end of semester 5

This occasion likely warrants a real update…currently, this sums it up nicely:

via Rebel Circus

via Rebel Circus



I read somewhere that a hiatus of more than two months for a blog is like starting over.

I can work with that.

It’s hard to condense a few months into a few thousand characters, and maybe that’s why I’ve been kind of quiet. When I finally sit down to write what I had in mind to write, the things that I wanted to say have already become a past-tense, and I’m always scrambling to shuffle the words into some sort of coherence. And so far, it’s been a fail. Hence the non-writing.

A few re-caps since my last real post:

  • Summer school is awesome and awful all at once. We have a much lighter workload, which means Sherlock Holmes happened: I am happy to report that the two-part, full volume did not disappoint. The British vernacular did get a bit stale after a while though; I think Doyle was tired of coming up with new stories towards the end.
  • The other side of the free-time! coin is the lack of urgency to actually study, which equals we have finals in two weeks, and we have no idea how to prepare for them. Perhaps study all of the things would be a fitting description…but that’s a lot of things.
  • I visited in Milwaukee for an über brief weekend, which consisted of lots of swimming, practicing my manual skills, and yo-yo-ing between Milwaukee and the house that I was staying in.
  • Survived my first, Category II hurricane. There had been plans to camp in the Outer Banks (OBX), but the OBX had to be evacuated and ergo, no camping. I did enjoy watching the squalls from the confines of a house. No major property or bodily damages.
  • I started dancing again, and will probably have more of a routine once fall semester starts.

It’s weird to be almost second year students since the current second years are going off to their clinicals shortly, and after their clinicals they will become the ones who knows all of the things. Which means in the interim time, my class should know most of the things. Yet I feel like I still don’t know many things at all. It’s almost been an entire year since I started all of this shenanigans of PT school, and it’s arguable been one of the hardest years of my life. I certainly did not expect it to be easy, but then, I never expected it to be as hard as it has been, in the many different ways it’s been hard.

In many ways school can be an alternative reality: we see the same people all day, every day, trying to comprehend the same things and apply it in the different ways that makes sense to each of us. There’s that social bubble which, if you make it, it’s great, and if you don’t, it’s much harder to find a niche since we spend so much time together, there’s not so much time to establish outside connections. And being a chronic outlier, I still don’t feel very well fitted. And it’s easy to lose perspective in school because I need to pass all of the assessments! and unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Then comes the freak-out moment of what if I have ruined my future because I wasn’t good enough?!

I got a reality check when I was bemoaning to someone back in Milwaukee on how grad school is strangling out the joy of life, he teased, well, Hannah, you should have stayed in Milwaukee, drank beer, watched football, and gotten fat. 

And he is probably right. I could have done something different, but I had chosen this. And the rest, I suppose, is to tread carefully. But always going onward.

National Geographic


on being a storyteller

I’m a sucker for cellists. I wonder if I would have chosen to learn the cello instead of the violin if I had the option. Maybe I would have. But I think having that distance to breathe in the music made by another musician allows me to appreciate the artistic creation better; sometimes we see our lover in a different light when they are in their element, instead of in our consuming embrace.

Last spring I went to a concert featuring several soloists, one of them a cellist. I actually went because I knew the violinist that was part of a duet that was also featured in the concert. I remember randomly sitting next to a cluster of hipsters and feeling moderately out of place. I had been in orchestras in high school and undergrad, so I felt I should be on stage in the mass of black and white—the men donning tuxedos and looking like constipated penguins—instead of in the audience.

The auditorium darkened and the cellist entered, took his seat, tuned his cello. Then a pause. A silent prologue: the palpable awareness of being emotionally naked in front of one’s audience.  Inhale. The first few notes flowed from his hands, asking the audience for permission: the permission to share oneself. Trepidation. Bashful eagerness. May I share this with you? This part of me?

Then he took hold of my soul and took flight. Achingly, breathlessly. He and the cello and the music born from the two.

And I don’t remember breathing until the end.

I’m listening to Jacqueline du Pré while whittling away at my homework. Yes, we have school in summer. Yes, I agree, it’s no fun being a graduate student. As my brain meanders between skin pathogens and Dvorak, it makes me sad listening to the beautiful stories that this woman is telling through her fingers. Appendages that eventually failed and robbed her of her voice through her instrument. Jacqueline du Pré died in 1987 as complications from multiple sclerosis, after permanently retiring from performance in 1973.

When I heard of Gabriel García Márquez’s passing a few weeks ago there was a tinge of sorrow that the world is a bit poorer in losing a masterful storyteller. And I’m thankful that the stories of Jacqueline du Pré and Márquez remain, through decibels or text, and in a way, their stories continue, each time someone opens to the first lines of One Hundred Years of Solitude or inhale the first notes of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor seeping from du Pré’s hands and her Davydov Stradivarius. And I would like to believe that, in one way or another, we can still choose to be storytellers. At a recent lecture hosted by our program, a Duke PT alumna spoke of being a thoughtful practitioner, an active listener of our patients’ stories, and a mindful sharer of our own stories.

I think this is why, despite the gigantic imbalance of science-to-humanities ratio that is the existence of a physical therapist student, I still need music: I still need to be a storyteller. When I allow music to speak through me, I am reminded of the disclosed fibers of myself, all of the granules that I keep carefully wrapped up. Music seeks them out, and awakens that unspeakable joy and longing, because sometimes words are trite, and our nuclei of humanity need a wordless voice. Vocalise.