Thursday, June 4, 2015

An Omen for Medicine: Devastating but Motivating

This past week has been a devastating one for my family and me. There is nothing that can possibly compare to the terrible feeling of the loss of a loved one, especially a loss so sudden and heart-wrenching. Although I will not share with you all the details of my uncle's death, I will tell you that his death occurred after a brave decision to stand up to a rare genetic form of cancer.  After a preventative surgery meant to save his life, my uncle endured many complications and his body could not simply keep up. As an aspiring surgeon, my first emotions were complete frustration and disappointment.
 How could a "world-class" surgeon, specializing in the particular surgery, conducting countless amounts of research on the surgery, traveling internationally to conduct the surgery, allow this to happen? What happened that made this surgery turn fatal? Why weren't more tests, labs, procedures done to prevent this? Why couldn't they save him?  It almost makes me feel helpless; if the best surgeons in the world couldn't even help, what makes me think that I, as a future doctor, would even have a chance at making a positive medical impact on people?  Of course, I still have much to learn about the unfortunate encounters in medicine. Truthfully, although we may not want to believe it (myself included) sometimes doctors can only do so much, they are not super heroes or God. I often forget that. It just seems like something more could have been done for him. I'm sure the care he received was some of the best and I know I do not know all the crucial details, but it still did not numb the feelings of aggravation I initially felt toward medicine at this time.
Additionally, my feelings were filled with sympathy and grief. The entire family was beside themselves. My heart aches for my uncle's close family especially my aunt, cousins, and my uncles' brothers and mother. A surgery that was meant to be a positive life-extending procedure turned negative quickly.
Ironically, my uncle played a huge role in landing me my first medical research job a few years ago where I worked on studying particular proteins concerning cancer research. With his help, he may have helped shape me into the physician I hope to be one day and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
If nothing else positive has come out of this sad turn of events, it has ignited an even stronger motivation for my pursuit in becoming a doctor. It has given me a deeper reason for my path in life, raising my guard and inspiring me to give the greatest care possible for my patients one day.
Thanks for the guidance Uncle Patrick, hopefully I make you proud one day! Love you forever!

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Landslide- Shifting Careers, Focus, and Life

Hey everyone,
It's been awhile, I know. Life is crazy...and about to get a little crazier! 2014 has come and gone and I have welcomed 2015 with open arms and ready to make the great dream come true.

But lets back up a bit. Last time I posted, I was still settled in Columbus dancing with Columbus Dance Theatre. At the end of the season, I had to make the difficult but necessary decision to leave the company due to personal and career reasons.  I loved dancing in Columbus and made wonderful friends making my experience with Columbus Dance Theatre an unforgettable one! I still miss all of my fellow CDT-ers so very much! But, I also learned a lot about myself and life from my experience in Columbus.

Like the iconic quote in It's a Wonderful Life (by far my favorite movie btw :) where George Bailey and his father are talking at the dinner table during George's last meal "at the ol' Bailey boarding house" before he goes away to college, my mother has always told me, "You're born older."  By this she means that my personality and mentality are always years ahead of my actual numerical age.  I have always been a planner, wanting to know what I'm going to do today and tomorrow and the day after that.... I have always been a very future-oriented, goal seeker, and despite my attempts to relax and be spontaneous, I probably always will be.  Now, don't get me wrong, there are a lot of positives that come from my anxious attitude, I actually think it's a main reason why I graduated college high in my class.  But, no matter what I do, I can't always control every aspect of my life- something I also was forced to learned through battling pas de deux work, but that's a whole other story! 

My two year gap since I have been out of school has allowed me to come to terms with this idea. After I didn't get into medical school right away during my senior year, I thought my life was going to come to a halt.  But, like I had hoped, it turned out to be the greatest blessing of all.

After my season with CDT, I returned to my hometown where I started my job at Samaritan Hospital, hoping that keeping my feet wet in the medical field would help me when it came to applying to medical schools again, began teaching at three different dance studios (I never thought I would enjoy teaching dance as much as I have), planned to dance with my old company here in Albany, and most of all started to enjoy what I was doing every day instead of just going through the motions.  I got to live out literally every little girls' dream by dancing the role that made my passion for dance grow with me through all these years, work with some of the most inspiring doctors and health professionals out there, and overall spend more time with my family which was definitely needed. It let me breathe over life a bit more- I'm still not very good at it but I'm working on it :).

Now my life is, once again, getting ready to change-possibly the biggest one yet. Even while dancing my heart out and doing what I really truly loved every day, I still had that calling.  Some say it's a sign from God, others say it's in my blood, but me, I think it is truly what I was meant to do for this world. God gave me this amazing talent of dance that I am so insanely grateful for. It actually had me question my career goals this year. But although it is a beautiful art form requiring the highest amount of focus, endurance, and strength (physically & mentally), it's essence is somewhat selfish and that's because it needs to be- it's possibly the most competitive "sport" there is and as a professional, your life depends on it! Now don't get me wrong, I am NOT saying dancers are selfish. Dancers are some of the most un-selfish people I have ever met. But in the grand scheme of things, other than simply loving dance, why do we love it? It's because it makes us, the dancer, feel "good"- we're proud of ourselves for landing that triple pirouette, we feel a sense of accomplishment when we hear the sound of a roaring applause, we feel alive as our muscles ache from a long day of rehearsals. Now, do we impact others' lives? Of course! Seeing a once-in-a-lifetime performance can turn that little girl sitting in the back row into the Sugar Plum Fairy one day! Part of me wishes that this career was all I want to do with my life, it sure as hell would have made the last couple years much easier. But something inside me yearns for more. I want to make the lasting impression on someone that can literally change their LIFE. I want to be able to bring a man back to this world after suffering cardiac arrest. I want to be able give a woman, facing only a few months to live, years to see her grandchildren grow up. That is what has been missing from my life.

Which leads me to my new career in medicine. Starting this September, I am attending Ross University School of Medicine to pursue this long awaited dream.  Moving away from dance and towards my career in medicine does not mean I am losing ANY of my passion for dance!  Dance will always have a place in my heart and I will continue to dance for as long as I can. In fact, if I am ever so lucky to perform my first surgery I want to do it in pointe shoes- no step stool necessary plus it reminds me where I come from. Although the idea of becoming a retired professional ballerina still sits very sour with me, I am excited for this new chapter in my life.

Now if you excuse me, I have to get ready to take ballet class...some things may never change!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Long Time, No adventures throughout the past year and welcoming 2014!

  Yes, I know, I know, it's been 10 months since my last post. Life has preoccupied time. But I'm back to fill you in on the adventures of my post-grad life and what has been going on with my aspirations this past year.
  But first, let's back up to last May...Graduation!  Man, what an amazing, exciting, emotional weekend! After being given the honor of receiving the President's Award for Academic Excellence in the School of Arts and Humanities, the Dance Dept Nu Delta Alpha Academic Excellence Award, and the Etoile Leadership Award, I was so thankful for all the people you supported me through the past 4 years and beyond and proud of the (sometimes insanely stressful ) hard work I had committed to my undergrad career. As I walked across the stage at the Bayfront Convention Center, I had numerous flashbacks: back to move-in day freshman year, back to that crazy party with my friends sophomore year, back to the all-night organic chem study session junior year, and my first legal night to The Stone that senior year. I'm  not going to lie, there were moments I had to hold back tears of joy! After receiving two diplomas to represent the culmination of my double major work for the past four years (I was the first, graduate to receive their diplomas!), I smiled for dozens of pictures with my friends and for the first time in four years of tiresome work, I breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed the last 12 hours I had with my friends; a 12 hours I will always treasure.

The next day was move-out day, or should I say "Goodbye-to-life-as-we know-it day."  The house we lived in for two years was packed up, our textbooks were sold, and friends went their separate ways, friends that became family over the years. But unfortunately, we had to hug, and hug again, and say goodbye and drive away. Drive away from my home-away-from-home, The Hurst!

  Weeks later, I started my 6 week job as a Residential Counselor for the Boston Ballet Summer Program.  It was an amazing experience and I absolutely loved living in Boston again.  I went to my first Red Sox game, went for daily runs along the Charles River, and even got to take class again in the beautiful Boston Ballet studios.

   Well if you didn't already know, I got the job with Columbus Dance Theatre and in August moved into my apartment (after months of trying to find one!) It was a big step for me.  Despite the disapproval of my parents and family for moving so far away under such conditions, I tried to be positive. I packed up my life and with help from my boyfriend and father, I am still settled here in Columbus.  Believe it or not, the season is already almost half over.  It has thus far been an amazing experience and I have loved the dancing.  I'm so thankful for being given the opportunities to fulfill my dream as a professional dancer.

  Now I know you are all wondering, what about Medical School?!? After putting that part of my dream on hold and giving myself the year to dance, as well as study for the MCAT again, I will be taking my MCAT (for the final time, I promise!) on March 22.  I will hopefully be applying again starting in May and next year hopefully interviewing at schools.  Trying to move closer and closer to my dream :)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

An Amazing Spring Break. Back to the Hurst for the Last 10 Weeks Ever!

  My Spring Break experience dancing with the Mercyhurst Choir in Orlando and Tampa, FL was amazing.  Being in the warm weather of 80 degrees and higher each day for a week was such a tease for summer weather.  I met some really fun people on the trip and we even got a standing ovation at the church we performed.  What's even better, I got to experience Disneyworld at the Magic Kingdom for the very first time! It was incredible! I could not believe how much was there and how magical it all seemed.  I even got to meet some famous characters :)

   But now that we are back in 30 degree weather here in Erie, it is now time for my final 10 weeks of college in Spring Term.  My other senior friends and I are working on completing our bucket list of different things we have yet to do in Erie and Mercyhurst for the past 4 years.  It is definitely going to be a fun couple weeks!
    As for the future and auditioning, I auditioned for Columbus Dance Theatre last week and was one of two girls who made it all the way to the end of the audition! I really enjoyed the audition and even got to learn a little bit of their repertoire which was great.  I would love to be able to dance for them in their company.  Right now I'm still playing the waiting game and hope to hear from them in around a week.  Cross you fingers for me that I might have a job!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Successful Interview

     This weekend I had my interview for the RA position for the Boston Ballet Summer Dance Program.  As an alum of the program myself, I was familiar with the studio and administrators.  It felt great to be back in Boston, which is definitely one of my favorite cities.  I interviewed with the program director and came out of the session feeling very confident.  The program would offer me an intense job for about 5 weeks of my summer with the opportunity to live (for free!) in Boston during that time.  They wanted to check with my references as well as have a personal interview with me so I will hopefully hear about the decision soon.
     Boston has always been a place I wanted to live and now after being back there, I'm really going to consider moving there and finding some dance work down there after graduation, that is if I don't get any other company jobs worthwhile elsewhere. Then who knows, maybe I'll end up at Med School in Boston too! I just love the city atmosphere and the lifestyle there.  Truthfully, if I would have loved to have gone to college there.  Unfortunately, there we no schools there that offered the academics as well as dance like I had wanted.  I hope I at least will get the chance to experience living in Boston again this summer and who knows, that might just be the city meant for me!
 My dad and I at Fanuel Hall

      My parents and I at a celebratory dinner at Legal Seafood :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dancing in Florida during Spring Break!

    7 Days more and I will be traveling down to the Orlando/Tampa area in Florida to perform with the Liturgical Dance Ensemble for Spring Break!  Five dancers (including myself) are traveling with about ten choir singers to perform in a number of Liturgical Performances in churches all around the area in Florida.  We have been rehearsing for about two weeks now and this weekend we will be learning our last dance, along with cleaning some of the other choreography.  This gives us a total of 4 dances we will be performing.
    While down there, we will be staying in this gorgeous villa equipped with 8 bedrooms and 5 baths along with game rooms and two swimming pools.We are also planning on going to Disneyworld! This will be my first time there so it will definitely be an experience. I'm so excited to get to spend some time relaxing, possibly getting a tan and laying by the pool, after the end of my last Winter Term.  Although I will still be working on my Senior Thesis Project, I am looking forward to a much less stressful Spring Break beginning in March.  I will also be auditioning for many more companies in hope to find the best one for myself and hopefully soon will begin looking forward to a new life after graduation.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Save the Last Dance!

This weekend's Raw Edges Performances showcased my last dance performance at Mercyhurst!  The concert was absolutely wonderful with some amazing student and guest artist choreographed pieces that left the audience astounded of the talent fostered in the Mercyhurst Dance Dept.  Although my body was physically exhausted and bruised from all the rehearsal and shows from the weekend,  Raw Edges definitely allowed me to go out with a BANG for my undergraduate dance career.
Photo Credit: Maggie Sullivan
Here you will see the choreography of Jessica Stachelrodt during my last dance on stage at the Mary D'Angelo Performing Arts Center