I started this page almost exactly a year ago, very unsure of why I felt the urge to and what I planned to use it for.
In that time, a lot has happened. I think it's safe to say most of my readers are historical readers who somehow stayed with me from 5 years ago when I first started writing anything on the internet at all. A special thanks to you lot because if you hadn't somehow re-found me or stuck with me I'd basically be writing to the thin air.
I think I've finally realised why I like writing in a public medium. I genuinely love to inform, teach, and raise discussion. I love the idea that something I have spent so much time (and money) acquiring (i.e. my education and experiences) can be neatly packaged and passed onto the masses in an easily digestible piece. It's basically the heart of what made me enter medicine. I've always wanted to make the MOST difference to the MOST people in the most efficient way I can - which is why my goals have centered on management, systemic changes, public health and policy rather than being super passionate about one particular specialty - because I see the potential to affect more change across a wider group. I think what we all ultimately want from our careers is to be fairly rewarded for doing something we enjoy that utilises our strengths. And for me, I think I realised a year or so into university that some of my strengths are:
1) Seeing the bigger picture (which translates in this context to seeing patterns and connections in wider society and government and community)
2) Understanding systems, human dynamics in workplaces, and again, the bigger picture in our actual work environments that changes our outputs and efficiency and the health of the people actually in the workplace
3) Conveying complex information in a way in which can be understood at whatever level it needs to be understood at
These things combined to give me a unique idea for the direction of my career that means when people ask me the question "what specialty do you want to do?" I can't really give them a straight answer.
I've realised that social media and my blog is really just an extension of these passions. If I can answer something that multiple people have wondered about - using science and facts rather than anecdotes - why would I NOT be doing this? It's a side passion project that's really a part of my bigger goals that even I hadn't really realised yet because they aren't/weren't fully fleshed out.
Recently I was watching some sort of "inspirational" clip I stumbled upon in the depths of internet scrolling (I use quote marks because I think a lot of inspirational stuff is often highly biased tripe, but anyway) and the person demanded to know "if you died tomorrow, would you be remembered for anything? Have you made a difference to anyone?" and I was actually surprised to realise that I think I actually have made a difference to some people. I do feel like I'm making a difference. And you could laugh at that - you're entitled to. But I've received enough positive feedback on enough occasions that I think, even though social media feels like a weird fickle pond monster that none of us are really sure if we like or hate, I have managed to make a small difference for a small number of people. And there is SO. MUCH. crap out there on the internet that isn't based on fact (or even vague reality sometimes) that doesn't get offset enough by people truly working in the areas and with the experience to explain why it's not correct. I've thought about that a lot - why are all the people on the internet making money off their "health" not actually qualified to do so? 1) Because we equate appearance with health. They look "healthy" because they're lean and don't have cellulite (Sorry, that's majorly genetics) and so they endorse a product or offer a service and we buy it. 2) The people actually doing the work and with the experience to explain nutrition, health, exercise properly are either ALL TOO BUSY actually doing the work or NOT IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA GENERATION and thus their voices never get heard. It genuinely scares me. What we have is misinformation and unhealthy mindsets transferring around small bubbles on the internet. If you look at an influencers profile, there's actually very little data or information or content. It's mainly a picture of them looking hot with a link to a product or brand. The majority of people don't do any sales besides this, and it works. But the implication is that people believe these products or services is how they came to look like that or live that life - and that's just not true. In this case, saying nothing is more harmful than even a small explanation.
Most people reading this will be legal adults with the ability to critically reason and see through a lot of social media marketing, but teenagers definitely do not have this ability. People my age also grew up in social media as it rapidly changed and so we have seen these influencers get created - we weren't born into an age where they already existed, which I think gives us a better understanding of what that actually means.
I'd also like to stop to say I don't have any personal issue with influencers. I think it's incredibly business savvy to make money from some beautiful photos and your brand. And some influencers are really careful not to say anything that has no evidence backing it. Hence why they just a photo and a link - it absolves them of any responsibility for the assumptions you draw from seeing that. I hold no hate for anyone carving a space for themselves in this weird age we live in. So I'm not targetting them - they can absolutely continue to take great photos and get paid for featuring a product (and hopefully have a sense of social responsibility not to claim their appearance is as a result of these products when they know damn well they've always been good looking). But if I can target everyone else, me included, in the group of people who need REAL information and understanding of themselves, nutrition, exercise, mental health, then I'll consider my part done.
It's also worth noting that I'm well aware I'm a flawed human being. I definitely do not know everything. I am not an expert in any one thing. I'm not claiming to be an expert in all topics I talk about. I am aiming to bring an evidence-based and scientific approach to any information I share, but my experiences also change how I perceive data and information, because I am a human and that's just how humans work - we struggle to want to believe things that didn't hold true for us personally. You also might think I'm annoying or weird or whatever else and that's also fine - but for your own mental health I'd seriously recommend unfollowing me on all forms of social media - the hate-follow does nothing for you except bring you down, so don't indulge it. Follow people who post things that make you feel good or that you feel like you get something out of.
In terms of my own self development this past year, I feel like I've really learnt a lot. I've thought a lot about friendships this past year. As adults, we have friendships that can confuse us. They can be carried through from school or other places. And suddenly we're strapped for time or suddenly they disappoint us or we start wondering who we are supposed to be friends with. The conclusions I came to were that 1) Take an objective look at a friendship and see what you give and what you get. It's not always equal and that's fine, but friendships where you never get anything back or seem to have completely different ideas about whats important in the friendship are incredibly draining and can quickly impact your mental health. 2) Once you've decided this person is a friend you value, make that known and commit to it. Put in the hard work to make it the friendship you want it to be. 3) Some friendships don't survive. It can simply be the wrong person at the wrong time. You don't need to entirely close the door, but setting boundaries and deciding for yourself to stop investing your energy can save you continuing down a path of disappointment. It can be incredibly hard to do when you want to be a friend, but sometimes you do need to put yourself first even if that means putting someone else second. By keeping the door slightly open (be honest about how you feel without blowing up and cutting ties) there's always the opportunity for your friendship to rekindle when you're back on similar wavelengths in the future again. If you're not, that's also fine, because now you're doing what's best for you.
Anyway, here's to being 26! A new year. The second challenge is going to start late March (the sign-up link is live ^^ up there). Who knows how much more will change this year. I can't believe it's 9 months until I am finally finished med school and can tick the Dr box on forms (honestly I have no intention of seeing any patients I just want to tick that box (joking, obvs)). I feel so grateful for the people in my life and the life I have slowly created. I know you all get sick of me rattling on about where I came from (depression, obesity, blah blah blah) but I seriously don't know if I'll ever get over it. It has given me a permanent perspective shift and I'm now finally glad I went through all of that (if I said that to 2007-jasmine she'd probably punch me). Thank you, readers, thank you, friends, and thank you to anyone who has supported me in attempting to make a small difference by sharing information and experience!