense city as suffocating, but I look it as a constant reminder of being alive and living.

At night, the inhabitants pack into the bars and restaurants to hang out, socialize, nourish, and imbibe. Me, I spent many a night in one particular place, McSorley’s Old Ale House, a popular little spot on East 7th Street that’s been around since the 1840s. McSorley’s Old Ale House only serves one kind of ale, and that’s McSorley’s. McSorley’s comes in two varieties: dark and light. A round is composed of two mugs that can either be both dark or both light, or one of each. Waiter service is available at the tables, where you will be served by a right proper Irishman who will take good care of you. No matter how big your party is, he will bring all the beer that is due you in a round: it’s amazing how many mugs these guys can carry in one hand.

My friends and I went pretty regularly, usually on Thursdays around 5, which is the best time to go if you want to beat the crowds. At 5pm you will be served by a friendly man by the name of Tommy, who is one of the best waiters you’ll find at this establishment. In the grand tradition of Matty U!, we always left generous tips (so now you know where all my money went).

But graduation came, and we all went our separate ways out of the city, so our at-least-weekly McSorley’s runs came to an end. On graduation day, Gene, Joe, and I went to the saloon to drink our last round–as students, anyway.

On a recent visit to NYC, Gene and I dropped by McSorley’s to grab some lunch and some beer before heading back to his place. It was shortly past 11, so they were barely open. Besides the two of us and another couple that had just wandered in, the place was empty. What’s more, the sun was streaming in through the windows…strange. We ordered a couple of burgers apiece and a round of dark. Halfway into eating, who should I spot but Tommy, dressed quite suavely and heading towards the back. I acknowledge him with a nod. I expect him to just say “Hello, how are you fellows today?” but he stops and, having recognized us, turns around, extends his hand to me and Gene, saying “Good to see you fellows!” A few minutes later, he’s walking towards our table from the bar with four mugs of dark, sets them down with a flourish, saying “Here you are fellows, always good to see you,” and shakes our hands again.

When we get up to settle accounts, our tab is $7 less than what it should have been. Good ol’ Tommy bought us a round! It’s little things like that that make me feel all good inside. It’s little things like that that make me miss New York.