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Where lifeintheblueridges has been, and what’s next!

6 May

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a blog post, and that’s mostly because I have been focusing solely on my final year of college. As of last Thursday, I completed my last final exam of my undergraduate career. I’ll be graduating in just 4 days with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I truly can’t wait to have that diploma in my hand and have my family and friends around me to celebrate!

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.-Henry David Thoreau

What’s next in my life: Graduate school! Starting in August, I will attend UNC Charlotte’s MSW (Master’s of Social Work) program, and I truly can’t wait! One of my dreams of helping others is finally going to be coming true, and I am so ready for the journey ahead. Though it will be sad to close the UNC Asheville chapter of my life, I am anxious to start the next phase of my life in a new city which holds new opportunities and the chance to bring more wonderful people into my life. What could be more wonderful than that, you ask? Well…finally getting to focus solely on what I love and long to do for the rest of my life: helping others (hopefully the special needs population).

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.-Howard Thurman

Where lifeintheblueridges has been: Since its creation in November 2011, this blog has been an incredible gift to me in so many ways. Within the first few months of starting my blog, I connected with many people like me, aspiring writers. More than that, though, I was welcomed with open arms into a community I never knew I needed. Because of constant support and encouragement from those who knew me not personally, but simply through my writing, I finally reached a point in which I was able to start something I never thought I’d be able to do: the sharing of my story of living with Cerebral Palsy. In January of 2012, I began receiving positive feedback from fellow bloggers and connecting with others who either have Cerebral Palsy or another disability or know someone who does. Because of all the positive feedback, in January of 2012, I started writing my memoir of living with Cerebral Palsy. If it hadn’t been for the encouragement from the blogging community and other friends, I don’t know if I would have ever had the courage to open up about my experiences of living with CP. Since opening up, however, I have connected with so many people who’ve told me to keep on sharing. More recently, I’ve also been giving talks to elementary and middle schools in Buncombe County regarding my experiences of living with CP, and more specifically, the bullying experiences I had as a child as a result of my Cerebral Palsy. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve received to talk with so many kids about disabilities and bullying, especially because they have allowed the kids to learn more about what it’s like to live with a physical disability and it’s given them the opportunity to ask any questions they want about me and my disability (which I fully support since I know there are so many kids who are curious). Overall, through this blog, I have gained the courage to open up about my experiences and have developed the desire to share my story with others. However, I’ve also gained encouragers, supporters, fellow writers, beta readers fellow CPers, special needs parents…or more precisely, a community of people that is cheering me on currently and will continue to do so even after my memoir is eventually published (or that’s what I hope, anyway).

Where lifeintheblueridges is going: Beginning this July, I will no longer live in Asheville…no longer will I be nestled among these mountains I love. Therefore, the beloved lifeintheblueridges will be ending after this post. In the coming months, I’ll no longer be a college girl in Asheville. I’ll be even more than that…a graduate student in Charlotte! Therefore, though this blog has provided me with more than I ever thought possible…I’ll be creating a new blog, especially because I am about to close one door and open another. I am incredibly excited to begin a new blog journey, a blog that will solely focus on writing about my experiences of living with CP. Since this blog helped me to open up about my experiences, there’s NO WAY I’m going to stop sharing my story and writing my memoir. I hope to be sharing my story and the writing process of my memoir even more on my new blog!

*As of right now, I am not sure when my new blog will be up and running, but I will make one more post on here once the new blog is live so that everyone can continue following me and my story.*

Stuck between ability and disability.

15 Jul

Though I have Cerebral Palsy, I’m very much of an inbetween. I’m not fully able-bodied, but I’m not severely disabled either. I know what it’s like to feel as if I am holding other people back due to the things I am unable to do. However, I also know the feeling of being held back myself by those who are more severely disabled than myself. It’s not as if I am unable to do everything. It’s just that I may have to adapt the way I do certain things in order to participate in them like everyone else. Because my abilities fall in between the abilities of able-bodied people and the abilities of people with more severe forms of Cerebral Palsy, I’ve never felt completely comfortable in either group.

When I was a freshman at Wofford College, before I made the decision to transfer to UNC Asheville, there was an older disabled man who worked on the staff who had Cerebral Palsy. Though I never asked him if he had CP, I assumed he did because the way he walked was so similar to how I walk. I noticed him on campus. My eyes would catch his gait, and I’d look away, feeling as if I was seeing a reflection of myself. Again and again, I caught myself doing the same thing I hated in others: visibly looking uncomfortable.

One night while having dinner with friends in the cafeteria, the disabled man came over to our table. He looked at me, introduced himself, and commented that he had wanted to speak with me for a while. Though I acknowledged him and said hello, I became incredibly uncomfortable and quickly turned back to the conversation my friends were having. Eventually, the man walked away. Though the situation shouldn’t have freaked me out, it did. I hated that he approached me because of my Cerebral Palsy. I had wanted to fit in with my friends, and his presence made me feel as if I stuck out.

My perceptions have changed a lot since the experience that night at Wofford. Since then, I have started a blog, written about what it’s like to live with Cerebral Palsy, and have become much more open about discussing my experiences related to my physical disability. Though I don’t think fondly on my reaction towards the disabled man at Wofford, at the time, I couldn’t have even fathomed beginning my journey of self-acceptance. I was so far from even starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. Back then, I felt as uncomfortable with myself as I felt every time I saw the disabled man on campus.

Being stuck between fitting in with able-bodied people and those who have more severe forms of CP is continually frustrating. I do not necessarily have what is termed as “mild CP” because my CP noticeably affects my walking and my muscle tone. However, I am able to walk independently without assistance, which is not always the case for those with more severe forms of CP. I have recently joined a Facebook group for people who have CP because it’s becoming more and more difficult to describe the concept of chronic back pain and other frustrations to those who can’t even begin to understand what it’s like living with a physical disability. Therefore, I thought I’d benefit from a “support group.” However, within the group, I am reminded again of how much I don’t fit when I see the posts about power chairs, the frustrations of not being able to drive or not being able to live independently (since I am able to walk, drive, and I’ve lived on my own since I was 16).

On the good days, I’m comfortable with my able-bodied friends. On the bad days, when my back pain is worse than normal and all I want to do is cry, I wish I knew someone who was also stuck between ability and disability who understood my frustrations because at least we could be stuck together. However, this “stuck phase,” aggravating as it may be, is where I am, and there’s not much that can be done to fix that. I can’t make myself more able-bodied (no matter how much I wish that were the case), and I’d never choose to be more disabled than I already am. I’m just me, and even though it’s really hard, I’m trying to learn to be okay with that.

I’m back!

7 Jan

No, the break wasn’t long. However, yes, it was needed. Though I’m still in the stage of adjusting some things about my current life that had previously been on the back burner, I realized that I didn’t want this blog to be kicked to the back of my mind like so many other things. This blog has helped me too much to be at any place other than the forefront of my thoughts (right alongside academics, friends, and family).

One of my goals (not resolutions, but goals, or something I expect to stick around and even grow) for this year is to complete a rough draft of my memoir by the end of 2013. That being said, I am planning to spend as much time as I can to writing my memoir, which means my blog posts will no longer appear daily. I’m thinking of going bi-weekly or even weekly so that I actually might have something to say rather than feeling like I’m constantly rambling on about nothing. Though in the past I have shared certain memories related to my Cerebral Palsy on this blog (and have worked them into my memoir), I primarily began doing that because I was in need of support and feedback. Thanks to all of my lovely followers who have provided just that. However, now that I am beginning to not exactly need the encouraging feedback quite as often, I think it would be best to restrict my written memories to the Word document of my memoir. It seems safer that way. Plus, then my number of pages of my memoir might actually increase (hey, imagine that!). However, that doesn’t mean I won’t still be talking about my writing or what I’m facing on a daily basis in regards to my CP. I’ll still be sharing those snippets, and on those hard days when life just seems to knock me to the ground, every ounce of encouragement from all of you will be just what I need.

As the New Year came and went, I realized how often I was telling so many people: “I’m writing my memoir!” without actually doing much about it. Though I am not necessarily planning to give myself a deadline (good writing comes in time), I do want to move forward with my memoir. I’ve been in a pretty huge rut for quite a while, and even though I have never been a fan of outlines (normally, I’d prefer to just write, write, write and not care where it was doing), I think using an outline could provide me with a greater sense of direction in regards to my memoir, which is exactly what I need at this point. I don’t know how much it will help, but I’ll just have to see I guess.

Along with writing comes reading, and I have written numerous book reviews on this blog in the past. Today I signed up for GoodReads (and have decided to enter a Book Reading Challenge). My goal is to read 100 books in one year. Though that seems like a bit much right now, I know how much I read. And if I don’t complete the challenge, oh well. I just know that I will need a way to balance out all the writing I’m planning to do (plus college classes and friendships). Also, I think all the reading will be a nice break from focusing so heavily on my own life through writing my memoir. I think it was Stephen King who said: If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

It will be one heck of a year filled with tons of writing, tons of reading, academics, and as much fun as I can squeeze in! Thank you to all of you who have continued with me on this journey, despite the fact that this blog has changed its focus so many times. I appreciate each and every one of you so much!

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.” – from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Wanting to find my niche of writer friends.

12 Dec

Since starting this blog in November of last year and realizing my own need to share my story of living with CP, I think it’s accurate to say there have definitely been days with no words. Days when I would sit at my computer for hours before a memory would find its way into my mind or I’d realize I wanted to share a certain lesson I had learned. However, I think it’s important to realize that we all have days where we get stuck. Though I’m most familiar with it in terms of how it relates to being a writer, I know the concept of being stuck affects people in different ways.

In my experience, I have gotten over many of my ruts by reading. I imagine it has something to do with having the chance to get out of your own head for a little while to enter the world of someone else’s creativity and writing style. Though it doesn’t always act as an immediate jolt, placing myself into the worlds of other writers allows me to gain perspective as well as achieve a better understanding of the message I want to get across through my own writing.

Last month, when I read Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, I spent time imagining how things would’ve been different for me now if I had made the decision to major in English instead of Psychology. Though I love Psychology, I have always had a love of words, literature, and the power of writing. However, I think I ended up choosing Psychology because I knew it would hold many more opportunities for me in terms of a future career than English would. Though I am very happy with my decision to study Psychology, I do miss the English courses I took my freshman year of college. In those classes, I flourished. I poured over the short stories we discussed in class, but since my freshman year was a time in which I took a break from my writing, I wasn’t keen on writing my own stories. Though I knew I had the ability, I was fully content to live inside the worlds of the authors I only hoped to one day emulate.

In Ann Patchett’s memoir Truth & Beauty, writer friends Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, to study English. The entire time I was reading of Ann and Lucy’s adventures as English majors in northern Manhattan, I imagined myself in a similar place (not in terms of living in New York, but studying English and being surrounded by others who also had a love for writing). I pictured myself finding my writer friends, forming writer groups and spending hours discussing our own writing projects as well as the works of the authors we hoped to be like. I pictured myself spending hours in bookstores pouring over Flannery O’Connor, only to one day find someone sitting near me pouring over an entirely different book, while finding comfort in the silent conversation we shared. Despite the fact I now live in the artsy city of Asheville, I have not found the writing niche I long for. In some part of my mind, I wonder if I would have found my writer friends easier if I had chosen to be an English major instead, especially since it seems to be an unspoken fact that English majors love to write, read and talk about books. Though I hope to eventually find a group of writer friends my age who are able to fully understand my love of literature and writing, sometimes I just wish I had put myself in a better position to find just that.

Though I know I have a lot of time to “find my niche,” I think each of us longs to be around a group of people who understands us and encourages us to fully embrace the things we love. Though I do have friends my age who fit that mold, none of them are writers. I do remember coming across a Literature Club on my college campus, and that may be a place to start. However, I also know that I’m interested in connecting with others who not only love to read, but have the burning desire to write on a daily basis (and end up doing so, for the most part). So yes, I feel like I would benefit from a niche of writer friends. Maybe all it takes is being willing to go out into the community in search of a writers group. Though stereotypically most writers categorize themselves as introverts and would much rather spend a day inside reading than out socializing with friends (and I definitely categorize myself this way), I think the only way I’m going to find my fellow writers to talk with about books, writing and the deeper complexities of life is just by going out and looking for it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. But who has ever said that something worth finding ever is?

Goodbye finals, hello reading hibernation!

10 Dec

It’s official! I took my last final this morning, so the fall semester of my junior year of college is officially behind me! Woohoo! It feels amazing to be done, and now I have nothing but good things to look forward to over the next month. This week kicks off a slew of good things: meeting with the Easter Seals program director of the Asheville office tomorrow, going to see The Nutcracker with my mom on Wednesday (which I haven’t seen since I was really young), and leaving for Lynchburg, Virginia on Thursday to spend a week with Kayley and her adorable daughter, Clara. I can’t wait!

However, best of all, I rewarded myself for being done with finals by making a trip to Barnes and Noble. Yes, it was a success. Here were the two treasures I knew I could not live without:

photo-12

These two treasures are only the beginning of my month-long reading hibernation I look forward to every year in between the fall semester and spring semester. However, I know they will be perfect reads to start things off. To all of you book lovers out there, are there any books you are looking forward to reading this holiday season? Share your suggestion in a comment below! 🙂

 

 

Monday’s Musings (Dec. 3rd).

3 Dec

Today’s an exciting day for me because it’s the last day of classes of the fall semester. Woohoo! This semester has definitely flown by. However, I’m ready to be done. The “burn-out” associated with end of the semester stress has definitely set in. Though I’m relieved that today is the last day of classes, it’s only the beginning of a week of stress. I’ve got a Community Psych final on Wednesday, a Developmental Psych final Thursday, a Human Biology final on Monday, and a Humanities essay to write. I can feel the tunnel vision and stress headaches approaching.

I’m looking forward to the semester being over. Then I get to focus on friends, family, traveling, celebrating, and lots and lots of pleasure reading for a full month. Yes! 🙂

While browsing NPR’s book section of their website today, I came across a great article: Finders Keepers: 2012’s Books To Hang On To. The books from the list were:

  • Home by Toni Morrison. Though I haven’t read Home, I recently finished Morrison’s Sula and enjoyed it. I may have to give Home a try sometime during my holiday break.
  • Mortality by Christopher Hitchens.
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Though I hadn’t heard of this book until reading the NPR article, I’ll definitely have to read this book because it focuses on why people love books and what they searching for through them. Aka, exactly the kind of book I’d love!
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
  • Brothers by George Howe Colt. 

Since I only had heard of one of these books (Home by Toni Morrison) before reading the NPR article, I definitely am behind on my reading. Thankfully, I’ve got a month of relaxation following finals to read as much as possible.

So, have any of you read any of the books from the NPR article? Or are there other books you read during this year that have had a huge impact on you? I’ll definitely be in need of more book suggestions to enjoy over the holidays. 🙂

Photo Friday: Let the stress continue.

30 Nov
From Tumblr.

From Tumblr.

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” – Fred Rogers

Reflecting on words.

29 Nov

Have you ever come across one of your previous pieces of writing and thought: Did I seriously write that? It’s SO good! That happened to me last night when I came across a blog post I wrote on October the 20th, titled The finding place of my words. As I read my own words, I was amazed. There were certain connections I made on that brisk fall day back in October that still apply to how I feel right now. I don’t know what it is with writers wanting to write about words or the creative process. However, in my case, it provides me with perspective, which is discussed in more detail in my blog post titled, The magic of first lines in literature.

Last Spring, as I was walking across the quad of my college campus to get to class, I had to stop and take in the scene that was unfolding before me. As I looked around, I saw tons of college students sitting on the quad reading. However, as is customary for Asheville, they were all different. Each student’s reading experience was unique. One guy was lying in a hammock he had strung up between two nearby trees, and his book rested lightly against his bent knees. I also saw a girl who was lying on her stomach on a flowery blanket with her bare feet casually in the air. She was holding a book out in front of her, careful to block the sun from her eyes. The third student I spotted was my personal favorite though. She was sitting in the grass with her back up against the trunk of a tree. Her long, dark hair covered the sides of her face, making it possible to only focus on her eyes, which were moving so fast across the pages of her book that I could tell she was a very focused reader. I think the image of the third student stuck with me the most because I could see so much of myself in her. As a reader, especially when it involves a book I am reading for pleasure, it takes a lot to break my focus. Often times, I get so absorbed in the words that I lose the ability to fully comprehend what is going on around me, outside of the world of words that I so often call home.

Though I don’t know whether the students that I observed were reading for their own pleasure or for a class assignment, I like to believe either they were reading something for pleasure or were at least reading something they were interested in. I enjoy sticking to this belief simply because it is very closely related to how I imagine myself when I am reading. In so many ways, words have always been my refuge, but they have also been the place I have returned to again and again if I need to re-evaluate something or find my sense of balance.

“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” – Ernest Hemingway

Not all words provide us with the strength to change or the reassurance that we are moving in the right direction in our lives. However, if a series of words can come together into a sentence that causes us to stop and read the sentence again and again, it’s almost like magic. Whether they fill us with a sense of happiness, loss, sadness, anger, loneliness, or hope…words matter. They have the ability to reach a place inside us that not many people can even describe. It’s almost as if the most precious of sentences we have ever read reside in a place so deep within us and so personal that it takes a certain kind of experience for the words to resurface.

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music the words make.” – Truman Capote

“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.” – Hart Crane

Words matter. They are precious stones that have been washed by the countless waves of the sea, and they lie in the sand, waiting for us to uncover them. But the most precious words, the ones that are the rare deep blue stones, they are not so easy to find. They reside in the crevices of rocks, thrown to those places by the most violent of waves. But they have triumphed. They have overcome the turbulent waves of the sea, taking refuge until we are able to bring them out into the light. So don’t wait. Start searching.

Gilmore Girls as stress relief.

28 Nov

As stress reaches extreme levels this week due to research papers, final presentations and final exams, I’ve had to give myself daily stress relief so I can keep my sanity. Yesterday’s stress relief involved 20 minutes on the elliptical at the campus gym and 30 minutes of yoga stretches, which was just what I needed. Today, however, after a long day of classes and a night of studying for my Humanities exam tomorrow and working on my Humanities research paper ahead of me, I know I need an extra special stress relief. Therefore, I’ve turned to the stress relief classic: Gilmore Girls. It’s a tv show that never ceases to relax me and make me laugh. To make things even better, I’m giving myself a double dose. 🙂

Monday’s playlist.

26 Nov

Due to the frequent playlist posts by Mackenzie over at whatever gatsby, I have been inspired to have my own playlist post since the only way I’ll be keeping my sanity through the coming weeks of final exams and papers is through music and lots and lots of coffee.

Here’s the specific variety of music I’ll be listening to today to help myself get through the papers I need to tackle over the next week:

  • The Longer I Run by Peter Bradley Adams
  • Restless by Alison Krauss and Union Station
  • Giving Up by Ingrid Michaelson
  • All This Beauty by The Weepies
  • Gypsy by Fleetwood Mac
  • You And Me by Dave Matthews Band
  • Why Georgia by John Mayer
  • Up To The Mountain by Patty Griffin
  • As It Seems by Lily Kershaw
  • Never Say Die by Dixie Chicks
  • Change by Tracy Chapman
  • Lifeline by Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals