Issue 8 - May 24, 2024

Sole Purpose 8
Zen, Kayaks, and Neuroticism:
A Quirky Journey With Some Self-Help Books

During a recent weekend getaway, my boyfriend couldn’t help but laugh at my state of full-blown panic. Why was I panicked? We could absolutely NOT afford to be late for our kayak rental at 10:00. I was convinced we needed to arrive at least five minutes early to tackle the paperwork, and it was already 9:50 and we were JUST NOW walking over. Plus, according to our schedule, we were supposed to have had breakfast by then, which we hadn't. It was like the world was on the brink of collapse! Thankfully, I managed to see the absurdity of my frenzy and had a good laugh at myself. I was being ridiculous. We were on vacation, crying out loud, on stunning Catalina Island, enjoying a beautiful day together. The kayak rental shop didn't care if we were just three minutes early, and it was a four-hour rental with no strict departure time to worry about. It was going to be fine! It was not an externship, it was not journal club, and it certainly was not surgery.

In case you missed it, surprise! I'm a tad neurotic. I'm practically the mascot for eldest daughters in the healthcare field. I am a color-coding, list-making, bona fide overachiever. Obsessive planner? Guilty as charged. But during my four-year stint in medical school, my friends and family noticed this trait cranking up a notch. My color-coordinated to-do lists, strict time management, and never-ending punctuality have fueled my success as a student. Yet, they've also amped up my neurotic side. The freak-out at the kayak shop served as an eye-opener. It hit me that maybe my loved ones are onto something—I need to relax and go with the flow. To address this, I ironically made a plan to read various self-help books and integrate their teachings into my daily life—basically the antithesis of relaxation. Most of these books focused on happiness, and while I believe I'm a generally joyful person, I recognized the correlation between relaxation and happiness. So, off I went on my quirky quest to find some Zen.

Book 1: "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck This was recommended to me by my extremely laid-back "little" brother, who happens to be the most spontaneous and fun person I've ever met (My parents got both ends of the spectrum). My main takeaway from this book is simple yet profound: don't waste your time and energy caring about things that don't truly matter. Instead, focus your emotions and concern on the things that genuinely make a difference. Kayak paperwork? Not worth the fuss. But being punctual for rounds or journal club? That's where it counts (at least for me). It's not about being indifferent to everything; it's about prioritizing what truly impacts you and letting go of the rest.

Book 2: "10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story" by Dan Harris

10% Happier What really caught my attention was the "without losing my edge" aspect of this title. Dan Harris's book is a self-help memoir that chronicles his own spiritual and intellectual journey as he seeks happiness after experiencing a panic attack on national TV, which profoundly affected his career as a television broadcaster. This book explores Buddhist religious practices and highlights the science and benefits of meditation and mindfulness. I found the book's concepts intriguing, particularly the idea that through practice, we can train ourselves to be mindful, compassionate, and aware, with these behaviors becoming second nature over time. I also appreciated Harris's acknowledgment that maintaining a sense of balance is essential; he understands that being excessively Zen isn't always practical, especially in demanding environments like the operating room. There are times when it's necessary to conceal the Zen and maintain a sharper focus.

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Book 3: "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project I adored this book. I listened to it on audio during my commute, and it was both captivating and delightful. The book revolves around the author documenting her personal happiness project, which she embarked on with great dedication. Each month for an entire year, she set research-based, meaningful goals and intentions aimed at enhancing her personal happiness. Several chapters stood out to me as particularly impactful, namely April, May, and October. In April, Rubin focuses on lightening up, emphasizing how our mood affects those around us. Constant stress over trivial matters not only affects our well-being but also harms those we interact with. May delves into the importance of taking leisure seriously, exploring how dedicating real time off and indulging in enjoyable activities outside of work can increase productivity and overall happiness. October centers on mindfulness and the importance of paying attention. Reflecting on my kayak incident, I realized that my fixation on being punctual caused me to overlook the beauty of the crystal-clear water and the excitement of kayaking, as well as the joy of spending a wonderful day with someone I love.

Let me conclude with some wisdom from my laid-back, super cool little brother, who said, "We're all just monkeys on a floating rock in space, and none of this really matters." This mantra became my anchor during residency interviews, reassuring me that everything would turn out okay and that, in the end, it didn't really matter. For once, I think he's right. In the grand scheme of things, getting all worked up over trivial matters doesn't get us anywhere; it just piles on unnecessary stress. I thoroughly enjoyed my journey toward becoming a bit less neurotic and understanding the importance of letting go and embracing relaxation, if not just for myself, then for the sake of my loved ones.

I'm happy to report that since embarking on this mission, I managed to squeeze in a last-minute day with a friend for her birthday. I relinquished all control over the plans and just went with the flow, doing whatever everyone else wanted. It rained and I was unprepared, and it was totally okay! And you know what? It was an absolute blast! Now that's what I call progress!

Until next time!

Savannah Santiago
PRESENT Sole Purpose Editor
[email protected]


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