Counting Down with a Former Sidekick

As a child, I was raised on a healthy diet of isolation and broadcast television. These two forces combined to shape my world view into the healthy grounded state that governs my every decision as an adult (and unwittingly prepared me for pandemic life). The bulk of shows that I watched as a child were mainly cheese-tastic sitcoms with a lovable lead, their wacky family, their on again off again love interest (WOOOO) and their obligatory friend/sidekick. These shows were designed to make viewers fantasize about themselves in the role of the main character, with the entire world filtered through the lens of the protagonist as they dealt with their crisis of the week. However, I never imagined myself as the protagonist in these tv shows. For some reason, I always identified with the poorly fleshed out sidekick characters. These characters only existed to support the lead characters by making snappy quips or providing some absurd comic relief to lighten the mood when the episodes got too heavy. They were the nutritional equivalent of junk food, but for some reason that resonated with me. Throughout my life, I never felt like the lead character or that I belonged on center stage. I felt like my life was one of peripherally existing quietly in the shadows with occasional guest appearances in the main event of everyone else’s lives – coming out of isolation, only to add a sassy phrase or say something agreeable to help continue the character arcs of the stars as they continued their prime time journeys.

Kimmy Gibler was the inflammatory troll sidekick to perfect daughter/sister/friend DJ Tanner from the 1980’s – 1990’s sitcom Full House. Her despicable constant attempts to create discord among her neighbors, the Tanners, were loathed and met with universal disapproval. Kimmy was a shallow punching bag of a character designed solely to antagonize her best friend’s family and provide a sounding board for DJ’s biggest issues. She never had a real character arc or life outside of the Tanner’s sugar filled orbit. The ABC network executives wanted me to laugh and mock Kimmy, but my childhood self saw deep into her soul and related to her. I WAS her.

At some point, after seeing hundreds of patients, the way I normally thought of myself began to change. My optometry life was one filled with these moments where my actions, my words, and my decisions took part on center stage with my patients hanging on my every word. They weren’t reaching for the remote to change the channel, but instead were turning up the volume and telling their friends to tune into Doctor Heimlich Thursdays at 7:30 pm eastern time (The coveted spot immediately following Jeopardy!). My journey through optometry school wasn’t one of me finding some long buried self-esteem, but instead, was a journey of seeing myself in a new role with respect and trust in the fact that I could take the lead. I began optometry school uncertain, questioning everything about myself and ended the process feeling a new sense of purpose and belonging. I feel like my character is more fully developed and worthy of the titular role, and no longer just some cameo.

Alright, that’s enough about television. I feel like I talk about television a bit too much sometimes. Speaking of television, who else is exhausted by the inundation of these schmaltzy television ads where it pans from living room to living room of various families with some narrator voicing that “In these uncertain times …. we’re all in this together! So from all of us at *Insert mega corporation who would push you off a cliff for a dollar*, we just want to say blah blah some faux sincerity about perseverance and the eventual return to normalcy. Buy our product!”? It’s ALMOST enough to make me stop watching television altogether …. almost. Television is the lynch pin of my quarantine routine and without it, I’m left with few entertainment options. I’ve nearly exhausted the infinite content available on the internet and its abundance of Top 10 (or whatever random number they decide) lists for any and every topic. It seems like a list arranged according to quality is a pretty stale and lazy way for authors to generate new content. So in honor of phoning it in and the retread of tired ideas that are continuously recycled to occupy our time, may I present my Top 5 things about my experience of optometry school at THE Ohio State University College of Optometry:

#5 The Post-Test Euphoria

It was rare that you turned a corner in Starling Loving or Fry Hall without running into a test. From my first official class exam to my last Board’s exam, I was petrified and nightmare filled in those agonizing hours leading up to the main event. Eventually, the results would come through and the sense of accomplishment showered the body with a boost of serotonin resulting in wondrous euphoria. Each little victory was one step closer to becoming a doctor.

Despite receiving both my Doctor of Optometry and Master’s Degree, I am equally proud of this third degree I received my fourth and final year of optometry college. After completing my Boards Part 3 attempt in Charlotte, North Carolina, I settled in for my long drive home with only my thoughts to keep me company. At some point in Virginia, I convinced myself that my attempt was in vain and had resulted in failure, which led to me ignoring the speed limit change. Quickly I was pulled over and assumed I was set to receive a harmless speeding ticket. However, thanks to Virginia’s draconian traffic laws, I was cited for reckless driving. All that to say, I needed to take a preemptive defensive driving course in order to get the charges dismissed. I’ll never forget the 8 long hours of Saturday traffic school with my fellow delinquent drivers and the alliance that was formed between me and the cool kids against the guy in the front row who kept falling asleep and waking up only to interrupt the teacher to ask what was happening.  His shenanigans easily led to an extra 30 minutes of class time that I’ll never get back. Sigh.

#4 The Secret Cheerleaders

Seeing a patient as a student is amazing. You could almost feel the patients bursting at the seams with pride and boiling over with anticipation for the end of the exam so that they can tell you, “You did an AMAZING job!” The patients that frequent Ohio State’s clinics are so excited to help in our learning process and excited to give us the ego boosts that we rely on to keep motivated. The next time I examine a patient, I’ll be a doctor and I’ll lose that sense of cheerleading that patients do when being examined by a student. It will be bittersweet.

#3 The Knowledge Gained

Every day in patient care for me started with the fear of not being able to handle what was to come my way. As the day began, that fear proved to be fleeting as I began to realize how much I had learned and how prepared I was to handle my patient’s problems. While it’s humbling to know there is still so much to continue learning, it’s encouraging to know how far along I’ve come.

#2 The Realization That It’s Only Just Begun

Optometry school’s end is just the beginning of a host of new optometry careers. Careers involving continuing education, conferences, reunions, and numerous life events that will reunite our class for years. Graduation is not a goodbye, it really is an “Until next time!”

#1 The Best Damn Family in the Land

Walking through the doors of the Ohio State College of optometry is a sure guarantee to run into a high quality individual. From the faculty to the staff and the students, everyone is inspirational. It’s as if a master curator placed the most eclectic, vibrant, interesting and fun group of individuals all into one building. I am going to miss everyone and my biggest regret was that I never used the time I had to make the friendship bracelets and give the hugs that I wanted to give to each and everyone in my class. Whether I shared a few brief conversations or filled weeks of my free time with those around me, I genuinely appreciated each and everyone. I can’t go around again and make up for any lost time, but I know the future will be filled with many reunions with my optometry family.

I’m so proud to have gone through this experience and I am excited for my future. Congratulations to the class of 2020. You are all going to do amazing things. Now go outside, wander your alleys and find the cutest alley cat to do a celebratory dance with as a doctor, because that’s exactly what I’m about to do with my old pal Mr. Business and it’s going to be so incredibly sweet.

UnPawsing My Life

Let me take you on a journey to the past. The year? 2016. The month? July. The reason? Because. It was a different world back then. Everyone was wearing rompers, the nation became obsessed with a show called Stranger Things, La Croix and avocado toast took over the culinary scene and children all over the world were so hooked on Pokemon Go that they accidently walked straight off of piers and into the depths of the ocean. Anything to capture that elusive Squirtle. And while I too stocked my basement with La Croix and my closet with fun and flirty rompers, the main thing that stood out to me that year, was the beginning of my relationship with Mr. Business. It was a chilly and windy night and I wanted to capture one more Pokemon before heading to bed; so, I walked around my neighborhood looking for an Abra, a Clefairy, a Pikachu … ANYTHING that wasn’t a stupid Ratatta or Pidgey. The storm clouds began to gather and my window for optimal Pokemon catching was rapidly closing. It was then that I heard a meek “meow meow?!?” Standing in front of me was Mr Business the alley cat. He looked frightened about the impending storm. I crouched down and he ran to me. I pet him behind his ears and he purred. His breath smelled like tuna. It was best friendship at first sight. We quickly exchanged phone numbers, weaved friendship bracelets, and promised to be best friends until the end of time. When I walked home that night, I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t capture any Pokemon; I was thrilled that I made a new friend.

This image is depressing. A vast empty world with a single Pokemon trainer fruitlessly walking in the hopes of eventually crossing paths with someone, something … anything. When Pokemon fever first hit the world, I resisted and smoothly dismissed it, referring to anyone who played it as a mindless follower. Then 2 weeks later, I quickly assimilated in the hopes of gaining society’s approval. I was not disappointed. The game was fun, for exactly 2 months. Then I immediately deleted it like 90% of users. I’ll forever remember Pokemon Go fondly as it was the catalyst for me meeting Mr. Business.

2016 also stands out to me because it was the year that I began my journey into optometry. And while I had a busy life of Netflix, Pokemon catching, skipping the gym, feeling guilt about skipping the gym, and romper shopping; I decided that I wanted to dedicate my full energy into school and only school, to ensure that I would become the number one optometry master (that’s another Pokemon reference … I can’t turn it off. Help me). Dedicating all my energy into Optometry school meant that I had to put everything else in my life on hold. I told myself that would be fine. So I hit the pause button on my life outside of optometry school with the intention of unpausing it in 2020 once I became a licensed optometrist. I mean, what was the worst that could happen?


Let’s fastforward to 2018. School is great and I feel like I’m becoming more skilled with every new patient that I see. But my life outside of school is still ‘paused’ and I’m starting to understand why that’s a bad thing. You see, I haven’t really had much contact with Mr. Business over the last year. When school first started, he was leaving me dead birds of encouragement in front of my door on a regular basis (and one time a dead mole, but I wasn’t into that). I was appreciative, of course, but I kind of ignored the gestures and kept my focus on school. This past year, I haven’t received a single dead bird. Not one. And I’ve seen him catch birds around the neighborhood too. I shudder to think who he’s giving them to now. Moreover, I have noticed that Mr. Business runs away from my house whenever I get home from school. I tried to pretend that it wasn’t a big deal, but I had a epiphany last week when I was adult trick-or-treating (Monster Bash!) in German Village. I was admiring the Wizard of Oz decorations of one of the host houses of the night when a beautiful white cat named Jojo ran up to me. I crouched down and Jojo purred as I pet her behind the ears. She tried to crawl into my costume and we shared a laugh. Then I felt a pain in my stomach. This was how it used to feel with Mr. Business. I had a great thing going with him but then I let the relationship dissolve because I was too focused on myself and the optometry bubble. In fact, it wasn’t only Mr. Business that I ignored the past 2+ years. I’m pretty sure my family and pre-optometry friends think I dropped off of the face of the earth. In general, I have been terrible about engaging in the outside world if it doesn’t directly tie into optometry school. I figured I could pause my life for four years and the world would wait for me unchanged, but that was just me being naive. The world is ever changing and a lot of things in my life have moved on without me; one of them being Mr. Business.


This is the last time Mr Business took a nap in my backyard. As the weather has gotten chillier, so has his disposition. Things are tense between us and I don’t know if they’ll ever go back to the way they used to be. It’s sad, but I only have myself to blame. On an unrelated note …Is it just me, or does he look like he’s putting on winter weight? Or maybe he just stopped caring. Either way, Mr Business isn’t the trim bird hunter he used to be when we first met. I often see Mr Business hanging out in my other neighbor’s back yards and it makes me wonder if they all feed him treats. He might have a whole treat system rigged up where he’s eating fancy feast 5 times a day with everyone being blissfully unaware pawns in his dastardly scheme. Maybe my lack of participation in this system is part of the reason why Mr. Business isn’t so keen on me nowadays.

Being in school feels like being in a protective bubble. It feels like the outside world doesn’t exist and that nothing else matters. But that’s just an illusion. My family still exists (I think … maybe I’ll call them tomorrow), my impact on the world still matters, my decisions still have an impact on myself and others and what I do with my time is important. Optometry school certainly is challenging and time consuming, but it isn’t an excuse to forget other aspects of my life and my other responsibilities. It may have unfortunately taken a broken relationship with Mr Business to wake me up, but now I see that ‘pausing’ my life was never really an option. I can’t ignore the outside world while I train for my career. I still need to live in and be a part of this world, otherwise everything will pass me by. So today, I am officially leaving the protective optometry bubble and unpausing my life. I’m going to rekindle relationships, focus on my health and well-being, work on collecting more Pokemon, focus more on the things happening in the world around me and consider what I can do with my time now to make a positive impact on my life and others. And most importantly, I’m going to win back Mr. Business’ approval with a can of fancy feast a day because I’m pretty sure he can be easily bought. Well I hope so at least, because I miss my furry friend.


Surviving The Gauntlet …. and Butterflies

A few weeks ago I was in the throes of an optometric gauntlet; a brutal week of 5 back to back finals over 5 days to cap off the summer semester of the second year of optometry school. The air was thick with the collective self-doubt of the class and tensions were running high. Each of us was hopeful for an easy way out … but the only way out, was through. In a particularly desperate attempt, I took a page from Garfield’s playbook abuse of his foil Nermal and attempted to mail myself to Abu Dhabi. It was a futile escape plan that only ate into my precious studying time. During the week, sleep was sparse, nutrition was selected solely by convenience and grooming habits had become a forgotten pastime. I am only 2 dramatic sentences away from depicting the difficulty of that week as the equivalent of Maleficent’s evilness.

I’ve actually never watched Sleeping Beauty before, or if I did, I don’t remember it. This seems weird to me, because I love everything Disney and my favorite activity is watching animated movies. I think I tried to watch it once a few years ago but only made it to the scene in the forest where Sleeping Beauty is singing to the animals or something. I can only imagine how riveting her repetitious progression through sleep cycles is, so I’m sorry that I have yet to witness it. Despite the fact that I’m not familiar with the plot of the movie, I am aware that Malificent has the reputation of ‘Baddest Disney villain of all time'(take a seat Jafar). So if this finals week deserves to be compared to any villain, I’m sticking with Maleficent.

Like all my other trademark melodrama, the fear and anticipation of the week were worse than the actual week itself. Before I knew it, all the tests were complete and I had survived to tell the tale. The end of summer semester meant that I had additional free time to tend to my neglected back yard. As I began to ponder how my worries often tend to be misplaced, I was attacked! Not by the usual suspects: a criminal, a rabid dog, a wasp, or a possessed ventriloquist dummy … I was attacked by a butterfly. Nature’s elegant and benign decorative insect. Butterflies are known for being pretty, quiet, agreeable, and never taking the last slice of pizza in a group setting. They are supposed to be harmless doormats … but when I say attacked – I mean hair ruffled, head bunting level of attacked.  I naturally handled this situation with the grace and dignity of the professional that I aspire to be by screaming, flailing my arms and sprinting into my house, where I quietly sobbed for 4 minutes.

This was the reward waiting for me after a long week of studying and hard work. Was the butterfly real or was it a metaphor? A metaphor attempting to teach me that no matter how scary life can seem sometimes, there is always something WAY more intense and scary out there, so it’s important to put things into perspective? The answer: It was real. How do I know this for sure? Because I was attacked two more times AND while writing this blog I looked outside my window and witnessed it, yet again, acting all disturbed and ramming into my patio umbrella.

The moral of my attack is this: butterflies are hideous evil creatures that have lured us into a sense of false security to the point that we are effectively defenseless for the impending human/butterfly war. Well played our new overlords. No, not really. The moral is that things aren’t often nearly as bad as they seem and a lot of the time, we have more control in situations than we really believe. Things could always be a lot worse: you could be fighting for your life vs an enraged butterfly that wants nothing more than to see you destroyed. Good luck out there!

Beauty at School, Beast at Home

Previously, on Derek’s extra hot world famous blog:

(Blog #3) Derek: “Sometimes, school is stressful. *Giggles tee hee!*”
(Blog #5) Derek: “It’s important to deal with stress from school in a healthy way! Stress Stress stress! Right?”

(Blog #736) Derek: “Let’s talk about some of the stress involved in optometry school!”

(Universe 9B3 Blog# Glorbini) Derek: “Time to get real and talk about stress in school!”

Tonight, on Derek’s number one Twitter trending mind bending blog … we tackle the too little talked about subject of stress with professional school!

Despite the fact that I’m swimming in student loan debt, I decided to hire one of the world’s most talented graphic design artists to make this blog’s title card. The process was long and arduous, but the end result is totally worth the thousands of dollars I spent. Thanks *NAME REDACTED due to embarrassment of final product* for your amazing work!

So far, this summer has been great! Well, the school part that is. I’ve now seen a little over 40 different patients and each experience has been positive and full of learning opportunities! A few dozen down, a few thousand to go before I’m a doctor! Whew, that was a lot of exclamation points in a row to end each sentence. I’ve exceeded my exclamation point quota. So no more for the rest of this entry! I just can’t help myself, because of how exciting and rewarding eye exams have been. For the majority of the summer, I had been feeling on top of the world … that is, until one day my non optometry school companion, whom I dragged along with me to experience all my joys and triumphs, finally snapped and told me what a beast I’ve been to live with these past 2, apparently grueling, years. WHAT? Me? No way, I thought to myself. I’ve been crushing it at school and at home. Despite my 99% assuredness that I’m pretty perfect in most ways, I decided to reflect upon the quality of living with me throughout the many ordeals of optometry school. After a few minutes of reflection, it was as if the epiphany bus ran right through a red light of denial and straight into my brain at 70 mph. I may have been doing excellent work at school every day, but when I came home … I really was a monster. I never cleaned up after myself, I never engaged in conversations (in an attempt to preserve neural synapses for more important things like exams), I lived out of laundry baskets, I had terrible eating habits, I was moody, I didn’t contribute in maintenance/repair of our home etc.. The list goes on. Whoops. Part of my academic self has apparently found it a necessity to resort to primitive subhuman living conditions in an effort to preserve all efforts into those purely scholastic in nature … this is an okay strategy if you share a living space with another optometry student who understands the day and night grind associated with pumping our brain full of all of the ins and outs of patient care. But for the non optometry students? All they experience is the beast at home with no context as to why the beast exists. This causes them to wonder where the beast is coming from or IF the beast can be reformed with the help of a talking tea kettle and dresser, or if the beast will forever be a cursed angry soul who refuses to properly use a soup spoon.

This is an actual image of me at home. After uttering this dismissive phrase I proceeded to lie on the floor, eat an entire bag of pita chips and then immediately slept for 3 hours. Then I woke up, panicked about impending assignment due dates and stress howled at the moon for thirty minutes. Yeah … living with me during school is a bit much.

After my shameful epiphany, I wondered if this phenomenon extended beyond just me; so, I did an informal survey with a handful of other students and asked them if their after school personas were less than ideal. Surprisingly, this beastly home persona seems to be a pretty common experience. School is hard, and for a lot of people, it’s worth investing most of their time and energy into school at the expense of other things in their life. This can assist in cultivating an excellent doctor after 4 years of hard work, but it makes for a terrible second hand experience for living companions throughout the process. So, if you’re reading this and you’re living with a professional school student, I want to say thank you for putting up with all the stress and post school histrionics you are subjected to.  It takes a brave determined soul to stay on this ride for a tumultuous 4 years. This painful, horrifying ride that is only second in awfulness to Disney’s Hall of Presidents.


Derek: I somehow ended up with 2 dates to the homecoming dance and I don’t know which one to choose … maybe, just maybe … I can do them BOTH! And also, school is sometimes stressful.

1/2 Doctor

In the 1978 smash hit Grease, as the movie was nearing its end, Sandra Dee (look at her!) turns to Frenchie and says, “Frenchie babe. I desperately need to ingratiate myself to unreliable 18 year old playboy Danny Zuko! So you get to work on changing my outer appearance, and I’ll get to work internally transforming the sweet lovable Aussie I’ve always been, to become a carbon copy of the fantasy girl that I believe this immature boy really fancies!” And BAM, in the next scene, Sandra Dee Olsen (Sandy for short) has completely changed everything about herself for the attention of a man boy. Then there’s this random scene at the very end of the movie where they get into a car and it flies around the school carnival or something. This is especially frustrating when the whole movie up to this point has been grounded in reality and has had zero fantasy aspects to explain this magical/fantastical element and we as the audience are just supposed to accept it. But alas, I’m not here to talk about the missteps of Grease. I’m here to talk about change. Change change change. As Heraclitus said in an effort to sound profound, “Change is the only constant in life.” He was right. Everything is constantly changing. Sandra Dee (look at her!) was inevitably going to change, but it’s slightly disappointing that her change was brought on by chasing the affection of a man boy that up to that point, hadn’t been so great to her. I recently have had a big transformation, so I’m no stranger to change. Two years ago I never would have had the confidence and ability to command a patient experience in a medical exam setting, but here I am. I’m halfway through my education and I’m seeing patients with a newfound attitude that has been cultivated through my two years at Ohio State!

Look Sandy, I get it – you needed a transformation. I recently had a big transformation too, but I did it on my own terms. You changed yourself for a guy with a magic car. Well actually, when I take the magic car into account, it starts to make more sense that you’d abandon your values for him, but was the car really magic? Maybe the car wasn’t magic. Maybe you hit your head in the Shake Shack (the carnival fun house) and hallucinated the magic car. I need to stop thinking about this magic car … but seriously, what was up with that magic car?

That’s right, I’m halfway through my training. I’m half of a doctor!

Sassy Mister Jenkins: “Which half of the doctor are you?”

Ugh, is that sassy Mr. Jenkins? Always with the sass! I’m not literally half a doctor sassy Mr. Jenkins, but rather I am halfway through my training. At this point in the program, I am dividing almost as much time seeing patients outside of the classroom as I am sitting in the classroom. It’s exciting and for me to get to this point has required tremendous change to the person I was two years ago. I’m not going to pretend that I’m cool and calm (Like Danny Zuko), I definitely get nervous before my exams, but I’m finding out that I’m able to roll with the punches and deal with the setbacks with a surprising amount of calm during my exams. I never knew I could be cool and collected in any situation, so that’s a big change for me! In clinic, I’m learning not to catastrophize failures, but instead use them as learning experiences to improve myself as a doctor. It’s scary to enter the patient arena knowing that I don’t know everything, but that’s why we have safety nets (the attendings) who double check our work, point out our mistakes, and help us to move on and grow. It would be nice to walk into clinic, do everything perfect, and go home at the end of the day in our magic flying cars, but that is unrealistic. I’m going to need to see thousands of patients and make numerous mistakes before I’m anywhere near ready to be a doctor. That is however, going to take some time. I look forward to seeing how much I grow in these next two years and how much more I will change before I transform into a complete doctor. And I promise, all the change that happens to me will only be to make me a better, stronger, and more confident health care provider for the good of my patients. I won’t allow a sweet talking leather jacket wearing renegade with a magic car corrupt me or jeopardize the person I want to become. I will not be a Sandra Dee (DON’T look at her )!

Me Doctor Meow?!

“Me is doctor?!? Right meow?” This was the exact thought that coursed through my doctor brain right before I performed my first exam on a real patient. This is the eloquent refined kind of thinking that the public has come to expect from our nation’s hard working and talented health care providers. I realize that I am hamming it up hardcore right now, but that’s because I was a nervous wreck for my first exam and I couldn’t hide it. The moment my examination began, it felt as if my brain hopped out of my skull, put on a cute little bowler hat, grabbed a briefcase and said, “You’re on your own for the next two hours!” as it sped out of the examination room, leaving my body to fend for itself in front of a phoropter and an unfortunate patient. Who was I to think that I could be in charge of someone else’s health? What kind of nerve I must have to place myself as the liaison between a human and their vision! Just as doubt tried to pin me down with its absurdly thick forearms, something incredible happened. All the training and preparation from the last year and half took control and I completed my exam, impressing the patient and myself. The transition from day 1 of optometry school to patient number 1 was so gradual that I didn’t even realize the changes that have happened within me. Sure I’m still kind of a nervous quirk, but I am also a reasonably confident and knowledgeable practitioner who is only going to become more competent and confident over the next 2.5 years. I was so elated after my successful exam that I rushed home to tell Mr. Business, my favorite alley cat, all about my triumph. However, he was nowhere to be found. In fact, he has been giving me the cold shoulder all winter. Sigh. It’s okay, I know he’s still around somewhere because I see his paw prints throughout my yard on the regular whenever there is a dusting of snow, as if to say, “I’m still here, but I’m deliberately avoiding you.” Cat drama. Without my confidant around, I instead decided to relax by working on my meme skills.

The class of 2020 is REALLY into memes. Me personally? I could take them or leave them; however, people are starting to catch on to how old and out of touch I am, so I need to keep up with the times. This is why I need to practice practice practice. These meme skills may one day be more important than my optometric skills, so I’d better dedicate a lot of time to it. Growth in meme-ing requires critical insight with honest reflection. So after each completed meme I ask myself, “Derek do good meme?” and more often than not, the answer is no. It’s okay though, I’ll conquer memes someday ….

After my first successful patient exam, I was sure that self-confidence would permeate throughout every other task this semester. Eh, not so much. Confidence is hard to come by sometimes, especially as we learn more advanced skills. No one is immune to a bad week and the fear of failure is hard to shake, especially when you want to become the best practitioner you can possibly be. It also doesn’t help that nervous energy is dangerously contagious and the class of 2020’s collective fear of anything less than perfection can sometimes feed on itself creating a tsunami of stress (It’s possible that I contribute 90% of our class’ anxiety … but who’s counting?). This is why it is essential to find a coping mechanism to remain sane in the face of the numerous challenges school presents. Whether it be counseling, deep breathing, cat cuddling, mustard organizing, or whatever, it’s important not to let the stress win. I was recently watching the Winter Olympics and I noticed that all of the ice skaters paced back and forth before their routines as if they converted their nervous energy into kinetic energy in an effort to dissipate their nerves. So naturally, being the impressionable person that I am, I have taken up pacing or flailing all my limbs before stressful events in an effort to literally shake all the nerves from my body. Surprisingly, it has proven to be effective. Unfortunately, it looks as though I am having a seizure before every proficiency or test. Oh well, whatever works. Lastly, it is important to reward a job well done in an effort to maintain morale. This is why I planned a relaxing week at Disney World for a mental retreat during my last spring break ever! Unfortunately, my desire to unwind for a week ended up being even more stressful than my normal routine at school. The artificial ‘paradise’ Disney created was filled with constant stress. There were large crowds, obnoxious wait times, the need to schedule EVERYTHING months in advance for the opportunity to do ANYTHING, the high prices, the disgruntled strangers, Daisy Duck’s aggressive libido … it was all too much. By the end of my spring break, I was clamoring to trade out my vacation stress for my much more manageable everyday school stress. So I guess in that regard, spring break was a success. Now I’m ready to go back to school and continue my journey to becoming an optometrist.

A meme is a wish your heart makes, and after a terrible trip to Orlando, I was ready to start practicing my memes again. My inspiration for this meme was of course Disney’s unquenchable greed. Maybe I’m starting to get the hang of this meme thing … hold on, there’s a knock at my door. *opens door* And it’s Disney. I’ve been hit with a cease and desist by their many many high priced lawyers. Sigh. Back to the meme drawing board I guess….




Holiday Nesting

Flashback time : It was merely one month ago and I was sitting on the floor (undignified?) of the guest bedroom of my house, surrounded by a swirl of study materials (papers, charts, diagrams, books, computer …). Nestled into the mix were the skeletal remains of a dozen Coke Zero cans, three empty sleeves of Pringles (ugh, sorry Derek’s body), several cappuccino glasses and probably fresh tear drops that had yet to evaporate from the floor. I was in finals mode studying for my scholastic life and I had crafted what I refer to as: my study nest. Now, my nesting isn’t glamorous as evidence by the integration of Pringle’s powder into the foundation of the structure. It’s kind of a shameful primal necessity that I reduce myself and my standard of living to in times of stress. For the eternal week that I lived within my study nest, I kept telling myself that it would be Holiday break and I would be free of the slobbish confines to which I was beholden. Unfortunately, when holiday break rolled around, I ended up switching out one nest for another.

This is an actual picture my stalker snapped of me while I was at peak nesting during finals. Look at me in my monochromatic outfit, snarfing down three cans of Pringles, surrounded by a mixture of snacks and literature. This picture SHOULD have been a wake up call, but as evidence by my behavior during holiday break, I haven’t changed.

For the last three weeks, I have been wrapped in blankets surrounded by pillows, snacks, videogames and television – a holiday nest if you will. It’s been heaven, but also, kind of disgraceful. I meant to go to the gym, keep up with my studies, visit the ‘supposed’ outside world that exists when I’m normally at school. I did none of that. I went into a holiday coma … whoops. I have to admit, it felt pretty great. I am, however, ready for school to start. I am ready to be active and productive again so that I can feel accomplished. Nearly becoming a half human/half blanket hybrid was cathartic and much needed, but it’s time for me to resume my studies because I’m weeks away from seeing my first actual patients! So goodbye holiday nest, I must give you up so that I can focus on becoming a competent doctor. It’s not you, it’s me *eyes fill with tears*. Breaking up is never easy.

If you’ve read this blog before hopefully you’ve gained some crucial insights into some of the struggles and triumphs one can experience inside and outside of the classroom. More important than that, hopefully you’ve followed the journey of a very special alley cat named Mr Business that I frequently reference. What you may not know, is that Mr. Business is an aspiring columnist so I offered him a Q&A section on my blog, on a trial basis. Let’s see how this goes:

Question: Dear Mr. Business, My name is Ashley Chantrel from Austin, Texas. I am thinking about applying to optometry school, but am unsure of which school is right for me. Can you provide any help as to what I can do to narrow down my list of schools? Thanks for your time, and I love your paws!

Answer: Meow meow.

Good advice Mr. Business! I think that went well. 

Topsy Turvy

Life is unpredictable. Need proof, do you??!?

Would you ever have predicted that I was going to show you an image of sister clams with pigtails jumping on a trampoline? Okay, so it’s not as if I’m going out on a limb by pointing out the randomness of life. I’m maybe the 4 billionth person to say this; however, I still find myself acting surprised whenever things don’t go according to plan. For instance, I envisioned my second year of optometry school going a little something like this :

Each day I would enter school and the first year students would remove my chinchilla fur coat, replace it with my academically appropriate Powerpuff Girl’s bathrobe, and hand me a tall latte in preparation for the day. As the first years complimented my appearance and made hyperbolic statements about my greatness, I would walk to class where I was greeted with applause from my adoring classmates. I would then proceed to ace every test and proficiency as my distinguished professors held back their tears of pride. To everyone’s dismay, I would leave at the end of the day for a quick 3 hour workout, a kale and celery dinner, and a 4 hour snuggle session with my 50 cats.

Despite anchoring my expectations in reality, my actual experience so far has wildly veered off course. It all began to fall apart early in the semester when I came down with an upper respiratory tract infection. At first, the infection was a minor inconvenience that I figured would pass. After a few days however, my sickness progressed and began zapping me of my energy. Suddenly, my mental faculties began to suffer and I started to fall behind with my studies. By the tenth day of my sickness, I was convinced that I was marching towards my inevitable death. In the middle of drafting my last will and testament, my body regrouped and devised a brilliant, but risky strategy upon where it attempted to learn how to identify the virus based upon unique viral markers. My body then mounted an attack on the enemy and to my surprise, reigned victorious! That night, I feasted in celebration of a battle successfully won and I prepared for my semester to get back on the idyllic track I originally envisioned. However, whether it was struggling to learn a new clinical skill or almost dying several times in a Lyft while travelling around Chicago for a conference thanks to Shahira the insane Lyft driver (If you’re out there reading this Shahira, please stop driving forever), things never seemed to work out quite right.

When life is super chaotic, I like to have one constant that I can depend on. That constant USED to be Mr. Business, the lovable alley cat that likes to visit my house on occasion. However, Mr. Business recently slaughtered an innocent bunny that I grew to love when it began to use my backyard for shelter. It’s been almost a month since the incident occurred and I STILL can’t look into Mr. Business’ cold soulless eyes.

Despite the fact that things could be going more smoothly, I’m actually really happy with how my second semester has turned out so far. Perfection is boring and overcoming unexpected obstacles makes my experience in school a lot more interesting. Some degree of chaos is inevitable with all the various responsibilities that optometry school entails; so, the next time things don’t go exactly as I hope, I’ll try not to act so surprised.

Derek vs Time

Time is an uncaring nuisance that was devised to thwart ambition. That’s a verifiable fact. I feel like I’m constantly running out of time and negating to follow through with the myriad of ideas that I come up with on a regular basis. The most recent example I can think of is my failure to successfully throw German Village’s first feral cat wedding last month. I spent countless hours finding the perfect bride, groom, flower girl etc… but before I knew it, school had started and it was time for me to focus on more important things. I just wish I would have known the wedding was doomed from the start before I made a deposit on all that cat nip, but I digress. As an optometry student, we are given a break our first summer before a continuous slate of classes and clinic for the next three years. That puts a lot of pressure on this one and only summer. I planned on maximizing leisure, maximizing socializing, maximizing career goals and then capping off the summer with the breathtaking union of two cats that fell in love and proved all the cynics wrong. Sigh.  I’m obviously excited to be back in school learning how to perform eye exams, but I feel like I didn’t accomplish all that I could have with my summer. Hmmm time to reminisce about what I DID do this summer ….

T35 Program

You know how people like to take a picture of their feet hanging out on a beach or by the pool? I never understood that. What are they trying to say? Why should I care about the aquatic adventures of someone’s feet? Alas, I spent the majority of my summer in the lab and didn’t have a chance to make it to any bodies of water; so, this is my version of that.

A lot of my summer was spent doing research via the T35 summer research program. It was a lot of fun. I am being sincere when I say that cutting 10 micron sections of frozen mouse and chicken embryo lenses was a lot of fun. At times I felt like Willy Wonka, especially when I successfully expressed transgenic DNA in a 3 day old chicken embryo. I’ve never had a child before, but I imagine the overwhelming feeling of love and pride that parents feel is similar to the feeling that I had when I saw my first developing chicken embryo expressing DNA that I introduced into their lens fibers. *wipes tear* I may have been in the lab for the majority of my summer daylight hours, but aside from costing me a delicious browned biscuit skin shade from the sun’s relentless rays, I feel as though I didn’t miss out on much.

Optometry’s Meeting

What’s this? Did I go to some A list awards show this summer? No! This is a photo from the big stage at Optometry’s Meeting in DC. The event was HUGE. There were thousands of optometrists, lots of educational talks, socials and most importantly: swag and free food!

One of the highlights of my summer was attending Optometry’s meeting in Washington DC. This yearly conference has it all: opportunities to network, educational talks, free food, social events, and an exhilarating student bowl competition that pits a representative from each optometry college against one another in a Jeopardy style quiz competition. While there were numerous events to partake in, there was also plenty of time to explore the city and enjoy all the awesome monuments, restaurants, incessantly beeping cars and sweltering humidity that DC has to offer. Okay so those last two things weren’t actually awesome, but it was definitely memorable almost dying of heat stroke when walking around the city in the day time to the constant sound of aggravated motorists who spend their time driving with one hand constantly pressed on their car horn. Oh DC, don’t ever change.

A Brain Break

Perhaps the best part of the summer was the time I had to decompress after the first year of classes. When summer started I told myself I’d stay fresh and study a little bit each day, but of course that didn’t happen. It turns out, using the summer to relax was perfect for me. It allowed me to start my second year of optometry college refreshed and ready to learn!

So I guess I had a pretty successful summer. Now school is back in session and it’s time to resume life as a student. This year I’ll try to remember that while there are numerous social events, club meetings, optometry related job opportunities, and volunteering opportunities, it’s impossible to do them all and that’s ok. It’s important not to beat yourself up if you feel overwhelmed. Enjoy the experiences you have and don’t worry about the ones you don’t. Doesn’t that sound like an inspirational quote from a 19th century first lady or a CEO from a cereal company? I promise you that it’s not. It’s simply the wisdom that has been instilled in me from matriculating at Ohio State. Go Buckeyes!

Becoming Mr. Business

All throughout this second semester of optometry college, I had this constant feeling like I was forgetting something. The air around me each day was heavy with this feeling – like, I forgot to lock the doors of my car, leaving my two sticks of Trident gum vulnerable to theft. Or maybe a more universal scenario for all the pedestrians out there, it always felt as if I forgot to put Dominique’s malicious lemur back into its holding cell after giving it what was supposed to only be 10 minutes of outside time (A situation I think we’ve all experienced more times than we’d care to remember). Needless to say, I finally discovered what had been causing this uncomfortable forgetful feeling today when I woke up in a terror sweat from my cheddar popcorn induced nap; I had forgotten about this blog (Sorry to break the fourth wall). In the immortal words of Jaleel White in his powerhouse performance as Steve Urkel from the smash hit ‘Family Matters’, “Did I do that?”

Whoops, I neglected my duties as co-class blogger and now I feel as uncool as Steve Urkel (left). Maybe if I blog enough this summer, I’ll blossom into a swan like the debonair Stefan Urquelle (right).

When I realized my negligent ways, I immediately jumped onto the information superhighway and made a long overdue visit to this blog, and it wasn’t pretty. There were cobwebs, tumbleweeds, and other metaphors people use to depict long term abandonment. I had let this blog down :(. Sure, second semester was tough and I was working hard on my school work over the last four months, but that isn’t an excuse to neglect everything else in life. An invitation? Sure! But not an excuse. Ugh, this whole mess makes me feel terrible for my behind the back mean girls gossiping that I participated in regarding the obese alley cat that wanders my neighborhood. On an almost daily basis, this chubby adorable cat that I’ve decided to call Mr. Business, struggles to climb over my 6 foot fence in order to nap on my covered patio furniture for 8 hours. Unbeknownst to Mr. Business, I like to watch him sleep and sometimes groom himself as I laugh at him and call him lazy. I know, I know . . . I abandon blogs and gossip behind cat’s backs. I’m a monster!

This is Mr. Business, the cat that likes to sleep on my patio furniture. One time he placed a dead bird on my doorstep as an offering of payment for all the times that he uses my backyard as his personal lounge. In return, I maliciously critique his bad habits from my ivory tower. It’s a projection of my own insecurity and I’m working on it.

I may have been catty (pun NOT intended) when targeting Mr. Business’ laziness, but I realize that people often criticize in others what they are uncomfortable with about themselves. I was a sass to Mr. Business and his constant sleeping, because I AM Mr. Business. I was Mr. Business all year. I was good about studying and doing well in my classes, but I was terrible about everything else. I didn’t hang out with my awesome classmates nearly enough, I didn’t go to the gym ever (whoops), I didn’t reserve time to relax, and I forgot that I have a family (I should probably let them know what I’ve been doing the past nine months). I think Mr. Business was trying to teach me a lesson by showboating his lazing habits in my face on a daily basis. He was trying to tell me to get up, get out and live my life. I need to learn how to manage my time and balance my life, or else I’ll wind up on the same faded piece of furniture covering every day while the world passes me by. Thank you Mr. Business for opening up my eyes. This summer I plan on going to Optometry’s meeting and conducting research on the lens as part of the T35 research program, but I won’t let these things interfere with the chronicling of my journey to becoming an optometrist on this blog. As a special event, tune in June 9th when I feed Mr. Business a can of albacore tuna on Facebook live as a thanks to him for reawakening my desire to manage a balanced lifestyle. I’m just kidding, I won’t actually be doing that. Besides, Mr. Business could probably stand to lose a little weight. Oops, there I go again.