Monday, September 19, 2016

Make an Omelet

Have you ever thought about the cliché warning “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? Taken literally, that seems like terrible advice. Am I just supposed to carry 15 baskets back from my morning rounds of the chicken coop? Are these all normal sized baskets or is someone out there manufacturing baskets that hold 1-2 eggs a piece? Is it acceptable to put all of these smaller baskets into a larger basket for practicality’s sake? That seems like a nice loophole to me.

Of course, it is not meant to be taken literally. No one is gathering eggs from chicken coops these days. (Although, most people do still have some period of time in which their eggs reside in a grocery basket, and I have never seen someone toting a dozen of those around.) The actual advice is hidden inside the statement – you have to ponder it deeply before the reward of wisdom is bestowed upon you by the magical fairy godmother who hands out life lessons instead of shoes. Gee, thanks.

What it really means is you shouldn’t hang all your hopes on one thing. One goal. One outcome.

It’s pretty unrealistic, if you ask me. Speaking as someone who has spent most of her life pouring everything I could into one goal – medicine… sometimes there just isn’t room for a back-up basket. It would have been nice to have time, energy and freedom to develop other skills over the past 8 years. Between pre-med courses, volunteering, shadowing and then medical school and internship, it simply wasn’t an option.

Am I allowed to mix metaphors? This seems like an appropriate place for “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. But life didn’t give me lemons. I picked those lemons along the path that led me to where I am. Hand-selected each and every one of them, all big and yellow and lemony.  At some point they turned into eggs and I stuck them in my basket. And now I’ve got one basket full of eggs, just like I wasn’t supposed to do according to the crappy fairy godmother who does not traffic in glass slippers.

Tangentially, if you’re ever in the mood to pick lemons, it is important to realize that lemon trees have thorns. Rather large ones. This makes it exceptionally difficult to climb up into the tree where the lemons are. Also, If you make it far enough to come close to reaching a lemon and you use a shovel to bat it out of the tree in the direction of the ground, you will hit the person standing below you in the face with a lemon and split her lip. Even if that is not your goal – it just happens. In my limited experience with lemon picking, no one comes out unscathed.

So here's my moral: If you’ve put all your eggs in one basket and it turns out the basket isn’t one you want to carry anymore – dump it out and make omelets.

Example? This post. I could not think of anything to put on paper this morning… 30 minutes later, a lot of eggs have been stacked onto this rather pointless piece of literary rambling. No going back now, Enjoy your omelet.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Some fodder for the Tell-All... Or, the time Chi-Chi's ruined my birthday

Whenever my mom does something crazy (which is fairly often) or does things that, by her own admission, “take her out of the running for mother of the year award”, I like to remind her that it is just more fodder for my tell-all. In the past 27 years, I’ve gathered more than enough fodder for my tell-all… it’s time to actually start writing it. My mother, however, is an easy target, not only does she do completely illogical things on a regular basis because they simply seem like a reasonable plan of action at the time (I’m talking about the time you put an ice cube in your pocket, mom), she also has the grace to laugh at herself when the situation warrants. My brother and I tease her pretty non-stop when we are home for the holidays and she laughs along, entertained by her own silliness.

Thus, she deserves a break. This is my tell-all. A compilation of all of my most embarrassing moments... A few that I only remember because the stories have been told so often that they live in infamy, many of which still bring a flush to my cheeks…. Come to think of it, this would be a brilliant piece of writing to debut under a stage name that has no association with me, but where’s the fun in that?

I’ve had more than my fair share of especially mortifying moments over the course of my young life. So many, in fact, that it would probably take several months to fully narrate each and every one. Unfortunately for you, ‘months’ is not a duration that is often used to describe my attention span. Lucky for you, I haven’t abandoned this undertaking just yet. Consider this the first in a series of short stories describing events that still make me cringe to think about. Here goes nothing.

That time I had my birthday dinner at Chi-chi’s.

As a child, I was extremely shy – as in, refused to make eye contact with strangers, had my dad order for me in restaurants so I wouldn’t have to speak to waitresses and absolutely hated having attention drawn to me for any reason level of shy. Luckily, my parents were well aware of my social phobias and they would often cover for my inequities (which, I’m sure was preferable to having the waitress at a restaurant ask “what” 35 times in a row as I mumbled that I wanted a ‘cheese burrito’ over and over again inaudibly.) Side note: a cheese burrito is two tortillas filled with American cheese and then microwaved to melty mushy cheesy goodness. I was often disappointed in restaurants when my dad would order a cheese quesadilla for me and I would receive a toasted multi-colored cheese atrocity that was masquerading as a ‘cheese burrito’. At home, it served as one of my major food groups from age 2 until about age 19 and, honestly, I still make them sometime when I need comfort food. Don’t knock it until you try it though, they’re quite delicious.

I digress.

Good ole mom and dad actually went well beyond the call of duty to ensure that my fragile psyche was not damaged in a large number of normal-kids-would-not-be-afraid-of-this situations and social settings. So, I’m sure it occurred to them that the horrible restaurant tradition where the entire staff gathers to sing some cheesy lyrics birthday song while every patron in the building gawks in your general direction might give me nightmares for years to come. Unfortunately, they had another child, who, in addition to not being the social pariah I was at that age, also had a birthday on the same day.

Jimmy and I have shared a birthday since… well, honestly, since I’ve been born. This never ceases to amaze people. Often, upon learning this fact, people who have met us both and know that we are separated by 2 years of age, forget all understanding of biology and ask if we are twins. No. Even my mom would have thrown in the towel after a year of labor. The second reaction after spending an uncomfortable amount of time in silence mentally analyzing the possible baby making activities of my parents that led to such well planned offspring (read: any amount of time), is to point out how much it sucks to share a birthday. Gee, thanks. Having never not shared a birthday with my older brother, I can’t say that it sucks. It is the only thing I have ever known. I like having someone to stand next to me while the rest of the room is staring and singing ‘Sto lat’. If anyone really has license to complain, it has to be Jimmy – he had his own birthday for one glorious year and then I showed up. At the Christmas between birthday 2 and birthday 3 for him, he attempted to dump me down a staircase out of the back of his toy dump truck. Assuming he was acting in attempt to reclaim his birthright of a day celebrating him alone, he was ultimately unsuccessful. For many years after that we had cakes with both names on them, we got “share” presents that we both enjoyed – like the tree fort in our back yard. Mom and Dad went above and beyond to make sure that we were both made to feel special on our birthday and that neither of us was made to feel more special on our birthday.

However confronted with the restaurant serenade, they must have faced some internal drama– Jimmy deserved to have a restaurant serenade him with all the accolades he had merited by turning four. Katie, on the other hand deserved not to be psychologically traumatized by an entire room of people staring at her for reasons she didn’t understand by turning two. As they often do, accolades took precedence over preventing psychological trauma. To their credit, I’m sure my parents did not forsee the ending as it actually played out. What they likely anticipated was me hiding behind my dad or under the giant sombrero that back in the day, Chi-chi’s gave for the birthday boy or girl to keep. (Last time I checked, we had at least half a dozen of these sombreros in the attic… Chi-chi’s played a big role in the history of my family.)

Picture it: happy family out to dinner for their adorable children’s birthdays. Mom and Dad in their 30’s, holding a 2 year old who looks petrified but is an otherwise normal appearing little girl with a bowl cut who has eaten 3 bites of her cheese quesadilla and only because it was necessary to mop up all of the liquid of the salsa (none of the chunks, those were practically vegetables). Two other grown women fill out the table, the Aunt and Grandmother who are both so excited for the birthday celebration. Between them a 4-year old boy with a huge smile and dimples who is just thrilled to be there on his special day. Jimmy was generally thrilled by most things at that age; It would be years before the toll of having me as a sister wore on his constantly sunny demeanor.

The tradition begins with clapping. The wait staff all gather in the kitchen or near it so they can form a processional over to the unsuspecting victim’s table. I’ve worked as a waitress but oddly enough have no memory of this particular phenomenon – is there a pre-song huddle? A pep talk? A practice run? Do they decide if they are going on 3 or after 3? (Pitch perfect, anybody?)

Regardless, it begins. Far off, quiet. Much like the drums of the goblins in Lord of the Rings. For a moment, you’re not even convinced that you actually heard something… just your brain playing tricks. An auditory hallucination in a crowded room full of people laughing and talking… anyone could be clapping, right?

It grows louder. Now you know that this clapping is not a coincidence. Throughout the restaurant, patrons begin to sweat. Is it my birthday? No, that was last month, Oh, thank goodness… wait Kevin missed my birthday, did he tell them it was me to make up for it? Are they coming for me? Do I have food in my mouth? Kevin wouldn’t do that, would he? Come on, man, this is so awkward. They’re getting closer!! Smile, pretend like you’re in on it… Smile … keep smiling. No, they’re passing by… its NOT me!! Relieved expressions cover faces as the convoy passes them by. Suddenly, inane lyrics that are really just pointless statements over and over mixed with subliminal messages about the restaurant are adorable. “So its your birthday, your birthday, your birthday… Chi-chi’s wishes you happy birthday. Happy Happy Birthday, Ole!” They begin to clap along, joining in the mob mentality and thankful that they are not its chosen victim this time.

For some reason they always have to cross the entire restaurant - What if the birthday human sacrifice was sitting right by the kitchen? I think they would probably do a lap to ensure that the entire restaurant stops mid sentence and mid bite to stare at the person who is approximately one year older.

By the time it is clear that this parade is heading for our table and ours alone, the entire room has begun clapping. They’re in on the game – besides, there are two little kids at the table, they love this sort of thing.


I can’t remember the exact moment at which I became aware that public humiliation was imminent, but even 2-year-old Katie had some sense of self-preservation and knew she needed to act immediately.

In situations of extreme stress, biology teaches us that animals enact their “fight or flight” response. Essentially, at almost all levels of the food chain, if an organism believes that its life is in danger, different mechanisms kick in to help it survive. The heart will begin to beat faster and harder to supply the muscles with the oxygen they need for upcoming increased exertion. The muscles become more tense and possibly tremble. The pupils dilate to allow more light to hit the retina – making the organism more sensitive to visual threats. The stomach and guts slow the digestive process (you’ve got bigger problems than the lump of cheese burrito you just ingested). This is considered to be an evolutionary advantage that was selected for; that is to say – animals with good strong fight or flight responses lived long enough to have babies and make more animals with good strong fight or flight responses. While it is less often an evolutionary advantage in our day to day life, it is certainly present – just think, when something startles you and your heart races, you become slightly lightheaded and get a bitter taste in your mouth? That is all thanks to adrenaline which is the chemical responsible for gearing you up for a fight. Or potentially for a flight… which sadly does not mean you will actually fly. The response is dubbed ‘fight or flight’ likely because the alliteration just makes it sound pretty. (Actually, fun fact, this response also covers a third F activity that involves increased heart rate, but that’s probably beside the point for now)

2-year-old Katie knew none of this, but benefited from it anyways. This was before Katie had been trained to fight. This was before Katie had become well versed in verbal sparring. For 2-year-old Katie, flight was the only option.

There were limited options available to a 2-year-old trying to flee the scene. The path to the bathroom was blocked by the far-too-happy group of terrible singers head our way holding sombreros and some cheap dessert with a candle in it. Although our booth was situated near a window, I was unlikely to be able to reach and open and escape through said window in a timely fashion.

Pupils dilated, heart pounding, I scanned the room. I needed to conceal myself. As the sound of clapping grew ever louder, I could feel more and more eyes on me. I climbed into dad’s arms, but it was not enough, they were all still watching. I looked down at the mostly empty bowls of chips and dregs of salsa that remained on the table next to the majority of my meal that I’d lost interest in minutes after it arrived. Next to it sat the children’s menu and crayons I’d been provided upon entrance. All of this sat upon a solid wood table that concealed a dark underworld where crayons fell never to be retrieved and the 5-second rule for dropped food did not apply.

It would have to do.

Taking one last look at all the grown-ups headed my way (although, in retrospect, I’m sure most were just teenagers) with their singing and clapping and attention-getting antics, I made my decision and hurtled my small body towards the crevice of darkness that was between the table and booth. I could taste the quiet dark security of the tiny space – I was so close!

Suddenly, with a loud crack, my head was filled with excruciating pain. I’m pretty certain this pain was a 7/10. It was bad. Plus, I was pretty dramatic. Plus, everyone was still staring at me and I wasn’t going to make it in time. Plus, now everyone was staring more because I had just dove head first directly into the edge of the table.

I sobbed. Loudly. The singing might have softened somewhat, but did not stop entirely. This new twist on the dinner theatre was just an added bonus for the other patrons. My dad tried to continue with the general gaiety of the situation while simultaneously consoling me. (A role that would be required again and again throughout my trying childhood. It really is quite a wonder they didn’t just let Jimmy dump me down the stairs when he had the chance).

The rising egg on my head did nothing to deter the interest of the general public. The amused stares became concerned stares and the attention lasted significantly longer than it would have if I hadn’t tried to pass my head through a solid object. Come to think of it, I might also have had a few more brain cells and gone on to become a successful practicing physician… but if that were the case, then I wouldn’t have this fun story to tell.

So if you’re ever out to dinner with me on my birthday and you’re wondering if you should ask the people to sing to me, I recommend bringing a helmet, just in case.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Plot Twist

I guess my life just had a season finale. No, I’m not dying or anything even moderately close to it… That opening sentence comes across pretty melodramatic, which was not my goal. This is based on something I saw on tumblr the other day. I can’t find it again, but it was something to the effect of “Do you ever feel like your life is a TV show and the writers have started doing some crazy shit just to keep it interesting?” For some reason, likely the eloquent way in which the poetry was written, that line of prose stuck a chord with me. In my life there has been some “crazy shit” lately, or, as they could be called affectionately if I had any affection for them: character building opportunities.

Character building opportunity #1: Failing step 3. Subtitle: Irony is not funny at all.

I failed step 3, or step 3 failed me. Both of these statements have a lot of emotional baggage so allow me to lay out the facts. As of December 11th, 2015, the minimum passing score was increased from 190 to 196. My score, which I received a morning approximately 6 months later was 195.

This score is obviously not a percent… clearly 195% of correct answers would be an adequate score to pass. For those unfamiliar, Step 3 scores are assigned a magical number that is somehow calculated based on the number of multiple choice questions you answer correctly and various interactive cases in which you proceed with patient care correctly. How the cases are weighted in relation to each other and in relation to the questions is unclear. How the cases are graded at all are unclear: obviously if the patient dies, I assume you lose all credit, but is it partially right if you intubate them before they die? Or reorder the right chronic medication?  Or diagnose them properly post mortem?  Clearly, my bedside manner is not the problem.

It is a terrible experience. All of the step exams are. Ask any attending physician if they enjoyed studying for Step 1, 2, or 3. Better yet, tell them that you are – likely they will grimace and express condolences. Even worse, step 3 is a two days of a terrible experience. Day one, you arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to slay the dragon before you. All 233 multiple-choice questions of dragon. These are divided into 6 blocks of approximately 38-40 questions. Factor in forty five minutes of break time to be divided up between hunger, thirst, nature calling, emotional breakdowns, google searches for how much a plane ticket out of town that same night would cost and a 5 minute tutorial and you have about 7 hours of fun.

When you arrive for day two, you’re already tired. You no longer have the benefit of cautious optimism that has grown as a scab since your last step exam. The raw tissue is now exposed. You know exactly how much pain is involved in staring at a computer screen for an entire day and trying to remember that one day in Immunity and Infection when you went over the mechanism and side effects of Isoniazid and whether or not it interacts with this pretend patient’s lengthy list of medications. You are still haunted by the half dozen questions you knew you didn’t know yesterday – the ones that stuck in your mind and you looked up on break or when you got home, hopeful that you remembered the correct antibiotic, contraindication or physiology. Of course the ones that stuck are the ones you don’t know – at this point, you’ve fully lost sight of every question you got correct. Success is simply what is expected of us – the system has taught us what we need to know, but failure – that is a burden you carry alone: you should have worked harder, studied longer, known more.

You would think that with all this factored in…. For a test for doctors, theoretically designed by doctors – others of our cohort who have faced other exams, medical school, stress, fatigue and anxiety… There are a million reasons to see the logic behind making the second day of testing the shorter of the two. It is like putting the last 100 meters of a 5K on a downhill slope, while it will not drastically change the race outcome, everyone feels a lot better as they cross the finish line.

On day two, the dragon is bigger. As if this post weren’t already nerdy enough, he is the Hungarian horntail of test dragons. There are fewer total multiple choice questions, but because simulated patient cases are involved, the day is longer overall and involves almost 9 hours of sitting in front of a computer screen, pulling out your hair and (in my case) getting yelled at for sitting Indian style in the chair. (Which deserves a separate rant, but seriously? If anyone has figured out a way to cheat simply by sitting Indian style after the invasive full body search performed each time you enter the room, perhaps that person has earned the right to 4 more questions correct.) There are an additional 180 test questions to be answered and 13 individual simulated patient cases to complete. Generously, they once again provide 45 minutes of time to get coffee, buy chocolate and rethink your life choices.

Let’s do the math. I have no idea how these scores are computed and I can’t find much evidence of it online. I’m not sure what threat to medical integrity would be risked by ensuring transparency of these procedures, but apparently it’s not a risk worth taking. However, there are approximations posted on forums: one such equation is 3 digit score = % correct * 2.8

Here goes. Score of 195 – my percentage correct would have been 69.64%. Passing score = 196, which is equivalent to 70% of questions correct. There are 233+180 multiple choice questions for a total of 413. I have no idea how the cases are weighted, especially factoring in that some are longer than others, take place in different locations (ER vs Clinic vs hospital room vs ICU) and have different amount of knowledge involved. For the heck of it, I will assume each case is equivalent in weight to 10 questions. So 13 cases at 10 questions per case = 130 more questions, for a total working count of 543. 69.6% correct of 543 is… drumroll please… 377.9 questions correct. I’ll give the graders the benefit of the doubt and round down… 377 questions that I answered correctly. The passing score, 196, or 70% corresponds to 380.1 questions correct.

Based on an arbitrary number, I have fallen 3 questions short of “what it takes to be a doctor”.

That seems like just the kind of plot twist one would expect in a season finale… actually, didn’t that happen to George in season 1 of Grey’s Anatomy? Sorry… spoiler alert! I understand that the whole point of calling a spoiler alert is to announce it prior to the actual spoiler, but if you’re 12 years behind in that particular show, I just saved you a season’s worth of time.

Character building opportunity #2: Moving away. Subtitle: There is not enough room at the inn.

The Joint Treatment Facility for military medicine of the National Capital Region employs over 12,000 military members and civilians to care for over 545,000 eligible beneficiaries and 282,000 eligible enrollees. (Numbers from the Comprehensive Master Plan for the National Capital Region Medical provided to Congress). Those numbers speak to a pretty impressive staff in the area, so when I was told that after leaving residency, I would be re-employed as a GMO (general medical officer) in the area. Why not? There are literally thousands of jobs around here… it makes sense that the needs of the army would coincide with a job I was qualified for, AKA another faceless GMO in the mass within commuting distance of the National Capital Consortium.

Turns out, these promises that I would stay in the area were misinformed and almost immediately after my resignation was accepted, discussion of new postings were tossed out. Apparently, despite looking for a place for me here, there was simply no room for another GMO. So they considered options – wouldn’t I like to be near family? Where was home for me exactly anyways?

When I informed the person responsible for taking my best interest into account that home was Ohio and sure I would love to be placed near my family, the response was, “Ohio, is there a large army presence there?” which was disheartening for 2 reasons: 1. Shouldn’t the person responsible for assigning jobs in the army know already where there is and isn’t a ‘large army presence’. 2. No, there is not a large army presence in Ohio, so it looked as though being near family would not be an option. I responded that no, the army has not had a major presence in Ohio since our last war with Michigan, which was taken with what has become the company line for my sarcasm here – either the recipient doesn’t understand it or they pretend not to in order to prevent encouraging such behavior.

The back-up options to “move her to Ohio to be with family” were obviously Alaska and Korea. Maybe they understand sarcasm after all.

Someone somewhere in the infinite chains of command where my future was being discussed without my input decided that sending a girl with diagnosed depression to Alaska where the sun apparently just doesn’t shine sometimes might be counter-productive to the needs of the Army. Korea, while certainly sunnier, would leave me similarly isolated.

Long story short, it was decided that if I can’t be close to home I should be somewhere that is going to minimize depression and set me up for success should I decide to return to residency. Lucky for everyone involved, it turns out a GMO spot was available only a short 10 hour plane ride from home.

As much as I love new places, I always hate saying goodbye to the faces. Dr. Seuss should write a book about that. It is going to be sad to leave the home that DC has become and all of the new friends, but I’m excited to say Aloha to new adventures and greener pastures (metaphorically… I guess bluer waters would be a better line) in Oahu - time for me and Lola to learn to surf! Who wants to go on vacation?

Monday, August 15, 2016


“Every single thing you do in your life, somebody else is doing a better version of it.” -The Oatmeal, The terrible and wonderful reasons I run long distances part 6, the Void.
I have never been the best at anything. As a child, I always expected to be… I thought that was how growing up worked, you try a bunch of different things until you find your niche and then you excel, simple as that. I grew frustrated as I got older and continued to realize my lack of talent in a variety of fields. Everyone else seemed to be the best at something and here I was just crossing options off of an ever-lengthening list. To me, “Jack of all trades, master of none” always seemed a horribly depressing title.

At lot of children start their ventures of practice and developing skill in the soccer or T-ball arenas. I preferred to pick flowers on the sidelines of my brother’s games or play in the woods when I had free time. Next up, Ballet. I’m still not convinced why a small child who hated to have people look at her thought that ballet was going to be her life’s great calling. Perhaps I was just too oblivious to my own lack of talent. Unfortunately, my parents loved me enough to commit a couple of my performances to video evidence which I now occasionally watch through my fingers while making mental notes of topics to share with my therapist. Then I tried basketball. Since I didn’t enjoy being the center of attention, I didn’t really like to catch the ball or have it thrown to me at all… Not an ideal quality for a member of a basketball team. I also lacked hand-eye coordination, team spirit and a general understanding of the rules of basketball. Another item crossed off. I took to acting in church plays, and I was about as skilled as the average 7 year old actress in a low-budget reproduction of the story of the birth of Christ. What I lacked in volume and expression I made up for in my ability to memorize lines. I became a regular appearance in the plays – often landing leading roles simply because they could count on me to learn lines. This was not the Oscar I had anticipated. I asked for a skateboard one year, determined to become the next Tony Hawk… several skinned knees later, I had mastered riding the board in a straight line for a short distance on a smooth surface only at slow speeds. It would not appear that Tony Hawk had much to be nervous about.

My failed endeavors of later childhood were not quite as pathetic as my attempts at ballet and skateboarding. I actually found moderate success in a variety of activities by the time I got to high school, I ran varsity cross country (never the team’s front runner, but far enough up to count in the scoring), I played trumpet with some small amount of skill (if I spent a long time practicing the songs given to me). I began to grasp the concept that every skill was earned… at least, by me.  Talent was a misnomer and true success comes from repeated attempts to get better.

I was never valedictorian in my high school class. I got the occasional B for work turned in late. Once I got an D because I had not bothered to turn in 2/3’s of the work for the semester. The next assignment of the semester was to bring back the signed progress report with our grade. My parents didn’t sign the progress report – I was afraid to show it to them, so I procrastinated, so by the day it was due, I had already arrived at school, progress report unsigned. It seemed like a stupid reason to loose even more grade points so I signed it myself. Turns out that high school teachers are smart enough to figure out that when a largely straight-A student brings home a D grade, her parents generally don’t sign the form without some sort of discussion with the teacher. I got a little grounded for my practicality. … The point is, I generally did well in high school with minimal effort when I remembered to do it. Most of my sub-par grades were from either procrastination or inadequate effort in the few and far between moments where the material did challenge me.

This should have been a set-up for failure when I attended college, but it wasn’t. I did not excel at time management, but was generally able to cram enough for each test that I would get the grades I wanted. I always used to wonder what my grades could be like if I actually had the discipline to focus. At the beginning of each semester I would construct intricate study schedules, goals, outlines and plans for the weeks ahead – this time, I would not fall behind and cram! Of course, those generally lasted a month at best and there I was, two days before the test wondering why I thought Ecology was important in the long run anyways.

The trend continued in medical school, but with far more devastating results. Cramming is not an option in med school. At the time of my first exam, I had been a student there for approximately 3 weeks. We had covered over 400 pages of material – more than an entire semester of undergraduate learning. If I studied 2 hours per day on weekdays and 5 per day on weekends (which may be an underestimate) that is a solid 50 hours of studying on top of the hours already involved in the classroom learning. That is the most I had ever studied for any test up to that point in my life. It wasn’t assigned homework or busywork or problems – just me and my notes, face to face.

My exam score was acceptable but certainly not perfect. At that time, I made my peace with it. There is a phrase well known in the medical community, “P equals MD”. If you earn a passing grade in all of your course work, you will become an MD. You do not have to be number one. The person who ranks 99th in the graduating class is just as much a doctor as the person who ranks 1st. My sanity would not allow for the level of focus it would require for me to excel in all of my classes. I resigned myself to passing my courses with the goal of also finding some manner of enjoyable life.

Without striving to be number one, medical school was palatable. Goals and structure were still indicated. I knew the direction I needed to head and all I needed to do was determine the hours I would put in getting there.  I chose my sanity over my grades and again was reminded that the only path to skill is unending hard work.

I’m not sure where I was going with this.

I’ve recently begun a boxing instructional course. In it, my coach broke down all of my previously learned boxing training so that he could build on them. While I was pretty good at throwing punches, footwork and evasive maneuvering are not my strong suits. When we were first starting to slip punches, I would quickly become frustrated and angry. He had to remind me on several occasions that it is okay that I am bad at this, I’m a beginner.  I may not have the raw talent to be a prize fighter tomorrow, but I could become one if I decided I truly wanted to commit to it.

One of the highlights of my nervous breakdown that led to my life-altering decision is that it has led to some strongly recommended (required) therapy. Therapy has been surprisingly good for me. I don’t know why it is surprising, actually. We could all benefit from it certainly – I just never saw my life panning out in such a way that therapy would be a thing I would need to benefit from. My therapist has been supportive and non-judgmental from the start – just as most people in my life have been. Initially, I did not anticipate that response. I thought she was accepting because she had to be and other people in my life… I would be letting them down. They had vested interest. Reason to be disappointed. When I told her I was growing frustrated with blogging, she helped me realize that we often hold ourselves to higher standards than others do. After a 2 month trial, I felt that I had written all I had to say. There are millions of writers out there - bookstores are full of names I’ve never heard. Nonetheless, they are names with enough success to publish a book and wind up in a bookstore. It seems like everyone has a blog these days and even those who don’t occasionally post eloquent facebook statuses or heartfelt instagram captions. Everyone has talent and a voice – why would anyone want to hear mine? It felt as though everyone who’s writing I got to read was infinitely better than mine – they were better than me. She reminded me that of course they are… Some of the people I am comparing myself to have gone to school for this, been trained in this and been perfecting their craft their entire life. I’ve recently returned to it as to an old hobby, so in a way… I’m a beginner, it’s okay that I’m bad at this.

I think I want to be a writer. I’m not sure why – it seems to be the happy middle ground of something I enjoy and something I’ve been told I am good at. (We can disregard that I was told I was good at it in eigth grade… that translates, right?)

Maybe I have wanted to for a long time… as a dream or a hobby, something too magical to actually pursue. I planned on throwing it in there, penning a novel in my free time between seeing patients and saving the world, as if it were something easy to do. Now that it is looking as though I have more free time to play with, I have come to realize that I want to fill that chasm with writing. I have also come to find that this intimidates me. This goal seems far more unattainable than becoming a doctor. In becoming a doctor, there is a checklist – the tasks involved are certainly not simple but they are well delineated: graduate college, volunteer, shadow, interview, go to medical school, pass your boards. It has always seemed to me that there is one specific path to follow if that is your end goal. There are dozens of check points along the way: college advisors, requirements, mentors, interviews, essays and qualifying exams.

Being a writer seems more nebulous. I don’t know where to start or who to talk to. I don’t know how to figure out if I “have what it takes” or if I’ll make the cut. Who knows if my book will ever make it big time or if I’ll even have a regular following to my blog? ...Maybe I’m dreaming too big. Millions of writers make an impact without becoming a household name or a staple on a college reading list. Why do I measure success as some level of recognition?

Taking a step even further back, why do I need to be successful? I didn’t start writing because I thought it would help me pay the bills, I did it because it is something I enjoy doing. It helps me organize my madness and find calm in my inner storm. It makes me feel productive even when I’ve accomplished nothing but putting words on paper. Clearly I’ve spent a lot of time being trained to think like a student. In medical school and residency, with such extreme demands on your time, it is important to make even your free time productive. We become masters at time management, excising anything that may take up more than it is worth. (Even studying if the 99% on paper is worth less than the memories you make with the people around you)

It is taking a surprising amount of effort on my part to restructure my thinking: not everything that is worthwhile becomes a line on a CV. It is okay to have a hobby and be unsuccessful or quietly successful. It is okay that after opting out of medicine that I don’t have an immediate plan to be the best at something.

When I told my mom I wasn’t going to be a doctor, she told me she was not disappointed in me. She said I had already accomplished far more than she had imagined for me. It’s not that she doubted me (although she did drop me on my head as a child, so I anticipate her aspirations for me are at least slightly lower than they were initially), but simply that I had already graduated medical school… in her eyes, I had succeeded. Walking away wasn’t going to make me a failure. Actually, most people I told were supportive. No one said aloud what I was telling myself: that I wasn’t good enough, that I had strived to be one of the elite and ultimately failed, that this was obviously going to happen from the start.

One of my good friends in high school knew from that early age exactly what she wanted to do with her life. She interned at a local paper, writing small pieces and learning the trade while I wasted time bussing tables and doing whatever jobs were available. I may have been paid more, but she gained far more. She used to refer to me affectionately as smart ass… which is probably the most accurate nickname I’ve ever been given. She went to college for journalism and has now written for a lot of widely read publications. Me on the other hand, I feel like I’m 18 again… my whole life in front of me, some lofty goal but no experience, no concept of what it will take to get to where I want to go or even how to begin.

Maybe I will have nothing to write about for forever… perhaps the rest of my life will be this endless narcissistic drone about how I wanted to be a doctor and then I didn’t and how that changed me. The problem with a blog is that I’m constrained to writing my own opinions and stories, things I know to be true. Am I doomed to this venue and all of its limitations? Is this the best I will ever be?

I’ve been working my whole life towards one goal and I now have nothing to show for it.

I suppose that isn’t true. I’ve gained some things in getting here… I’ve almost drowned in the Nile, met the Taliban, ridden on a caribou, bathed in a hot spring, climbed down the “wall of death”. I’ve acquired some stories worth telling. I’ve often thought that what I lack in talent I make up for in something else… hopefully one of these days, I’ll figure out in what.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Just some more Toledo nostalgia

I have nothing to write about.

 I have been on a small hiatus from my daily blogging for several reasons – I’ve had family visiting, I’ve been on vacation, I’ve received word that I failed step three and felt that my time previously allotted for writing should be redirected into studying. Again. Easily the thing I will miss the least about medicine is studying – the sensation that even when I am done, I am never done. After a long day of patients, there is still a topic to read about. After finishing a rotation there is still step preparation. After completing intern year there is still board prep. After board certification there is re-certification, PI projects, new studies and medications… There will always be something that I don’t know. When there is something I don’t know, there is risk – possibility that I will do something wrong, select the wrong medication, prioritize the wrong intervention, diagnose the wrong illness… when I do something wrong, a patient could get hurt or die. Obviously, the learning needs to continue, day in and day out I need to do everything in my own power to minimize what I could get wrong. With that line of thought, time off feels selfish, not studying feels like rebellion. I will never know everything and it is time to give myself absolution from that. I am not guilty for being human – I am simply human.

Regardless, the point is, I have nothing to write about. So I’ve stooped to looking through old documents saved to my hard drive wondering if any of them is worth finishing. (Or pulling the trigger and just deleting). While doing this, I happened across something I’d written shortly after moving out of Toledo after graduating medical school. See below.  I guess I anticipated that I was going to miss them.  I was right. 

Resilient bonds are formed in the trenches of medical school.

For a blog that contains the words “Medical School” in the title, it may be surprising how rarely the topic is breached in my rantings. However, to anyone who has ever asked me the dreaded question, “how was school” (and hopefully learned quickly to never make that mistake again), it will come as no surprise that to the outside world medical school is dreadfully uninteresting. Sure, there’s the macabre fascination with the thought of spending several hours a week for months on end cutting into a dead body, and I personally enjoy learning about the many bugs that can kill me should I undercook my food or drink the water in Africa… but when people ask, it’s not like there’s ever much exciting news to share.

Maybe that’s why I have made such good friends in school – because they found the same things interesting. Maybe I was simply lucky enough to end up with an awesome group of people purely by chance. Maybe it is universal to find camaraderie in anyone who can help you escape the mundanity of the library. But one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that many of my classmates have become some of the best friends I have ever had. 

That being said, I have long been dreading the day when it came time to part ways.

In the match process, which is how medical school graduates are selected for positions at teaching hospitals, students have little control over where they will end up. My classmates have now spread out across the country and for the most part are unlikely to return to Ohio. While I know that I will see great things from all of them in the future, in a selfish way, I would much rather we all stayed close together and continued our life together.

Over the past four years, the people who started as classmates have slowly become friends and ultimately family. They are my cheerleaders when I have exciting news to share, fashion consultants when I need to select and outfit, my counselor when I need advice for a difficult situation and my audience when I have a funny anecdote from the wards to share. They are the faces I miss when I travel the world, the person I can count on when I need a favor or just some company, who I text when its late and I want to grab a drink and the people I worry about when I haven’t heard from them. They are the people who ask how my day was. The ones who hold me when I cry.

Or at least they were. 

Time, change, progress. – You can’t stop any of them, no matter how hard you wish for it.

But I digress.

I had been anticipating saying goodbye to my friends for weeks. I didn’t mean to, but I just couldn’t stop dwelling on what it was going to be like to hug this person goodbye for the last time for a very long while. Or how it would feel knowing that as we made our usual walk down Huron street that we weren’t going to do it again…

Goodbyes in the movies are different than in real life.

I knew this going in, but still, it was fairly anticlimactic. 

I wanted it to be meaningful…. Powerful… cathartic.

I wanted to tell each of them how much they meant to me. What I admire them for. What I am going to miss about seeing them all the time.

Often, my expectations are incongruent with reality. Predictably, this instance fit that pattern. In those moments, I lacked the words to express the depth of my feelings and the emotion to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

However, just because I didn’t get to say what I wanted to say when I wanted to say it does not diminish the value of the sentiments themselves. So here goes. To the irreplaceable bunch of people I was so lucky to suffer through med school with…

(Taken over here in 2016)

I’ve decided to keep those words within my heart. While they are all on paper, and I’ll happily share them with their intended recipients at request, it turns out they are actually unnecessary. Although the friendships I’ve treasured have changed shape and shifted to accommodate distance, schedules and separate lives, the people I miss are still there for me when I need them. I have always assumed that I remember people better than they remember me. I was shy as a child and I think I spent so much time and effort fading into the background and striving not to be noticed, that it worked. It worked especially well on me it seems, because for some reason, I just assume I’m forgettable, replaceable… that in any relationship, I’m the one who is lucky to be involved. I don’t mean to convey that I have low self-esteem, because that is not the case in the slightest, in fact, I’m often way too pleased with myself (that did not come across how it was intended). At the time I wrote the first half of this, the chance that I would be placed with another group of people as awesome as those I had in Toledo seemed so unlikely as to be impossible. But it wasn’t – the people here are pretty great too.

We have all gone forward as our Toledo diaspora and found new niches and new friendfamilies. Over the past year and the coming years these new bonds will strengthen as the crucible of residency takes its toll. I feared that in changing the cast of characters in my day to day life, I was losing them completely (well, filing them away for a chapter in my memoir anyways). That didn’t happen – although separated, we’re still connected, not forgotten. Oddly enough, maybe this is just what the transition to adult friendship is… even though we value these relationships, life takes priority. 

We still have each other when push comes to shove and wish the best for each other in the meantime. To all of my wonderful friends who know what Cock and Bull is, who have participated in the beer olympics, or gone to Bretz, who hold Mulford in a special place in their heart or remember the day the gallows appeared in the courtyard... I still wish you the best.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A lonely run

The sound of her own feet on the pavement was music to her ears. The only other sounds were the four paws running next to her and the gentle backdrop of rain. She hadn’t known it was going to rain – obviously if she had, she’d have run earlier. When it started, she considered waiting it out. It is awfully hard to motivate oneself to go out into the rain when one is currently dry, and even more so when it involves the thankless task of running.

However when the ‘pros’ win out over the ‘cons’ she is never sorry. In fact, running in the rain was Zen-like once the initial hurdle of wanting to stay dry is overcome.   She was focused, driven, and at peace. Her feet pounded out her progress and her heart accelerated to match. Her breathing was efficient. In. Out. In. Out. Drops of water kissed her face and the smell of damp earth rose to her nostrils. She barely noticed the stopwatch ticking away as she took each step.

With each step she grew more comfortable with her pace. The body’s protests slowly fade into background noise if you ignore them for long enough. She suppressed them and enjoyed the harmony of her two legs propelling her forward. She was strong. Indestructible.

Lola halted unexpectedly, as she often did on a run when she needed to relieve herself, or spied something of interest, or simply decided she’d had enough. In this case, it was the former. She stopped her watch as the dog busied herself in the bushes. 

She has been so preoccupied that she hadn’t noticed the man until he was right beside her. He waved and kept running. She jumped and recovered quickly to respond politely, she didn’t want to offend him. The can of worms was open. She was unaware of her surroundings. Alone on a trail she’d never run before. The rain coupled with the late hour washed the trail in a weird dusky light. Suddenly, she could see herself from an outside perspective: pink shorts, blond pony-tail and red tank-top. Small and insubstantial compared to the woods around her. It was a familiar scene – it was how many a horror movie had started. The girl, happy, content, confident, runs alone – safe and secure in her life… until… It was not a unique hook.

Why is this an interesting draw? Why should a girl with the audacity to be alone outside be enough to trigger fear? Is it that the girl is alone or that she is happy? Which one were we supposed to avoid to in order to prevent the same happening to us?

She restarted the stopwatch and the two resumed their mission. Her breathing became more rapid as she pressed forward, each breath a single wish forward. Forward. Forward. Her heart hammered away in her chest. She lost herself in the painful meditation of a run.

The land rose steeply on each side of the trail, vines grew up trees and the undergrowth looked foreboding. Wasn’t she at enough of a disadvantage already without nature handing any would be attackers the higher ground? She kept her eyes up, aware that she was unaware. She had already missed someone once and he’d nearly ran into her. She felt as though she were being watched. These hills have eyes.

At that moment, she was especially thankful for her canine companion, an especially strong pit-bull terrier mix. Like many of her breed, she had gotten a bad reputation. Lola had been abused, starved and abandoned before the humane society had happened to intersect her path. She had every right to be distrustful, short-tempered and mean, but she wasn’t: she was violently loving. She was blissfully unaware of her own size and would fling all sixty-five pounds of herself into new guests in a form of greeting.

She encountered no one for a while. The two were an isolated pair on an asphalt trail in a grey, rainy forest.

Two small figures appeared in the distance. As they grew larger it was apparent they were a couple. They pulled to the side and one extracted something from the other’s bag – a water bottle. They shared it and chatted. She smiled and made eye contact as she passed. She did not feel alone. She did not understand why this couple made her feel less alone… What did they offer her? They were not obligated to be kind to her. Was it the solidarity? A woman would simply not turn on another woman like that or allow harm to come to her. It was camaraderie? It was naïve.

After drinking from their bottle, the couple returned to their bikes and proceeded in the opposite direction. After they shrank from view, there was not another soul in sight.

Maybe she had felt protected because they would have heard her scream. So what? Did that automatically mean they would respond? If she heard someone scream in the woods, would she run towards it or away from it? She honestly didn’t know.

Regardless, they were gone now. A scream is only as good as the ears it falls on and she was once more wrapped in the deadening velvet blanket of green leaves. It would be an ineffective strategy.

Scouring her surroundings for any potential threat, she brainstormed. If screams were useless, what would be her options?

She could pack a punch. She actually enjoyed boxing and trained regularly. She had the muscle memory needed to put all of her strength into a jab, to follow with a right hook, then a left elbow and a right elbow to the eye. Her favorite combination included all of those and wrapped up with a knee to the balls or chest or face – whichever was in the line of contact. She rehearsed in her head and it gave her a little peace. It was not enough though. She would have the element of surprise – to look at her, one would not expect such a calculated response. That is all she would have. She was smaller than most would-be attackers. She was far from an audience or a telephone or anyone she knew. Any defense would have to be enough to get her away.

Her breathing was not ragged. It was regular and deep. Intentional. She took in more air and noticed her heart speed up, fighting the lungs crushing down around it. Everything in her was competing for the limited space of her small yet sturdy rib cage.

She did have Lola. The dog was sturdy and could appear intimidating if you were unfamiliar with her. Maybe appearance was enough. A deterrent. How infuriating that she was thinking of herself in this manner … because the girl has a dog, it’s not worth the effort to attack her. Still, it was some consolation.

Lola certainly was loyal. She had yet to be confronted with any real danger to her owner, but at times of questionable safety, for example when she had seen her owner sparring, her protective nature became clear. She bit at the hands of the previously trusted sparring partner. Only snapping. Warning. She barked and would not let him pet her.

Her bark was loud and threatening. It was also rare. If only she’d been taught to bark on command. That would be a useful skill. As it was, Lola approached new strangers with enthusiasm, wanting to be petted, knowing that most of them thought she was cute.

Her bark is bigger than her bite. What a stupid phrase. What is the unit of measurement involved? How do the two things even compare? She understood that it was metaphorical… maybe the size was referencing the amount of fear involved. Still… She could count on one hand the number of times she had seen this bite employed as an attack. Once on a bunny, the dog had bitten down, locked on and used the powerful muscles of her chest and neck to fling her head to one side. The rabbit was dead before it hit the ground.

Another time, it had been a smaller dog. Lola was not aggressive and generally tolerated other dogs well. It was unclear what happened to change that in this particular instance. She had bitten down onto the much smaller dog’s neck but luckily only got a grip of ear and superficial tissue. Onlookers had screamed and tried to intervene, but she was having none of it. It was primal. As the smaller dog yelped and other people joined the fray, she remained unswayed from her goal, her jaws clamped down in a mortal vise.

No, her bite was certainly bigger than her bark. What damage it could do, to muscles, nerves … maybe bone.

Her thoughts returned to the trail as she passed an old mill. Several smaller trails branched off, curving upward into the undergrowth. She longed to take one of them, but knew she would feel even less safe there. She wondered what the news commentary would be if her body were found alongside one. Well, John, she really shouldn’t have been running alone. We all know that it is unsafe. No commentary was ever offered regarding the criminals choosing to commit the crime. You know, he really shouldn’t have attacked her in the woods like that. That part must go without saying… of course you shouldn’t murder, but what not everyone is aware of is the mortal sin of venturing out into the wilderness alone. The people must be warned. What an excellent way to demonstrate a moral for hundreds of would be victims, just like her.

Being on a new trail, she had settled on an out and back run. She would run forward until she had covered exactly half of her goal distance, then she would return along the same trajectory. On a map, traced broadly, it would look like she was running away from something. Only when you zoomed in close would the narrow triangle be evident, a very delicate knife.

The benefit of an out and back run was that on the return trip, the scenery was familiar. One could anticipate the curves, inclines, puddles. The problem was that every step was already mapped. At the turning point, it was only halfway. There was just as far to go. It was going to hurt twice as much. Every new sight was calculated in respect to the finish line, still several miles away. The daunting task ahead was demonstrated in striking clarity. It was a psychological roadblock more than anything.

The bike approached with impressive speed. More noteworthy was the lack of helmet and normal attire. He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, clothes that conveyed the message “tourist” not “athlete”. His build was bulky, large but not toned. He was not the typical bike enthusiast. She eyed him as he approached. From as far away as she could appreciate it, he met her eyes. Met them directly, unsmiling. The go go go of her heart picked up. She broke his gaze but felt it on her regardless. A bitter taste materialized in her mouth. She noticed a side trail down that led to a populated sidewalk up ahead. She focused on it and pulled herself towards it, looking nowhere else. When she finally reached it she turned and looked over her shoulder, ready to run towards humanity in the hope that someone would help her if it came to that. The large figure was still visible, but slowly shrinking and on the wrong side of the trail – clearly unaware of the etiquette. Her breathing was ragged now: her careful practice of regulating air completely derailed by the tiniest amount of adrenaline.

She continued through the woods.

The man on the bike had been Arabic. She couldn’t say for certain he was Arabic, he could be American. He had olive skin, dark eyes and plentiful dark facial hair. Was she a racist? This thought startled her. She examined her consciousness – No. she would have feared him equally, white or black, Arabic or Asian. Her fear in him had been well-established far off, before race was evident. The only clues her instincts had needed: large size and facial hair. Why the facial hair? She wondered. I guess it is inherently male.

She didn’t mind being sexist like she would have been offended by her own racism. Sexism, it seemed was biology. It made sense. It was why she had been taught growing up to not be alone outside after dark, why she was supposed to carry mace. As early as learning to drive she had learned to carry her keys poking out of her fingers like a tiny dagger. The message over and over had been: you are unsafe, be careful. Apparently, it had sunk in.

The trail rose into a bridge that arced the busy roadway below. Trees and vines on either side of the trail gave way to mechanic shops, a McDonalds. As years of competitive training had engrained into her she leaned into the incline, accelerated ever so slightly.

Untrained runners slow down on hills. As the body’s demand for oxygen increases, reflexively you slow to decrease the debt. In races, these runners would be passed on hills. Ignoring reflexes and instinct and charging only 20 or 30 feet past the peak she knew could significantly alter her standing in a race.

A group of bikes crested the trail. She slowed about halfway up. Lola tugged her forward, rapidly increasing pace to make up for her partner’s slack. She liked to think it was because Lola was a runner at heart, that after all the miles they’d logged together Lola had learned her tactics. Of course, this wasn’t the case. Likely Lola had seen a squirrel or bird that she longed to chase – she was all instinct and no strategy. Lola was a brawler, she would charge out at the first bell already giving it everything she had, disregarding all the rounds she still had to go.

Regardless, this quick speed increase snapped her out of surrender. She accelerated and the pair sped together down the far side. The scenery once again became trees and vines. It was silent but for the dripping of rain and occasional rolling thunder. The canopy enveloped her and the dusk returned.

They approached a crosswalk – an intersection between the trail and an actual road. The stop signs were posted on both sides, perpendicular to the trail to make their meaning clear. Those on the trail were to stop, those on the road were free to press onward. Such things infuriated her. Why should the gift of inertia be granted to those in motorized vehicles? She was fighting her own physiology, continuing forward when every cell within her wanted to rest. To slow down and stop only to restart – the amount of energy involved was astronomical. She pondered this while the wood paneled car with the elderly driver crept past. Maybe stepping on a pedal was equally hard for him.

She resumed her previous pace. Her lungs, spoiled by the rest, protested.

There was a lone figure ahead. His elbows were at ninety degrees to the rest of his body and he appeared to be moving with unusual flair. It was a power walker. For some reason, this fact made him seem less threatening. As she realized this, his hands dropped and his gait changed. She opened her stride, sped forward. She slowed her breathing as if to demonstrate that she was unaffected by this quick pace. Just try and catch me. The dog, unaware of the subtle signs of danger bounded forward playfully.

The man smiled as she passed him. He has a full head of white hair and headphones large enough to be found on the head of a rapper. He wore an upscale sweat suit and had a generally tidy appearance. He could easily be a congressman out for a stroll. Or someone’s grandfather. She nodded and gave a quick wave. She continued the new sprint for another ten yards before daring to look over her shoulder. The power walking had resumed.

He had ceased the jaunty movements for her benefit? She decelerated, heart racing.

She had seen no other solo females out for a run. They must have listened to the rules more clearly.

Finally, she reached her goal distance. She reeled Lola in as she slowed to wait at the crosswalk that would lead her off the trail and back to her car. She gasped for air, sweaty but accomplished. She was in her own mind as the lights changed and cars began to pile up, waiting for their turn. A dark SUV rolled up next to her and a male in his thirties looked at her. She felt his eyes slide down to her breasts. She became acutely aware that her tank-top had ridden up and her tanned abdomen was showing. Her legs were covered in mud from the trail but felt strangely vulnerable as though her shorts were shrinking, like they might just disappear and leave her exposed as her clothes sometimes did in dreams. At those times, she would wake up in a panic, thankful to realize that she was in her own bed and not on stage completely naked.

A small chill spread across her sweaty skin. She fought the urge to lengthen her shorts and pull down her tank top. You’re being dramatic, she counseled herself, he is not looking at you. She glanced back to his face. His car was still stopped but now obstructing traffic. He made a point to look her up and down once more before smiling at her eyes and accelerating forward. She was in the field of vision of over a dozen people. Those who happened to be looking her direction would have seen the interchange and thought nothing of it. It was, after all, nothing. Still, they could see her. If it had been something … they would have reacted, right? She was back into the public, protected by society. Good and Evil were now equally balanced… right?

Stop being silly, she told herself. 

 Disobeying the clear “WALK” command, she ran across the street as fast as she could. Her car was the only one in the parking lot. Lola jumped into the car and she clambered in herself and locked the doors immediately behind her, just as she had always been taught. And they headed home.