Black and Blue Smoothie

by Gena on May 17, 2011

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Hey all!

I’m absolutely loving the comments from last night’s post, and in fact I’m hesitant to write much today for fear that the conversation will stop. If you haven’t yet, please offer up your thoughts on being mostly vegan, or not. I’d love to hear from you.

I fear that the following is going to sound like an opening monologue from “Grey’s Anatomy,” but hear me out for a moment:

When we’re little, we accumulate bruises. We’re rough and tumble and unafraid, and as a result, we fall down and get black and blue all over, as the fairy tales say. As grown ups, we bruise just as easily, but not because of accidents: instead, our bruises take the form of hurt feelings, professional disappointments, and knocks to our ego. Our bruises are the promotions we didn’t get, the business plans that fell through, the arguments with our friends that cut to the quick. We may have taught ourselves to stop falling out of trees and scraping our knees and crashing our tricycles, but we’re no less prone to tender spots. Even if we have a hard time admitting to them.

So maybe I got my term grades yesterday. And maybe they weren’t what I’d hoped for—not after a semester’s worth of all nighters and tutoring and homeworks that took me four hours apiece. Maybe I’ve always attached a lot of importance—too much importance—to my academic performance. Maybe one of my biggest flaws is that I’m prone to measuring my worth in grades, or in professional accomplishments, or by my resume, which is a fairly simplistic way of looking at things.

And maybe, as I sat down to breakfast yesterday morning, I felt a little black and blue all over: insecure, angry at myself, aware that I was being irrational and yet also undeniably and profoundly upset. Maybe I knew in my heart that my performance, given the steep learning curve of returning to school after a long hiatus, was actually fine. Maybe I knew that I’ll have to adjust my ego and expectations if I’m to thrive in this program, and re-learn how to learn, as it were. Maybe I knew that it’s about time I hitched at least a chunk of my self-acceptance to something that’s not a letter grade.

And maybe I soothed the bruise with an appropriately themed smoothie Smile

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Black and Blue Smoothie (raw, vegan, GF and soy free)

Serves 1

1 frozen banana
1 cup mixed blueberries and blackberries
4 ice cubes
3/4 cup almond milk
3 tbsp cacao nibs
1 tbsp hemp protein powder

Instructions: Blend.

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It’s tempting, no matter how old and wise we become, to nurse our wounds for too long. I don’t feel altogether better today, but moping around does me no good, and, given how much of a transition I’ve made this year, I’m actually lucky to have what I have: determination, patient and supportive friends, and a very fun bon voyage party to attend in about five minutes. Not to mention a newly repaired VitaMix.

The bruises will heal fast.

Till tomorrow,


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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Amelia May 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I had the exact same experience when I started law school- I’d always been at the top of my class until that point and it was quite a shock to get less than perfect grades. But it sounds like you’re already on your way to understanding that grad school, and all life, is about so much more than grades.


Valerie @ City|Life|Eats May 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I could not have said it better than Amelia :) Going back to school after a hiatus definitely involves a steep learning curve.


Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) May 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Ditto what Amelia said!!!! It’s exactly what I was thinking while reading this post. Law school humbled me (what a mess). Gena, if I could do it all over again, I would concern myself with exactly what I was learning and why and not my grades. But that’s easier said than done, I know!


am May 18, 2011 at 5:11 am

Awwww, Gena! I, too, was so accustomed to being number one as a result of hard work and hours studying (instead of drinking, partying, and other sorts of college frolicking).

Then I went to law school. Holy ego blow, all I have to say!


VeggieGirl May 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Feel better and I’m sure you did your best!! Here’s to going forward and continuing your success in school.


Jess May 17, 2011 at 5:42 pm

My first semester back in school was like that too. Somehow I’d thought that I’d do just fine in chemistry and physiology, despite the fact that I had a BFA in writing & publishing! I really think it’s true that you need to relearn how to learn certain subjects.


melissa May 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm

hey as long as it’s passing it’s good to go to the next course right? i’ve been loving on choco-cado puddings lately :) cheer up!


McKella May 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I feel that life has a way of making sure we learn, and sometimes learning the hard way is the only way. For those of us who attach our worth to numbers and letters-weight, blog stats, grades- sometimes a disappointing result is just what we need to be gentler with ourselves.


Emma (Namaste Everyday) May 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm

I’m sorry to hear that your hard work didn’t give you the results you were looking for. I am a perfectionist and I understand just how devastating this can be. Keep your head held high and try and learn from it. And drink a lot of chocolate! ;)


Ela May 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Bravo! I’m so proud of you! It sounds like you’re converting the ‘bruised’ feeling into a more powerful way to stand on the shoulders of your old self.

Congrats on making it through all those exams also, and on keeping a sense of perspective, and on encouraging yourself to learn that you are so. very. much. more than a letter grade (a hard lesson, I know!)

The smoothie looks like the perfect comfort, though.


Elle May 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Gena, thank you so much for this post. I, too, just got my semester grades and while they’re fine, they weren’t quite the fireworks I was shooting for. It’s a comfort to hear that someone who works their tush off at Columbia can accept the situation gracefully and, most importantly, not give up! Even the folks coming to a post-bac pre-med program from the hard sciences is greatly challenged by the coursework. I’m proud of you for jumping in and giving it your all.


JL goes Vegan May 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Oh, girl, it’s the worst — we our own most fierce judge. What I hear through your words is that you’re close to rethinking how you will measure your success.

While you’re doing that — I’ll have a Black and Blue smoothie ;)


sofia May 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm

loved this post. good for you for working to pick yourself back up, even if you wanna embrace the black and blue feeling in smoothie form for just a short amount of time :)


Sumi May 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Being a pre-med, especially at a world class academic institution, is so, incredibly difficult. I took organic chemistry as a freshman and biology as a sophomore, and both of them brought my self-esteem down to zero. Of course, it allowed me to develop other pursuits, question whether I wanted to be a doctor (I definitely do, though it took me another year and a half to finalize it), and eventually build up my esteem in other ways.

In any case, I just wanted to say that these issues come up all the time when one is a pre-med — I can’t say that they get easier to deal with, but, to be quite cliche, they DO make you stronger. And, every time you brush yourself off, you’re much more prepared for the your future as a doctor. :-) Best wishes for the move, and everything, though I’m kind of sad it’s happening when I’m moving to New York!!


Karen May 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm

When I read this post, my overwhelming thought was that this is solid evidence of how far you’ve come in recovery from your old ED mindset, and just how mature you have become. Good for you for giving yourself a break and reconsidering the logic of your perfectionism tendencies. So proud of you, Gena!

(And yes – this DID read just like a prelude to a Gray’s anatomy episode. Hysterical!)


Hannah May 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Aw, Gena, I’m sorry you felt bad. But I’m glad you used the sadness to make a new recipe and improve your outlook! I feel that way about grades too, but therapy has helped me so much to not measure my self-worth about some stupid letter or number. The only thing I can do is try my best, and prioritize my time, which sometimes means less time on the computer and more time researching for a paper!


Victoria (District Chocoholic) May 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm

I think sometimes we can do more harm to ourselves by not experiencing the disappointment and pushing it away prematurely. Eventually, like all feelings, it will come back fiercer than ever. The key is to not let it stop you from moving forward.


Julia May 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I feel ya Gena! ALthough just like Amelia said, they don’t define us. I just got awful grades, and all I know is that I’ll do better next time, and so will tyou. Also, if you put all of your effort into it, then there’s nothing more you can give, right? Best to you~


Jen May 17, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Instead of telling you that I’m sorry you didn’t get the grades you had hoped for, I’m going to say congratulations for getting whatever grades you DID get. Just from the way you write, the sophisticated topics you touch on, and how many times I’ve seen you mention studying or homework or midterms or finals…I know that you are nothing less than an EXTRA ordinary (let’s separate that word, to emphasize what it truly means, shall we?) student, worker, and professional in multiple crafts (including cooking…and non-cooking, blogging, etc.). So Gena, don’t worry that golden, vegan, oversized heart of yours. You’re amazing. Now go eat a bowl of raw kale or something. :)


Rebecca May 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm

I had a similar breakfast this morning with blueberries, homemade almond milk, ice cubes, a dash of vanilla, a scoop of Vega Vanilla Chai powder and 1/2 an avocado. It was delicious! So smooth and creamy and it packed a powerful nutritional punch.

Don’t be hard on yourself Gena! You are doing amazing things!


Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table May 17, 2011 at 8:57 pm

You have such a good attitude – cheers to you for recognizing the need to move forward.

Your smoothie looks tasty! Mine never end up that think. I guess I add too much liquid?!


Leah May 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm

I worked for three years between college and law school, and my first year back was fraught with less than perfect grades. I beat myself up the first semester, changed some things second semester, and started progressively getting better. By my second year I was earning the grades I originally hoped for when I started. Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing your study habits to better master the material, which is likely different than your college courses. And I like to think, if it weren’t so hard, everybody would be a lawyer/doctor/whatever.

I’m glad that you gave yourself some time to mope, but are able to put it behind you and move on. Better to use that energy in a positive way towards new smoothie recipes :)


Mama Pea May 17, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I hope you count me in that supportive friend category. Because I don’t value you for your grades, I value you for your recipes. (Kidding.)


Hannah May 17, 2011 at 11:30 pm

So, so proud of you for keeping you head up (although I personally think it’s helpful to have a bit of a cry, if you need to, when you first get the knock to the heart/head). Your opening paragraphs remind me so much of myself (as you might actually remember, as I’ll never forget your supportive comment on my deferring-my-PhD post), but it’s so important to remember that academics will never define the depths of your self, that wonderful, passionate, crazy-clever, compassionate, and delicious smoothie-making self :) xo


Mountain Girl (Eat Hike Sleep Repeat) May 18, 2011 at 12:02 am

This smoothie is one of my staples! Love the name – it is very fitting to go with my Wilderness First Aid course right now. Chin up! The bruises are already fading :)


Laura C May 18, 2011 at 12:33 am

If you were looking for A’s in a postbac med program at Colombia after 10 years away from a non-science degree, you’d be crazy. B’s would be mightily impressive. Just sayin ;) There’s a lot of rewiring going on in your brain- the brain does not learn complicated new conceptual systems overnight. And your self esteem shouldn’t be on the line, because your resume already demonstrates your intellect and accomplishments. And we all know you’re a genius vegan blogger! This looks pretty close to my average breakfast smoothie, plus a small handful spinach. yum.


Heidi May 18, 2011 at 12:56 am

I recently returned to school after five years away, and the thing that struck me was how easily I reverted to basing my self-esteem on grades, just as I did when I was young, as though a letter really meant something about who I am! I dealt with it by focusing why I was really there–not to compete with others, or to meet the same rigid academic standards I set for myself when I was younger and had less life experience, or to impress the prof with my intelligence, but to expand my mind in new directions and reach my career goals. Hope you’re feeling better soon.


bitt May 18, 2011 at 12:57 am

I’m used to being tops of the class too. It was a tough pill to swallow when I wasn’t getting As in Chemistry. But it got to me and I eventually quit (along with other factors) so I hope you keep with it. Cheering you on!

And that looks like a great smoothie. Blues and blacks are my friends.


Kate (Peacocks & Moonshine) May 18, 2011 at 3:16 am

Hey Gena-I had an awful day yesterday, too. But hooray for bad days because once we get through them, we realize how good we have it :)

You seem to have tons of good things going for you-pursuing your passion to the fullest, a loving boyfriend, an exciting move and a beautiful blog filled with caring readers who support you in every way.

Hope your day is better today and happy hump day-




kate May 18, 2011 at 4:43 am

Sorry you didn’t get the grades you wanted, but as you so wisely pointed out, you are at the start of a long journey and you will learn new ways of learning. I am just so impressed that you have made the switch from an Arts grad and background to the hard core medical sciences – no mean feat in its own right. Enjoy the smoothie and your break.


evelina May 18, 2011 at 8:10 am

that looks sooooooooo goooooooooood!!!!!!!!!! yummo!!!!!!
Do you know what can i use instead of hemp? theres no hemp here in Argentina….


Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) May 18, 2011 at 10:04 am

“Maybe one of my biggest flaws is that I’m prone to measuring my worth in grades, or in professional accomplishments, or by my resume, which is a fairly simplistic way of looking at things. “–

Oh you just described ME!

I am so sorry your grades weren’t quite as you hoped. Oh, don’t I know that feeling (but not recently). Again, major props to you for going back to school and as you say, learning to relearn.

The only supportive advice I can offer is to check out my post, I just posted about a Taste of the Tropics Smoothie. Come down to Aruba with me and drink one poolside. I know you’re not much of a drinker, but I can spike yours with some rum if you’d like :)

Seriously, hang in there, Gena! You have a wonderful boyfriend, you’re going to move to a new city and how exciting is that, you have great friends, a new Vitamix, and a fab party…now I hope the party was fun!!! :)


Diana (Soap & Chocolate) May 18, 2011 at 10:41 am

Oh Genaface, I can relate hardcore. In fact, I don’t think I ascribed much of my growing-up identity to anything BUT being a smartypants. And when it came time to apply to colleges, I couldn’t understand why the Ivy League schools were “reaches” for me. Was I or was I not salutatorian, thankyouverymuch? But obviously, 10 years later, I know better than to assign too much significance to academic stuff, excellent track record or not–nothing I do now is the direct result of that, so yeah. My first grades in college were a bit of a slap in the face and a reminder that I was no longer in a class of 42 girls, but I made up for it down the line, just like you will. There is, after all, a learning curve to the learning curve, and you are but a fledgeling med student. Can’t wait to hear more about it. See you soon! xo


Lana May 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I have a had a few experiences similar to this, so can imagine how you feel.
Though the grades weren’t what you were hoping for, but this is the very beginning of the journey. The fact that you balalnced returning to school with all of the other aspects of your life is itself an incredible achievement.
What is inspiring for me is that though you were upset, you honoured those negative emotions and then moved on. You reacted with grace (:
On another note, that smoothie sounds delicious, and luckily I think I have everything on hand to make it for my breakfast tomorroe! x


Katie May 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Though not in grad school currently, I too was at the top of my class, and put a significant value on grades…and essentially equated them with my worth. So I definitely feel you.

I have been considering going back to school to become an RD, and what scares me the most, besides the astronomical cost, is that the sciences do not come as easy to me as communications or humanities. So I would have to start over, and potentially not be “perfect” while I take the pre requisite science courses. Sounds kind of similar to what you’re going through, and I have to say, that your story is incredibly inspiring, and helps me see that it is possible to go after “impossible” dreams.


Ritika May 18, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I’m sorry to hear that your grades weren’t what you expected. It’s wonderful that you are able to bounce back and see the lessons and hard work ahead. I am currently in medical school and going through the hard-core science series right now. It is at this stage that people tend to drop or extend. I have come from a science background, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. I remember when I took Orgo, I got a C on my first exam. I did cry, but guess what? I ended up with a strong A in the class. I learned how to study for the professor’s exams. You are already doing so many wonderful things: keeping up a healthy lifestyle, maintaining strong relationships, and sticking with a positive and determined attitude. Med school gets progressively more difficult, but you learn to handle more information as time goes on. I probably have memorized anywhere from 500-1,000 pages of core science material since January, and still have class until July. I don’t mean to scare you, but just give you a perspective. I am learning everything I’ve always wanted to and it’s absolutely thrilling (and difficult, stressful, and sacrificing…lol)
Find your weaknesses and figure out how to strengthen them. A little luck on your side and you’ll be fine. Good luck, Gena! :)


Christine (The Raw Project) May 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm

So sorry about your grades, I remember those frustrations from college. I’m so impressed that you’ve balanced such a busy schedule while going back to school so smoothly and it sounds like you’re bouncing back from this minor setback nicely. The smoothie sounds wonderful!


Clare @ Fitting It All In May 18, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Sorry to hear you had a rough day – but you are so determined and such a hard worker that I have every confidence you will excel in Medical School and become a fantastic doctor. I couldn’t think of anyone I’d want to see more, even if your grades weren’t perfect.


Aj May 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

Emotions are important in that they are our body and mind’s most powerful means of communication. Your sadness, anger, and hurt, while distressing to feel, are very important in their communication that you care very deeply about your academic pursuits and that you are challenging yourself. I have recently had the experience – having excelled at all things academic and professional – of reaching that point of not excelling. It was hardly to radically embrace that experience but I came away from it knowing that it was a clear signal that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. “There is beauty in the struggle” (Brandi Carlile) Nothing worth doing comes easily.

Except maybe the ease with which you make smoothies! And for that I have a specific question. I recently purchased hemp protein in an effort to add more protein to my mornings – nut butters are a bit fatty for me in the morning and, sadly, soy protein has become harder to digest as my age now starts with 3. The other morning I made my second smoothie with the hemp protein and very shortly after had the worst stomach upset I have had in recent memory (sorry TMI). I am a little shy to try again (especially during the week before I leave for my morning commute)…is it at all likely that I have an intolerance for hemp protein (is that common?) or do think it is more likely bad luck? I generally have a tummy of steel.


melody polakow: Vegan for 3.33 a day May 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Hang in there! Your tenacity is infectious … keep on keeping on!


Jordan May 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Photons have mass? I didn’t even know they were Catholic?


Aletheia May 20, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Aw, big hugs Gena. If you’ve ever heard me on Twitter complaining my life out about school… you now understand why! Being a Science student is no easy undertaking. Studying science really requires a totally different way of thinking — one that, even after 4 years of rigorous training, still doesn’t come naturally to me. Do your best, and don’t beat yourself up if grades don’t pan out. If you ever need science help though, or advice to get into med school, or even just moral support as a fellow science student, feel free to reach out to me. I’m here for ya! Best wishes.



Erinn June 21, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Thanks for this fabulous post. You have brought great inspiration to my writing and my food blog. This post hit home for me and I recently made a post of similarity based off your smoothie…I changed the smoothie a little, but it came about fabulous:)
Thanks for the inspiration and the openness of your writing!


Tiina July 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Jenna I’m a doctor now and my basic science grades were very (very) meh but I got through it and the really important parts are still in your future- the clinical years. Really amazing doctors are often in the mid zone basic science wise and it’s because that stuff has little to do with the really important stuff- physical diagnosis and getting your ass out of bed to see the patient and checking things obsessively and staying on top of things and being kind to people and looking up the things you don’t know and generally, being energetic and un-lazy. All of which you do now or will soon, excell at. I love blueberry smoothies, but don’t be blue okay?


Gena July 10, 2011 at 9:59 am


Thanks so much. I cannot begin to tell you what the comments and kind emails from medical professionals mean to me at this time. Thanks for writing in, and I’ll stay away from the blues over General Chem!



Rebecca July 11, 2011 at 3:47 am

Gena, I’m a doctor too, and I think the poster above didn’t realize that you’re in a postbac, not in medical school yet. She’s right that the first 2 years of med school don’t really matter much in terms of how good of a doctor you are, but they do matter in terms of where you want to go for residency. And for you right now, your grades do matter because you still need to get accepted to medical school and it’s so competitive nowadays. There are so many people who want to get in b/c the economy is so bad and being a doctor means you’ll always have a job (as well as mountains of debt, a less-than-ideal lifestyle, and constant stress… but that’s another story). In any case, I have no doubt that you’ll get accepted to med school, and all you can do is your best in your postbac classes. Keep your head up and keep pushing forward and you’ll be fine! :)


Gena July 11, 2011 at 4:58 am


Thanks for this. The mountains of debt and, to a lesser extent, the lifestyle almost deterred me altogether (not to mention my age), but ultimately I decided that if those were the main (and really only) deterrents, they alone should not dissuade me. I know that my grades matter right now; I also know that they aren’t indicative very much of my med school performance. Thanks for giving me some affirmation and support!



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