Cycling Saved Me! >
January 18, 2023
by Bryan M.
Whenever prospective students ask me what I wish I would have known at the start of OT school, I always say the same thing: find something removed from OT school that you love doing, and keep consistent with it. Finding balance during your few years learning how to be an OT practitioner is a key part of preventing burnout and enhancing the learning experience in the classroom. Prioritizing your life outside of school is so important because it directly influences the kind of professional you are when you graduate. In this blog, I’m taking the time to write about my favorite non-OT related occupation: indoor cycling.
I began indoor cycling consistently in 2019 after I signed up for a class with an on-campus club I was a part of. My first class was rocky: I slept through my alarm, showed up late, and my foot got unclipped from the bike so I wasn’t able to take half of the class. Luckily, thanks to a new rider feedback form, the studio gave me a free class to try again, so I gave it another shot. This second class is where my love for cycling sprouted.
SoulCycle advertises itself as an “immersive and intense full-body workout,” and I can certainly attest to that. I fell in love with SoulCycle because I appreciated being able to work out both my body and my mind during class, mindfully listening to the inspiring words the instructors spoke while also cuing the exercise progression. I loved the classes so much that I ended up working for the company as Front Desk staff, something that I do even to this day while in OT school.
My love for indoor cycling exemplifies the power of meaningful occupations. Through the activity, I am able to provide myself a just-right challenge, keeping me engaged and motivated each time I go. Because of my commitment to this occupation, I am able to live a more balanced lifestyle in which my life isn’t consumed with only school and work. I’ve been able to remind myself that I am not just an occupational therapy student and have a life outside of school that I value and prioritize. I’m a well-rounded occupational being! This is something I think OT graduate students tend to forget, which is why I’m trying to remind others through this blog.
4 years later and nearly 500 classes later, I still consider indoor cycling one of my favorite occupations. Truly, I am so grateful for SoulCycle’s ability to keep me grounded during the trials and tribulations of school.
One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned from my time in OT school has been the power of “no”. Although one of the first words humans learn how to use, it’s ironic that “no” has seemed to be one of the hardest words for me to implement regularly. Probably a combination of being raised as the child of immigrants and inherently being a people pleaser, I became accustomed to making my default answer to questions “yes” because I wanted to leave a good impression with others, jumping at any opportunity presented to me. I wanted to please the people around me, grow personally and professionally, and ultimately become better in any way possible.
I first noticed this tendency of jumping to “yes” when I was in undergrad at USC, and have seen it carry over to my time in graduate school here at Chan. As I started finding my footing in various student organizations, classes, and work, I found myself saying “yes” to any opportunity that presented itself to me. “Can you take on this leadership role that has a vacancy?” “Yes, absolutely, I would be happy to.” “Can you cover this shift for me?” “Sure, I could use the extra money.” “I’m running short on time for the project; could you finish the last part I couldn’t do on top of what you have already done?” “Sure, whatever works for the group.” “Do you plan to pursue more education once you graduate?” “Yes, I think that would be in my best interest.”
Many think that jumping at any opportunity presented leads to growth and development. And although that may be the case in many situations, I tragically found that it is not always the case in every situation. I found that as I took on more and more responsibilities, I was starting to become burnt out, fatigued, dispassionate, and complacent. I was spreading myself too thin, setting unrealistic expectations for myself just because I had the opportunity to do so. I was regressing, or, as I colloquially coined this personal phenomenon, “regr-yes-sing”.
This year, I made the goal to prioritize my own personal health and well-being, and that came with the understanding that I could only accomplish that by saying “no” to some opportunities. What I have come to realize is that saying “no” is completely okay! Understanding personal limitations is a huge part of maturation, and it’s something I’m happy I’m finally coming into.
Somewhat inadvertently, by saying “no” I’m actually saying “yes” to other things. I’m saying “yes” to my well-being, my friendships/relationships, my mental/physical health. By saying “no”, I’m finally giving myself permission to take a step back, acknowledge how hard I have worked, and relax so I can keep going later on.
My Two Left Feet >
September 13, 2022
by Bryan M.
A common experience for burgeoning occupational therapists is the difficulty in explaining what OT is and why “occupations” are significant. Rather than giving you my “elevator pitch” definition, I thought I’d show you one of the ways I came to discover the superpower that is “occupation”.
Admittedly, I have two left feet. I am no dancer, and those closest to me can attest to that. Sure, I can find a rhythm, but you will never catch me impressing a crowd with my movement abilities. However, a key part of my undergraduate experiences, shaping me into the occupational therapy student I am today, was a dance performance that I took part in on USC’s largest stage in front of hundreds of people.
For context, I was a part of a student-run nonprofit organization in undergrad at USC called Troy Camp, which worked with elementary, middle, and high school students in the Greater Los Angeles Area, providing mentorship, leadership experiences, and academic support. Through this organization, I was able to put on a weekly creativity workshop for 3rd-5th graders at Vermont Elementary School. Modeling after a creativity-based course I took as a part of USC’s Occupational Science Minor, I developed a curriculum to provide an outlet for my students to express their creativity through mediums like filmmaking, dancing, engineering, crafting, and storytelling, among others.
The ending event for this program was a live performance of Zedd’s “The Middle” in front of an audience at USC’s Bovard Auditorium, being a guest to one of USC’s premiere dance groups. The troupe came into the classroom to teach the students and counselors the choreography to the song, and then they gave us the opportunity to showcase our abilities at their yearly showcase.
I remember the night well, but what stands out the most was my interactions with one of my students, Vladimir. A bright, more reserved 3rd grader was attached at my hip for the night. When I first met Vlad, he showed a lot of apprehension and discomfort when exploring the various creative media. He did not feel comfortable expressing his creativity, and he had a lot of trouble connecting with his peers. However, over the course of the 5 months, his confidence had grown immensely, juxtaposing how timid he was when we first met. His attitude changed every week, with phrases like “I don’t want to…” turning into “When are we going to start?” Despite my own uneasiness in performing (because, as a reminder, I am not a dancer), Vlad’s newfound eagerness was heartening. We joined the rest of our group on stage, as Zedd’s “The Middle” came on through the speakers…
This experience, especially my work with Vladimir, serves as a testament to occupation. Vladimir’s disposition exemplifies how occupational opportunities can impact individual lives and inspires me to make my own mark in the field of occupational therapy. Though my program with Vladimir only lasted a year, I saw how his opportunity to engage in new creative occupations drastically improved his demeanor. I want to be an occupational therapist to empower individuals, especially those in marginalized communities, to live rich, fulfilling, meaningful lives, dancing alongside them with my two left feet.