Tuesday, December 30, 2014

another holiday in India

December in India has its own charm. There are slim Santa Clauses and scattered trees covered with ornaments. Cars, cows, and horses occupy the same lane on a busy road. Our days are spent going through checklists for the wedding while evenings are a blur of family visits (and battles with jet lag).

A couple of weeks ago, our priest said, "If you want to know yourself, study your parents. If you really want to know yourself, study your grandparents. Whether you find things in yourself that you love or hate, you will see that they are also present in the people you came from."

Knowing where we come from---there's something to that.


A traditional Gujarati meal


My feisty and independent grandmother :) 


A blurry photo of us on the way to a sari store


My niece who is proof that sass and an obsession with dance is in our D.N.A.




Saturday, December 27, 2014

link love


*The mental health crisis in India
"Suicide has surpassed maternal mortality as the leading cause of death in young Indian women."



*Actress Priyanka Chopra promoting women's empowerment


*The fight against child marriage


*Another take on marriage in India


*Have human rights treaties failed?

*Public health accomplishments from 2014 via Bill and Melinda Gates

Friday, December 12, 2014

when you can't write

Ways to sharpen your writing when you can't write:

1. Study popular television shows and ask what makes them work well. Dissect the characters and dialogue.

2. Learn someone's life story. Watch their face when they are filled with hope. Observe the tone of their voice when you ask about their plans for the holidays.

3.  Plot during your commute. If you drive, contemplate ways to add more conflict in your work.

4. Listen to an audiobook.

5. Watch a Ted talk on a topic you know nothing about.

6. Soak in details about everything. Writers are observers. 

7. Take a break from anything creative.

8. Sleep.

9. Write a diary entry from each character's perspective.

10. Read Psychology Today and learn more about human nature. Read everything. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If I Knew Then

**This post is in addition to a series about what I would tell my younger self.**


1. After a certain point in life, friendships become more about effort than convenience. Put in the effort. You'll never regret it. 

2. Don't glorify stress or sleep deprivation or making it for hours without food. There is nothing commendable about not treating your body well. There is nothing powerful about being busy. Everyone is busy. Keep fruit in your purse and learn how to take power naps. Cry out of frustration or exhaustion or the intersection between the two, then get up, and move on. 

3.  Everything you want is on the other side of hard work.

4. Beware of trying to fix anyone's issues, whether it's through advice, love, or loyalty. People can only fix themselves and even then, it has to happen when they are ready.

5. Express appreciation to the ones who believed in you even when you struggled to believe in yourself.

6. Allow everything you're working on to take at least triple the amount of time you think it will.

7. In your twenties, you'll start seeing your parents more as people. You'll appreciate their sacrifices on a new level and start relating to them in ways you didn't think were possible. 

8. Respect the periods of your life when you surrendered to apathy.

9. Play around with the "what ifs" in your mind. What if people posted statuses and tweets about when they failed or were confused or lost? What if we introduced our friends by their best qualities instead of their names? What if saying "I don't know" was acceptable? What if loneliness, the most common ailment you see in the hospital, could be addressed as a public health concern? What if prestige was correlated with fulfillment instead of job titles and salaries? 

10. As you get older, making new friends can feel akin to dating. You wait for the effortless connection and intellectual stimulation. You make plans, first in a group, and eventually alone. You see if everything is upheld. And then, you see that years have gone by, and you have someone you couldn't imagine being without. 

11. Keep finding ways to step out of your comfort zone. If you can't travel, read things outside your genre. Relish a new magazine or newspaper or novelist.  


Sunday, December 7, 2014

couch and draft



1. The Times has a section on mental health called Couch!**

"For some people, the psychiatrist’s couch is a metal examining table." 
Anne Skomorowsky

2. There's also another section, Draft, where writers share their thoughts on the craft of writing. There are essays on not writing, how twisted thoughts create strong plot lines, the importance of being honest about hardships, and more. **

3. The health benefits of of journaling and an application that encourages it**

4. Another read about how writing about depression helps decrease the stigma of mental illness and provides solace to others.**

my best friends' weddings

There should be a word that describes the honor, nostalgia, and excitement that comes from watching your dearest friends start their new lives. They all had endearing back stories that were incorporated into their respective weekends: one had known her groom since high school, another was finally ending a long distance relationship, and another had that Corey and Topanga meant-to-be feel from the beginning. 

 I was a bridesmaid five times and sang, danced, and spoke at each wedding.  I'm so lucky to have been a part of these beautiful weekends.  Here are some things I learned:

-Have tissues, bobby pins, and the bride's lipstick ready in a tiny kit.
-If the professional photographer isn't available, get photos of the bride and each bridesmaid while she's waiting for the ceremony to start. There's a good chance there won't be time to do that later. 
-During that time, take a quick video of her and ask her how she's feeling. Send it to her a couple of weeks later as a surprise. 
-It helps to rehearse a speech with a timer to make sure it doesn't run over 5 minutes (studies have shown that any longer is when most audience members become bored).
-The week of the wedding is often the most stressful for the bride. Call her and ask if she wants any help or just needs to vent.
-Get as much sleep as possible before the weekend!
-If she's overwhelmed, be the person who makes her live in the moment. Rely on other bridesmaids or her family members for last minute logistical issues. 
-Have a couple of bridesmaids available to help the bride get un-ready after the ceremony. Everyone else will likely be eating or caught up with people and she'll need help getting out of her dress and unpinning her hair. 





















Sunday, November 23, 2014

on conflict

Although I hope to someday help people with their battles (internal, external, or both), I struggle with establishing conflict in my writing. I forget that at the core, it's about wanting something and the threat of that desire being taken away.

Over the past few years, I've learned that it's difficult to dislike someone once I understand his or her internal conflicts. Each person has a collection of struggles that may not always be visible.

 I've been reading about the nature of conflict, whether it's in regards to man vs. self or man vs. others, and found this insightful gem: 



"Don’t leave your hero alone very long. Have at least two characters on stage whenever possible and let the conflict spark between them. There can be conflict with nature and your hero can struggle against storm or flood, but use discretion. … You could write a gripping story about a struggle between a lone trapper and a huge, clever wolf. But the wolf is practically humanized in such a story and fills every role of villain. The wolf too wants something and does something about it. A storm doesn’t want anything and that’s why its conflict with man is generally unsatisfactory. It doesn’t produce the rivalry which is the basis of good conflict."

~Samuel Mines

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Amy Poehler love

Amy Poehler's book is just like her: hilarious, warm, and relateable. She has a way of  making you wish you could be her friend. 












Sunday, November 16, 2014

loneliness

Good luck to everyone participating in NaNo! This post isn't writing related but deals with a topic artists are familiar with.

I've discussed loneliness here before (and its distinction from solitude----a necessary virtue for creation). Over the past couple of weeks, I've met people studying suicide prevention, depression, and human connection.  There's a lot of ongoing research about the paradox of social media: despite having more access to human lives, people report higher levels of loneliness, and social interaction has declined. Individuals who report feeling lonely have an increased risk of suicide, are more likely to experience poorer outcomes after surgery, and have a higher chance of passing away from medical conditions.  I wonder if it'll someday be appropriate to cite an emotional epidemic as a legitimate public health concern. 

This quote beautifully expresses the sentiment of loneliness:






Monday, October 20, 2014

on restoration





Have you ever had too much space from your work? To the point where you feel rusty and it takes time to get back into a rhythm? 

Samir sent me this article, written by a psychiatrist, about the importance of story telling in medicine. It reminded me that story telling keeps me alert to everything about life: relationships, surroundings, struggles, changes, etc. When I have distance from that, I don't feel as present. Does that make sense? 

Being in New York has helped. So has carrying multiple notebooks, reading books from high school, and studying movies. I hope that with enough practice, the story telling will flow effortlessly again, and I can apply it to life inside and outside of the hospital. 



P.S. I came across this wonderful article about rekindling the spark with writing.


New York life

After four years, I'm reuniting with my old self in Manhattan. We picked up just where we left off. The girl who I was four years ago still lingers around the city, gazing at ads on the subway, recording the scent of roasted peanuts into a notebook, and striking up conversations with people in crowded restaurants. 

My rotation is at an amazing hospital that prides itself on caring for the under served. The commute--a drafty subway ride and 1 mile walk---takes me a couple of hours. Morning rounds are conducted with physicians, nurses, and social workers. The patients require around the clock monitoring.  I've spent a lot of time observing the value in reading a patient's chart again and again, speaking to their family members on a daily basis, and trusting a nurse's intuition. There are narrative medicine conferences every week, where health care professionals discuss patient care through story telling. 

Every once in a while, when I'm on my way home, I look up. The city resembles a giant game of Tetris, all corners and winks of light. Samir and I have a tiny corner of Manhattan, where the view makes us feel charmingly insignificant.



Our windowsill has our record guestbook from the engagement party and many books. 

 




“And lastly from that period I remember riding in a taxi one afternoon between very tall buildings under a mauve and rosy sky; I began to bawl because I had everything I wanted and knew I would never be so happy again.” 
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sunday, September 21, 2014

lessons from the hospital

This past month, I've been on my ICU rotation.  My favorite physician at our school is the preceptor and every week, I've learned some things that apply both in and out of the hospital.

1. Take the time to dive into backstory. Although there are universal elements to health and biology and medications, each individual's experience is different. If someone has a long term addiction or lives alone without a car, it won't matter if they're prescribed the right medications. 

2. Appreciate protocols but don't let them make you complacent. There are a lot of formulas for success, for minimizing errors. One thing we learned was that while it helps to have a structured plan for anything, following something without thinking about it can make someone too comfortable. 

3.  There's always more than what meets the eye. We see patients, in their rooms, dealing with some unfortunate circumstances. But like everyone else, they have stories that transcend their hospital stay. Sometimes I forget about that idea when I leave the hospital. I had a rough day today and went to the grocery store after work. The cashier's kindness almost took my breath away. She didn't realize the impact she had by taking a few extra seconds to make conversation and wish me the best.

4. It always helps to put yourself in someone else's shoes. I may discuss and write out the next best tests for each patient, but does that mean I really know what they entail? What if someone is scared about sitting in the MRI machine? Or uncomfortable with the idea of a lung biopsy? I may have checked on someone the day after an abdominal surgery, but does that mean I truly understand what type of pain they're in?

While the scientific knowledge from the past several years has stretched my mind, the art of medicine has taught me a lot about my limitations and hopes.

Has your work taught you lessons that helped you in other facets of your life? 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

starting on a creative path



“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 


-Ira Glass

Friday, August 1, 2014

on exhaustion and creativity

There's an inverse relationship between exhaustion and creativity.

This past school year has been a mixture of extremes. I've reached pinnacles of both fulfillment and burnout that I didn't think existed. For a few months, I worked six to seven days a week and then came home every night to study. During three different commutes home, I was so afraid of falling asleep on the road that I called my parents to keep me company on the phone.

On one of my weekends off, I slept for 24 hours straight. There were weeks when my lunches consisted of a bag of chips and bottle of soda. I felt disgusting--inauthentic---but I kept pushing. A classmate and I shared a delirious laugh when we both realized that we wanted to cry because we were so tired. Sometimes I would think about the difficult patient cases, the ones who were dealt with an unfortunate hand in life, and be unable to focus on anything else. 

During any free time, I pushed myself to write. That's what they say to do, isn't it? Not wait for the mood or the opportune moments but create those things for ourselves. 

Well, I've found that in order to flourish creatively, we need to rest first. That may not always come in the form of sleeping but logging at least 7 hours always helps. So does taking time to socialize and experiencing a world  and interactions outside of work. Even with all of the exciting things coming up, the past year caused my creativity to atrophy and it often took time just to get back on track. I have to learn to be okay with that, with the impulsive nature of medical student life. 

There were great things in the midst: kind patients, excellent physician teachers, friends' weddings and bachelorettes, planning for our own wedding, getting a chance, through The Clinton Foundation, to start an idea I've had for a long time. But even for those occasions, I was exhausted. And I realized, at some point, that I never want to be too drained to relish in the present.

When your days have a film over them, a weight that rests on the shoulders and back, you are taking a route towards a small, corrosive life. 

I'm still figuring it out and will probably have setbacks with the way this year looks. But there are some things I can do:

-Prioritize sleep
-Cultivate the art of relaxation
-Add novelty into the daily banality
-Allow people to help
-Learn to set limits and say no

How do you handle burnout?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

what if



"Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen."

-Anne Lamott, via Brain Pickings

Saturday, July 12, 2014

If I Knew Then



*This post is in addition to a series about what I would tell  my younger self*

1. Keep reading and writing; make sure you're always stepping outside of the genres you enjoy. When you start becoming inspired by everything in the world, life won't be the same again. 

2. Take out time to reflect on your life and ask important questions. Are things facilitating your growth? Are you fulfilling others while at the same time taking care of yourself? Do you feel stimulated and capable? 

3. Invest in Chanel lipstick. You'll never regret it. 

4. Don't worry about anyone who tries to compete with you. Try to be better than you were one year ago and wish everyone the same for themselves. 

5.  Listen to the stories of your mother and grandmother. The women in your life can teach you a lot when you take the time to absorb their stories.

6. You'll have to work harder than you planned for on any creative pursuit and that's the way it should be. Don't abandon things because they're taking time. 

7. After you leave the man who wasn't kind to you, you'll understand that he had demons you could never tame. 

8. Tell the people you love what makes them wonderful. Everyone needs reminders. 

9. If you're pressed for writing time, think about your characters during your commute. Where would they be going? What would they be thinking? This way, you'll be writing even when you can't. 

10. In a conversation, always ask more about the other person and speak less about yourself. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Link love and quotes

Quotes: 


“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” 
Anais Nin

"If you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking."
 Malcolm Gladwell

Greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over ½ a library to make 1 book. 
Samuel Johnson

"There are people who write, but I think they’re quite different from people who must write." Harper Lee

"You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks."
Winston Churchill

“See good in everything and in everyone. But love only a few fiercely and determinately. Make them heroes. Find patterns among them. Stage hypothetical conversations, debates, between them. Have inspiration outside what you do. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. And if you want to be pushed, have heroes in anything, everywhere.”



Links on mental health and women's empowerment: 


*Physicians explain the complex landscape of maternal mental health 

*In India, women making money are at a greater risk for domestic abuse

*Through portraits of Disney princesses, an artist shows how anyone can be a victim of violence

*Actress Zooey Deschanel reminds us that not all women want to give birth 

*A Saudi Arabian princess bravely fights for women's empowerment


*Men are important in promoting equality 

*And one last link, unrelated to the rest: dancing can improve a doctor's skills!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

lessons from Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is immortal because of her words and activism. 

When I was a junior in college, I went with my friend Pavani to watch her speak. That week, Pavani and I had been practicing the Indian national anthem for an upcoming cultural show. Pavani is a phenomenal singer and had been teaching me about various ways to practice, on and off stage. We got to Maya Angelou's talk early and sat in the first row. When she came out, she immediately began singing, and the entire auditorium was hushed. It only took ten seconds for Pavani and me to have tears in our eyes. That, we later agreed, was stage presence. Power. Since then, I haven't seen anyone with that same ability to both stir and silence. 

 These are some of my favorite lessons from her. The world lost someone great yesterday but her presence will always linger.

Maya Angelou and Gloria Steinem 
Photo from CNN.com

1. Know what nurtures you
"Every woman should know where to go, be it her best friend's kitchen table or a charming inn in the woods, when her soul needs nurturing."

2. Be careful who you give second chances to
"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

3. Cultivate courage
"I believe the single most important beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare."

4. Never forget the thread of humanity that binds us all
"If we lose love and self-respect for each other, I believe we finally die." 

5. Don't ever let anything bring you down
"You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies, you may trod me in the dirt, but still like dust, I rise"


She has so many more gems about everything from writing to embracing healthy body image to leaving relationships that no longer serve you. 

May she rest in peace. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

understanding ourselves: advice for writing and life

"The goal is to understand your true self before launching an action plan. Deep realizations about yourself don’t come all in one sitting. Be your own ethnographer for a month. One of the people that I admire most in the world is Jane Goodall. Imagine Jane sitting in the forest, looking at those chimpanzees with compassion and curiosity. Take on her kind tone and attitude while observing yourself. Be gentle and curious but never judgmental. This is very hard for us to do because we’re always talking shit to ourselves.
Take a notebook and notice every time you get excited about something. It doesn’t have to be a big moment or work related… Just write it down each time—no judgments. What happens over the course of the month is you start seeing some patterns. It gives you a peek into your authenticity and things that energize you. When your whole body lights up with joy, it’s really trying hard to tell you something—it’s saying, “hey, this is important, please pay attention.”
[…]
You need to spend time understanding who you truly are before you forge a path. If you’re making plans based on other people’s perception of you or the perception of yourself that you want to project based on some external force, you’ll always end up in the wrong place.
Advice to those just starting out on a creative path from Sharon Ann Lee,

Via Brain Pickings:
http://explore.noodle.org/post/82992510210/the-goal-is-to-understand-your-true-self-before?utm_content=buffer826a5&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Monday, April 14, 2014

Engagement Party

This past weekend, Samir's family threw us an engagement party. There was a Friday night dinner at their house, a traditional Indian ceremony the next morning, and then a reception at a gorgeous museum. It was the first time our worlds came together. The only thing more incredible than falling in love with him was watching how our families and friends fell for one another. 










Tuesday, March 4, 2014

taking the scenic route and befriending uncertainty



Edit: When I wrote this post, I didn't realize it was time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, a group created by the incredible Alex!  This group is a wonderful place to offer support and encouragement to other writers while also sharing some struggles and insights of your own. 

In a lot of ways, I've been a late bloomer. For some reason, I have trouble accepting this when it comes to writing. I set deadlines and make plans and become frustrated when things don't go according to schedule.

One thing writing has given me is a better relationship with uncertainty. Years ago, uncertainty was a mysterious stranger, someone I was content with not knowing, someone I actively avoided. Now, uncertainty has become the best type of friend: challenging but constant, exciting but stable. 

In medicine, there's more or less a set route with training. Medical school, residency, fellowship, then practice. But with art, there is no route. As it turns out, there's nothing more liberating than surrendering.

I have to learn to give my goals wiggle room. To remember that time is never wasted if it's spent in practice and everything is practice. 

Now, when people ask me what I think I'll be in several years, I'm happy to say I don't have a plan. There are a lot of virtues I hope to accomplish but there are many routes to get there. Some might come quickly. Some might take triple the time. Some might not happen at all. 

How do you deal with uncertainty in life? 


*Also, this Brain Pickings article describes the importance of uncertainty much better than I ever could: 


“The job — as well as the plight, and the unexpected joy — of the artist is to embrace uncertainty, to be sharpened and honed by it,”   Dani Shapiro



*And of course, a quote by the incredible DVF: 

“I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.”



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

favorite quotes from where'd you go, bernadette?


My heart started racing, not the bad kind of heart racing, like I'm going to die. But the good kind of heart racing, like, Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I'm about to kick the shit out of life.” 

That's right,' she told the girls. 'You are bored. And I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be.

People like you must create. If you don’t create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

solitude among the creative, questions to ask characters, and the importance of space

This article from The Atlantic makes a beautiful conclusion: in order to create, artists need solitude. I've written here about mental health in the creative community and how there are higher rates of both depression and suicide among artists. However, at one point, there was an idea that artists needed this in order to produce work. Now, studies are showing the value in being alone, in sitting with thoughts and emotions and questions. 

This past Saturday, I planned to stay in and write all night. I ended up writing for half the day and then going out with friends. When I mentioned my original plan, one said, "That sounds boring!" I laughed because from the outside, it might seem like that but for writers, hours alone are a necessary way of life. 

Just sitting and contemplating allows one to dig deeper. I've found the same to be true when I'm with patients in the hospital. Only when I pull up a chair, put away my notes, and probe further about their questions do I get a better picture of what happened to them. 

It's all about this concept, this digging deeper, that requires space from everything else. 

With that in mind, I've also known that I need to dig deeper and asked my characters these questions. I heard their answers in my head, in their voices, and those told me they were becoming more developed. My M.C.'s mother speaks in quick, rational sentences while my M.C. is an emotional rambler. Her fiance is an aspiring, always impatient neurosurgeon with a soft spot for his mother.

How are you misunderstood?

What do you want more than anything in life? Why?

Who do you love?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?


P.S. On an unrelated note, my favorite feminist, Ms. Gloria, traveled through India to learn more about the women's rights movements. She never stops inspiring. 





Monday, January 27, 2014

"Figure out who you are separate from your family, and the man or woman you're in a relationship with. Find who you are in this world and what you need to feel good alone. I think that's the most important thing in life. Find a sense of self because with that, you can do anything else."

― Angelina Jolie


"Work hard in silence and let your success be your noise."
 
 
 
*P.S. I've been spending some time rewriting my first line and forgot how difficult that is. After some helpful reading, I remembered that a first line should convey the tone of a book, serve as a hook, give away something about the setting or plot, and match the sentence structure of the rest of the book. This Writer's Digest article gives some great examples.
 
P.P.S. Do you have any favorite first lines?


Thursday, January 2, 2014

If I Knew Then: 2014

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone got some time to relax and refresh! The past month has been busy in the best type of way, with love and friendship and the types of moments that demand nostalgia before they're over. I don't believe in New Year's resolutions (I prefer daily ones) but relish reflections. 

1. Take time for yourself because people will rarely give it to you. 

2. Spend time with family, whether that's the one you were given or the tribe you built for yourself. 

3.Don't ever give up on those you love. A cry for help, acceptance, or security can be disguised in many ways.

4. One day, you'll wake up and realize that not only have you accepted everything you've been through but that you've also found contentment with the absence of certain people.

5. Keep a notebook for your own thoughts and the wisdom of others. Reading and writing make you a better person. (I ordered notebooks and feminist cards from Rifle Paper Company. They also had this wonderful Anatomy of Love card!)



6. Don't let the world harden you. Be an advocate for those who are struggling.

7. Creative pursuits are fun and fulfilling but they are also work. Don't allow your motivation to wane because of this.

8. Read outside your genre to improve your writing. Study the way television shows introduce characters and conflict. Analyze a short story. Sift through poetry. 

9. Surround yourself with people who are more intelligent/inspiring/successful/insert any positive adjective than you. 

10. Confidence is quiet. If you're great, the world will tell you. You won't need to tell the world. 



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

in which my greater self

it was a dream
in which my greater self
rose up before me
accusing me of my life
with her extra finger
whirling in a gyre of rage
at what my days had come to.
what,
i pleaded with her, could i do,
oh what could i have done?
and she twisted her wild hair
and sparked her wild eyes
and screamed as long as
i could hear her.
This. This. This.


- Lucille Clifton

Women's Health: Body Image

When I started the American Women's Medical Association on my campus, I knew I had to organize an event focused on body image. 

 Most of the other public health topics I'm interested in are more prevalent in the developing world (domestic violence, PTSD in rape victims, etc.) And yes, hunger is a worldwide issue. 

But just because a problem is relative to a place doesn't make it any less of a problem. We are a product of our environments and I see---in my personal and professional lives---this silent sickness of body hatred. Of picking apart limbs and noses and stomachs for analysis. Of using measurements as signs of womanhood. 

Now, there are books and documentaries devoted to the science of beauty. They're fascinating in their own right and I'm not even saying that it doesn't make sense 

But when we are taught that our image (specifically, a target weight) is all we have to offer, that's when the problems begin. When it shifts from health to hate. The young women who are compassionate, intelligent, funny, tough, or athletic still tend to feel inadequate. 

I approached my dean about the issue and we are in the process of organizing a body image workshop. Right now, I'm planning to show clips from a documentary called Killing Us Softly, followed by a panel discussion of women's mental health experts. 

I know engaging in dialogue won't alleviate the pain for women with body image struggles but I hope that at the very least, it can increase awareness. 


P.S. As an interesting tie in, here's a New Yorker article on female beauty in fiction