“I want to help people.”

Probably every medical student, sometime during his/her application process for medical school, has said, “I want to help people.”  Probably almost everybody meant it at the time, and probably most of those almost everybody still would say it again now.  And it’s not hard to conjecture that most medical students want to help people even in non-medical ways.  At least, that’s the way it is for me.

But it’s actually pretty difficult to do a lot of helping people, especially in medical school.  I’m so busy taking care of my life (or at least trying to) that I have very little time and/or willpower to care about anyone else.  It’s ironic how I don’t help people because I’m so busy learning to someday help people.  I think that’s really the challenge of being a medical student: how to develop your heart for helping people while making sure to keep up with the demands of medical school.

As a first year medical student, there’s really nothing you can do medically helpful.  When I hear that my friend’s dad or mom is really sick, I can’t do anything more than the average person.  That’s perfectly understandable, though.  I can help those around me in other ways!  Like saying encouraging things, or feeding people snacks, or praying for them, or sharing my notes with a classmate, or giving rides to friends without cars, etc.  How awesome ’tis to be a helpful person!

But there are days when I can’t help.  Or more accurately, days when I won’t help.  For example, I find out a classmate is struggling in school.  I want to help!  But I can’t.  More accurately, I won’t.  Because I barely have enough time to survive my own workload.  Or let’s say there’s some event at school or at church where they need some help.  I want to help!  But I won’t.  I need to study.  Or if I don’t need to study, I need to savor what little free time I have to clean my apartment or blog or do something relevant to my personal life.

I want to be that guy who’s so smart and does everything so quickly that I have abundant time left to teach others everything.  I want to be that guy who is so put-together and in control of my life that I can help others.  I want to save lives, protect the vulnerable, fight for justice, comfort the weary, provide for the poor, teach children, stop global warming, love my enemies, have great relationships with family and friends, and still have time to blog every week.  I want to be a super hero.

But I’m not a super hero.  Dang it.  I can barely take care of myself.  Ain’t nobody got no time for no nobody else but me.  I need to block myself away from the needs of the world for about a decade (or why not a couple decades?) until I become a super doctor at the top of the world, because that will then allow me to “help people,” just like I’ve always wanted… yeah.

I think wanting to help people is the easy part.  But because I’m not perfect, the question is, “At what cost?”  Do I have what it takes to help even when I have so little to give?

Simeon Koh

Goodbye My Neighbor

Sorry I haven’t written in here for a while.  I had promised to write at least once a week, but it’s already been 3 weeks since my last entry.  I think I’ve just been busy being lazy to write here.  I also didn’t really have something I wanted to write about.

Sometimes I think I need to have something profound to say here.  When I do have some profound moments, I do like to share them, but sometimes life just isn’t that special.  I guess something doesn’t need to be profound or prophetic for me to talk about.  Maybe it just needs to be interesting.  This is just a blog after all.

***

My neighbor moved away a couple days ago.  I was heading out for school in the morning when I saw her door open (her apartment entrance faces mine) with movers moving a bunch of her things into a truck outside.  When I came back home that night, her paw-print doormat was gone and there was no barking from her dog.  Plus, her bright red car with a paw-print sticker on the back wasn’t in the parking lot.  It’s been 2 days with no sign of life from within, so I’m pretty sure she’s gone.

I don’t even know her name.  I don’t know what she did for a living.  We merely said hello awkwardly whenever we passed each other in the last 5 months I’ve been around here.  She was some sort of white lady in her early 30s (I think), brown hair, big eyes and long eye lashes, living alone with her dog.  Besides English, I have heard her speak on the phone (to her mother maybe?) in some European-sounding language that I didn’t recognize.  Sometimes a couple kids would come visit her.  I don’t know if they were her kids, or her niece/nephew, or some unrelated kids.

I knew almost nothing about her, but she was the only person I could recognize in this neighborhood.  Not that I really care that she’s gone, but I now will recognize no one around here.  Quite possibly there is now no one who would recognize me in this neighborhood as well.

Now that no one lives in that apartment across the hall, I wonder who will come next.  Maybe another lonely person; maybe a happy family of four; maybe simply no one.

My neighbor moving away also leads me to think about my own departure.  I plan on moving after my 10-month lease ends in early June.  Will I miss my apartment?  I’m pretty sure I won’t.  As much as I like it, it’s merely a transitional residence.  A temporary home.  A place to rest for a moment until we move along, as we all do.

Simeon Koh

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

2015.01.04 - Snowman

My winter vacation has unfortunately ended, and I begrudgingly left my home in California to once again resume my first year of medical school.  When I got off the plane at 6AM, Chicagoland greeted me with lots of snow!

Some friends were nice enough to pick me up from the airport and dropped me off at my snow-covered school parking lot, where I had left my car.  We said good bye and I started to drive home when I suddenly realized I couldn’t just go home yet.

I had to build a snowman.

Oh man it was hard work.  I think I’m done with exercising for 2015.  Anyways, I wanted to make it really really big like man-sized snowman!  Then the big ball I was working on split in half.  It was the most devastating moment of the year.  I desperately put the 2 halves together and mended the crack with more snow, but it kept cracking open pretty frequently after that.  So I gave up on a man-sized snowman and settle for a hobbit-sized snowman.  A snowhobbit.

The second ball was a lot easier because I guess I got better at snowballin’.  I picked up some rocks for the eyes and stuck some branches for the arms.  Then took some pictures.  I really wanted to take a video of my self playing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” next to my snowhobbit, but I found out I’d need someone to record me while I play if I’m outside.

Speaking of not having someone to help me, it’s important when you’re picturing this situation to note that I was alone in the snow-covered parking lot from 7:30-9am making my snowman.  Was it weird for a California-grown, sleep-deprived (slept <4 hrs on the overnight flight) man to be sweating and grunting in the snow early in the morning alone at the school parking lot?  Perhaps.  Would I have probably stayed awake during church today if I had slept instead of snowballin’?  Probably.  Would there be numerous opportunities to make a snowman later this winter?  Yes.  But the novelty of the moment would be gone if not today.  I want to thrive in 2015, not barely survive.  So build a snowman I did!

2015.01.04 - Snowman 2

Simeon Koh

2014 Simeon’s Christmas Recorder Project

Merry Christmas!

For those of you who see me on Facebook, you know I’ve been uploading a Christmas song played on my plastic recorder daily (almost).  I don’t know why I started doing it, but thanks a lot if you’ve watched any of them!  For this Christmas Recorder Project, today’s video will be the last, since tomorrow we will no longer be waiting for Christmas (unless you really want to start counting the days until next year’s Christmas).

I figured Facebook videos can be kind of hard to navigate through.  So I uploaded all the videos to YouTube.  Since I don’t plan on stopping playing the recorder, I may upload more random recorder videos someday.  We’ll see.  Maybe I’ll even upload other kinds of videos.  Who knows?  My desires are many but my will is often close to nil.  Anyways, I hope my recorder videos bring you some sort of entertainment and a little bit of the Christmas spirit.

2014.11.29 – Auld Lang Syne

2014.11.30 – Do You Hear What I Hear

2014.12.01 – O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

2014.12.02 – Jingle Bells

2014.12.03 – Santa Claus is Coming to Town

2014.12.05 – Away in a Manger (3 versions)

2014.12.06 – Jingle Bell Rock

2014.12.07 – It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

2014.12.08 – O Holy Night

2014.12.10a – Last Christmas

2014.12.10b – Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

2014.12.11 – White Christmas

2014.12.12 – O Little Town of Bethlehem

2014.12.13 – Twelve Days of Christmas

2014.12.14 – Joy to the World

2014.12.15 – Silver Bells

2014.12.16 – Angels We Have Heard on High

2014.12.17 – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

2014.12.18 – Let it Snow

2014.12.20 – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

2014.12.21 – Bringing Our All

2014.12.22 – Here Comes Santa Claus

2014.12.23 – Carol of the Bells

2014.12.24 – Silent Night

2014.12.25 – We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Simeon Koh

Coming Home

“I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing.
Out here it’s like I’m someone else,
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave.
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me.”

             – Miranda Lambert
from “The House that Built Me”

***

In about 7 hours, I will be flying back to California for Christmas break until Jan 3rd.  It has been 4 months since I left home, so I’m pretty excited(?)… or nervous(?)… actually more like confused(?)…. no it’s hard to put a word to how I’m feeling.  What I want to say is that I’m just wondering what it will be like to be back at home.  How have things changed and how have things stayed the same?  Will I feel exactly at home, or would I feel like too much of me has already moved out?

How do you define home?  Where you were born?  Where you’ve grown up in your youth?  Where you live now?

They say home is where your mom is.  I guess dad should get included there too, but it was my mom who told me this.  Anyways, the point is that the reason I’m going back is because my parents (and sister and grandparents) are there.  If you think about it, it’s difficult to rationalize the kind of love you have for your family.  Why do I want to be with my mom and dad?  Why do I want to hug and embrace and be cute with my sister?  Why do I want to take my grandparents to eat pho?  I really don’t know, but it compels me to fly home this Christmas.

As much as I love my family to death, I’ve really been a terrible son, brother, and grandson to them for the past 4 months.  I often forget to even give a phone call home once a week.  I apparently don’t care enough to let them know what I’ve been going through, or to know what’s been going on back home.  As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been too busy living my own life, away and independent from them, that my family has been hardly on my mind.

If I cared a bit more, I would have bought some thoughtful souvenirs for them.  Instead, I’ll probably find something cheap from the school bookstore or something that says “Chicago” from the airport and take that back to my family.  Yet still they’ll be waiting for me with wide open arms and much anticipation.  Grandma will kill the fattened calf and cook up a feast of my favorite food, and my parents will shower me with praises and affection for the next 2 weeks.  What have I done to deserve any of this?  Really nothing more than just being the imperfect son I am.  Just 2 paragraphs ago, I mentioned I really loved my family.  But no matter how much I love them, I don’t think I’ll ever out-love their love for me.

Just wait a few more hours, mom.  Your son is coming home.

Simeon Koh

$1 Bowling Adventures

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During the past few weeks a friend discovered that Monday nights are $1/game at a nearby bowling alley.  What a spectacular deal it was, and is, and hopefully is to come.

We’ve been going as a group of 3-4 guys, and one of the guys actually knows how to bowl (whereas the rest of us kind of bowl like it’s the casinos), and taught us how to spin.  I figured, it’s not like my bowling scores can get much lower, so might as well learn something proper about bowling.

The first couple games were terrible.  So many gutters, and unintentionally but consistently hitting the one back left corner pin.  I think I scored like a 40something for those 2 games.  Then on the 3rd or 4th game I started getting the hang of it and I scored like an 80.  Then on the last game I scored my personal record of 123.

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The next week I bowled a turkey (3 strikes in a row) for the first time ever.  Then I bowled another personal record of 146.

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The week after that I bowled another personal record of 149.

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Then a few days later we went on a different day where they had an unlimited bowling night for $8.  We bowled 16 games (oh my aging body) so that we could get 50cents per game haha.  Anyway in one of those 16 games I scored another personal record of 156.

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Life Lessons:

  1. Having a good teacher can make a huge difference.  Before this, I used to bowl 60~90 points.  Now I consistently bowl over 100.
  2. Also, bowling is more fun when you actually do it intentionally instead of flippantly throwing balls at a general direction.
  3. Thirdly, Monday night bowling is super affordable and since there’s nobody at the bowling alley we can all get separate lanes and bowl super fast so we can get back to studying.
  4. Fourthly, bowling gets me my exercise for the week…

Simeon Koh

Friendsgiving

2014.11.27 - Friendsgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

A few of us not returning to our families for Thanksgiving gathered for a “Friendsgiving” dinner on Thursday.  We bought a ton of bulgogi (already marinated, from H-Mart), we had chips, soda (they call them “pop” here by the way), mac&cheese, garlic bread, ice cream sandwiches, and an amazing pecan pie (from Walmart).  Oh yeah we also had the little clementine oranges, but we were too busy stuffing ourselves with unhealthy food that we didn’t have very much of that.  I hadn’t been eating a lot of meat lately so it was really good to indulge haha.

In addition to lots of food, there was good company.  There were 6 of us, 1 of whom I met for the first time (yay for new friends).  We had a lot of laughs about how this pecan pie is almost 5000 calories, how to learn to be a mean person, how this milk chocolate flavored Pringles strangely isn’t good but isn’t bad at the same time, how one person really timidly wanted to feed us ice cream sandwiches, how some of us are 2 or 3 degrees of separation away from famous people, etc…

We ended the night with some black Friday shopping.  Yes, black Friday shopping on Thursday.  My mission was to find a winter jacket to survive the Chicago winter, but nobody realized how difficult it would be.  I was like, oh how about this?  And my Canadian and Minnesotan friends were like no that’s not gonna be warm enough.  Repeat this for about 5 hours, through which I bought a board game (Quelf), a pair of gloves, and a toaster, but no jacket.  Getting tired, I put on my cute sympathy-inducing baby sad face and cried out softly to nobody in the air, “I just want a winter jacket!  Is that so hard to ask for?

Then we walk into Sports Authority where we finally find worthy potential jackets.  Then the announcement announces that the store will be closing in 4 minutes.  So we go mad to find me a thick enough jacket and I try it on and it fits, feels good, color isn’t too ugly, is on sale, and I pay like a desperate man does in such a situation.  Life lesson:  sometimes you spend forever looking for the perfect jacket, and then just before the door closes you find the One and you quickly seal the deal and realize how fortunate you are to have found the one you did.

Anyways, then we guys got back home around 1:30AM and chatted for a bit because the girls taking the other car were apparently still going strong and crazy at the mall.  Then eventually the girls came back with too many bags and we ended the night.

The End

Simeon Koh

Fall Break Adventures

Sorry for not faithfully keeping up with my commitment to blog every week.  Last last week I was freaking out over my exams and this past week I was on fall break, but so very busy adventuring, which I’ll tell you about.  This past week of not having school was like gold.  It’s like all my social life I couldn’t have this past quarter, I squeezed them all into 1 week.  It was tiring, but it was so good.

  • 11/07/2014 Friday (night, after the exam)
    • A few of us went out to a pizza place.  It was really good, especially the seafood pizza.
    • There was some school party thing at some bar in the city.  It was pretty fun, although I don’t drink a lot or dance.  I think mostly I just needed to get out of this nothingness of North Chicago and see a different part of the world.
  • 11/08/2014 Saturday
    • I went to a meeting for KAMSA Chicago (Korean American Medical Student Association).  They had interesting speakers about their clinical research, and it was great to meet other Korean American medical students.
  • 11/09/2014 Sunday
    • After church, a few of us went shopping.  I needed to buy more long-sleeved things.  We had dippin’ dots and watched Interstellar.  I was really impressed with the movie.  That special relativity class in college sure paid off.
  • 11/10/2014 Monday
    • I got my car oil changed.
    • I cleaned my apartment and did laundry.  It was symbolic of me putting my life back together.
    • For dinner I bought fried chicken with coupons, beer, some vegetables, in the low lighting of the night and listened to Michael Bolton all by myself.
  • 11/11/2014 Tuesday
    • Got something else taken care of in my car in the morning.
    • Tried to study some stuff.  Mostly wasted time on the internet.
    • Watched Fury with a friend.  Twas a man-date.  The one and only thing I took away from that movie was that war is tragic.  Sadness.
  • 11/12/2014 Wednesday
    • A bunch of friends from school got together at a Mexican restaurant and I was very impressed.  The guacamole was great and the grilled fish tacos I had were also great.
    • Afterwards some of us went to a Korean market (H-Mart).  I was out of Korean rice and kimchi and other Korean essentials, so that was very much necessary.
    • Right after getting home and stuffing the fridge with my groceries as quickly as possible, I drove down to Evanston to meet a Korean friend from college days, who goes to Northwestern now.  He bought me dinner at a Korean restaurant, which was actually really good.  It’s hard to find good Korean food here, but I was thoroughly impressed.  It was also so good to reconnect with an old friend.  I drove home that night tired but so filled with brotherly love.
  • 11/13/2014 Thursday
    • I drove down to University of Chicago medical school to meet up with a high school friend.  He showed me around his campus, which is so much better than mine, and he bought me lunch at some sandwich place that reminded me of AP European History.  It was really good to see him, and to see what other med schools are like.
    • My church Bible study group had dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  I had so much food and it was so good.  The jiajiangmyun was just ok, but everything else was great.  Oh yeah, it was also a great time having a time of good fellowship with church people.  Oops.
  • 11/14/2014 Friday
    • Our pastor from church came up to the nothingness of North Chicago to visit.  We took him to one of the few good lunch places here and we got to know each other better.  It was cool to hear his life story and etc.
    • Right after that I drove up to Madison, Wisconsin to visit an old college friend who is now a PhD student in chemistry there.  We had dinner at some Afghani restaurant, and we talked a lot.  She then took me to a coffee shop where we played board games with her frineds.  Then we went to her apartment to watch Little Shop of Horrors.
  • 11/15/2014 Saturday
    •   After sleeping on my friend’s couch I studied a bit because my friend and her roommate didn’t wake up until past 11AM.  We had brunch/lunch and had some pleasant conversations about apple butter.  Then my friend took me to see the capital building of Wisconsin, which was super fantastically pretty, with lots of Ws everywhere and badger busts everywhere.  Then we went to eat fried cheese curds and drink Wisconsin beer, because those are the things that Wisconsin is known for.
    • Then I drove back to Illinois and picked up some friends (the same friends I went shopping with on Sunday) and took them to my apartment for dinner.  We made tofu kimchi and it was gloriously good.  It’s nice to cook with/for people for a change.

Whew that was a lot of jammed packed adventurous week.  I think definitely the appeal of adventure is new places to see and the people you meet along the way.  Although my fall break may be over now, I am very thankful for all the people who made this week memorable.

Simeon Koh

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