Graduation and Beyond!

Reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
I wouldn’t wanna live there.

These words penned by Owl City (or to the true OC fans, Adam Young) have been a sort of mantra for this gal for many years. As an idealist and a *bit* of a perfectionist, I love sitting in my imagination and fantasy of how future events will look/feel like. Graduation, for me, was one of those things. After working so hard throughout school, one can look ahead toward the goal of graduation and  feel as if it is unattainable. Yet, here I am, 4 long (boy, do I mean long) years later with my B.S.N. Looking back, reflecting on all the events and challenges that I’ve faced in those four years, I feel so incredibly grateful that I’ve graduated from Hope College a different person.

As I finished the last days of my internship, I soaked in every moment knowing how much I had learned and grown as a nurse. Even more so, I was eager to become an independent nurse. Yet, what really captured me, as Lizzie (my Mercy perioperative buddy) and I were offering our appreciation and saying goodbye to the nurses, was that I had come to feel like a part of the Mercy family. We Hope students were the first to complete a full semester of leadership in this unit at Mercy; so, you could say that we were the guinea pigs who figured things out along the way. I grew in my assertiveness as a future independent practitioner, confident in my nursing abilities, and learned how to advocate for patients of various backgrounds, races, socioeconomic statuses, ages and cultures.

All the CS nursing students with Michelle (our instructor) in the lab coat
CS (most*) students on the last day of classes

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I sat through my last class of undergrad ever, it felt unreal that this was “it”. My roommates and I were so sad to leave each other and return home. We had gone on so many adventures and explored so much of the city together. This having been the first time I lived with people other than my family, I was so incredibly grateful to have shared a living space with two patient, kind and generous people. The semester was a difficult one for me, and they supported me in matchless thoughtful ways.

My roommates, neighbors, and I all pointing on the Chicago map where our internships were
Last roomie pic ever

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returning home, I was eager for the excitement of commencement and pining ceremony. For those of you who don’t know, graduating nurses are pinned by another nurse to show the effort and dedication the student has put forth toward the profession and honor their diligence. The whirlwind of moving back to Holland, where I live, and the two days filled with celebration had me feeling all kinds of exhausted. Not like the bad kind though. The wow-I-am-actually-done-with-my-BSN kind that ends of a deep, contented sigh.

Jacob Guyer (my geriatrics buddy) and I, after commencement

Caroline (my best nursing bud) and I, after pinning.

To be frank, my life has become less organized and more uncertain as I emerge into the world as a new graduate, but the potential that lies ahead of me is too great for me to have a stinky attitude. My plans for the next few months are to 1) pass the NCLEX (nursing boards) to obtain my licensure 2) find a job 3) enjoy my summer filled with the joys of weddings, new beginnings and the start of graduate school. For me, starting my “real” adult life is pretty scary and daunting. Yet, there is a certain peace that I find in knowing Whose I am and that He has a magnificent plan for my life. Fear of failure, while not reserved only for me, is an aspect of moving forward in life that I believe serves two purposes: 1) to remind me that all the achievements and accomplishments can only be attributed to the goodness of my Savior and 2) let’s me know that I am heading toward the tremendous blessings of my Father.

To all those out there who aren’t graduating, keep persevering because  “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23, ESV).  The Lord has a plan so perfect and full of immeasurable purpose for YOU. Don’t forget that or allow anyone/thing derail you from maintaining your focus on Him.

To all those who are, we made it! Despite the terrors of the world as we know it today, I see a generation rising up for the sake of Christ and creating a world that looks more and more like heaven every day. Therefore, I will leave you with this:

“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 

-II Thessalonians 3: 1-5, ESV

 

 

W*ndering

 

I have been wondering, I mean wandering, through the new-to-me neighborhoods of Bridgeport, Hyde Park, Bronzeville, Old Town, River North, and Westloop. Amidst the bustle of the friendly city, I have been finding myself struggling internally with my observations. Earlier this week, I saw a homeless man in a wheelchair on the train. You might ask how I knew he was homeless, and  I would point out the too-big winter jacket, odd smell, and multiple bags that he carried with him. Among all these, what caught my eye were his hands; they looked raw, were shortened to almost the knuckle, and were black (not skin color, but his tissue).

 

It is fairly easy to spot those who “have” versus those who “do not have.” These people have to carry all their worldly belongings everywhere they go.  I wonder how people can reach a point of hopelessness that they give up in their attempts to escape homelessness. Wonder about the painful experiences individuals must have gone through to turn to substance abuse, to cope and dull the sharp pangs of their past; Wonder what I can do. In the past few weeks, God has been convicting me of my less-than-grateful attitudes. As I recognize this population’s daily struggles, I realize it is more than I have ever had to endure in my entire lifetime.

In my personal struggle, with what I feel is my calling in the world and the homeless population, I recognize the importance of balancing safety and kindness, discerning the proper timing, and actions of carrying out what my calling is. I will offer some of my journaling from this semester that have helped me discern between these callings and how they play into the service I believe is my purpose in life. “How are we welcoming the ‘unwelcomables’? If I allow what I see to dictate how I feel, rather than asking God for discernment when to act, I fail to live the Gospel as Jesus intended. Do I make others feel welcomed the way I want to be welcomed? I struggle to have when others lack. I think, ‘What can I do?’ Preaching the Good News in addition to offering acts of kindness reveals the action of this Gospel. To embrace rawness of human brokenness amidst their vulnerable moments and admissions to their faults; to lift up their faces toward the One who redeems their souls despite those mistakes and shortcomings; to love in action and faith, that is my purpose.”

Amidst my wrestling with this large societal problem, I often hear my peers and myself complaining about minute hiccups of our privileged lives. Living in the city has called into question my priorities in life and how I am living out the Word in a real sense. If we are called to be active hands and feet of Jesus Christ, I need to change my attitude toward humility and gratitude. I think as humans, it can be very easy to gravitate towards focusing on the negative aspects of life. Yet, when we strive actively to choose thankfulness, we find a kind of contentment that is beyond human comprehension. All this does not diminish the pain or suffering with which everyone struggles. I recently have dealt with the heartbreak of seeing a very dear loved one begin to pass from this temporary world into the arms of eternity.

I cannot help every single homeless person I pass on the streets. But, I can smile at them. I can  look them in the eyes to try to understand their pain. I can ask them how I can pray for them. I can treat them like the humans they are.

Thank you for listening to my internal w*nderings. I believe it is a healthy thing to process these types of issues in a more public manner. I hope that you are able to consider my personal struggles and how we can all contribute in our Spirit-led callings to the world around us. That is what off campus study is about. Yes, about exploring and having fun. But, it also includes widening our worldview to understand callings and purpose in the global perspective.

Stay tuned for the next post (coming very soon); I will be adding some of the fun portions of the last several weeks!

Fun fact: the featured image is from the Chicago History Museum that highlights the work of MLK Jr. I just really liked this quote that really emphasizes the importance of finding your vocation in whatever career you’re in.

 

 

Episode 3 of Annie Explores Chicago

Hello, friends!

Following along the journey of a nursing student continues. On today’s episode of Annie survives Chicago, we will see a short, Asian young lady attempting to blot away her worries with beautiful conservatories, visits by her best friend, lunar new year celebrations, and bubble tea. Don’t be fooled by her long work days; she continues to live her life to the fullest.

All joking aside, the last few weeks have been an excellent balance between work, home duties, cooking (because food is paramount), and exploring new parts of the city. Although I feel like I will say that in every post, there truly is something new in the city every time I step foot out of my apartment. The streets are filled with evidence of rich culture and history of the city’s people. I cannot believe that Saturday marks six weeks since I’ve moved to Chicago. I’ve settled into my routine (and, of course, mixing it up every now and then) and continue to figure out the teeter-totter of balancing adult-like responsibilities while still adventuring in the city.

When my friend visited from home, we had planned our entire weekend to the “t”. And, how fortunate was it that she came the weekend of National Pizza Day. That Saturday, we went to a Puerto Rican restaurant called Nellie’s Restaurant and ate their breakfast special: omelet with chorizo and veggies topped with plantains, french white toast, and coconut oatmeal. All were delicious! I was initially apprehensive about the coconut oatmeal, but it ended up tasting like cinnamon rice pudding.

After we thoroughly stuffed our hungry (which quickly turned to not-so-hungry) stomachs, we scurried over to Garfield Park Conservatory. I can’t say much more about it other than it was breathtaking. I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. Plants are pretty.


The next day was filled with Chinese New Year celebrations! After church, we decided to grab lunch in Chinatown at a Cantonese restaurant. It’s pretty typical to order several entrees and the entire party share. The custom is fairly common in Asian countries. Among the entrees we ordered, there was egg drop soup, vegetarian egg rolls, Mongolian beef, curry chicken, orange chicken, and chicken fried rice.

 

One of my (and everyone else in China’s) favorite part about the lunar new year is the red envelopes. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, red envelopes are what kids receive for Chinese New Year and have money inside (I’m sure you can now see why it’s everyone’s most anticipated part of the holiday). There was a parade, which we ended up missing because we thought it would last at least an hour. By the time we finished eating, the parade had just finished…so sad. We at least got to see the countdown. After the countdown was finished, we went to buy rolled ice-cream and bubble tea. Weekends always fly by quickly, but I’m thankful for the fun I pack into them.

On the internship side of my week, I’ve been slowly growing comfortable in the operating room (OR) both circulating and scrubbing in on cases. There are so many nuances and multitasking skills needed in the OR that can only be gained from experience in the OR. I’m so incredibly thankful for the nurses and surgical technicians who have been patient enough to take the time to teach me how to open surgical instruments, teach me the names of instruments, and the specifics of how to scrub and circulate. I’ve learned so much about surgical services and I continue to analyze my weaknesses and grow from my mistakes. I appreciate how the nurses are able to point out my mistakes and forgive them even more easily. I’ve always been a believer that learning from your mistakes is the best way to grow.

One of the fanciest events that I’ve attended thus far is the opera, Elektra! It was so fun this past Friday to dress up in fancy attire and listen to really talented people paint a beautiful ancient story with their voices. It captured the rawness of humanity and vulnerability in its true form.

Overall, I’m still finding myself in each part of the city and simply enjoying the ride. Bonus material: here are some cool murals I’ve found around the city. Ta-ta for now!

Reporting from the Coldest Place on the Earth

Saturday officially marked the third week that I have been in Chicago. It seems like I’ve been here for so much longer than that already! As a small town girl, I imagined the transition to go much less smoothly, but public transit and getting around the city has been intuitive and fun. All the Chicago Semester students have settled into their schedules and internships, as well as I have!

I am at Mercy Hospital, which is just southeast of Chinatown (one of my favorite neighborhoods). My placement is in the operating room (OR), pre- and post-operating care units, and the recovery room. So far, I’ve only spent time in the operating room, but I am thoroughly enjoying every case in which I’ve watched and helped. A unique challenge has been that the OR’s atmosphere and nursing expectations are different to a regular hospital unit. There a technical skills and instruments I have never seen before. Now that it’s the third week in the OR, I’m finally getting used to the roles that are expected of me, multitasking well, and the unique oddities of the OR. I am learning so much and anticipate using these lessons in my future nursing career.

The fact that my internship has come into full-swing has definitely not hindered my adventurous spirit. From spontaneous taco nights to swing dancing, I have fallen in love with all the exciting events that happen daily in the city, which reflect it’s unique history. Even though I’ve been *social* swing dancing for almost three years now, it felt like I had been dancing for three months. The style and energy was high above my technical level, and I anticipate getting much better in my dancing skills. Here’s a video of these talented dancers. I mean, what was I supposed to expect of one of the cities where blues/jazz originated?

I attended a play at Court Theatre, “Photograph 51”, about Rosalind Franklin. Commonly known for their discoveries about the characteristics of DNA, Watson and Crick owe the credit to their concept of DNA’s double helix to Franklin’s x-ray images of DNA, who is far less-popularly known. The story was captivating, dynamic, and full of emotion. What’s really cool about the Chicago Semester is that they offer free art events for the students every week. From the Art Institute to operas, I plan to go to as many as I can! There’s not many times in life where you get to go to free events that showcase Chicago’s diverse culture and history.

Most of my hours and days off have been spent exploring random parts of the city. Google has been a beautiful tool with which I’ve discovered interesting venues with fantastic events. From free arcade games to Lakeshore runs to the Navy Pier, I continue to settle in my internship, growing and learning and enjoying the city more than I would’ve imagined.

My favorite part of the city is how the people are all so connected. Somehow we live separate lives that converge at random points in time. I like to think of them as magic moments in which two strangers can somehow connect at a pre-destined time. I had to leave exactly 2 minutes after my shift ended to meet Ron, the 90-year old Chinese man, on the subway. After moving here in the late 40s, he bought a house in a north Chicago neighborhood and has since lived there. This short 15 minute conversation reminded me of how small I am in the grand scheme of life (a good reminder).

Overall, the past few weeks have been filled with small victories: conquering public transit, exploring a new city, and braving -50 degree weather, which made life very interesting and full of layers. Weird to think that I was in the coldest place in the world last Wednesday. Thankfully, I was bundled up inside with a cup of hot tea and fuzzy socks. Thankfully, the turn-around of 50 degree weather (yes, you read that right. We had a 100-degree difference in three day’s span) has allowed my adventurous spirit to re-emerge.

My goal for the next couple weeks? Continue learning at my internship (Gosh, it’s felt weird to be so young in my workplace). Hear more people’s stories. Find new ways to be uncomfortable (’cause that’s how humans grow to be better humans). Keep an open mind to new experiences that come spontaneously. Embrace city life.

The Windy City Welcome

Hello from the Windy City!

It’s almost a week in the city, and I am already absolutely in love with all of the experiences that the Chicago has to offer.  Most of last weekend was filled with orientation sessions that help us understand how to live in the city, but we’ve already begun to explore the culture of the neighborhood. After my family and best friend helped me move in, we grabbed lunch at a restaurant, called Wow Bao.

       

None of us ordered bao, which are steamed buns filled with pork (usually), but the rice bowls that we did order were so tasty! Instead of the traditional counter and register to buy food, customers order on a computer and the food appears in the pods with your name. It was a “Welcome to the future” for us if anything and a great first meal in the city.

My Roommates (left to right) Shannon & Molly

Saturday and Sunday were filled mostly with unpacking and making the apartment homey, especially since we’re living here for the next three and a half months. Chicago Semester is very committed to ensure that its students are well-acquainted with how life in the city works; this includes learning about public transportation, safety in the city, networking, shopping, and community involvement. The program provided several session in which we learned about these various topics. Another important value of the program is that the students embrace the vast cultural diversity that is found throughout Chicago and its over 200 neighborhoods. The city is widely-known as a place where immigrants can find a fresh start. To get a taste of the culture, all the students went to a different part of the city for deserts for the first night of orientation. I went to the neighborhood of Pilsen to Panadaria Nuevo León. The patisserie was brimmed with various deserts whose names I had absolutely no clue but were falling apart in delicious goodness. We even got the baker (after all of us urging her to) to take a picture with us!

            

The following day, several different groups visited different parts of the city for lunch and a short introduction to the people that lived there. I visited Little India (which is almost all the way north edge of the city), where we had the most delicious food.

 Would you believe all this food (for 8 people) cost less than $50?!

Foods pictured: butter chicken, lentil curry, tika chicken, chapati and naan breads, potato curry, basmati rice, beef and bean somoas, and a beef dish.

I had had Indian food before, but this was the most to-die-for that I’ve ever had. Needless to say, it was worth the hour commute from our apartment complex.

After learning about the various neighborhoods, my roommates and I began mapping our semester bucket list. Our first adventure was to Millennium Park and Greek Town. Following the sage advice of the Chicago Semester faculty, we carefully mapped our route. Even though I’d been to Chicago multiple times, my family and I had only visited Chinatown together, because of my Chinese heritage. So, I resigned to do the most tourist-y thing: visit the Bean. The only thing I learned from the experience? The Bean is super dirty.

Greek Town is about a 20-minute walk from our apartment in the Gold Coast neighborhood, and it is full of restaurants (because Greek food is the amazing). Molly, Shannon, and I got sandwiches and cannolis that were so tasty!

The day was windy, cloudy, and cold, but the view was well-worth the aching feet and numb faces. We walked around and eventually landed at a coffee shop called Meddle Dark Matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday was the first day of internship for most of the students. Fortunately, Shannon and I don’t start until next week, and Molly’s first day started late. So, we accompanied her to Andersonville, where she works at their chamber of commerce. We explored the Swedish neighborhood until she had to leave for work. For all the neighborhoods I’ve visited so far, it’s been fairly easy to see what the people value and the center(s) of their culture.

Less than a week in, and I’ve only scratched a piece of the entire surface of the city, but I’m well on my way. Even though I’ve already gotten myself lost twice, I’m becoming more comfortable with riding public transit and routing my destinations better. My first day of internship is on Monday, and I anticipate nestling into a routine of a set schedule mixed with bouts spontaneity.