I have been absent writing and reading; trying to wrap up my class. I still have to make some edits . . .
My brain is quite tired tonight, so forgive me. Yet, I want to say a couple things.
I want to say that going to graduate school has been one of the best decisions of my life. It is ten, twenty times better than undergrad. Why you ask?
You get to have real intelligent conversations with your peers and almost more importantly with your professors. You learn and think about things you never even imagined.
I think one of the best things in life is learning something new. You don’t have to go to school if school is not your thing. But – learn something new for the fun of it.
Sometimes I listen to live webinars – this is more financially driven. I want to take a short 2-3 night course on the ABCs of investing. I look at the Brookline Adult Education book every season and my local community book – to see if there is a class or something I want to learn.
Learning something new just opens you up.
Which brings me to the conversation I had with my professor this week. We bounced ideas off one another for my final project, while he took notes. He created a reading list for me to start. Then he asks, “What do I want to do when I am done with my MA?”
I can teach – which I would like to do in some capacity at some point. I have learned and realized that I like to help people with the moments and things that I found in my life the most difficult. Is that paying it forward?
Or maybe it is like, I am so appreciative of those moments and opportunities in life that I want someone else to feel that relief, feel that support.
Then he asked if I want to go further and get my Ph.D. He said, “What I know about you is that you are curious – and you love to learn.”
I said, “The thing is a couple programs I looked at requires to take three classes the first semester – I can’t do that.” Then I started spilling.
“This is what I want to do my final project on .” I told him the term I want to call it – his eyes perked.
I took out the book Disability Rhetoric.
“This is the thing, which I shouldn’t even have to do (my prof understands this); Do you know what cystic fibrosis is?”
“I have heard of it.”
I begin to explain. “I know you know what I am talking about – just as it said here in this book – ableism/disablism; normates/non-normates.
If you are not a normate – a white, heterosexual man – many times, if not always, you have to state yourself.”
A normate by definition is – the constructed identity of those who, by way of the bodily configurations and cultural capital they assume, can step into a position of authority and wield the power it grants them” – Rosemarie Garland-Thomson.
“Rhetorically – or truly, normalcy functions not to define itself, but to mark out what it is not.”
Disability scholars have pointed out, the categories of normal and abnormal, able and disabled are invented and enforced in service of “a certain kind of society” in service of particular ideologies.”
So – you have the ideal and if you are not the ideal, often times you must state or deal with the ramifications of not being ideal.
“I am a woman. I am a homosexual. I am trans. I am queer. I am black. I am Asian . . . ” And thus then define yourself behind the normate backdrop.
“I am Tessa and I cannot take three classes the first semester because I have cystic fibrosis.” I can work to obtain a Ph.D. – but I have to do it in my own timeline.
Then I said – “Okay, people used to have 2, 3 chronic conditions – now it is 8, 10, because of science, technology, and brains combined with longevity – as we all seem to want to live longer and fuller lives . . . ” my prof then steps in and says “We will all probably have a chronic condition if not several in our lifetimes.” Thus, deemed to be disabled.
“We need to have systems and infrastructures created for non-normates.” Then, I even get more going – “But the thing is, I shouldn’t even have to say this or define myself. We are who we are and culture should accept and accommodate – but not even accommodate because I am not asking for “special accommodations” but to have or understand that people do not follow one, linear path for education or for anything.”
Then I said, “I have to questions myself at times – Is my disease legit enough to bring forth concerns? I have a big disease or big in the way that people still die all the time with this disease, which again I shouldn’t even have to rate or put myself on a tier ranking about how legit my disease is.
But, let’s say a person has arthritis, or psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia or another auto-immune disease? Then, their definitions get really long and the questioning and explaining are like a scroll dropping to the floor.
Then there are the disability myths – Omg. Films play these out again and again, physical and psychological:
Kill or cure.
Overcoming or Compensation – “the person with a disability overcomes their impairment through hard work or some special talent that offsets their deficiencies.
Pity or charity
Physical deformity is a sign of an internal flaw
Disability as evil – as if the character has a disability because they are mad at the world. Richard III is the best example.
Disability as Good – as in Tiny Tim. It allows for a litmus test for good and put his goodness up against other characters.
Disability as an ethical test.
Disability as Isolating – almost like a personal tragedy.
Disability as a sign of a social ill – a character regarded as less than because they may look different and then deemed as evil or bad.
There are five-six more myths.
How about we accept disabilities – which some people may not even be disabled, and allow them to live full, healthy, able lives. That may be within their own context but not a myth.
While saying all this – I have met and have been in social relationships, work relationships, just walking through life relationships where people are kind, receptive, and empathetic and know that perhaps I just need a little more time to accomplish daily if not life activities. I don’t consider myself disabled – and nor should anyone else.
However, trying to always “fit” into an able-bodied world is like jumping through hoops and over hurdles at times. I am thankful for the people in my life who have created a space to make it a bit easier.
While noting, a friend of mine who has MS is working at home. While through the applying and interviewing process she realized that her MS never had to be a part of the conversation. A great relief.
So, could I go on in school, possibly, yes? I love learning and I love being around people who are curious. My prof even said, “You could work with Jay Dolmage.” He is the author of Disability Rhetoric that book I identify so much with.
Perhaps, schools have those accommodation structures, the non-linear, non-normate, but it isn’t stated on their “how to apply” face value web page. I would need to dig and have conversations, followed by definitions.
How did this all start? Stories, Greek myths, histories, and acceptance. Written well, I would submit this work to a conference.
At some point – all of us, will have a chronic condition if, more like when, we live long enough.
The churning of the crank stops,
yields its forwardness, to oil
its high-pitched snarly gear.
Switches its tracks. The steel
wheel grinds. The pitch squeaks,
you squint, taking in its notes.
Forwardness resumes when the oil
plotted properly in its grooves, and
the man with the hat says,
“It’s time to move!”
Work Cited: Jay Timoth Dolmage Disability Rhetoric. Syracuse University Press. 2014.