Knowing your strengths

I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs personality test a few times but always took it with a grain of salt. After all, depending on my mood, I swing between getting an “I” or “E” (so, introverted or extroverted).

Recently at work we took the Clifton Strengths assessment. I’d never heard of the test before but it was pretty eye-opening. Based on many questions answered, it assesses your greatest strengths. (They call them “themes” and there are more than 30 themes to be placed into!)

In a workplace, knowing one another’s strengths helps with building better teams and thus producing better, timely work.

My top five strengths include: responsibility, individualization, analytical, strategic and achiever.

The “individualization” one first caught me by surprise because I thought it meant that I preferred to work as an individual and (essentially didn’t want to be around other people). It’s actually not that at all. When it comes to Clifton Strengths, individualization means you are intrigued by the unique qualities each person has. You don’t like to group people into “types” but would rather know how each person is special and different.

I definitely have a “get it done” attitude which is where the “responsibility” and “achiever” themes come from. I don’t always associate myself as a super analytical and strategic person but I guess those must come from my journalistic upbringing. I learned that you need facts to prove things. You need to write/report based off of known knowledge, not just what people may say.

Knowing these strengths goes beyond being helpful in a work setting. They can be applied to your personal life and goals as well.

We don’t always know exactly what our strengths are. Or, is everyone just way more self-aware than I am?

Something non-running and non-not running-related to talk about for once 🙂


Sitting is the new smoking, so I guess I’ll stand

I’m trying to embrace standing, I really am.

But, I am horrible at it.

I have poor running form so it doesn’t translate well to good/proper standing (or sitting) posture. Or, is it my natural poor stature that translates into bad running form?

I moved to a new area of the office, so I have a brand new desk. It’s an adjustable desk so I can decide if I want to sit at work, or stand.

The desk, in its standing position

The desk, in its standing position

I’ve only been at it for two-and-a-half weeks and let me tell you, it’s not easy!

I begin my day standing. I check emails and do work that doesn’t take as much brain power as some other tasks might.

Magic button that adjusts my desk

Magic button that adjusts my desk

By lunch time I am definitely sitting. (I take an early lunch because I get hungry by 11 a.m. — or even earlier!)

On a good day, I’ll stand for another hour or two in the afternoon.

My cube-mate and I will try to encourage the other to stand. We don’t compete. It’s more of a “Ahhh, you’re standing now? OK, I’ll stand, too!”-type of set-up.

I tell myself that the standing is helping me become a healthier runner and just in general, a healthier human being. Because, sitting is the new smoking, according to so many.

And, if you’re too lazy to open and/or read those articles I linked to, just Google “sitting is the new smoking” and check out the images and infographics. If those don’t scare you, um, I guess go take a smoke break?

But, sometimes sitting is just so nice

But, sometimes sitting is just so nice

How do you avoid sitting all day at work? If you have a standing desk, how often do you stand? (Because I’ve been told that standing all day is also bad for you!)

As is every thing in life, it’s all about moderation, right?

OK, now that I’m done typing this out at my computer while sitting at a desk in a coffee shop, it’s time for some healthy standing time!

Making my week

What did my patient tell me after I drew his blood this afternoon?

That was one of the best draws I have had.

In my head I was jumping up and down and doing cartwheels and wanting to shout, “I just started drawing blood this past summer! I’m still a beginner!” Instead, I just glowed on the inside, smiled and said, “Thank you.”

If you had told me seven years ago, heck, even seven months ago, that I would successfully be drawing blood and receiving compliments for it, I would have rolled my eyes and laughed. I would have been in disbelief. Me? The journalism-major who is incredibly afraid of needles? Not going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no expert phlebotomist. I sweat bullets as I get all my materials ready and tie the tourniquet around the patients’ arms.

Maybe fears really do not exist. How else do we explain someone being afraid of needles being able to draw blood?

Maybe it’s just all in our attitudes.

Maybe it’s growing up.

I guess the power of positive thinking really can do wonders.

A bloody, “fainty” situation

As of June, I have been certified by the state of Washington as a health care assistant. This means that according to the state, I have fulfilled the requirements to practice phlebotomy — i.e. draw blood from human beings like yourself.

When I was younger, the sight of blood made me queasy. As I got through high school and college, I got better. I never fainted when I had to have my blood drawn but I always made sure to tell the nurse/technician/whoever was drawing that I was very scared of needles. My heart would start beating faster. My hands got very clammy. I started to perspire. I don’t know what about the action of a blood draw actually scared me.

The prick is ever so slight. It doesn’t really hurt.

It’s over quickly. You can turn away and not watch if you don’t want to (I never watched).

But, now, I must watch. I am the one doing the sticking!

I’ve gotten comfortable and confident sticking someone who has a prominent vein (aka a “good one”) because I know I will not miss or hurt him/her. However, if someone tells me they have “rolling veins” or if I can’t find any suitable veins even after tying the tourniquet around the arm, I get a little worried. But, I’m not scared to try! (Before, even a few weeks ago, I would have been scared to try).

So, seeing the current work situation, I have no problem talking about blood and needles. Before, if I were around someone who started talking about their phlebotomy job, I would have stopped them. I would not have wanted to hear any talk of blood whatsoever!

A few weeks ago I was visiting my friend Hannah in New Orleans. One night we went out to dinner with her friend and both of us unknowing that he does not have a strong stomach/mind for “blood talk,” started talking about my job and how I now draw blood. I went through this whole story about how I had done a patient home visit and successfully did a blood draw there. Hannah wanted to know details about exactly how a blood draw works and what you have to do.

I grabbed her arm at the dinner table and began to show them how to feel for a vein. I went through all the motions.

After I was done explaining, her friend said he didn’t feel good. He put his head down on the table. Hannah and I looked at each other but had no idea why he was feeling bad. Was it his one alcoholic drink? Probably not. Was it food poisoning? Highly unlikely to get a reaction 10 minutes after eating.

He excused himself to the restroom.

“Hannah, do you think he is drunk?” I inquired.

She said no. We started to brainstorm what it was that made him feel so awful.

“Oh my gosh!” she said. “It must be the blood.”

I was startled because I didn’t think I was being too graphic in my explanation. But Hannah said it was the last thing we were talking about before he started to not feel well. As we continued to ponder the idea that I in fact made him feel sick talking about blood, her phone lit up.

She received a text from him in the restroom.

“Sorry, sometimes I feel funny when hearing about blood. It has happened once before. I’m almost back to normal now,” he wrote to her. (Or, something along those lines. Sorry, I didn’t memorize the text word for word!)

He came back to our table looking much better and saying he felt much better. He explained that one time when he saw the movie, “Black Hawk Down,” in the theater, he had to step out of the theater because he thought he was going to faint. I have never seen Black Hawk Down but from what I hear, there are some gory parts.

I wanted to ask him if he faints during blood draws but refrained from doing so. I wouldn’t want him to “have another episode” after finally feeling better again.

Never would I have known that I would be the one to cause someone to nearly faint because I was talking about blood.

Oh, how have things changed.

Just call me Dracula, I guess.

Learning to draw blood — This won’t hurt a bit, right?

I’m not one of those people who faints at the sight of blood, but I would cringe.

Now, I’m learning to draw blood! (I’ve already “mastered” blood processing). I guess all this blood handling falls under the “other duties as assigned” on my job description …

We practiced on fake arms first. Yes, fake arms! I’m not making this up! They are these plastic flesh-colored arms that have red-dyed liquid in them so that people can practice drawing before drawing on real humans (who can feel pain)!

During the first class, I poked my (fake) arm numerous times and successfully “drew blood” each time. I looked around at my peers and they continued poking their (fake) arms. I was kind of bored of the fake-arm practice but didn’t feel like diving right in and attacking a real arm.

Finally after a few other classmates started drawing on each other, I joined in. I tried to put on my best “I’m-confident-and-can-draw-your-blood!” face while instead I was really thinking, “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I am actually about to stick a needle into this girl’s arm!”

I gathered all the materials. I tied the tourniquet tightly around her upper arm. I cleaned off the area with an alcohol swab in which I was about to poke. I let the alcohol dry. And, then … it was time.

I gripped the needle firmly in my right hand and in one quick motion stuck her. She (thankfully) did not jump or twitch or say “ouch” but intently watched. My first fear was gone: I did not hurt her (so it appeared).

But, my second fear was that there would be no blood. And, it seemed to be true. The tube was not filling with any blood!

My instructor, who stood right beside me, told me to take the needle out a little bit. I did this and as I moved I told this poor girl “sorry” because I assumed that I was hurting her by doing this motion. She said she couldn’t feel a thing.

And then, the blood finally started flowing! I was relieved.

I  untied the tourniquet and removed the tube from the tube holder. As I grabbed the cotton ball to place atop the needle, my hands started to shake every so slightly. As I removed the needle another “sorry” came out of my mouth because now I for sure thought I was hurting this poor girl since my HANDS WERE NOW SHAKING.

She said she didn’t feel a thing.

I hope this was actually true because later in the class, I told another girl who was practicing on me that I didn’t feel a thing when really it was a little painful when she stuck me with the needle.

And, well, here’s the evidence:

Bad photo but, you can kind of see the bruise (that lasted a week)!

Bad photo but, you can kind of see the bruise …










I got a nice bruise that lasted about a week!

Other than walking away from that first class with a bruise and perpetually sweaty hands at the thought of sticking someone, I can actually say that the act of sticking a needle into a person is not that  bad. Do I want to be a phlebotomist? Heck no. Do I get nervous before having to draw blood? Of course. Am I scared that tomorrow is our final class and then after that I’m thrown into the real world with real patients to draw? Heck yes!

They say practice makes perfect, right? So, who’s willing to offer their arm to me?

“You need to figure out your life”

I have this very prominent, protruding vein popping out from beneath my skin right between my eyebrows. It only ever makes an appearance when I get very upset  — to the point of tears. I can see it right now in my reflection on the computer screen.

One of my parents is “very worried” that I am going to be stuck “doing nothing” the rest of my life. The solution is to go back to school. My response to that is: there is nothing I want to go back to school for. Then this parent says that if I am not going to go back to school, then I should be getting certificates/more training.

“In what?” I ask.

I was told that I should be reading up and researching what certificates I should earn.

I’m not being proactive enough, I am told.

If this person could have his or her way, I’d be getting a job as a technical writer or going back to school to get an MBA.

I have for the majority of my life since graduation, felt like my Bachelor of Arts has meant nothing. Today is one of those days when I really feel like it’s a useless piece of paper, and that I am almost just as worthless.

Can we ever get a break in our Terrible 20s? (Not if you have AMS – Asian Mom Syndrome).

[Sorry to get all Quarter-life Crisis up in here, I am sure I will wake up tomorrow feeling like the world is my oyster — or whatever analogy you prefer.]

A little, a lot of change

I’m moving out of my parents’ house at the end of the month. I have been spending all morning packing cleaning. I can’t even pack yet because I am going through all of my stuff — books, clothes, etc. etc. — and figuring out what needs to be tossed, what needs to go to Goodwill, what needs to be packed and what (little) needs to be kept at the house.

For some reason, I decided to tackle the closet first. (Some people hide everything under the bed, others keep it in the closet. Mine is the latter).

Being an avid writer since the fifth grade, I have boxes (yes, more than one) full of old journals and notebooks. Just from looking at the outside of these bound books, I can remember what (approximate) grade I was in when I wrote the contents inside. The purple flower-patterned one is from sixth grade when I really started journaling. The Harry Potter one was a birthday gift from a friend senior year of high school.

There was one comp-book (one of those college-ruled notebooks made out of “100 percent recycled materials”) in the closet, too. This one was not in one of the boxes with the others. I couldn’t remember what it was from. I thought maybe it was one from a college class that I took notes in that (for some crazy reason) I kept. No, I am not a hoarder.

I opened it up and immediately recognized it. It was the notebook I used to take notes in before my trip to Phnom Penh the summer of 2009. I received a scholarship to spend the entire summer after graduating from college, reporting at an English language newspaper in Cambodia. I had written down the contact numbers for my journalism professors, for the U.S. Embassy. I had written down my parents’ work phone numbers. I had written down my flight itinerary.


An evening in Phnom Penh July 2009


There were three other students in my program that were doing the same internship — going to a third world country on our own and reporting at a newspaper. The professors organized a seminar for the four of us a month or two before our departures. They invited a few editors from the local daily newspaper to give us advice on reporting abroad. They invited graduates who in recent years had participated in the same program to talk to us. I took notes — in the handwriting that hasn’t changed at all since then — on everything.

One of the professors had us reflect on how we were feeling in that moment, in that moment of graduating and leaving the country for a few months to be a reporter. This is what I wrote:

This is the time in my life when I am supposed to figure out who I am and what I want out of life. I will very soon be graduating from the UW and will need to know what I want to do in the “real world.” The problem is that I do not know what I really want. I know that I enjoy writing and have had fun during my time in the journalism major here, but I cannot say exactly what will come after Cambodia. I hope to learn more about myself while I’m away from home and maybe have a better idea of what I want to do with the rest of my life — or at least for a long while. 

I wrote this three years ago.

I work at a hospital now in clinical research. I can process blood on my own now. I ask participants questions about their medical history.

When participants ask me if I am going to become a doctor some day, I say “maybe” while really thinking “heck, no.” When they ask me is I am going to go to nursing school soon, I say “I don’t know” but really I am thinking “Why would I do that?”

A part of me misses reporting but I don’t want to go back to newspapers.

What I’ve learned now, that I didn’t know as a 22-year-old when I wrote that above entry, is that I don’t need to figure out “the answer to my life” right now. I’ve always been good about meeting deadlines, but for this, there is no deadline.

Often times, recent grads feel the need to “start their life and figure everything out” right after receiving that diploma. But, that’s not how life works.

I’m happy with my life. Maybe that’s the answer.