Your life experiences unquestionably define who you are and guide where you belong in the world. We are each given unique stories – challenges, triumphs, memories, passions – that aid us in figuring out what type of life we are to live. Since I’ve been in college, I have met people from SO many different walks of life, and it has been one of my favorite aspects of moving out of a small town and into a more culturally and ethnically diverse city. The people I’ve become very close friends with come from all over the world and from every background – Russian, African, Indian, Egyptian, Irish, Ukrainian, American, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, poor, rich, sick, and every quality or descriptor in between. The love I have for each of these people is specific and unique to the friendship that we share, and I’m so glad that I’ve come to know them and their story. Along this journey though, I often found myself asking “Who am I? Where do I come from? What characteristics define me?” and yesterday I again happened upon this internal self-discussion after a conversation I had with a friend in my lab. He very casually told me, “Mary, I can finally hear your Southern accent!” which lead down a rabbit hole of conversation on the lifetime struggle of talking with a “twang” and how “cute” it is (Ha). I told him that sometimes people assume others with a Southern accent are less intelligent, less capable, or have certain ideologies. For this reason, I had become accustomed to avoiding phrases that make me sound more Southern. What I have learned though, through encountering others that embrace and welcome their cultural identity, is that I am Southern and I do have a Southern accent. I was raised in a small town and my identity is comprised of those memories that I created as a child. I had this unnerving feeling when I entered college of not having an identity at all, not belonging to a defined “group” with certain values. I often felt like others were very different from me (because, well, they were and still are in many ways) and didn’t share a lot of the experiences I had while growing up. Instead of shaming away from this I began to cherish my own culture. I shared with people what it was like growing up in a small town in Tennessee (as compared to Chicago or Memphis or New York City). I delighted in the fact that I had (and have) certain challenges different from others and that those things make me, me. This acceptance and confidence has permeated into other aspects of my life. Previously at work, I sought to make myself very . . . uniform. I dressed simply and didn’t feel comfortable sharing the intricacies and details of my personality. This was largely in part because I worked with male supervisors and male colleagues and didn’t want to be perceived as less intelligent or less focused on my career. I’ve learned though, by being surrounded by team members that fully accept and cherish who they are, that who I am doesn’t negate my abilities but encourages them. Speaking of my passions and my childhood memories, wearing the clothes that make me feel confident and feminine, and accepting that I am an empowered, capable female, has strengthened my work ethic and confidence, not taken away from it. Yes, I wear eyeliner and like to do yoga. I didn’t take ten AP classes or go to a private, preparatory high school, but I do have the capability to learn and to succeed just as my peers do and have demonstrated that learning is more important than formal education. This is so important, because I really feel like people who may not fit into certain groups need to be encouraged to come from a position of strength instead of weakness. Don’t let the influence of those around you – their maleness (or femaleness), intelligence, appearance, or success – alter the way that you view yourself. What I have learned since accepting that I have a past that makes me better, not worse, and a future that is as bright as the person next to me, is that people love me and appreciate my work for exactly who I am. They like that I can have a conversation about growing up in a small town and how I like to enjoy myself in Nashville. Just because I wear makeup and have my hair fixed doesn’t mean I don’t get called on during meetings to answer hard questions or given hard tasks to complete. I no longer feel like I have no identity because instead of trying to create one that didn’t exist, I accepted the one I already have. There is great power in knowing who you are, growing in who you are, and loving who you are. Not only is there power, but there is indefinite peace.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to describe the experiences I had when I was away. People talk about traveling, and the impact it has on your life, and you don’t believe them until you actually have that transformation yourself. You grow up in the comfort of your own country with people that mostly look like you and act like you. For my personal childhood, these people were pretty homogenous to me – in appearance and ideology. When I went to college I realized how much I appreciated learning from other cultures and from people that think differently than myself; I adored meeting those people and developed an appreciation for our differences. This December, I seriously sat down with my dad and asked if I could travel abroad for a Maymester. Going out of the country, admittedly, scared me. After some convincing and coercing, I was given blessings to go to Ireland and England. I would be studying public health of three countries and was ecstatic to learn of an area of healthcare I was less familiar with. The spring semester came with its challenges of exams, family life, a new research job, and college in general but before long I had finished my second year of college and was packing to travel across the pond. I can admit that I really had no idea what I was getting myself into – and that is part of the beauty of it all.
It is overwhelming to think of how to write about my experiences. I couldn’t possibly try to start from the beginning to the end, and I’m kicking myself for not keeping a journal going throughout my journey abroad. Truthfully though, I was going pretty much nonstop and would cherish the few hours of sleep I would get each night. I didn’t find time to write. When I think about what I learned on this trip, so much comes to mind. I’ve decided to just write of my experiences as I think of them – so my first one is below!
I feel very deeply that my experiences abroad will make me a better future doctor. Public health is concerned with the health of the masses – not the privileged, or the wealthy, or the exceptional, but of every man and every woman that is deserving of health. A public health perspective is not focused on individual treatment but on ensuring health opportunity for every person. This means that the woman in poverty with a newborn child is just as deserving of health as the wealthy businessman with a nice sportscar. On the first three days of our trip, I learned about the public health infrastructure in the United States, Tennessee, and Nashville. The Commissioner of Health for Tennessee spoke with passion about healthcare for all, not just in the states, but globally. He spoke of not just improving health but health equity. I learned of government programs that aim to improve the health of vulnerable populations – women with children, the impoverished, elderly people, people in rural populations. I observed with excitement the earnest desire that our public health professionals have to alleviate disease and illness and ensure health for all people. I walked the streets of Nashville with a nonprofit organization and talked to people living in homelessness – people I had often passed. I learned of how homeless people are even more susceptible to mental and physical disease than those that have a place to rest their heads. My heart became more compassionate, more understanding, and more heartbroken for the lack of systems we have to care for people that need it most. I thought of how homeless people were stigmatized and criminalized. What I realized most was my own attitude towards them. People – despite color, wealth, social status, illness, or any other factors – are just people at their core. They share the same anatomy, the same biochemistry happening inside their bodies, the same capacity for illness, the same emotional vulnerabilities. People are people, and sometimes as a society, we don’t treat them that way. People are stigmatized for mental illnesses, HIV/AIDS or other STIs, disabilities, and a menagerie of other diseases. In my own country, I noted these discrepancies. As I traveled overseas, I had lectures on public health in the UK and in Ireland. The same problems exist elsewhere, but I do feel these countries have developed more inclusive health systems. Without getting into the (complicated) details of the healthcare systems across the pond, the UK has a single-payer system that is funded through tax dollars and offers coverage to all citizens. The UK also ranks #1 among healthcare delivery, accessibility, quality, and timeliness; unfortunately, they rank second-to-last in health outcomes (second only to the United States). So, of course, the UK has its problems in improving the health of populations but at least has developed a sophisticated and inclusive (for the most part) healthcare system. Ireland has a much more convoluted healthcare system that has a public component where all citizens get a medical card they use to get public healthcare, and a private component where paying citizens can get private insurance and faster healthcare services. Interestingly, the public healthcare services are more desired than the private because of more extensive expertise in the public hospitals. Nonetheless, all of this healthcare talk is really exciting to me and something I want to be more involved in but probably boring for everyone else… The culmination of my experiences abroad lead me to realize that whether or not you believe healthcare is a right or a privilege – you have to believe that health is a right. Every person is entitled to living a healthy, happy life, free of disease and illness, free of disability, and free of pain. The unfortunate truth is that many people don’t live lives that way now and may never live that way. In my future practice as a doctor, I hope to work to ensure my patients have the best medical care with their optimized health always in my mind. I will value my patients as people with equality and integrity – no matter their race, background, income, homelessness, religious belief, or language barriers. I learned much more on my trip (like where the best pubs are in Ireland and where to get the best Americano in London) but of course this was the important, overarching theme that I wanted to write about first. I will forever be thankful for my travels abroad and hope to write of (perhaps more exciting?) experiences soon!
Y’all college already has me feeling like I’m swimming in a large pool with the drain turned on. BUT with the good Lord by my side, some time management skills, and control over my attitude towards it, everything is going to be O.K. (I am actually hesitantly excited about my classes, especially forensics in literature!). But for real, pray for me. And I will pray for you! (Just let me know what you need). With that being said, I am very blessed to be able to live in a country where I can learn freely and with great instruction. I am blessed to obtain the free will to make decisions which I feel most accurately reflect my passions without being forced to study something I have no interest in. And I am blessed to have makeup to assist in my late-night bags, cold and thirsty skin, and indoor-intensive complexion! I have always been a makeup and skincare enthusiast and I am now even more concerned with taking excellent care of my skin to prevent molecular damage! So, listed below are some of go-to (and new) makeup items. I hope this semester finds you in good tidings of great grades and lots of unadulterated joy.
- bareMinerals Marvelous Moxie Lipgloss in “High Roller and Life of the Party”. Found here!
- Becca Cosmetics x Jaclyn Hill Shimmering Skin Perfecter “Champagne Pop” found here!
- A Beauty Blender for all my blending needs (they are real). Find it here!
- Boi-ing by Benefit cosmetics for all the times I get stressed out, stay up late, or need extra coverage. Look here for yours!
- My favorite Sephora highlighter brush, because highlighting is essential when you are so, so pale and live in the frigid cold! Here.
- I love the Makeup Forever Mat Velvet foundation for the winter. It is oil-free and won’t cause skin irritation! On Sephora, here.
Some of my really important skin care essentials:
- NeoStrata Skin Active Exfoliating Wash (used once daily). This is a glycolic acid based wash that exfoliates and brightens skin! I have not had any problems with it, and have actually seen improvement in my skin.
- NeoStrata Bionic Face Cream. This is used in the morning, before makeup. All of the products in this line are anti-aging but truthfully it is never too early to start!
- I also used a prescription-strength retinoid cream formulated and sold by my dermatologist, Dr. Michael Gold of Gold Skin Care. Retinoid or Retin-A creams are proven to improve skin over time, including increasing skin cell turn over and resurfacing the texture of the skin! I couldn’t find this one online, but it is an essential part of my skin care regimen!
- Obagi Sun Protection SPF 35 sunscreen. I put this on after I have washed my face in the morning, but before the face cream! This is also only sold through specific retailers. Sun protection is very important because I want to keep my skin young and pretty when I am old and tired! And even more important is that I take measures to prevent skin cancer caused by daily sun exposure. Looking for a sunscreen that is oil-free or intended for the face or neck will help prevent clogged pores and breakouts.
Well, those are some of my favorite skin care and makeup products at the moment! I know this is not a typical post of mine, but sometimes it is fun and refreshing to share something else I really enjoy talking about. Thanks for reading!
Two nights ago I went restorative Yin Yoga at Shakti before my first day of classes yesterday. During one of the periods of long, extensive stretching I let my mind navigate to the place it wanted to go without my own coercing. During this small period of tabula rasa, I saw a girl trying to move very large puzzle pieces, almost as large as she was. At first I thought that the girl was actually a child and the puzzle pieces were indeed gigantic. Later I decided that the girl was not a child, but that the puzzle pieces were much larger than I had imagined. In this depiction of these large puzzle pieces, I was soon enlightened to find that the pieces were all different. Some of the pieces were people. Some of the pieces were experiences. Some of the pieces were memories. Some were ideas. Some were bright; some were dark. But the girl was trying so hard to put the puzzle pieces together. Fit this one here, put that one there. But she was struggling, for reasons unknown to me.
We are boxes of puzzle pieces. My puzzle, the one specially designed for me, holds many different pieces than yours does. Mine is not any less than yours or better; just different. My pieces have my family, the people who have really taught me to grow, taught me to imagine, taught me to live, and most importantly taught me to love. Each piece is a sister, a mother, a father, a cousin, a brother-in-law, an aunt, a grandmother, a grandfather, a nephew, and the list continues seemingly infinitely. Each person has marked me like a sneaky, steady stream erodes the rock. The results are irreversible, good or bad. There are smaller pieces to my puzzle that are acquaintances, friends, and passers-by. Teachers, preachers, and leavers. The point is, each person I have encountered in my life is special to me because they have made me who I am, without me knowing it. It may be scary (and it is) that I really have limited control over whom becomes a new piece to my dynamic and changing puzzle. My experiences, memories, ideas, beliefs, successes, and failures are all essential elements of what makes my puzzle interesting and unique. They were all there, being ran over with the eyes of a girl trying to figure out where they all fit.
What differentiates me from the eggs, milk, chocolate chips, and flour sitting in a bowl? Why am I different than the neutrons, protons, and electrons out in the universe waiting to collide? How are these elements, when in combination with each other made whole, different from me? What makes me different is beautiful. I am different because I am not a bunch of puzzle pieces sitting in a box. I am not even puzzle pieces sporadically laid out on a table. I may sometimes be a girl trying to fit the pieces together in a way that looks satisfying to my own eye. But most profoundly, I am the daughter of the one interfering with my efforts. I am different from the cookies and the atoms because I am being actively formed. I am not just sitting, waiting to be combined or collided. I am a creation. My efforts are useless. My efforts cause me nothing but confusion. One of the major downfalls to my perception of this reality is that I see only a portion of my puzzle; whereas my Maker sees everything. He understands why some really ugly pieces are there. He knows with utter comprehension why a certain undesirable experience occurred. He knows, not because he sees the final picture, but because He created the final picture. He knows where every person will fit, not because He sees where the pieces should fit (this is the mistaken perception I have), but because He created those pieces to fit together. Some may disagree with this philosophy. And if you do, that is fine. But I would love for you to ascertain the idea that I wholeheartedly believe that you, too, are being created with intention and purpose.
So after seeing my obvious difficulties in trying to solve the puzzle, basically blindly, I have surrendered my efforts. I see the pieces, I acknowledge their importance. My Creator will create me. My Maker will make me. My role in this game is the accept the changes. The good ones. The bad ones. I don’t know what my puzzle will look like, and truthfully I don’t want to know. Because I know that God never creates anything less than perfect. And I rest assuredly in that. So God, take my pieces. And make them perfect in You.
My own health and fitness journey has been somewhat of a hilly ride. Ups and downs of oscillating between being feeling good and feeling like I’m not good enough. I can definitely say that I have learned a lot about my own body, my own boundaries, and my own ways to balance a healthy life. 2015 was my year of finding this balance. I used to spend hours upon hours in the gym lifting weights, doing squats, doing crunches, and running miles on the treadmill. At the time, I thought I was happy. I thought that I was okay with letting an exterior appearance determine so much of my happiness. But I found myself with a lot of anxiety. I was undoubtedly physically stronger. But my mental strength was on the other end of the continuum. I valued appearing strong, appearing fit, and appearing invincible over the truly invaluable qualities of mental happiness and manifesting a physical health that will help me live a long life that is absent of health complications. Fast forward to May of this year, at a place called Glow Yoga in Gulf Shores, AL.
I am infatuated with cardiovascular medicine. The heart is so amazing to me, and it is even more extraordinary how much control we have over the cardiac complications we can develop. For this reason, living a healthy lifestyle means more to me than looking thin in a dress or being happy with the person I see in the mirror. Health to me means finding strength internally and externally. A healthy lifestyle means I try to make healthy choices daily, but I don’t obsess over eating bad. I try to choose the better option for my body, but I don’t get anxiety if I eat something full of sugar and totally not-healthy.
I took my first yoga class in Gulf Shores. I had been trying to do it at home but I had not been using the best resources. But I wanted to try something new, I had just bought new yoga pants and what better place than the beach? So I attended my first hot yoga session and it was HOT and HARD. Truthfully, I almost passed out because of dehydration (sweating a lot with only one bottle of water in me) and temperatures of around 90 degrees in the humidity of a southern summer. But it was wonderful. It was challenging. It was invigorating. It was refreshing. It made me feel strong and whole. That began my love affair with yoga.
Being a college student is tough. There are a lot of demands; most from academic courses, others from social life, spiritual development, clubs, and trying to stay fit. Yoga is my time during the week to strengthen my body physically (I have lost around 9 pounds in college!) and help my mind pause in the midst of a chaotic life. I would recommend yoga to anyone that is trying to overcome workout-related anxiety, gain mental happiness, become healthier for life, strengthen and elongate muscles, gain stability and control, and essentially anyone just curious about a new workout! I want to include some of the resources I find really useful for yoga at home and yoga beginners!
- Podcasts. If you’re interested in doing yoga from home but still want to feel like you’re at a class, podcasts are a wonderful resource. I prefer going to class for the group camaraderie but sometimes staying home is the only option! Some of favorites are 502 Power Yoga : Louisville, KY and Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga with Kinndli. YouTube videos are also always a great option!
- A yoga mat. Yoga is possible without a mat, but it definitely makes it easier! A cute mat makes it that much more enjoyable, too. I got mine from here.
- Tight fitting clothes. It is difficult to do yoga when your clothes are flopping around everywhere! Tight pants and a form fitting tank top with a sports bra are usually the best options. I love Lululemon apparel (found here) but for more affordable options look at places like Forever 21 (here).
- Hot towel and hand towel. If you’re going to try hot yoga (which I would recommend after you have practiced yoga and feel comfortable with some of the poses!), you will need a towel. I like mat towels because my mat doesn’t stay dry whenever I sweat a lot. Mat towels and hand towels come in a variety of beautiful colors and patterns. I like Yogitoes by Manduka! Find them here.
Here is a video from Reflexion Yoga on YouTube that explains some of the fundamental poses that are essential to grow your practice.
The new year is a perfect time to begin your decision to choose a healthy life! I have found my balance and peace in doing yoga to maintain a fit life and sound mind. Let me know if I can help you with your practice anytime!
Happy New Year’s Eve!
2015 was one of my greatest years so far. I have seen myself grow so much just in the past few months and look forward to how much I will learn about myself and my future in the next year as well. God has blessed me beyond what I deserve this year. My highlights of 2015 include:
- Gaining my beautiful, healthy baby nephew
- Getting nominated, interviewed, and selected as Presidential Scholar
- Spending prom night in Nashville with my very best friends (whom I miss so much)
- Being Valedictorian for the class of 2015 and the great experiences that entailed
- Spending two lovely weeks at the beach with my family
- Taking my first, REAL yoga class at Glow Yoga in Gulf Shores, AL
- Relaxing over the summer and reading some extraordinary books
- Shadowing a cardiac electrophysiologist at Vanderbilt
- Attending NEEDTOBREATHE and For King and Country concerts
- Moving to Belmont, living with my amazing roommates, and making lifelong memories
- Getting the opportunity to conduct biological research in neuroscience
- Finding my niche at Ethos church
- Continuing to learn through difficult times and lean more dependently on God
- Realizing life isn’t perfect, and it never will be. But that isn’t what makes it beautiful.
In 2016, I have decided to change up my blog posts! I am going to post more frequently and hopefully I can help others with some of the things I have decided to write about. As you probably know, I am a college student studying biochemistry and wanting to pursue medicine. I would love to incorporate more of my study techniques, my ways to navigate through difficult material, and different things related to my course of study. I am going to post more about my journey through yoga and how I became interested in yoga. I will continue my posts about concepts and ideas, and I look forward to sharing more of my opinions on philosophical texts and ideas. I also want to spend more time focusing on Christianity and spirituality. So if you are interested in very different hobbies and interests, I welcome you to my blog!
For 2016 you can look for posts that center around:
- My journey as a science major and pre-Med student
- My ways to find happiness and motivation in high stress situations
- My thoughts on various scientific and philosophical texts, concepts, and ideas
- My journey as a yogi, health and wellness tips, and ways to find healthy eats in different places
- My occasional beauty post or recommendations
- My raw and vulnerable thoughts as I navigate through difficult times
- My reasons for being a Christian and some of the readings I find helpful
I am excited about this change for my blog, but I look forward to continuing the types of posts I have been about since day one. I hope many of you can find ways to help me in various aspects of my life as well. I pray for all of you to have a happy new year, and find many joys and successes in 2016!
Thanksgiving is an awesome day. In addition to the wonderful delicacies I am preparing myself for, it is a day of reflection and intention. Yes, we should be thankful every single day of the year. But instead of being pessimistic about the attitudes of gratefulness today, can’t we be thankful that on today there is widespread recognition of the things in our lives we should be grateful for? Following the trend of this day of thanksgiving, I want to verbalize the things I am most thankful for. I hope your day is full of family, laughter, food, and relaxation!
- One of the most profound blessings from God on my life is to be the recipient of an amazing scholarship that has enabled me to meet some really influential people, conduct research early, enabled opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise happened, and most importantly alleviated the financial burden of student debt. I feel overwhelmingly blessed, very undeserving, but extremely thankful for my scholarship.
- I am thankful for my hard working, loving parents. They never make me question their love for me. They are the fuel behind my ambition. They are my very best friends and I can only hope to make them proud with my life and my choices.
- I am honestly thankful for my health. Learning about genetic diseases and the multiple problems that can happen so easily and so spontaneously has really opened my eyes to the value of health. God has given me legs that walk, eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that beats. Though overlooked and often not appreciated, my health is so important to me.
- I am thankful for my sisters and brother-in-law. They are genuinely there for me and feel my pain and feel my happiness. They are the ones I share my life with and without them my life would not be as full.
- I am thankful for the ability to openly express my beliefs. I am thankful to live in a country that has soldiers that will fight for me without knowing me. I feel so blessed to know that my beliefs are appreciated and that no one can impose their beliefs on me. I am thankful for the ability to vote and exercise my personal liberties. I am thankful, in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, that I am an American.
- I am thankful for my roommate and suitemates. They love me, support me, and keep my life fun and full of happiness. College has been such an amazing transition because of their constant love and concern for me. My life would not be the same if I wouldn’t have met them!
- I am thankful for opportunity. Opportunity to love who I want, live how I want, and be whom I want. A lot of people around the world don’t have opportunity. A lot of people around the world are eager for the simple opportunity to find food, shelter, and happiness. I am very, very thankful I have all of these things and more.
- I am lastly thankful for my mind. My mind allows me to pray. It allows me to learn new things. It allows me to make decisions that I want to make. It allows me to know love. I don’t ever want to take that simple fact for granted. My mind enables a lot of my life, and I am thankful that I was blessed with a mind that works. It is the little things that are the most important and often not recognized enough.
2015 has easily been one of the best years of my life and has taught me how to be appreciative, humble, and thankful. We all have seasons of our lives where things feel so wrong. It is important in these times to take off the blinders of life and expose our eyes to the valuable and important things in our life: faith, family, and friends. I can’t wait to spend my thanksgiving with my family (and delicious food that isn’t cooked in my dorm microwave). What are you thankful for?