Systematic guide to op shopping

I am writing because I feel like a zombie. Writing and formatting these applications is putting me to sleep. ZzzzZz. I also visited the op shop again today, though I was just there two weeks ago. I prefer D-town op shops, the ones here can be pricey. Op shopping is fun. It's nice to recycle perfectly wearable clothes instead of disposing them. It's pure; no, just joking, I'm sounding like a hippie. But you do get to evaluate the product and design, with your opinions relatively untainted by price or brand. I'm happy to pick up expensive branded pieces, which I wouldn't usually buy. You get to see designs from decades past, some which are really great, some you wonder why clothes were ever made that way. And of course the main attraction is that it's cheap.

I was thinking about the process of op shopping today. If you go all the time you can ignore this post. And if you're a guy you can probably ignore this too, I don't know how op shopping works for boys.

1. What to look for

a) Op shops are good for items that age well. Jeans, slacks, skirts, good quality jackets, dresses, boots and bags. Yes you're buying second hand stuff, but unless it's a stylistic choice, you want pieces that look intact and feel fresh. Not old.

b) Op shops are bad for anything that is too intimate to be second hand - including underwear, nighties, stockings and scarves (I have bought scarves before but smell test it before you purchase). And op shops aren't the place to buy anything that is relatively cheap such as stockings, T-shirts and singlets.

2. Screening for potentials

a) Screening: treasure hunting is exciting, but digging through piles and piles of old, dirty looking clothing can get tedious. Here are some tips for reducing the time wasted. The easiest way is to have something in mind eg. work clothes and target the relevant sections. Once you start browsing you can screen items, before you start pulling out hangers, by look and feel. Visually inspect the colour, pattern, material and "new-ness" of the items (oh no this is starting to sound like steps of a physical exam). That way you can quickly pick out a beautiful colour, a flowery pattern you love, and more importantly screen out the items that actually look old and tired, with whites that are yellowing (jaundice?), colours that are fading (anaemia, ha), fabric or wool that is frayed. When you feel the rows of clothing you can quickly pick out good quality, comfortable to wear goods, from the scratchy, allergy-inducing stuff. You can also get an idea of whether, for example a skirt, is just right in heaviness, or too flimsy. If you are too lazy to iron like me, it's important to assess whether the folds hold their shape well, or crumple easily.

b) Quick assessment: once the item has passed the screening stage, take it out for a quick assessment for size and fit. If you can't work out whether a pair of pants is the right size for you visually, you will need more practice (or else you will spend a long time in the change rooms trying out items that don't fit, like I did in the past). This is the stage where you assess design (like or dislike) and details such as whether the jeans are high waisted or hipsters, skinnys or flares, whether the V neck is way too low, whether the skirt is the right length for your style, whether the sparkles are too childish etc.

3. Trying them out

You've picked a cute dress in the nicest shade of red. The next part is important - this is the definitive test (okay I will stop with the medical analogies). The best pieces of clothing are of no use if they don't fit onto your body. Apart from seeing whether the clothes fits from feel, and by looking at your reflection in the mirror, this is also the time to feel the suitability of the material (need to iron or okay not to iron), and check for defects such as missing buttons, dodgy zips and obvious stains. If the button is missing, like the shirt I bought today, assess whether it's easily fixed and if there are extra buttons you can pull out to replace the crucial buttons in the midline central chest area. It's a good idea to make two piles, "purchases" and "return to shelf" items, before you step out of the change room.

4. Deciding on the purchase

After steps 1 to 3, half the time it will be an obvious yes, or a no way. But other times, it's a maybe. Some points to consider are:

a) Price: set a limit - mine is roughly at least half of what I would normally pay for a similar new item, with an upper cap of $15. Exceptions can be made for very new, fantastic quality items. Some of these M op shops are ridiculous. Last time I tried on nice colourful, summery, Bardot dress and then saw the price tag of $35, hmm I'm pretty sure I can pay a little extra for a brand new one. Beware of the $10 Valleygirl shirt that you can easily find on sale in the actual store for the same price or cheaper.

b) Will you wear it? someone I know used to (but doesn't any more) buy loads of sale clothing that were never worn because they were too weird or out there. I also have a proportion of op shop clothes that stay with me for a little while but very soon ends up in the op shop again, or stays in the bottom of a dusty suitcase.

5. Finalise your purchase

Keep an eye out for days or seasons when certain op shops have specials. Go home and wash your clothes. But if you're not that fussy, and the piece passes the smell test, you can always wear it and then wash it with your next load.

Hmm halfway through writing this I realised that with the same headings, you could write something similar about picking a boy. Or a girl. So many interesting things to write about, yet we have to write letters of self promotion, flattery, and fake enthusiasm about how excited we are about working at X or Y. Nothing makes me very excited, well except delicious food, catching up with friends, playing with my sister, holidays, books, writing, drawing, singing, sleeping, okay maybe there are quite a few things but medicine does not seem to be one of them. Fortunately, this is on private and our lovely HR friends won't stumble across my apathy. Unfortunately, my apathy is probably evident even without a written declaration.

I met a dinosaur

SMS: lol I got the old man, fun.

I was told me about this old guy already, how he asked what my friend was doing in the clinic. My friend replied, I'm here to learn. Then later he joked about the paternity of the pregnancies in antenatal clinic. Haha. So being on time, or more on time than another student in my group, I had the great privilege of sitting in clinics with this man. He was in his eighties, thin white hair, neat shirt and pants, a vintage plaid suit, which didn't fit properly on his crooked and bent back. And the classic, old fashioned, rectangular leather briefcase that hardly anyone uses anymore. He was nice, and could almost be my grandfather. But his style was pretty unusual, and I had to hold my laughter so many times during the consultations.

"Now I'm going to examine your heart, which is under your left breast. Now I'm going to listen to the area above your left breast." Well, that's just making the physical examination more awkward than it needs to be for your lady patient. He asks another woman to get undressed for the vaginal swabs, and while she lies there waiting behind the curtains, he literally takes a good ten minutes or so to sloooowwwwly collect the equipment for the examination. "Just a minute, I will be coming in soon!" Then he takes another five or ten minutes to label the slides and containers. After she leaves he says, "oh my, we're not getting through these patients very fast, are we?" No, I smiled.

"G-l-u-c-o-s-e... 6 p-h-o-s-p-h-a-t-e... d-e-h-y-d-r-o-g-e-n-a-s-e... d-e-f-i-c-i-e-n-c-y... search." He uses two fingers to slowly type out the entire phrase. Hey, Google knows what you're searching for even if you type in the abbreviation G6PD. "Hmm," he scrolls down the page, "I should just click the first link that comes on the page right, right? Yes. Let me see, case report of hydops fetalis in G6PD woman, yes I will tell my patient this." Oh no, you don't know how to use a search engine? With patient in the room now, he says - "I don't know much about G6PD, there's some medications and foods you can't take right? But I'm not sure which ones." Wait, real doctors aren't that honest! Then he asks me whether he should send her to a haematologist, and I give a vague answer along the lines of it's probably not that important but it is a specialised field and it wouldn't be unreasonable. Then he asks again whether he should refer her on, not in a quizzing way but asking what to do next. I didn't say this out loud but - I don't know sir, you are the doctor.

"What is the day today? 28th of May?" Then he writes down 25/05/12 or something similarly wrong, and does this on multiple occasions. I corrected him once and he was quite thankful. But the next time it happened, I felt bad pointing it out again. Also, the antenatal record says "if Rh -ve then review...", and because the lady was positive, he goes and crosses out the Rh -ve and writes Rh+ve now so it reads, "if Rh+ve then review...". I wanted to point out, there is another box to write in blood group and Rh status.

 "Have you seen the midwife yet? No? You better see one for your next appointment, and talk about the midwife things that midwives like to talk about." I was trying to figure out whether he respected the midwives or whether that was supposed to be slightly mocking. I was also wondering whether he was treating me like a nurse, or was it that he was trying to get me involved, by not only asking me to prepare the gel on the ultrasound probe, and handing tissues to wipe it up, but even handing me the wet tissue with gel to throw in the bin, when the bin was right next to his hand.

At the end I thought, if we live and work for long enough we'll become a dinosaur, a museum relic, like this old doctor. Reminds me of the old surgeon who examined us for clinical skills in venepuncture, but had never seen a Vacutainer until the day of the exam, haha. I wonder how well we can function when we're more forgetful and slower, and would we be like these old doctors who can't keep up with tools of modern day technology? Not to be disrespectful of course - we've had many old but fantastic clinicians and tutors. Some have great medical knowledge, particularly thorough physical exam skills, and such interesting style. Who doesn't love the old fashioned suits and dark coloured doctor's bags with nifty equipment inside - it's as exciting and mysterious as Santa's sack.

I haven't written about the other lady doctor I've sat in with multiple times in clinic. She always walks in late to clinic, looking chaotic, and says that she needs to get herself organised. She has a coffee each Monday morning and says that she just went for coffee with her friend, and how she never has time to meet friends. Then she would proceed to change her runners into nice ladies footwear in an unladylike fashion. Then, though she wears visibly expensive doctor's standard (yes doctors dress like doctors, and it does get confusing when nurses and other allied health professionals dress well), she manages to be so tomboyish that her skirt is invariably crumpled and messy. This is from a lady who is older than my mother. Just a side note, she also behaves differently with to Caucasian patients. I've noticed that she makes sure she introduces me as a student, and explains the pregnancy issues in detail to the Caucasian ladies and don't bother much with the "ethnic" ladies. The other day we were told that men and women were treated differently in consult. Anyone know the findings on biases between how doctors treat their patients, and how patients view their doctors based on ethnicity?

Yes, I've just spent more energy observing and recalling the non essential details of a consult, rather than gaining medical knowledge. Maybe I should have studied something really artsy. Or go into something fluffy like psych in the future. Goodbye antenatal clinics, I won't miss you, at all.


Photos photos. I must have taken a million but found fault with all of them. It's not that I don't like my face. But the creases, blemishes, panda eyes, the fake or asymmetrical smiles really become quite apparent, and irritating when you stare at the photos for too long, trying to pick a suitable one to work with. Not to worry, you can always fix what you don't like it. Finally, I put my rusty Photoshop skills to use. Why put on make up when you can paint in your make up digitally, for free. Hey, at least I didn't give myself digital plastic surgery.

Yes, how inconvenient, at my age I'm still trying to work out what concealer, foundation, eyeliners, mascara, etc are for, and how to go about painting my face with them, and how can I wear it for a few hours without rubbing them off or onto my face. I've always wanted to be a boy and never worry about these things. And it's sort of embarrasing - guys, it's like being in your mid twenties and not being able to drive a car. Well I suppose my guy friends wouldn't be able to help me out (would be horrified if you offered), and I lack close female friends to consult.

I find it really hard to smile genuinely, taking photos on my own, with a boring white backdrop. No scenery, no mountains, no beach, no cute pets, no cuddly soft toys - just a plain white wall with a grey shadow. But scrolling through the photos, I noticed that in the same place, when we took photos together, my face lit up. Not exactly happier  (okay, maybe on some), but more animated. And literally, the lighting looked brighter in those photos. Or perhaps you're right in saying my face looks prettier because there's something to compare it to, ha, just kidding.

Not so fantastic

I had hopeful thoughts. Instead of scribbling sadness and anger, for the first time in ages, I started to jot down some positive things, about our interactions. I thought you were learning, being supportive, patient, thoughtful. I thought this semester started well, and unlike the last, maybe it will even end well.

Maybe, there will be less of these days. But nothing has changed. The forever standing conflicts over communication haven't improved. We laugh about it, but it's really not very funny when you can't start a chat without starting a fight. Just masked when we are in the same place more often and not required to demonstrate that extra effort. It's not like you're short of time these days or doing something important that you can't actually be attentive. Just lazy. For the millionth time - when I share my concerns, I want to talk to an alive, thoughtful, empathetic, normal, human, being. Not a wall, not generic answers, not robotic replies. Out of sight out of mind aye? Good to know before next year.

I hate optimistic thinking, it sets you up to be disappointed.

A: What do you think happened when the Prince found Cinderella?
Little girl: Uh, they got married and lived in a castle?
A: And... lived unhappily ever after! *evil laugh*


Dr: how are you finding this rotation?

MS: *gives generic answer*

Dr: *asks again in slightly different wording*

MS: being a woman, the content is quite interesting, and it's nice to see people excited about their pregnancies, but the administration side of things isn't the best... perhaps I enjoyed the previous paediatrics rotation more

Dr: *probes*

MS: yes, this rotation does tend to produce quite polarised views among my coursemates, which is quite unusual for any rotation

Dr: *probes more*

MS: *talks about timetables, signing log books, interprofessional hatred etc*

Dr: why don't you bring that up to the school?

MS: I don't feel strongly about it, it's annoying but the system is functional. Are you involved in organising this rotation?

Dr: no I'm just interested, and you're the first person I've heard not give positive feedback on the women's rotation

MS: *uh, speechless*

I've heard very few people, especially from this course, making positive remarks about this rotation. I wanted to say but of course no one will actually tell you that, but stopped there. The only reason I answered, was that you asked and probed. But perhaps if I was to replay this I would hold my tongue and think of some positive words to say.

Which is basically along the same lines as what the W dean was saying in a discussion on job interviews. You didn't actually say this, but what you're really saying is that I need to take acting classes so I can learn how to be excited, enthusiastic, positive about these jobs, passionate about life. And hey, it's not true that I present the way I do because I'm a shy, reserved, quiet, Asian. It's more that I never quite feel "great!" or "FANNNTASTIC!" about medicine, or life, or anything really.(Unless you say that how I feel about life is an Asian trait, rather than a personality trait? hmm.) Does that make me a worse doctor? Maybe.

edit// After publishing the post I realised it's a bit of an inappropriate title considering the previous post, sorry.

What would you do

Shouldn't you give people more warning before you come and end everything Death? What about those things to do tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, in the years to come? What about parents, siblings and friends? :(

"Maybe hospital is not such a bad place after all. If you have some serious condition at least you're getting ready and have time to say your goodbyes. Yeah that's what I should say to patients next time."

That was said jokingly, in a morbid sort of way. No, that wouldn't be very nice. Preparation or no preparation? Which would you choose for yourself, or someone close to you? I don't know, but I guess we don't have to choose.

What about the strange medium of social networking profiles to announce and handle death? I guess it's used to announce and connect with your friends re: births, graduations, engagements, weddings, deaths and more. Isn't that creepy.

So what do people do with those profiles? Do they log in as the deceased person? How do you feel about finding out through their page? What would it be like if you just wrote it as a joke? How has it changed our grieving processes? How do you feel about writing to someone on their wall? How do you feel reading what other people have written? What if you say nothing? What if someone didnt' know and talked to them normally? What would you want to do with your page?

How far we've come

In fellowship and prayer

"Weekday warriors" was the catchy theme of the night. For the first time in many many months in this fellowship, as a larger group, we shared a glimpse of the struggles we really have during our weeday lives. To not lose sight of God in the midst of work, studies, trying to achieve, joining clubs and committees, and so on.

Sorry to sound almost rude, but I dread sharing prayer points every week. TG for the week, P4 study (pray that I can do really well...), P4 time management, pray for QT. I'm not making fun of the prayer requests. We can and should pray about some of these things, and we can always tell our God what is on our hearts. But surely, we can do more for the sake of our own reflection, and in fellowship, than repackaging those three phrases and not share anything else to one another week after week. It's become so routine that the person jotting down prayer points already started writing before I even started sharing, and added some of the routine prayer points even though I haven't said any of them (hmmm wait, I didn't say that). The reason I dread these prayer sessions is because the group isn't interested in sharing their lives to one another, because we're happy to hear about what is going on in someone's life at a very superficial level and leave it at that without asking "why exactly are you not very energetic this week?" Without caring for one another in a genuine way, it's very hard to be open to one another, or come together before God together, encouraging one another, praying in unity.

Come on Bible study group! Why is it so hard to share that we do struggle throughout the week? With loving people - that I get angry, I get jealous, I hate intensely, that I struggle in my friendships, relationships, with my family at times. That in fact, though I pray for more opportunities to share the gospel with others, I actually don't like having those conversations, or feel too awkward to make a clear stance when someone mocks Christianity and its worldview, or simply can't be bothered when I have my own life to attend to. Why is it so hard to share specifics about why we want to pray for QT - that in fact - for example, I end up surfing on FB everytime I try to start. Or that sometimes, I actually feel that studies and life is something I handle by myself, not something to bring to God. That actually I find the Bible boring and repetitive sometimes, and my mind is hardly there when I'm mouthing the words to the worship songs at church. What about the whole list of other sins we struggle with - that I lust, I love money, I am proud instead of thankful, I gossip. (You can interpret 99% of the "I's" in the above paragraph as literally referring to myself, rather than just a figure of speech.)

Well, today was a good start, maybe it's time to pray for authenticity in our fellowship.

And in medicine

The title of the post really refers to this second section of my post. Somewhere in the middle of the sharings, the songs, the prayers, I was reminded of something important. Put God at the centre of your life, everything you do is for him. One of these phrases that is said many times, to the point that I've forgotten it's true meaning. (On a side note, can anyone explain to me what does "bless this food into our bodies" really mean when we say grace for the food?)

Let me tell you about a time not so long ago, when I came into this with perspectives not yet influenced by the general medical profession. I struggled at the time, to see people suffer, and struggled all the more in understanding and addressing that, not only as a medical student, but a human being, and as a follower of God. I prayed for the patients that I remembered, and my classmates also. I asked doctors who have worked for many years, whether they prayed for their patients, how they served God in their everyday, sometimes mundane roles as doctors. Disappointingly, I don't think that person really understood or addressed the question seriously. I was serious about my medical life being an extension of my role as a servant of God, and can probably thank my medical christian fellowship in S for that. During that research year, I cared about God in my daily life and friendships, work relationships, at home too. During that year before I started clinical school, I already heard plenty of stories from those in the years above about trying hard not to conform to the general trend of treating patients as cases instead of people, fighting and competition between classmates, being patient when taking histories instead of getting annoyed that the person is rambling. Good role models who were serious about serving God in all areas of their lives, including medical studies and hospital life.

How far I've come - I can take histories faster, I can write notes that flow more logically, I can present cases a bit better. Yes I can ask about bowel motions without inducing a giggling fit, talk about sexual partners without cringing, see pap smears and do prostate examinations without feeling like I could never look at the person in the face again. But, look how far I've come. I haven't come to the point of seeing people as merely "an interesting case", or take histories purely medically without really speaking to the person, yet. I have, however, grown to view patients more as medical cases rather than people, and when the clinic becomes routine it does perk things up with someone has something else beside the usual (usually more serious). How lightly I speak of other's sufferings, and how often their stories become interesting stories to share and laugh at and nothing more. And gee it's strange to pray for a patient, or isn't it strange to ask God to heal them completely, physically and spiritually? Or why pray for the friends you meet, the hospital people you meet, or your interactions with them? Maybe it's time and familiarity, plus influence of friends, clinicians and the general hospital culture. Are these normal self defence mechanisms to help with the adjustment to hospital life, or are they processes to actively avoid?

I have grown in some areas of my relationship with God, but not this one. It's something to mourn about, to pray about, to realise how far I've wandered from seeing medicine as part of living for God, rather than medicine as something to be done, and living for God something that is essential, or even the priority of my life, but nevertheless quite separate to where I spend a good (at least) half of my week.

Vanilla, hazelnut, peach

For the first time since preclinicals, we've met regularly with our entire cohort. All the classmates who you thought you would never see again are back. Those who were once acquaintances become something more awkward than acquaintances. Last semester I met a classmate whom I used to sit next to from time to time in lectures. Being polite after a teaching session, I introduced myself and asked for her name before realising that it was the same girl with a changed hairstyle. Oops. Worse still, she answered my question with an unfriendly "names don't matter", or "it doesn't matter". We haven't spoken since.

Then again, these gatherings have also been great excuses for bubble tea catch ups. Vanilla and hazelnut aren't good flavours at Chatime. Peach is nice. It was refreshing hanging out and eating wherever, doing something spontaneous. It's been forever since I've sat on the floor at some public place and not cared how unladylike it looks. And awhile since my last superhero film. Action films make me feel sleepy. All those flashing lights, quick cuts between scenes, people running from impending doom, sparring warriors.

But coming back, I'm tired as I am every night way before it's bedtime. I suppose, at some point, we had to pay for last semester's months and months of free time, for sleeping in for more than half the week. I walk into my room and leave my shoes and coat anywhere, making small mountains here and there. The laundry basket is full and it's too late to do the washing. I realise I've only eaten home maybe once in the past week. I wonder when I will sit and read and pray, when I can write applications, when I will study. Not tonight. Ha, I seem to say that every night.

I write one lined diary entries, and the most recent one is dated but otherwise blank. I haven't touched the food blog. I haven't replied my grandfather's email. I haven't chatted with my cousin on instant messenger for ages. Neither have a bought a replacement tissue box for my bedside dresser. I haven't been to karaoke for awhile, though a few of my karaoke enthusiast friends have been wanting to go. Been eating tasty but not particularly healthy food, haven't walked the dog, gone for a run, played tennis or squash in awhile.

Why? Because there's trips to organise, pointless evidence to gather, applications, hospital information sessions, decisions, too many antenatal clinics and too low yield birthing suite shifts, church and fellowship, group socials, long lunches after church, other ongoing tasks we agreed to at a time when we didn't realise how commitments will snowball. Because the computer breaks down, backing up data and reinstalling the system takes time.

This is a bit exhausting. I haven't been particularly stressed for maybe, years.

But yes ironically, I drove for hours to a seaside town, and back the next day. I do go for lunches and brunches, and did watch a film today. And I did take half an hour or so to write this post.

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