Saturday, March 23, 2013

I SEE THE LIGHT!!! ....literally

My life is far from uneventful.  And that (practically free) vacation I mentioned in my last post?  Is needed more than ever...

It's pretty common knowledge that my life pretty much revolves around reading, writing, and art.  Once upon a time, in my wee teenage years, I was about to embark to an art school for computer animation.  A mere 6 months or so before this I was diagnosed with an eye condition that (what I was told at the time) gave me a 50/50 chance of going blind.  Well I still went to school anyway giving the odds for my eyes my proverbial finger.  Why I came home from school that time isn't relevant, and I never really regretted the decision.  A few years later (as more was discovered about the condition) I was assured there are two different kinds and I would not be going blind after all.  Yay!

Since all of this, my life has taken a great many turns and I found that professionally art takes something of a back seat to my writing.  Well... maybe it's more riding shotgun.  But somehow (despite being told I'm not going blind after all) I was comforted with the idea that I was no longer going to try to make a career out of something so dependent on my vision.  You know...  Just in case.  Never really thought about how dependant writing was.

I've been trying to play it cool the last couple of months.  But something has been horribly wrong.  Maybe "play it cool" is the wrong phrase.  Denial.  Yeah, that seems a little more suiting.  Straight up denial.

It started with a crack... 

I find it funny how many parallels I can draw to Amy Pond's character in Dr. Who.  Here I am, staring at a crack only I can see, yet it's very real and is a precursor to bad things coming.  But as much as I would adore thinking that The Doctor was about to show up in my yard with an apple I gave him as a child, I knew that wasn't going to be the case.  For a good solid week (plus some) this squiggly black line was dead set straight across my right eye's field of vision.  It would move if I moved my eye.  I don't mean it would move as if it were some kind of sticker glued onto my eye and moving my eye took it with it, but it would move as if it were a flag on a pole with the wind shifting east to west and back instead.

Now I've had a couple of friends and family members go through "retinal detachments" in the past and like any proper OCD person obsessed with learning would,  I dug into research mode.  I love when new things come across my sponge-like mind.  This black crack is called a "floater" and is actually pretty common and not to be worried about.  All that's happening is the visceral fluids in the back of the eye begin to shrink as we get older and sometimes this leaves something of holes back there.  Sometimes they go away.  Sometimes they don't.  Some people just learn to live with them.  But sometimes, just sometimes, this shrinking fluid action causes the retina of the eye to pull and strain away from the eyeball until it tears/rips/detaches.

Seeing the Light
A couple of weeks after the "floater" went away, I found I had these sparkly shadows forming over my vision in that same eye.  It was as if a camera flash went off and the light imprint just never completely went away.  I didn't make the connection right away.  It was as if I just stood up too fast, and I figured it was just because of stress and such things.  And then it kept getting worse, until on occasion entire blocks of my vision were missing in that eye.  Several nights I'd wake up and half of the vision was just plain black.  I made an appointment afraid that the combination of floater and new lack of vision meant what it did for my friends.  Detached retina.

Let me explain the hazards of the detached retina as simply as possible.  The retina is responsible for (among other things) providing oxygen to your eye.  Think of it like the tube that connects the tank to the mouth piece when scuba diving.  No air, means no life.  Another example?  Ever put a rubber band around a finger and watch it turn purplish until mom yelled at you that your finger is going to fall off?  Something like that.

It isn't completely without hope of course.  In the 1980's, before we knew much about this, it usually meant you were out of luck and there wasn't much to do but pray to the archaic God of your choosing.  Today, we have the surgical advancements that allow us to fix the malady, first by inserting a small gas pocket behind the eye where it will push it back on, and then using a laser to, in essence, "seal" it in place.  It's time sensitive though and must be caught within a day or two.  (I'm paraphrasing and simplifying of course.)  Not the worst thing in the world, and relatively painless as far as surgery can go.  But for me, it couldn't come at a worse time.  Why?  You can't go in a pressurized cabin dramatically changing altitudes with a gas pocket sitting in your skull.  In fact you can't do much else but lay face down for weeks on end while it heals.

I was freaking out, and only furthering my own denial that anything was actually wrong.  I was NOT going to let this stop me for going to Japan!  Hell NO!  But I couldn't just let my eye fall out either.  (*Note that is hyperbole.  It wouldn't literally fall out.)  I made an emergency appointment at the doctor who wanted to see me immediately worried about that I could lose vision permanently as well.  When I got to the clinic I was assure that I do not have a detached retina.  I was going blind for a completely different reason.

The People of Glaucoma Welcome you!

I have what?  I'm not even 32 yet!  Glaucoma?  And how was this not seen coming?  No pun intended.  I wanted to hit someone.  Namely the assholes at the Walmart Corporation (back when I worked for them a couple years ago but I'm sure this hasn't changed) that decided a suitable substitution for providing an option for eye insurance was to give us a 20% discount off their store's eye centers, forcing us to use their sub-par services instead.   And when you need things like being referred to a specialist?  Or eye surgery?  IF the doctor there is educated enough to catch such things, you have NO recourse to pay.  The assistants working the pressure tests and color blind charts were rotating tires last week in the auto center, and the "doctor" is probably there because he flunked out of dental school.  My point is, the type of Glaucoma I have?  REALLY very painfully obviously catch-able if you know what to look for and shouldn't have come to this.

But, looking on the brighter side, I will still be able to go to Japan as the surgery I'm scheduled for is going to be fairly simple and should have me completely back on my feet after a couple of weeks.  In fact I shouldn't be too bad off after a couple of days.  I just can't put too much strain on my body physically for the more long term.  Classes are of course going to suck as I'm supposed to refrain from computer work... or reading....  or art....  or even watching tv......  shit.  Looks like I'll be going for a lot of walks?  As long as I don't look where I'm gonig :P

But of course as mentioned it could be worse.  The surgery uses a laser which will punch a hole in my eye where other people already have holes naturally to allow the pressure that's building to drain.  The doctor is willing to work with me on costs, and I seem to have several friends willing to help with chores, rides, and in "other ways" too....  I seem to have collected several offers for something that hadn't even remotely crossed my mind as it is just generally not part of my life style...  But hey.  Not saying I'm accepting...  But those walks may have the potential to be more entertaining than television after all?

Friday, March 1, 2013


In the last few weeks, a few things have changed.  Some pretty major changes actually...  And I can hardly breathe.

For starters, I changed jobs.  As romantically cliche as being able to say I put myself through college by (literally) scrubbing toilets is, I've moved on.  I was offered a position with the university tutoring.  Something I had applied for last year but had yet to acquire enough credits to qualify for.  And as teaching is going to look far more desireable on a resume vs janitorial, I was compelled to take the offer.  ....Despite the fact that it is at a pay cut back down to minimum wage.  (*sigh....  It would be fine if it weren't for the fact that my appointments keep cancelling on me, and I don't get paid if they don't show.)  I went from making about 100 a week to 50 a week.  Getting nervous.

I will admit I'm starting to panic just a little about finances.  My internship in Japan is not going to come cheaply for me.  Now, granted, the airfare is covered as well as meals and bording.  But, that doesn't mean I won't have my regular bills back home to keep up with.  Credit cards, phone, rent....  I've put together a plan to get by for the most part, and really that's where basically ALL of my tax refund is being dedicated.

I still have some hopes for a scholarship or two I applied for.  The other day one of my professors paused while walking past my desk, tapped it, and whisperred, "expect some good news soon."  Part of me wants to stay realistic and assume that she was simply saying that she graded a paper that I did well on.  But the other, more optomistic side, wants to imagine that she is on one of the deciding boards that awards the applicants.

But I suppose one good thing has come from my needing to raise funds for my education.  It has afforded me an unusual opportunity.  I have a difficult time ever "asking" for money.  And that goes double for family.  My mom's side tends to always tie strings on.  A gift is never free with them.  You will somehow owe them.  And they will cash in by evoking guilt over not going to church services frequently enough or... Anyhow, I always make it a point to earn what I'm given.  Either by promising to do my best academically to qualify for scholarships or rally sponsors, or by manual labor.  I have a need to prove my worth.  And I'm going to come back to that concept in a moment.  But first...

Keeping it in the Family

So, in my need for funds, upon visiting my parents the offer was made to help (however mildly) to alleviate my financial stress.  They really aren't in much of a position to do so, and as I said I don't take anything I haven't earned.  Lucky for me I have excellent handyman skills.  Couple that with my crackerjack cleaning skills and consider the remodling of the bathroom good as done.  I'm replacing all the caulk, restoring the floor grout.  Refinishing the cabinets.  Restoring the tub....  It will be a well earned commission.  Cheaper for my parents than hiring a professional, and mutually beneficial for me.  But the commission is almost besides the point.  In my time spent there these past couple of weeks, a piece of information was finally divulged to me.  A peice of information I have been without for the past 31 years.

Everyone knows I love my dad very much.  Hell, if I had to choose between my mom or dad, he's the victor 99.9 % of the time.  But in the biological scheme of things, he is my adoptive stepfather.  My biological father, the sperm donor, has been kept a very closely gaurded secret by my mother.  Decades of asking, acheived nothing.  My birth certificate was intentionally left blank.  No other family member knows, and for a long time I was confident that my mother would take the secret to her grave.  Until two weekends ago.  Whatever magic words I managed to say this time, I'll never know.  Whatever changed my mother's mind...  I have a name now.  I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.  I knew whatever it was that I was going to feel I wouldn't feel it right away.  I think it's starting to sink in now...  And I'm struggling with it.

I should mention however that I have NO intentions of ever contacting this man.  ...or his wife.  ...or the 3 other half siblings I apparently have.  ...or....  fuck.  .......Wellllp.  At least I have a name to go off of, so I can at least avoid accidentally dating a cousin or something.  I just don't want to disturb things.  After all... I'm not sure he actually knows I even exist, let alone any of the rest of them.  In fact, I have very good reason to believe that he doesn't know I exist.  If I show up now, it could very potentially destroy an entire family.  It's best I just stay away.

But as I said I'm not done processing so let me go back to the whole other thing I was talking about--

My Monetary Worth.

So today I was talking with another student, and we were discussing student debt and such.  This girl, let me start off, is rather clueless.  She doesn't seem to know what she wants to do.  She seems thoroughly unenthused about doing assignments, usually half-assing it.  She is one of those individuals that goes to college because you're supposed to go to college.  And one of those individuals that you can tell has never truly worked a day of her life.  Yet she always has fancy manicured nails, has an expensive phone, etc...  I struggle sometimes with the concept of being happy for the fortunes that smile upon others.  I admit that.  This is one of those times.

This individual was awarded a scholarship in the TENS of thousands for attending our university.  She has NO student debt.  Between the scholarship and the grants she's been awarded, she's covered.  When I ask if her family helps her cover her other bills, like food and phone, she replied "no."  I couldn't let it go.  I didn't understand how she could have that much just being given to her in grants.  Turns out, her grandmother invested more than 15 grand in stocks for her to use in college.  Somehow, she doesn't consider this as help from family.  ...If I were dead I'd be rolling in my grave.  Why?  Because when I asked how she qualified for the scholarship, if it was for good grades, or talent in the arts....  WHAT was it that made her so special?  She wrote an essay.  That was all.  She wrote a few paragraphs on why she needed the money.  The person who already had family supporting her with thousands upon thousands of dollars, wrote an essay about why she so desperately needed the money, and won first place.

I'm happy for her.  I am.  But I struggle to be.  Because through all of my hard work, all of my turmoil, I have nothing but debt to show and more turmoil ahead?  This path is by no means going to get easier.  While others just breeze through life, and never even appreciate what a miraculous scenario they've been given:  a supportive family, the freedom to enjoy education, and the luxuray of free time to dedicate towards it...  And I don't need the lecture that this is just a lesson so I WILL appreciate what I've worked for.  It is a lesson I have learned long ago, believe me.  I just can't help but wish I had just a portion of that good luck.  Just enough to alleviate some of this.  I just can't help but think how many other students at her school were probably in so much greater need, or so much more dedicated to accademic excellence.  I can't help but think that the people that donated that scholarship had intended it to go to someone that would have fully appreciated it.

.....I need a break.  I need a vacation.  And I'm taking one!

I know what you're thinking, "what? you're going to spend money on a vacation after all this bitching about financial stress?"  Let me rectify that assumption.  I will be working nonstop, (7days a week between the remodling and the tutoring gigs, not to mention my writing assistant job as well) until the end of the year.  I will have 2 weeks of time between the end of this semester and start of summer semester, where I will begin classes again, for a couple of weeks, and then my internship for Japan begins.  I will be working hard in Japan and return the weekend before Fall Semester begins.  (In other words, I will not have a break again until Winter Break of next year.  Savvy?

But you're right.  I still can't afford a luxurious get away.  Nor can I "waste" any time.  So, I'll be heading off to visit a friend, who is allowing me a place to crash.  Which means a kitchen to cook in... etc...  In other words, it will be no more expensive (aside transportation out there) than if I were staying home.  As for wasting time, there is a university out there I want to check out.  No I'm not planning on transferring schools.  (...Not yet anyway. And if I were I'd be looking at Miami.)  No.  What I want to look at is a University which just so happens to be rated in the top 20 in the world for creative writing PHDs.  Again, it's kind of just a pipe dream right now.  But it's kind of like shopping for a car.  Sure, you know you're going to end up in the sensible VW, but how often do you have an excuse to test drive the Ferrari?  (There are also 3 schools in New York that boast such reputations I wouldn't mind seeing either BTW.  But that trip will have to wait until more affordable.)  In the meantime, I'm justifying this trip as productive and frugal, as well as relaxing.

So that's where I am.  Oh and as a side update, we are almost to the halfway point and it looks like I'm maintaining A's in all 6 classes thus far.  (Seeing as I'm taking 18 credits this semester, I'll admit I'm proud of that.)  Yay.  I'm hoping for another Straight A finish.  Keep random body parts crossed for me to make it to the end maintaining it.

One last thing...  If any out there are so inclined to donate a buck or two to this silly education idea I have, I have put together a Gofundme page.  (THANK YOU to those that already have by the way.  You have no idea how much its appreciated!)  I'm looking at this page as a scholarship I'm putting together for myself funded by YOU, my audience.  I will never ask for any more than one semester's tuition at a time, and in exchange I give a whole hearted promise that my academic performance will ALWAYS be to the very best of my capabilities.  If you so wish, all you need do is follow the link below.  Thanks!