Saying Yes to 2017: Opera, HHMI, DC, and Marching

What a fantastic January thus far. Truly.

Shonda Rhymes, creator of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and more, released a book last September called, Year of Yes. To be honest, I have not read it, but I know the premise. She coaches her readers on how to “say yes” to more of what they experience and how it will really take life to the next level.

When I went on a little dinosaur fossil excavation in college with paleontologist, Paul Sereno and other classmates, his word of advice for us was, “never say no to a good opportunity because you never know where it will take you next.”

I’m going to get real for a moment.

I am an EXTREMELY cautious person. Usually before anyone convinces me out of something, I have already convinced myself out of it already. Because of this, I am pretty wise and deliberate in my choices and have avoided a lot of mess. Perhaps, this is due to my very strict upbringing by busy parents. I’ve learned when to pick my battles and to assess when things really were not worth asking for.

For example, I REALLY wanted to take ballet classes when I was 6 or 7. At that time, my parents were both in residency, and even though I didn’t really know what that was, I had a sense they did not have time to take me. So I just never asked.

But, who knows, if I caught them at the right time, maybe they would have?

Instead, I decided to read the books on ballet my older sister checked out from the library for us. (This is truly a symbolic beginning of my general theoretical knowledge vs experiential knowledge on most things in life…!)

I have mixed views on New Years Resolutions, but I usually try to move into the year with an intentional mindset. For 2017, I want this year to be my year of YES. And, by saying yes to more things–big and small, perhaps the life I live will be more courageous and beautiful.

First Test: La Boheme 

I LOVE opera. My love of opera really began with Cher’s Moonstruck.

This operatic romantic comedy is centered around a woman’s scandalous relationship with her fiancé’s younger brother and the music of La Boheme. When a young Nicholas Cage and Cher finally consummate their passion, O Soave Fanciulla plays on a record player. It was sweeping. Passionate. Dramatic. Powerful. Provocative. And, like that scene, Opera is entirely all of these things. 

In the movie, Cher and Cage see La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera, and since seeing that film, I have always wanted to do the same! It had been showing at the Met this season since I had moved to Boston, but I kept on putting off until I realized at the end of December that it would be ending the second week of January. I kept thinking: “Wait, who will come with me? Will they like the opera? Where will I stay in NYC? How much should I spend?”

But something happened. When 2017 started, I just decided that I wanted this. I could make it happen. YES.

I bought a ticket to a Friday performance, packed one of my old homecoming dresses and got on a greyhound by myself! It was everything I had wanted. A dream had come true.

I had a whirlwind trip to NYC and returned that same night back to Boston. A few days later, I was off to Washington DC to present my research at the January HHMI Investigator’s meeting.

HHMI Investigator’s Meeting: Poster or Not to Poster? 

This is a really fantastic opportunity presented to us Med Fellows by HHMI. At these meetings you have the chance to meet absolute STARS in science, hear them discuss their research and much more. The meeting was outstanding. Leading up to it, I was not sure if I wanted to make a poster, however. I was worried about not having enough to present so I just put the thought out of my mind until one of my co-fellows suggested we make a poster together. After reflecting on how hard it is to make one by yourself, I figured it may be even harder to combine two projects especially since we don’t work together. And, I really should just say YES to this opportunity to grow/learn.

Words of wisdom from the meeting:

Dr. Charles Sawyers on deciding to be a physician-scientist
I asked him what was the time between him being a history major and his post doctoral time he decided to pursue a career as a physician scientist and what general advice he had for us as we were engaging with this idea. To this he said it has to be a, “conscious commitment to get of the usual track.” We have to be comfortable getting of the train heading in the usual direction. Sometimes that may involve turning down a clinical leadership position during your post doc to instead focus more on your science. Whatever we decide, it has to be an intentional decision instead of coasting.
Dr. Vivian Cheung on mentorship
The Med Fellows had a lunch with her which was really structured and got us to think critically about the differences between a physician and a scientist. She stressed the importance of mentorship and having the right people in our corner to help us protect our lab time when we still have to see patients etc. “You need someone who will pick up the phone and advocate for you.”
Dr. Len Zon on assessing your weaknesses
He told us about how he mentors his trainees. He writes down a big flaw each one has that he thinks will hold them back, and they work on a plan to improve together. Then, we all talked about what we thought could hold us back. Mine was my fear that people would one day discover that although I am passionate about what I do, I am just not as good at the science.
He advised me to act more confident than I feel and that this insecurity is what many feel and something he has struggled with. He said to let it fuel me and motivate me to be the person I want to project to others.


I also had the opportunity to visit old friends as well as see some memorials/museums in DC! It was a fabulous trip. The museum of African American History and Culture was a particularly powerful place for me to visit.

Yes to Marching

As wonderful January has been for me personally, it was a very sad week for many of us as a new era of American politics began. This will forever be a stain on our history, and I decided to be a part of the women’s march. I will preface this with, yes I know that 53% of white women in the country voted for Donald Trump. I will not forget that, but as a black woman, I know where I stand. As a Christian black woman I know where I stand.

I choose to stand with the marginalized and to grieve with them and fight with them.

I chose to have my body be one of the 125k bodies in Boston and over 3 million around the world demonstrating that she would NOT tolerate a president like Donald Trump.

I considered staying in and sleeping a bit longer. I hoped that some friends of mine could join me, but they could not for their varying reasons. But instead of waiting and saying, “no.” I decided to say “yes.”

You do not need people to come with you.

You can say yes.

You do not need to be affirmed.

You can say yes.

Do what is right for you. Do it in wisdom.

2017 will be my year of yes. How about you?

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness” – The Declaration of Independence




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