Gap Year Musings

While looking for inspiration for today’s blog post, I decided to spend a little time rummaging through the archives of Earplug8. I realized two things: I definitely talk too much, and you probably have no idea what I’m up to these days.

To address the first issue, I will try to keep things brief. I will inevitably end up failing.

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As for the second issue, let’s dive right in. I made a brief mention in my last post (read it here: 1,658 Sheep and I’m Still Not Asleep) that I have since graduated from the Best College Ever™ — aka the University of Southern California. Okay cool, now what? Well, if you are an OG Earplug8 reader, you will know that at the end of my sophomore year, I decided to pursue medicine as a career (wanna read about it? No? Here’s the link anyway: Denny From Grey’s Anatomy). Good news, guys! I didn’t give up! I graduated with a degree in Health and Humanity and an imaginary degree in how to navigate the jungle that is medical school applications. Most of May 2017 and the first day of June 2017 consisted of trying to boil down four years of experience into a concise resume and personal statement to send to more medical schools than I wish to count. Sounds like a lot of work right? Aren’t I so glad I got that over with? False. It’s not over. After I sent the first application to all those medical schools (called the “primary application”), I was sent individual “secondary” applications from each of the schools I listed on the primary application. Secondary apps are akin to supplemental apps — they have essay questions that are more targeted to each medical school’s interests. July 2017 was a blur of emails from schools, each with their own set of prompts and character/word counts. My Macbook and I put in some double overtime hours working through those. Done, right?! NO. Next (and this is the part I am currently in the midst of) comes the INTERVIEWS. After your interview, you will finally receive a decision about the status of your admission from the school.

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What a process, right? There has been a lot of soul searching and even more character count cutting than I have ever done in my life. On top of the host of issues an applicant must consider in presenting him or herself as a viable medical school candidate, I also had to consider When to Say When. When do I tell medical schools I am hearing impaired? How do I tell medical schools I am hearing impaired? DO I tell medical schools I’m hearing impaired? I know I am not the only applicant with a story to tell, so the series of questions I just presented above is a universal dilemma. Basically, how does one condense his or her story into a neatly packaged essay or interview that proves to admissions committees that the challenges he or she has experienced has molded him or her into a person that will become a successful physician? I honestly don’t know if I did it right, but I do know that I am proud of how I have presented myself thus far. I hope that the adversity, challenges, failures, and successes I have chosen to share are a realistic and accurate portrayal of the person I have become and a predictor for the person I will soon be.

I can’t have gone too wrong with my choices thus far, because I have begun to receive a few interview invitations (holy guacamole folks, this is happening) from schools. As I prepare for interviews, I realize this is the step I am most excited about. I can’t wait to “meet the schools” and to have the schools truly meet me — not the 2-D paper version of me (or technically, electronic version of me? It’s a paperless world and we are all just living in it). Let’s see how this goes, shall we?

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I would say that applying to med school is a full time job. Actually, no, it definitely is a full time job. But I also have an actual job too! I have been employed as a scribe in a dermatology office nearby. You guys, I get to wear scrubs! Feels very official. My scribe job has been intellectually fascinating, but it is also an illuminating glimpse into the world of outpatient care. How a clinic is run, how the medical assistants (MAs), front desk employees, doctors, scribes, and office managers interact — I am gaining an education about healthcare that I never truly considered before, which is crazy because health care management is the grease on the wheels of efficient healthcare delivery.

Another aspect of my scribe job (one that is personally satisfying) is my ability to be successful as a scribe. Hearing well and hearing accurately is a large part of being a good scribe. There is a lot of background chatter and many conversations are held in hushed voices so as not to violate patient confidentiality. I have to have my ears on everyone, all at once: the doctor, the MA, and the patient. At first, this job was so unbelievably overwhelming. For a crazy moment, I wondered if my hearing might actually hold me back. But then I remembered who the #%$! I was and figured it out. Now, the job feels natural.  I am becoming familiar with the medical terminology and the names of the endless drugs, creams, serums and ointments. I have become accustomed to always being “on” and aware of the conversations going on around me. I have learned to stand in an optimal position to hear, but also ensure that I am not in the way. I have also learned when to ask for clarification, and when to make a note and come back to it. I realized I need to get comfortable with making notes and moving on — the most important task is keeping up with the provider. Most importantly, I have learned how to manage the feeling of being overwhelmed because ultimately, it is not about me. It is about making sure the patients’ experience in our clinic is smooth because their electronic medical records are up-to-date and accurate.

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(me, getting the job done)

Long story short, my experience working as a scribe has been truly invaluable. The education I am getting about dermatology is fascinating, the education I am getting about how an office works is insightful, and the education I am getting about myself, my capabilities and my ability to navigate a difficult situation is comforting.

Well folks, there is a lot going on these days, and my gap year is only beginning! This summer has been a memorable one — definitely one of the hardest, but also the most rewarding so far. But you know what? I hate to be that girl, buttttt I am pumped for fall. I am feeling very autumnal and ready for the next chapter. Don’t worry though, I haven’t worn leggings in months and I strongly despise coffee, so a pumpkin spice latte is out of the question.

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1,658 Sheep and I’m Still Not Asleep

Hello everyone! Happy Monday and thank you for politely ignoring the fact that I haven’t posted since 2015. I have realized that in my absence from this blog, I have collected quite a few things to talk about. So everyone, please give a warm “thank you” to Google Chrome for remembering my WordPress login credentials so we can begin.

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Today, I want to talk about the thing we all wish we had more time to do: SLEEP. More specifically, I want to talk about when sleep doesn’t happen. At least for me. I can talk about myself right?

I suck at sleeping. I love to actually be asleep, but the prospect of falling asleep is . . . I don’t have a word for it. I’m not scared or anxious or depressed. I think I find the process of falling asleep to be boring. Confusing even. I have felt this way ever since I was a little kid, and I was wearing my poor tired mother down by asking her to tell me bedtime story after bedtime story to put off actually having to go to sleep.

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After all these years, I think I have figured out what’s going on. I may be totally crazy, but you see, I’m on a gap year right now (yay for being a USC alum!) This means I have a little bit more time on my hands than I’m accustomed to, which lends itself nicely to overanalyzing why I don’t like to go to sleep.

I take out my hearing aid and cochlear implant before I go to bed, which means those 30 minutes (or hours) before I fall asleep consist of total. darkness. and. silence. Yes, that can be perfect sometimes: when you’re exhausted or you’re feeling sick and you just want to tune everything out. However, on all other nights, it’s a little bewildering. In fact, when I was a baby (before we knew I was hearing impaired) I slept right smack on my mom’s chest. If she even moved an inch, I would wake up screaming and crying. We have since realized that this was because I was scared: I couldn’t see or hear, and if I didn’t have the anchor of the rise and fall of my mom’s chest or the vibration of her heartbeat, I had no idea where I was in time or space.

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I’m older now, and I know where I am in time and space when I go to sleep, but that doesn’t mean it feels awesome. I think my brain overcompensates for the lack of sensory input that I am used to during the day. My mind races to fill the silence to sort of root me down so I don’t feel like I’m floating away into the void. You see, this is where the conflict is: falling asleep is kind of like floating away into the void. Void is a scary word. Let’s use the word dreamland instead. If my brain is working overtime to ensure that I don’t feel like I’m drifting away into a dreamland, how can I fall asleep? Observe: actual footage of me trying to get my brain to sleep.

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By now you might be wondering how I ever fall asleep. Obviously it happens, right? It does. It usually happens when my brain tires itself out. Some nights that is sooner than others, but occasionally, it takes hours. The better rested I am, the harder it is to fall asleep!

You may be asking, “have you ever tried to just make your brain fall asleep?” Why yes, yes I have. I have subjected my unwieldy brain to mindfulness, hot baths, dim lighting, reading dreadfully boring books before bed, and bedtime rituals. Some things do work better than others. Mindfulness is always a good tactic, and it usually works if I can summon the energy to put it into practice.

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The one thing that mindfulness cannot do, though, is get rid of the weird feeling of total silence and darkness. I get it, you guys think I’m crazy and that these are ideal conditions for falling asleep. But if feels weird. It is true that I can still use my other senses to ground myself, but after a while, we stop feeling our sheets and our pillows as our body accommodates to the bed. So at that point, I really feel detached from the physical earth. Any attempt I make to recover sensation keeps me awake. If I move, I’m awake. If my mind is racing, I’m awake. If I open my eyes, I am, undoubtedly, awake.

Has anyone been in those sensory deprivation chambers? That are supposed to be relaxing? Maybe I need to try it. Maybe I’ll figure out how to manage the weird feelings and loss of sensation so it makes me feel sleepy. Until then, who wants to hear how well I can count backwards from 1,000?

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Nyle DiMarco: Hey, wassup, hello

So imagine my mama, who is becoming more adept at social media/using the internet than I am (embarrassing) saying, “Shayna. Have you heard about the newest winner of America’s Next Top Model? He’s deaf, dark haired, blue-eyed, and handsome.” Since I have been living under a ROCK for the past month (finals finals finals), my answer was no. Since I have no intentions of emerging out from under said rock to interact with the world just yet, I spent the past two days watching an entire season of America’s Next Top Model (with closed captions) like it was going out of style (lol never).

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Sure, cycle 22 may have been the most dramatic season I’ve ever seen, but it was also the most intriguing, and that is because of Nyle. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be on a T.V. show, especially considering my deafness. However, Nyle’s task is one that even I cannot pretend to comprehend.

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Nyle is a member of the Deaf community, which means he uses nonverbal communication and sign language as his means of expressing himself. The other 21 contestants were hearing individuals. No matter what kind of drama those other people got up to, if Nyle was in the shot, I was focused on him.

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And not just ’cause he’s cute, okay? Okay.

It was so inspiring to see Nyle keep up with the others. His reasons for doing the show (proving that deaf/Deaf people can do anything) and his method of going about it just blew my mind. He was so composed and so patient, and while I can’t say I fully understand what it is like to be in his shoes, I feel that I understand more so than the average person.

When Nyle’s phone, which was one of his primary forms of communication with the other contestants (via various talk-to-text and sign-to-speech technologies) was taken from him so another contestant could take selfies, I felt his anger and his frustration. Obviously, what that contestant did was not cool and it should not have happened. At the same time, I understand Nyle’s desire to keep peace and not disrupt the vibe, choosing instead to internalize the frustration rather than express it. Many times, I have been in social situations where my hearing impairment was either forgotten or just completely disregarded, sometimes maliciously. Still, I wanted to give others the benefit of the doubt, to allow them the naiveté of not having to adopt another person’s perspective or burden.

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When Nyle was a cast member on Tyra Banks’ music video, I was so stoked to see him keep time with the music (with some help from the crew and Tyra). He even did better than some hearing individuals!

When Nyle had to do a photoshoot in the pitch black of night (no sight AND no sound?!) I felt that bewilderment and desperation to succeed, in spite of a so-called “disability.” I was reminded of various nighttime talks I would have with my friends, around campfires, on buses, or just because. I remember feeling lost, like I had no anchor to hold on to, no visual cues, no facial expressions — just sound, which for me, and most other deaf individuals, is not always enough.

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When Nyle had to walk the final runway to the sound of violins (no bass? Really, people, really?) I was taken back to my days as a songleader in high school, where I was able to perform in front of large crowds despite the fact that I couldn’t always hear the music. I had a job to do and an image to sell, and deafness didn’t really have a place in that description.

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When Nyle won, I could not comprehend how he must have felt. Yes, I understand pretty much every step of his story. I feel his pain, confusion, frustration, excitement, determination, and enthusiasm. He handled feeling invisible (because no one else spoke his language) with absolute poise and maturity. He kept his wit and humor despite the difficulty on many fronts — social, modeling, and beyond. Yes, I too, have been in similar shoes. But Nyle DiMarco did it without spoken language. As a result, I was positively mind-boggled. I once heard a person say, “blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from other people.” Watching Nyle DiMarco, and keeping in mind my own experiences, I just know this isn’t true.

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We are all bound by the human condition, and we all have different battles. A deaf/Deaf individual can connect to another person just as well as the next person. But other people have different obstacles to face and overcome. The fact of the matter is, it isn’t any one type of minority group keeping up with a majority. I think it is high time we all understood that life is the story of individuals not only keeping up with each other, but also holding each other up.

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Seeing how Nyle found ways to reach his fellow contestants and seeing how they, Tyra, the judges, and the crew reached out to him was something special. As a deaf individual, it is reinforcing to see someone similar to me go out on a limb like that and succeed. Not necessarily because I feel like I can’t do it too, but simply because it is beautiful. It is progress. It is not a solution, it is not a clear announcement that okay, now being deaf is totally mainstreamed and normal, but I’d say it’s a start. A fierce one, at that.

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Nyle DiMarco is helping amplify the voices (and signs) of so many deaf/Deaf people coming out of their shells and sharing their stories. His journey has been awe-inspiring from the get-go, and there is nowhere for him to go but up. Many thanks to Nyle, to America’s Next Top Model, and to the viewers who had open minds for helping to redefine what beauty is in the 21st century.

Nyle has an InstagramTwitter, and Facebook page. Follow him, like him, spread the love.