18 September 2013

'Twas the Night Before... Isthmus?

There’s something about the night before that is timeless, as fleeting as it is.  I still remember the night before my ninth birthday, the night before I moved into my freshman dorm, and the night before I gave my senior cello recital.  The heightened emotion, whether terror or excitement, keeps you lying electrically tense late into the night, trying to turn off your thoughts while helpless to stop them.  I have always imagined that the night before getting married, I would be unable to sleep and would finally crawl out of bed at dawn, merely grateful that the night was over.

Tomorrow I begin my first level-one field placement, shadowing an occupational therapist at an elementary school.  It is merely one full day of shadowing in and of itself, but from my late-night perspective, it is quite a significant milestone.  Tomorrow marks the first day of my career endeavors within the workplace.  Tomorrow I will leave the house at 7:00 a.m. wearing a badge that introduces me with the letters “OTS” after my name.  Tomorrow.

Well, let’s make it 7:15.

08 September 2013

The Pupusa Ring

I have experienced the perfect Friday night.  It happened about a month ago now, after a grueling week of my summer session.  It was nine o'clock, and my housemate and I were hungry.  We decided to venture five blocks down the road to Scoops, the gourmet ice cream shop without a sign where you order a "single scoop" and receive two, an overt act of generosity every time.  When they’re open, you can recognize it by the sample spoon art in the window; when they've run out of ice cream, they pull down one of those metal rolling storefront gates that look like garage doors, and you would never know what’s behind it.  Last time I was there, I ordered lemon basil and blueberry rose water.

The defining moment came on our walk home, however.  A Hispanic couple had set up a small street pupusa stand with a stove under a canopy, and the wife was frying them on a stove right before our eyes.  We quickly joined the small crowd seated in the warm cloak of light and placed our order.  We sat there for fifteen minutes, just watching her cook, taking in the comfort of the pupusa community.  A family sat to our right, the bossy girl teaching her little brother how to dance to the music from their mom’s phone.  One couple retreated into the darkness to eat in their truck, but more stepped into the circle of light to bring back dinner for their families.  Krystina and I smiled at the dancing kids, listening to the constant background sizzle of the grill.  When the couple called us forward for our food, she chatted with them for a minute in easygoing Spanish, while I stood beside her, mute but grateful.  As we picked up our paper bags to leave, the husband smiled and said in English, “Have a good night.  See you soon.”

29 July 2013

Intensive Adventures

I like to call myself an "academic pragmatist", or a "cognitive miser" on special occasions.  I learn for tests, and I read for papers.  (Well, generally speaking.  Of course if something fascinates me that's a different case.  Let's not go thinking I get no enjoyment out of learning.)  Grades are what drive me to learn, and that generally works quite well.  I should say that it generally worked quite well.

Six weeks into the program's summer intensive, and everyone holds such high standards for themselves.  Our classmates are too friendly and relatable for any antipathetic tension in the air, but I know many of us are feeling like we're running to keep up with a train that's just started to leave a station.  I am, anyway.  I guess this is what grad school is: successful, talented graduates with the same goals and interests, brought together and taught to excel.  The problem is that I'm trying too hard to be at the front of the train.  I am competing against myself, against my highest standards, and it's exhausting.

Comparison is the root of a good amount of evil, I'd say.  It's sucking the joy out of the B+ I earned in my first graduate school course.  The class average was an A-.  Honestly, being below average is not a situation in which I like to find myself, and historically I have usually managed to avoid it.  It doesn't matter that others have more of a background in the class material.  It matters that wherever I started, I ended the race a few breaths behind 50% of my class.  I don't like these thoughts, but they nag, and I don't want to be thinking them at all!

The other day, I was standing outside of the campus hospital, waiting for a friend.  It was bright, so I went over to stand in the shade of some palm trees and soon realized that I was waiting on the released-patient curb.  Aides brought out two begowned elderly people in wheelchairs, and we all waited together under the palm trees.  Suddenly I realized something: I had been focusing on the wrong population.  My classmates, as charming and intelligent as they are, should not be the people I use to measure my success.  The reasons that I'm studying aren't in my classroom; they're on the sidewalk outside the hospital.

I feel that God showed me this very deliberately at the beginning of grad school, so that I can have the proper motivation going forward.  It made me think of, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me."  My motivation is Jesus in a wheelchair.