On October 17th, myself and several other blind and visually-impaired performers are taking to the virtual stage to showcase all kinds of talents. There will be singers and musicians and spoken word artists and even, I’m told, a clogging tutorial. I’m not even sure what clogging is, but I’m excited to find out!
For my part of the show, I’ll be reading a prose piece. I’m deciding between two (and both are ones I’ve read at other events). I just have to read both over, pick one, and edit out the swearing. I’m assuming this is a family-friendly audience, while most of my live reading spoken word type stuff has always been among adults.
The event benefits the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania and is part of Meet the Blind Month, which happens yearly every October.
I’m looking forward to sharing my work, and to experiencing the varied talents of the other performers.
SPRING 2021 UPDATE to this post from September 2020: I’m going back to medical school. We got a new dean who’s willing to work with me (a low bar, I know) and she genuinely seems pretty great and really invested in the disability part of the job). We’ve sorted out some tricky issues (rural rotation, EHR access, rotation planning). It’s still an ongoing process, and still has a lot of battles currently and looming ahead, but at least for now, I’m back. I missed medicine a lot, and was also kinda bored out of my gourd even with tons of projects going on, so all that plus the new dean and I’m a student again, as of April 26.
You might say “I come back stronger than a ’90s trend.”
Also, my coming back doesn’t negate any of the absolute BS that led to my leaving, and so with that, I leave you the original post, unabridged, below:
Since this post is a sequel to that one, I’m posting the lyric video again.
In “exile” from folklore, Taylor Swift and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver are singing to and about an ex-lover. For me, the song has taken on a totally different, personal meaning.
It’s held steady as my favorite song on folklore (with many others way, way up there, at this moment the next closest has to be “the lakes”) because the whole concept of exile seems to fit my life right now. Even if it’s (semi) self-imposed.
For me the you of the song isn’t an ex, isn’t a lover, isn’t a person at all.
It’s medical school. It’s medical training as a whole. It’s the medical education industrial complex.
Last year, I placed second in the Kay Snow Writing Contest in the category for graduate-level students. I’d previously placed third in Kay Snow nonfiction back in 2013 for an essay. This was the first time I entered since. You do have to wait a couple years to be eligible again (I think two or three) and I gave it six.
It was also the chapter I read, so long ago, at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC as part of The Best Memoirists’ Pageant Ever in 2007, which I apparently never posted about back in the day, though I was sure I had (couldn’t find anything in my drafts either). The picture on my bio page comes from that event.
One of these days, I’d love to get published AND paid for a piece of writing. It’s always been one or the other, never both. This was a cash prize, of $100. Plus a free day at the Willamette Writers conference.
I had plans for that. The timing was perfect for the conference last summer. It fell towards the end of an Enrichment Week at medical school, meaning we had to sign up for activities but most of the week was totally open. Meaning that I could go. Meaning that my writing life and my medical student life were brilliantly coalescing for the second time that year. Back in March, the yearly AWP conference had been here, in Portland, on my bus line, perfectly overlapped with my Spring Break. It was all so charmed.
In The Artist’s Way, the seminal book on creativity, author Julia Cameron introduces two Basic Tools, after the introduction and before the week-by-week chapters. These two Basic Tools, she says, are the cornerstone to connecting with creativity.
The first is Morning Pages, discussed in last week’s Artist’s Way Reflections column, the practice of writing three handwritten pages of whatever comes to mind every morning. I’ve wrestled with these pages, but ultimately find them to be helpful, a way to connect to what I’m actually feeling, which isn’t always easy but is in its own way grounding. They’re also a good source of fresh ideas, a way to puzzle through problems and often a place to dump the mental waste before starting the day.
The second Basic Tool is the Artist Date. You’re supposed to go on a “date” with your artist self once a week. Do something fun for an hour and no one else is allowed to come along. Quality time with your creative side.
And I’m going to be real. I get the theory behind it, it all sounds great when Julia Cameron extols the values of an Artist Date. But in actuality, I hate it.
This morning, I did a thing. It has to do with what is for now still unsayable but which came up a lot in this anguished post earlier this week. This thing I did is a huge step towards being able to talk openly about it, which I’m dying to do.
This song was playing at the crucial moment of doing the thing, and that’s where the title for the post comes from. Even though my situation is so different from what Taylor Swift and Bon Iver are singing about, everything feels like it fits. It’s my current favorite off of folklore, and I don’t think that’s an accident.
Lines that stick out for me at the moment, aside from the one used in my post title include:
“you’re not my homeland anymore”
“you were my town
now I’m in exile seeing you out”
“second third and hundredth chances
balancing on breaking branches”
and the one line I always want to scream along with the perfect bridge of this song
This is a column I’m going to start doing weekly on Sunday nights (or thereabouts depending on circumstances). I’m going to check in on how I did that past week, and post what my creativity goals are for the coming week.
With today being the first one, I thought it made sense to start out by talking about what I’m working on. I really struggled to come up with a cohesive goal list or plan for the year even before everything went upside-down and I still feel like week to week and sometimes day by day is how I’m taking things. I’ll try to write something for August that’s a more overarching plan for the month, so hopefully I’ll come up with that in the next couple of days.
But for now here are the main things I’m working on:
When I started posting again in April, as April, I thought I’d come back quickly to regular blogging. Yeeeeeah, about that. Clearly that wasn’t the case.
I’m going through some major life upheavals, and though I won’t go into it now, I plan on posting about it on here at a later time. Right now, a lot of it is still under wraps, kept off of here and off of my social media, but as things move forward that will start to shift.
There’s just a lot to work out and through and I’m really in the shit right now.
NOTE: This is not a new post. This post is from April 2018. I was looking to link to it and found I’d taken it down, reverted it to a draft (I also found a bunch more drafts of posts I thought were published in there, oooops). I guess I took it down once I decided to go to medical school, bury the evidence of my ambivalence.
So, yeah, spoiler alert: I went.
Here’s the post from April 2018:
There’s an episode in Season 7 of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai has to write a character reference to Luke. When she tells Rory that she can’t write the letter, they have this exchange:
Rory: Sounds like you’re overthinking this. Maybe if you just put pen to paper.
Lorelai: I tried that, I thought, “I’ll just sit down and write whatever comes – no judgment, no inner critic.” Boy was that a bad idea.
Lorelai: Because my brain is a wild jungle full of scary gibberish. “I’m writing a letter, I can’t write a letter, why can’t I write a letter? I’m wearing a green dress, I wish I was wearing my blue dress, my blue dress is at the cleaner’s. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue, ‘Casablanca’ is such a good movie. Casablanca, the White House, Bush. Why don’t I drive a hybrid car? I should really drive a hybrid car. I should really take my bicycle to work. Bicycle, unicycle, unitard. Hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey, monkey, underpants!”
Rory: Hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey, monkey, underpants?
Lately, like for the last month, my brain feels like hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey monkey underpants.
I had my first medical school interview a few days ago, and I feel like cataloguing my experiences here, as a way to both share the experience I’m going through in applying to medical school as a non-traditional applicant with a disability, and also as a way to collect some of my impressions in one place.
To back up a little, I applied this summer. After my final final exam as an undergraduate (physical chemistry), later that afternoon I started filling out the application. No rest for the determined. I submitted my application in July, applying to 19 schools. This sounds like a lot (and it is) but I know people who’ve applied to double that many. In September 2016, I sat down with my finances to plan out how much I needed to have saved for each step of the process and had determined that if I met those goals, I could apply to ~18 schools. So pretty much on target.