Last June, a little over one year ago, I was sitting at my table reading a blog post about someone’s post-baccalaureate experience, and my life changed forever. Dramatic, yes. Accurate, absolutely. I felt like someone came and sucker-punched me in the stomach. How did I not realize it before? I wanted to be a doctor. It was so crystal clear in that moment that I literally said out loud “but of course” (million dollar question…name that book with this quote! answer: Atlas Shrugged).

So what prompted me to have this epiphany? Well, to be honest it was mainly the realization that I could still be a doctor. I previously had no idea that post-baccalaureate premed programs even existed for career-changers like me. I would be lying if I told you that I’ve dreamed about being a doctor my entire life. That’s simply not the case. I’ve been clued in about it occasionally throughout the course of my life, but I guess it wasn’t yet time to listen to life’s hints. Instead, I pursued my changing interests with ease and zero regrets. 

Civil Engineering

Engineering came first. My fascination with the physical world prompted me to switch my major to civil engineering immediately upon starting college. I entered school as a declared economics major, believing that business was my ultimate goal, but a mere month before freshman year I was smacked with the realization that studying engineering was my calling in undergrad. Notice a trend? All my biggest decisions come on suddenly, washing over me tsunami-style. To date, it’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. 

Words can’t describe how much I adore the sciences and how much I enjoyed my major. It was incredibly challenging but so rewarding. My courses molded my mind to think analytically and view the world in a realistic, problem-solving manner. I’m a scientist at heart and always will be.

Civil Engineering

And it was my engineering background that helped me score an incredible job with a large consulting firm. You see, as much as I adored studying civil engineering, I eventually realized (after a summer internship) that an actual career in the field wasn’t for me. For whatever reason, my heart started pulling me towards the business end of the spectrum, perhaps because, while I was strong in analytical skills, I lacked the ability to communicate effectively with others. In other words, I was totally an awkwardly geeky engineering stereotype. 

Pursuing this business career pushed me far out of my comfort zone – knowing that I was an extremely shy and introverted human being, it was shocking to everyone to learn that I entered one of the most client-facing careers out there. But once again, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Being a consultant helped fill in the social gaps that engineering failed at – I became an extremely confident woman and a very effective public speaker. 

career woman

And so I came full-circle last year when I found myself at a cross-roads in life with a similar instinctual feeling about the next steps in my career…in my life. It quickly became clear that I was only now ready to pursue my true calling of being a doctor. 

The reality is that I could never have done it prior. I was meant to study engineering in my undergraduate years, my mind needed the skills I acquired from the challenging courses. I was meant to pursue a career in business consulting, I desperately needed to develop communication skills and build self-confidence that is so crucial to being an effective physician. Life works in mysterious, complicated ways but if we listen closely enough, we will hear it guide us down the right paths. Always.

premed

So here I am now, two semesters away from completing my post-baccalaureate studies at Columbia University.  Being a student again, after 4 years as a post-graduate career woman, has been a challenging and humbling experience but a worthwhile one. I’ll be posting more about my studies in the upcoming weeks. And since this post is more about the path I took to end up here, I guess I also need to share why I want to be a doctor as well. I can’t wait to share this crazy adventure with you all!

♥ Irina

What, you’ve never had that moment when you suddenly start missing school? Just me? Well ok then, understandable. I occasionally go through periods of really really missing studying for no apparent reason. I’m a bit like Hermione Granger when it comes to school – the smell of notebooks, feel of pens, tapping of calculator buttons, appearance of graph paper – I love it all.

books

I know, it’s psychotic but I’m sure there are others out there who understand! I’ve given this so much thought over the years (i.e. since graduating) and have narrowed this feeling down to two culprits:

1.) I crave the difficult engineering curriculum because I’m not challenged enough in my everyday life and career
2.) My nostalgia is a symptom of dissatisfaction in life and I simply long for easier, happier times

Perhaps this feeling came around because I just “celebrated” the 2-year mark at my current job back in January. And a career-iversary is as good of a time as any to sit down and reflect on, well…your career. My job is certainly challenging in its own way. It can be time-consuming, overwhelming, and fun all at the same time. But looking back in comparison, the truth is that I haven’t been tested in the same manner that I was while at school.

I truly miss using my brain the way I used to back in college. Sure, my studies were highly theoretical but nothing, nothing, has even come remotely close to giving me that same rush as when I would finally solve some problem/equation I literally spent hours battling.

cheat sheet

(A “cheat sheet” I created for one of my classes – we were allowed one sheet of paper with notes to use during exams and I always crammed everything possible on both sides. My cheat sheets were legendary in our classes!)

Of course the reality is that most of us can’t just make a seamless transition between our studies and real world careers. For one, not everyone loves their area of study. Even more so, many end up settling for jobs post-college due to limited prospects and lack of experience. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is figuring out how to incorporate those feelings of excitement/enjoyment from school into a career that directly reflects them.

But do the individuals lucky enough to “love what they do” know something the rest of us don’t or are they really just lucky? Ask me what my “dream job” is or what I want to do the rest of my life and I’ll be stumped. I have hobbies that I can spend hours doing with a smile on my face, but how can I translate those hobbies into a career? The reality is that many of us can’t, and so we settle down in defeat.

Personally, all I knew upon graduating was that I did not want to pursue a career in Civil Engineering. Ironic, no? Especially given my obsession with all the classes and material. I ended up listening to my intuition, taking a leap of faith, and pursuing a new career path. I don’t know where I see myself in five years or even one year from now, but at this point my “career” and my “passions” don’t intersect. Don’t misunderstand though, I like my job and am very grateful for it, but it’s just something I do to make a living.

graduate

The problem is that when our hobbies start feeling like work, we often lose our passion for them. And for those of us who do love our careers but also have external hobbies, are we the real lucky ones here?

Anyway, I’m rambling now! I’ve been trying to get these thoughts down for quite some time and am glad to finally do so. Please share your opinions below, I would love to hear your own thoughts on this!

Let’s chat:
– Did you enjoy your area of study back in college?
– Do you enjoy your current career and do you feel properly challenged by it?
– What is your “dream job”?

♥ Irina

I was lucky enough to work in downtown Chicago this week. Most true Chicagoans (aka those who live in the heart of the city and not suburbia like me) would stare at me in shock for saying this. Why, you may ask? Well, the NATO summit is here this weekend and the city went batsh*t crazy loading up on extra secutiy and road closures.

(pics courtesy of my sis)

My 1-week training course started at 8:30am sharp Tuesday-Friday and I needed ample time to wake up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and make it to the 6:50am train. That meant….

I can’t even remember the last time I woke up this early! I’m happy to say that I’m quickly becoming a (very) early morning person. Yup, I actually don’t mind waking up at such outrageous times! Maturity, how did you sneak up on me? Please, lets ignore the fact that I have three alarms set.

This week was all about the buckwheat bake. Every.single.day. I don’t know what’s gotten into me but the juicy mango chunks in “cake form” topped with sunflower seed butter + Manuka honey hit the spot every morning.

(sorry for ugly early morning picture!)

I’m happy to report that I’m taking a break from the BB for an undetermined amount of time. Variety is key to a healthy and happy diet!

Given that I live outside the city, the best way for me to get downtown was by taking the Metra.

Yesterday I decided to take a later train at another station. Horrible decision. The parking was a 5 minute walk away from the actual station and I ended up having to run with a heavy backpack & purse to catch the train. My heels and the balls of my feet are now paying the price. I might have to reconsider that decision to try barefoot running one day. Ouch

Anyway, the 40 minute train ride was the perfect time to chill out, catch up on blog reading, and mentally prep myself for the day to come.

The train typically arrived into the city around 7:50am, allowing for ample time to walk to the office.

One morning I was struck by a crisis – my eyeliner ran out. So I stopped by CVS Pharmacy and stocked up.

Buy 1 get 1 50% off? Hell yea

I’ve been using this brand of eyeliner (Covergirl) for over a decade and still love it!

The city is beautiful in the morning. The refreshing dewy scent is still prevalent in the air and the rising sun glazes the monotone steel in gold.

The workday/training was tedious – we didn’t get to leave the building for 8.5 hours and lunch was nasty. I can’t wait to cleanse my body of the hellish food it was forced to encounter this week. Blah.

The best part of my day was the release from prison, granting me permission to make the lovely walk back to Union Station.

Who knew seeing trains could make me so happy?

After returning to home sweet home, I either fit in a quick run or just relaxed with the computer on my lap.

Proud moment of the week: I ran 3 miles on both Wednesday and Thursday! Both runs were intentionally slow and felt absolutely incredible. Hello (tiny) runner’s high x2!

(Ew alert. I look like a crazy person)

I know I know, running back-to-back is a supposed “no-no” but I’m trying to follow No Meat Athlete‘s Half Marathon Training Guide and it involves running 4 times a week (two of which are back-to-back). We’ll see how it goes..

The week was jam-packed and busy, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to work in my favorite city. While it certainly had its downfalls, I wouldn’t wish against it for anything!

Are there any Chicagoans out there suffering from all the NATO restrictions?

Are you an early riser or an up-all-nighter?

♥ Irina

I firmly believe that some people are more prone to optimism whereas others tend to succumb to the dark side of pessimism. In my short time here on Earth (so cheesy, gosh), I’ve learned a great deal about my own personal penchants. My life is by no means perfect and I’ve certainly had soaring highs and plunging lows, but I’ve long suspected that my internal self (my soul?) is slightly more optimistic in nature.

Let me explain.

Personally, I go through a well-defined cycle in difficult or grief-worthy events:
1.) After the initial unexpected event strikes, my logical side shuts down and a wave of emotion inundates my body. The tiny bit of logic left in the space of my brain rushes towards negativity and leads me to blow everything out of proportion.
2.) This is when the teary/angry/upset/shocked phone calls to family begin. Occasionally, my lack of patience shines through the chaos, leading me to make rash decisions that I may later come to regret.
3.) After the flood gets under control thanks to trustworthy external sources (family), rationality starts creeping back into my mind. Oh I adore rational Irina but sometimes she’s ridiculously overwhelming due to her inclination towards over-thinking everything. Yes, I did just talk about myself in third person…#dealwithit
4.) Finally, when I least expect it, I discover that at some point during the catastrophe, optimism had already unknowingly sneaked back into my heart.

I experienced this cycle last Wednesday. It began with the start of the workday and continued well into the following (Thursday) afternoon up to the moment I entered my car to drive home for the week. All the tears and emotions I was bravely holding in immediately demanded release. And release them I did. By the time I pulled into my driveway two hours later, optimism had already warmed my heart and calmed my soul.

(↑ it makes no sense but I love it)

So what happened? Without going into too much detail, I will say that I experienced my first harsh taste of the “corporate world” where I felt less human and more like a rag doll used at the upper management’s expense. Did I expect this to happen at some point in my adult life? Definitely. But I had no idea that I would react like this. Oh my naiveness…

I’m still working through my emotions and everything surrounding my future, but I know all will work out well. As I mentioned in a previous post, I need to continuously remind myself that this is what I wanted and I am lucky to have these opportunities.

After all, everything happens for a reason!

The classic question – is the glass half full or half empty?

Have you experienced the wrath of the corporate world? What’s your coping mechanism?

♥ Irina