Fax From the Future: I don’t know if anyone’s seen the show Switched at Birth on ABC Family, but Daphne, one of the main characters, one of the girls who was switched at birth, is deaf and is also pre-med. In general, though her disability is different from mine, I’ve found the portrayal pretty accurate. In this past season (2015), she started her pre-med classes, and I found a lot of her struggles and interactions in that world to be really realistic (well except for on an exam she mixed up cations and anions, which I don’t find realistic at all, but that’s chemistry-related not disability experience). Sometimes the show stirs me up and gets me mad. Sometimes it inspires me to want to tell my own story. Sometimes it kind of makes me nostalgic for the time I was writing about in this post, taking those first chemistry classes.
Now on to the original post:
I announced on my facebook a week or so ago that I’m going pre-med in school, which is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and want to say more about. I’ve been thinking of it as “my big secret” for awhile, but really it was more just something that was so new, and I was so uncertain of, that I had to keep it to myself for awhile.
Fax from the Future: So, looking back at this post is a little disheartening.
I did not get the volunteer opportunity that the post centers around. But what is really shitty is I mentioned in passing later in this post a job that I really wanted, and I also did not get that job, which was almost definitely due to my disability and the company was really shitty about it, and it was a job I was super, super perfectly qualified for. Even the person at the Career Center who was helping me with my resume/cover letter for that job, was sure it was a sure thing. It was awhile ago, but it honestly still really bugs me, a lot, because it was so blatant and unfair, probably one of the times I felt most openly discriminated against. And maybe I’m a little mad at myself for not somehow confronting the situation (though I’m not sure how I could have in a productive way), I just feel a little shitty that I “let them” get away with it. It’s exactly this repetitive experience that makes me feel so weary and unmotivated to keep trying sometimes. This one was a pretty bad one. There’s a separate post about it somewhere in here, maybe I’ll post that next.
I just finished a four-week summer course in immunology, as part of my biology degree. Summer classes are INTENSE. Material that is usually spread out over an entire term is squished into four little weeks, and you have class four days a week, two and a half hours a day. And overall, you cover a huge, huge amount of material over a really short amount of time. There is lots of reading. It’s intense.
To make it worse, Immunology is a 400-level biology class, meaning mostly seniors take it, who’ve had several years of bio already. I’ve had one. There are also two recommended pre-req classes to take beforehand: cell biology and microbiology. Since all I’ve had is the first year (called “Principles” at my school), I haven’t taken either. So, I knew I was getting into something a bit over my head. It was just, I really liked the immune system part of Principles, and I like a challenge and it sounded kind of badass to do something that difficult in a short amount of time, making it that much more difficult. And it just sounded soooo interesting. When I was first thinking about it, I asked my Principles prof if I would be crazy to try it. She said to me, “All our summer courses are intense but I think if someone could do it, it’s you.” And that felt really good. But I still thought it might be half-crazy to try. Anyway, the class was full. For awhile I checked, day after day, to see if there were any openings and when there weren’t, I kinda gave up.
So, for whatever reason, I’ve been feeling like putting some of my writing up, so here is a poem I wrote a few years ago, followed by the story of how it came to be.
I Am Not Your Touch Tank Sea Star
When I’m a sea star
I hold the sea’s mystery in my purple
Yet I live at the tips of my spines
Erected like walls to protect
My soft center from being hurt or feeling
The hurt I’ve already been.
As I scavenge along the bottom
For bull kelp and sea lettuce
I cling to any steady surface
With tube feel like a miser who knows
I don’t deserve the water
And I don’t let anyone touch me
Sometimes I’m a sea cucumber
Spikes only ward my demons off for show
I let them go tender
And as I lay exposed
My past creeps up behind me
Slithering inside my open sores
Carrying their torches of truth
I feel them settle in my gut
So I twist it around them, bunch it up
With a hurl I eviscerate my organs
And scramble to grow new insides
Once I was an octopus
Used eight arms to lift the top of the holding tank
Squeezed out, dropped to the floor and crawled
Through the crack under the door
Famished on the sand, inching forward
Telling myself I will not let them
Make me let myself die
If I can give me a little slack and a lot of love
I might make it
Back to the deeper seas I knew before captivity
Where they can’t coax me back
To put me in the big tank, captive
For their audience
I am free
On a blue moon I’m a blue dolphin
On waves with deeper frequency
Intelligence unfocused on rational thought
Feel no shame for stranding myself
To help a member of my pod in need
Sensed out with echolocation
Weathered harsh, howling storms
By surrendering to their windblown frenzy
I know the patterns of Earth’s turning
I have been to blue depths
Today I just want to be
I’ve actually been dying to blog about this but wanted to get some other things out of the way first. Like revamping it and updating it, for instance.
A few years ago, I wrote this post about my favorite winter memory, the second winter I spent living in the dispensary, a perfect cabin at Camp Orkila and how blissful that winter was, reveling in my connectedness to the natural world. I sometimes feel there aren’t words for how satisfying in a soul way living there was to me. And it wasn’t just the proximity to the ocean, the way I heard the owls and the creaking of cedar trees at night, or the thick woods I could walk through or even the months I lived there while having very little work, or all the great books I read, or the great company I had in my friend Tracy, or the walks by the coast.
Classes start on Monday! In one sense it feels like I’ve been on break forever, and in another it feels like it’s all starting up again so soon.
My main class will be the continuation of the biology class I took last quarter. This time though, the focus will be on evolution for the first half of the term and plant form and function for the second half of the term. I’m excited for both, though I read somewhere that in the evolution section the students have to memorize phylogenetic trees (basically these charts with branches showing how closely or distantly different species are related based on their rRNA sequences) and that sounds a bit tedious.
And my brain is full, I don’t think there is any point in trying to stuff in any more details about biology. Anyway we had a practice final and I got 78 out of 80, so I’m probably fine, I hope.
So, today is the last day of my first term. Overall, it’s been really good. Really loving the biology class, and my lab group started studying together. That’s been great! We’re all contributing, splitting up tasks like writing up vocabulary, going through practice tests, teaching each other things the others don’t get so well. I know it has been a huge benefit on both ends. It’s great to have people to clarify things you don’t quite get, and it’s also very helpful to teach something to someone else. I feel like my knowledge of how to solve genetics problems really solidified when I wrote it out to show another girl in my group. And studying with these guys is fun! Our ages range from 22 to 39 and a lot of times we take our study sessions to the bar, or go grab a beer before class or after a test. It’s been really fun, and it’s kinda cool to have people to talk with about this stuff b/c most people I know aren’t really into biology.
Okay, I just had an awesome afternoon. Today I met with a woman who works as a naturopathic physician who is totally blind. I mean, WOW. It’s one of those times that reminds me that my visual impairment is NOT an excuse to not do things! I mean this woman is a doctor! She went through classes like gross anatomy and diagnostic imaging with no eyesight at all. How amazing is that?!?! It makes me feel like, yes, I can do science stuff, and there are all kinds of alternative techniques to do visually-intense things, in school and in life.
She also invited me to a group of blind and visually-impaired knitters and I’m going to do it. I’m good with my hands, and that is something that I’ve always felt that if I were taught how to do, I could really do by feel. So I am going to go get my knit on and be a stitchin’ bitch! It’ll be really nice to get connected with the visually-impaired community too. I’m psyched about that!
So I have a bit of a predicament for signing up for classes.
I have to take between 6-8 credit hours each term this year. If I take less than six, I don’t get financial aid. If I take more than eight, then it’s more than half-time, and I simply can’t afford it even with the financial aid. Also if I take eight or less all year, then next year I can be considered an Oregon resident for the rest of my schooling, which will make all the difference in the world. I will seriously be paying less going full-time next year as a state resident, than I am this year at half-time. By a pretty significant amount!
So pretty straightforward, right? 6-8 credits shouldn’t be too hard to manage. Most classes are 4, so it should be easy.
Except that the Biology class I’m taking is a 5-credit class b/c it includes the lab. So that alone is not enough, and if I add any regular class, that puts me at 9 and I’m over my limit. So what it basically means I have to do is take some more unusual classes.