Saturday, December 29, 2012

On Being a Mole-Person

I can convince people I'm normal. Normal in this sense means extroverted and social. Our current society values highly people with big personalities that are charismatic leaders. I can go long stretches of time where no one suspects I'm anything but that smiling, energetic student and teacher with a propensity for being silly and loud. This is certainly a part of me. I have a great teacher voice that quickly puts any group of any age straight in line and I use it sparingly enough that it works to its maximum potential. At a gathering I can be outgoing and engage people in conversation. I've taken psychology so I know all the salesman techniques. I can be persuasive and manipulate people pretty effectively when I chose to do so. I don't have a hard time analyzing my innermost personality on the internet because I am confident that my strong character can withstand the pressure of publicity. I am an excellent public speaker. That is bragging, but it is also confirmed by multiple sources. Those are all traits of a real extrovert. I would characterize myself as someone who is assertive, talkative, expressive, enthusiastic, and easy to approach. That doesn't settle it, though.

I also have a lot of characteristics of an introvert. My best present this Christmas was a computer game I am slowly playing through the ragequits. When on a vacation (like now) I stay inside playing games, watching YouTube, reading Science Fiction, and just generally being a nerd. My brother witnessed this and said, "you are the best person I know at doing nothing." I thanked him because I take it as a compliment. Being self-contained is somewhat about birth order and it's somewhat about innate personality. Whatever it's about, being able to sit by myself completely entertained with only an internet connection for consecutive weeks has served me well over the years. When I was quarantined after my heart transplant it was the only thing that kept me alive. Anyway, my quiet nerdiness is something I've made peace with. It's something I'm even a little proud of. I am internally aware, independent, and I enjoy solitude. Consequentially, I could easily be categorized as an introvert.

The categories don't really matter of course. They are constructions like almost every category, but I'd really like to know. Like Susan Cain describes it is not a dichotomy either. You can be a little bit of both (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVPeuvFn_lY). That's what I want for myself because I believe working on your own is where deep thought comes from. I want to harness any creativity I have and bring it to the world, but working together is where ideas grow. None of the things I really love were made by a single person sitting and meditating on a hill or in their basement. They are colllaborations executed by hard-working teams that are typically led by an extrovert. I like the ideas guys- the introverts and the action people- the extroverts. I want to be both.




I want to know myself well enough to share my current true self with the people around me. I don't know if somebody I fall in love with will be an introvert or an extrovert, but I can guarantee we'll have a lot in common. On the first day of psychology last semester my professor said, "The idea that opposites attract is just a lie. If you want to know who you will marry all you have to do is look in the mirror. The truth is that most couples identify with the same race, class, experiences  and values." 

So if my husband enjoys any of the following I won't be surprised. I might even be a little  extra in love
  • Nerdfighters
  • the Yogscast
  • Video Games like Guild Wars
  • Orson Scott Card
  • Physics
  • Shakespeare
  • Biology
  • BOOKS

because I enjoy them too. We could be nerds together and go to the library. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjzG0mPXwxo) If you know this person send them my way

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Little Hope

There are little and big tragedies all around the world every day. From the sad disasters everyone hears about like the recent Hurricane Sandy, war in Syria, and shooting in Newtown, Connecticut to the personal disasters like hospitalized fathers (I love you Dad) and dying grandparents all of us deal with pain and loss every day. As John Green put it, the world is "irreparably broken" and all we hold on to is a little thing called hope as the world is seemingly crumbling into a state of unfixable unfairness and entropy. The world is very depressing and life is the most fragile thing we will ever own. If anyone knows this I do. When I was five I was told that I would be blind by the time I was fourteen. When I was fourteen I was told I would be dead by the time I was seventeen. Now I have a few extra years, but live on a very thin ledge near the chasm of death. As Hank Green says "It doesn't matter what game you are living for. If you are living for it you'll never win. ... we are all playing it and we are all losing it." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxIL4thb3NA). We can't cheat death and we can't escape tragedy. We can fight against a tide of doom and choose to play the right games, but it takes mental toughness and immense courage to find hope in some situations. Sometimes it feels like your life isn't worth living. After my transplant I thought I might never be well again and little kept me alive (the magic of Guild Wars, my family's persistence), but I survived and the miracle of hope filled the void that was my life.

No matter how revolting the Earth around you seems, you have to always remember that “your world is round and appears to gleam with perfection” (Harjo, Joy. A Map to the Next World. New York: Norton. 2000.). Hope comes from a place of having seen small tragedies resolved. On the stage, in pages of a book, and in your every day life you have practiced pain and overcome it before. We've seen Chilean miners pulled up from deep, dark shafts after two days with no food. We've seen hearts implanted into people that should be dead. Hope comes from an evolutionary advantage we have gained after millions of years of breeding to fight against death and destruction at any cost. We fight because it is the thing we are bred to do. Our bodies have antibodies and our minds have hope. We know that sadness and frustration exist, but those around us remind us that beauty and joy exist in equally abundant quantities and we just need to choose which to measure. The Hunger Games says that, "[Hope] is the only thing stronger than fear" and I believe it. The most afraid I've ever been was the morning before my heart transplant, but I did it anyway because my doctors and my family told me they could fix people. When I commented that the hospital was just a place to keep sick people my doctor responded, "no it is a place for people who are getting better." If life is a game the boss battle is between doom and hope. Doom always wins, but only in the last moment. Until then, we can make the choice of who to fight for.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How I Feel About Finals 2

This year instead of doing a finals blog post I did a finals video. I tried to make it like a blog post with my face. Last year was a bit different. (http://www.emilysatrium.org/2012/04/how-i-feel-about-finals.html) Just mixing it up.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jeff

I have a brother. Today is his birthday. Since he is a boy I am not supposed to express any emotions about him or in his general vicinity, but I like him quite a lot so I hope that he forgives me just this once. My brother is fantastic. He is smart, funny, strong, brave, and deeply passionate. He is an ideas man and one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. He wrote his first website before he was ten and knew more about computers than our school's IT department by middle school. I don't get to see him a lot right now, but there was a time I was a bit obsessed with him. When I was small and people asked my parents what I enjoyed their answer was, "whatever her brother likes." Now we are separate people, but he did buy me my first copy of Guild Wars, he forced me to read Ender's Game, and he made me sit and watch The Big Bang Theory. These are my favorite game, book, and television show respectively. My brother is an amazing creature and I think I owe as many of my defining characteristics to him as to my parents. We have a decent relationship, but we are a bit competitive. My brother is better than me at most things. He's smarter. He's more athletic. He's more coordinated. He's cooler. When we start a competition like who can get a better score in Temple Run he immediately crushes me. He sets the bar way above what I thought was good. I have to practice and practice until I spend enough time to crush him until he gives up. Our friendly competitions have made me better at video games, strength skills, and math tricks. Thank you and Happy Birthday to my brother. I like you even when you are 23 no matter what Blink-182 says.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Truthtelling

My mother says that when I was little she thought I would be a talking head political analyst. She figured that I could be one of those people who goes on the news after the president speaks and distills the truth from the sweet nothings politicians whisper into elaborate webs. She thought this was a possibility because I have always had a talent for saying what is unsayable. I spend every day of my life searching for truthtellers who don't mind honesty to the point of bluntness. When my friends ask how they look sometimes I just say bad. I am unapologetically proud of this. One of my top five skills is judging character.

As always, though, I will tell you where this might have come from because we are nothing if not products of our environment. I've always had low vision. I have never been able to read small font or quickly recognize people or see stop signs from afar or see individual leaves on trees. Any low vision child will tell you that it is tough at times. Many are called stupid. I was loquacious so people rarely thought I was dumb, but many adults told me I was lying. I would tell a teacher I couldn't see something and they'd tell me it couldn't be true. It shook me. What was the truth if my own eyes couldn't provide it?

Anyway,  I've spent my lifetime so far trying to know what the truth is and how to say it. I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm working on it. Last night I was having a meeting with the president of the college and about eight other students when I noticed that very few of the students were being honest. Nobody was lying that I knew of, but truthtelling is about being your best self all the time. The demeanor of the students completely changed when they saw the president. They spoke in full sentences, removed all slang from their language, crossed their legs, laughed at jokes that weren't funny, and generally sucked up. I don't know if the president noticed this, but I found it extremely odd. That's not something I do. To be fair, I'm an excellent suck-up and I don't mind going to special events or doing extra credit, but this was more than that. A classic sign of lying is dropping contractions (I did not have sexual relations with that woman) and these young ladies were doing it all over the place. At the same time they were telling the president how empowered and self-assured they felt they were not able to maintain their natural speech and honest manner. It was bizarre.

I don't think most people can pick up on this stuff. It's one of a couple just natural talents I have. When I was around eight years old a colleague and friend of my father's named Anna came to our house and stayed with us for a couple days. I have no idea what prompted it, but when she was leaving I looked at Anna and said, "You are not the person you think you are." There must have been some truth in it because since that time she has switched careers, industries, relationships, and become a truthteller herself. I believe she was surprised by the advice, but it's the kind of thing that sounds like fact when you hear it.

The takeaway from this is to tell the best truth you can. If you don't, there might be someone like me around to catch you in a lie. I don't often point it out, but I've made note of who is and isn't a truthteller. All my best friends and idols are brutally honest, steadfastly themselves, and critical listeners. If you want to test whether you are a truthteller or not you can pick out two friends you have from massively different potions of your life. If they get along you are the same person with both of them. If not, you should reevaluate your life.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving

I've never done this before, but for this Thanksgiving I want to make a list of things I'm thankful for. It will be long. I'm a very lucky person. This is in no particular order.
  1. The Earth being exactly far enough away from the sun to sustain life
  2. The Earth having a molten core that creates a somewhat stable magnetic field
  3. Organ donors
  4. Make-a-Wish
  5. ArenaNet
  6. Guild Wars
  7. Guild Wars 2
  8. My Mom
  9. My Dad
  10. My Brother
  11. My Cousins (but mostly Sammi, sorry cousins)
  12. Having good friends (finally)
  13. Health insurance
  14. Heart Transplant technology
  15. Not being dead
  16. Knowing it could always be worse
  17. Public Transportation
  18. Simmons College/being able to afford Simmons College
  19. Human consciousness
  20. Books
  21. eBooks
  22. The Internet (mostly Wikipedia and YouTube which according to my guess contain all human knowledge)
  23. GPS technology (it goes to SPACE!)
  24. English
  25. Blog Stalkers
  26. The Moon
  27. Endless hope
  28. Snow days
  29. Random compliments (by the way you're amazing)
  30. Carbon
  31. Oxygen
  32. Water
  33. Knowing how to swim
  34. Children's wisdom
  35. The Big Bang Theory (the show and the event)
  36. Bones (the show and the anatomical piece)
  37. not being brain damaged
That's all I can think of for now. I hope you are thankful for just as many things.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

To Be Human

Since humans knew they were humans we have wondered what makes us human. The conclusions people have drawn have varied, but In Guild Wars there are five main "races." I think they (Human, Asuran, Norn, Sylvari, Charr) are much more like species than races, but that is a matter of rhetoric, not theory. Bottom line is that if you were going to categorize them by the hierarchy of exclusion in Ender's Game they would be ramen not framling because they are from such different backgrounds. They can just barely communicate and sometimes break into cultural wars. In this game, then, the developers had to define what made the humans human and the norns norn. What makes a human different from a asura defines humanness in Guild Wars 2.

The humans in that beautiful game are the race that has a perpetual carnival despite being in a war for  (at least) the last three hundred years. They are eternally looking for a piece of happiness despite their empire having fallen to a single tiny nation and their population having been decimated. Humans know they are doomed, but they stand up and do what's necessary to find joy while battling for their short lives. Humans are eternally optimistic. They look to the sky, stars, land, and sea and see what could be theirs. No other race does this quite as well as humans. More than greed, their lust for expansion is a search for some sustaining happiness that won't be threatened. Sometimes humans do create utopias, but more often they just have a perfect Stockholm Syndrome that tells them that even though the Charr have them pinned inside Ebonhawke, they can be joyful. They can drink, play, create, and win no matter what the circumstances are. Humans never give up when other races would have long ago been ruined.

Along this line, the defining characteristic of humans in Guild Wars 2 is that they are the only race that your social status matters. Homelessness is not something you can solve by being an upright individual even in Tyria. If you are a genius asura or a ferocious charr you would become an instant hero, but humanity universally relegates people into unshakable social classes. The thing Guild Wars does with this that is interesting, though, is that they let you play any social class and be a benevolent hero. The game recognizes that people have their place, but that there are good people in every place.

Humns are conservative. The Charr murdered their gods. The Asura went from cave dwellers to earth warriors. The Norn can literally turn into three new forms. The Sylvari are brand new to the whole world and are already taking on a dragon. The humans still live in a monarchy praying to six gods they haven't heard from in hundreds of years. Humans would rather die than admit that they are wrong. They will rebuild cities that flood even if they flooded because they were below sea level or vulnerable to undead pirates. I know that America just elected a fairly liberal president, but really how much would you be willing to change to survive? I wouldn't leave my family or abandon friends. I wouldn't leave Earth. The Asuran would, but the humans would not.

I like humans. In both reality and Guild Wars they are my favorite race. I see their flaws and worry about their future, but the same things that make them weak also give them strength. Their optimism is as useful as it is unrealistic. Their inequalities make them cruel  but motivated. Their conservativeness makes them steadfast. I know I don't get a choice, but given all of the thousands of species described in science fiction and fantasy I would still choose to be human. We are only eggs. We are still stuck in this little planet of Earth trying to decide what we mean and who we can be. I would love the opportunity to find out how our little species ends up, but I know that being human means dying. I submit to that fate and will let my heirs and descendants make the truly important choices of defining humanity. Every thoughtful video game, novel, and movie brings us closer. No one can tell me that Guild Wars is not thoughtful. It is adding to the canon. This weekend is a free trial of Guild Wars 2 and I really hope that a lot of new people get a chance to see the insights I do.Ascalonian townsfolk m.jpgFile:Norn heavy armor concept art.jpgGW2 Asura Render.pngFile:Sylvari 16 concept art.png

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Daytime

This post contains no spoilers.

Dawn has broken and Twilight is most likely over. I told you I was going (http://www.emilysatrium.org/2012/11/twilight.html) and I went. It was a brilliant film in the same way that Avatar was a brilliant film. The effects were astonishing. The violence was gruesome. Everything looked fantastic. The emotions felt real. The plot was original in the sense of the Roman imitatio, but not in the modern sense. If you can accept Shakespeare as original even though he stole all his plots from Cinthio and Plutarch and you think it's alright that Avatar was just Pocahontas in space, then you will think it's fine that Breaking Dawn is basically Antony and Cleopatra with vampires. Although unoriginal, it is compelling, mind-bending and definitely the best Twilight movie yet.

Before going I was very nervous because I heard that the end of the movie and the book were drastically different. They are not so I was pleased. I wanted the story to end wonderfully and it did. It was worthy of the emotions I had invested it it. I'm not a twi-hard or on anyone's team- Edward or Jacob, but I wanted to see Bella's story resolved and it was. If you took that movie by itself it barely seemed like the series was the slut-shaming anti-feminist franchise it really is. It was empowering and played right into my pre-constructed notions of love.

I watched the movie with a group from my school and it was all very Simmons. Two hundred or so girls gathered up and walked to the theater together, supportive of one another, but intensely aggressive about seats. Throughout the movie people were animated to the point of hysteria and there were as many screams in favor of Bella's boobs as Jacob's abs. When we were walking out of the movie as a group two thoughts crossed my mind. If any straight male or gay female in fifty miles needed a date they could have gotten one at that film. I would have swooned if some guy offered me his love and I am a strong, independent female. Second, the people waiting outside in line really should have gone to college. We learn things and we get to watch Twilight without having to wait in the cold. I'm grateful I have both of those opportunities.

All there is left to say is... Forever.

Twilight

So I'm going to the new Twilight movie tonight, Breaking Dawn Part 2, with my friend Bruna and it is not due to peer pressure or obligation. I regret to inform you that I really want to see this film and I am extremely excited. I paid my money, I have my ticket, and my evening is free. There are a lot of other really excellent things I could do this evening, but I am choosing to go see Edward and Bella's final battle.I'm a bit ashamed because I know the series is trash, but I love it. There are certain things that are secret pleasures.

Twilight was the book series I was reading during my heart failure.If you need proof of how obsessed I was refer to here http://www.emilysatrium.org/2009/01/at-childrens.html . Like Guild Wars it was something I became engrossed in for hours a day to just escape my reality. I know that in Twilight the story is borrowed, the allegories are obvious, the dialogue is cliched, the metaphors are unoriginal, and the message is terrible for young girls, but its hard to see past the way the book made me feel to see the failure of the novel as literature. I know that Bella is one of the weakest women characters in modern literature. I know that Edward watches Bella sleep and that's creepy. I know that Bella is completely reliant upon men for her happiness. I know that Edward manipulates Bella with sex and that is wrong. I know that Bella has no life outside of caring for her father and having Edward's baby. I know that turning into a vampire is basically being raped and Rosalie was actually raped. I know that despite Twilight having a female protagonist it can barely pass the Bechdel Test. I know that the book uses almost only simple sentences. I know all that, but when Bella was depressed I was depressed. When Bella started to get the life she wanted, I started to get the life I wanted. It's disgusting, but Bella gave me hope at a time where I had very little. I wasn't convinced that I could get a man to come date me or save me, but I was convinced that sometimes even sick, uncoordinated, awkward teenagers get a chance to have a good life.

Twilight is disgraceful, but it has some nostalgic value. If I didn't go see the movie I would feel like something was missing and that somehow my own story was not yet complete. Orson Welles, the actor, said that “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story” and at the end of the first Breaking Dawn movie the ending is gruesome and disturbing, not happy. My life is pretty fantastic at the moment and I need Twilight to end so that my ending can be happy. I started those books when I was sickly, gangly, and secluded. Now I have an army about me and I have a life. I just want Bella to get that too.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Aria Venom

As you will recall from here (http://www.emilysatrium.org/2012/08/that-was-earlier.html) Aria Venom is a character I created in Guild Wars 2. I thought I would show you her in her various incarnations on this, the day that the names are released in Guild Wars 2. Aria Venom is one name I really like and am glad I snagged while the names are still reserved. This first picture is the girl I made for the original Guild Wars. I like her look a lot. Necromancers should all always dress in green and black. Poison, death, and reanimation are the only things a good necromancer should think about. Then there is the picture from Guild Wars 2. As you can see, 250 years later Aria Venom cut her hair, but she is essentially the same. The one on the right was created by me. The one on the left was created by ArenaNet. I think they match quite nicely. Perhaps ArenaNet's is a bit prettier, but they have professional artists and I am lucky to draw recognizable stick figures. I love that she is in the game. She looks a bit like me, she thinks  thoughts I agree with, and every time I walk a character past her I think, "wow, anything is possible. I have a character in a game that millions of people play". That's Aria Venom and if she were real I would be her best friend in an instant.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Proud to be an American

I am proud to be an American, but it is not because I believe we are free. I know that many gay people aren't free to marry the people they love and many women aren't free to own their own bodies and sexuality. I am proud to be an American even though our healthcare system is the stupidest in the world and we fight needless wars. I am not a 'Merican who loves their country despite our imperialism and ignorance, but I believe in what America can do. We can vote to create equality and peace. We can make sure everyone in this country feels safe and free. We can live what we stand for. I voted and I hope you will too because there are issues that matter. Education matters. My ability to get health insurance even though I have a preexisting condition matters. I would prefer you voted my way, but I mostly want you to vote so that in the next four years I can talk to you and we can have a political discourse and we both put our voices in the discussion when it mattered. I am young and may tire of the political bickering, but today I just want everyone, rich or poor, black or white, to have a voice in making the song that makes America. We cannot repair past mistakes like our internment of Japanese and murder and displacement of Native Americans, but we can be progressive voices towards  justice now if we try. All we have to do is be a little unreasonable. We have to demand better from our leaders than we think they can do.

Tuesday, November 6 is Election Day America and if you want to ever say a single bad thing about politics in the next four years you better vote!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Seasons

If you asked me what my favorite season was a couple years ago I probably would have said summer. That's the time when children get to mess around and do nothing and when I typically see my aunts and uncles and cousins whom I love so much. Recently I've changed my opinion. Now I like fall and spring better than summer. This is not, unfortunately, for some super awesome reason such as better sports or less people dying of heat stroke or something. No, unfortunately it is about my ArenaNet coat. I am a giant nerd.

This is the origin
story of the coat:
So a few months after I visited ArenaNet for my Make-a-Wish trip the adventure was a memory and crossed my mind every day instead of every hour. My family and I were sitting around on a chilly Saturday morning doing something inane like watching television when the doorbell rang and a package arrived. We weren't expecting anything urgent  in the mail so when the episode ended or the activity we were participating in came to a logical stopping point my mom went out to the front porch and inspected the mail. She was gone for a long time and when she finally reentered the house she said, "Emily, I could not make this up if I tried." When I saw the box that was addressed from Bellevue, Washington, U.S. my mind exploded. Randomly, with no begging, ArenaNet sent me this beautiful coat. It is my most prized possession in the world. In the spring and fall when I can wear it I am happiest.

At gaming conventions my ArenaNet coat gains constant praise and admiration, but in my everyday life wearing the ArenaNet coat is like gambling. Like Pokemon I am always waiting for a random Guild Wars player to appear. So far its only happened once even though Guild Wars is pretty popular. In the fall and spring I have the chance, though, which makes every day a little more exciting. The single appearance of a Guild Wars fan was hilarious. I was leaving the dining hall on a day just after the first Guild Wars 2 beta test had been announced (April). A guy was walking in. He walked straight past me while I was wearing the coat before doing a double take, realizing what the name and symbol meant, whirling around, and screaming, "WAIT!" excitedly.


I flipped around, smiled, and asked, "What?"

The guy says, "You have an ArenaNet coat. You must know things. Tell me everything."

I laughed and said, "Sorry. Even if I did know anything I couldn't tell you."

After the random fan responded, "Well could I ask you questions and you could either nod yes or no?" I facepalmed and walked away without telling him anything. I thought it was really funny. First of all, there was a man in my dining hall. Second he was a Guild Wars fan. Third he recognized the ArenaNet name. Fourth he was bold enough to stop me. Fifth he thought I would give him information. That is a very unlikely set of circumstances.

Anyway, that is the current history of my ArenaNet coat. It's starting to get a bit old and damaged, but its clean, warm, soft, and makes me feel special. I love wearing it. There is always a chance I will get to tell someone an awesome story when I wear it and I am nothing if not a story teller.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Confidence

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” 



― Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross (author, psychiatrist)



Although there are people in this world who have a much stronger relationship to suffering than I have I like to believe that I am the better for having almost died in high school. I know who I am and I know what I have to do. I know I am a person with unique luck and opportunities. I know I am a person who simply has to do good things in the world. I have to do decent things because the best things have done for me. Someone gave me their child's heart. A few hands folded me a thousand cranes. A company made me a world and showed me a dream. I am confident of this. I am confident that the acts of individuals can change lives.

I struggle with confidence in myself and my own beauty as much as anyone else, but at least I can always come back to the fact that I do good things. I text my most stressed-out friends happy quotes every day to cheer them up. I write poems for people when they are sad. I tell people they can change the world. I try. 

My friend Ally once looked at me and said, "Emily, some days, like every day I wonder why you aren't a model," because I have a reputation for not being afraid of photographs and not being slow to smile. I like to be happy because it could always be worse. I could have been brain damaged. That would be worse. I could have not gotten a heart. That would make me pretty dead. I could have needed a double lung transplant. That would be immeasurably more bad. It seems to me being confident and beautiful has a lot less to do with makeup and high heels and a lot more to do with acknowledgement of pain and a decent attitude. I think having a reasonably sized body helps, but I know plenty of beautiful people who aren't a size 2. That's why I will never be a model even if I will stop and take model shots. The way fashion decides beauty is just messed up.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

So as I said (http://www.emilysatrium.org/2012/10/that-doesnt-go-away.html) I was pretty happy with my outcomes from Hurricane Sandy. I had a nice snow day, all my friends, family, and property are basically safe, and I got to play a lot of video games. Overall it made me pretty happy. The one thing that didn't make me happy was dinner. That made me feel all gross and icky inside.

I went to dinner and the place was filled with people. There were so many humans there to get food. Aramark, the people who make our food seemed to anticipate this, though. They had extra staff. The issue was that most of the staff at our dining halls don't make a ton of money and most of them are people of color. They had to come into work to feed me during a hurricane and that's just not cool. When I was coming in I looked at the woman and said, "How are you getting home?" because the public transportation was all turned off. When she answered, "I don't know," my heart sank because I know there is inequality in the world and I have a certain white privilege that others may not, but the glaring inequalities are usually not so obvious. I usually don't have to be confronted with the truth that rich people plan for generations forward, poor people plan for Saturday night. I hadn't even considered where my dinner would come from, but those employees had no choice. I could have turned to this woman who was serving me and offered to let her sleep on my floor, but that wouldn't have solved the problem. It would have been almost disrespectful to the complexity of the issue and the dozens of other food and sanitation employees that were feeding and catering to us rich college brats. I just couldn't solve that problem.

A lot of my friends are sociology majors that study the inequalities of the world almost full time. I just don't know if I could do that. I couldn't make the T run so those people could get home through the hurricane. I couldn't let them sleep in my room. I just had to accept that poor and rich exist and are part of the WorldSuck we have to fight. I want to forget this experience, but I felt that the least these people deserve is a blog post. That I can do. I don't want to make you feel all icky inside too. Guilty is not a super useful emotion. Awareness, charities, money... that stuff is useful. Just saying.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween

I really don't want to talk about Halloween  but I am trying to be a blogger and it is a holiday in this culture so I feel obligated. I'd rather write about something else, but today is October 31st. I have never done a Halloween post and it seems like I should. Tomorrow something different. I have a lot of good blogs coming up/written. Get excited. *sigh* Back to Halloween.

I don't need Halloween  There isn't a spiritual backdrop to it like Day of the Dead. Its not reverent or meaningful and it doesn't bring people together as well as Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, or Easter. If trick-or-treating was about getting to know our neighbors then I'd be accepting of it, but I went trick-or-treating for upwards of fifteen years and I know almost none of my neighbors. Halloween lacks purpose and direction. I would like to see it declare its major and describe its intentions. It might be a harvest festival or it may not. How are we to know? Its a silly holiday for mean people and greedy people with no purpose other than making me feel awkward.

Here are the costume choices for a nice young lady such as myself
  1. I dress up scary and run about playing mean tricks on people. I don't like being afraid really. I like being safe and happy and not petrified and in constant terror. I've had enough fear in my life that I don't need to experience it recreationally. 
  2. I dress up scantily and run around in no clothes with some animal ears or an oversexualized superhero costume. That's not my style because I am nineteen and I could pull it off, but I don't appreciate the slut-shaming that goes with it. I don't want random strangers to yell despicable things at me across the street.
  3. I dress as something awesome and obscure. I have dressed as Caithe before, but then nobody gets who I am and the whole point of a costume is to be recognized as clever and cool. I can't think of many costumes that are witty that most people would understand.
Those are bad options. I don't like it. So I went to yoga which makes me feel pretty and peaceful instead of dressing up.

Monday, October 29, 2012

That Doesn't Go Away

So,  when I was a little kid I thought that way more things about myself would be different when I was "grown up" than actually are different. I'm not sure what I thought would mysteriously happen to me during my teenage years, but I believed that I would have way fewer feelings about things than I had when I was a child. Turns out that my range of emotions is just about the same between the ages of four and nineteen and my self-control is only moderately improved. How do I know this? When I got the message that we were having a snow day today I literally did a happy dance. There was a lot of gesticulation and joy involved. 

A quick note that if you grow up in the north country it is called a snow day no matter what the event that causes school to suddenly and unexpectedly be cancelled is. Maybe some people would call today a Hurricane Day or a Disaster Day, but they are wrong. If it is a weekday and you sleep late, eat pancakes/waffles, and do nothing except watch TV and play video games all day than that is a snow day whether the cause for it is a blizzard, ducks raining from the sky, or bears attacking. 

I come from Queensbury School District which notoriously is the last to close. Glens Falls is always closed before Queensbury is so I am used to waiting until the morning of a storm to find out if I can wear my pajamas all day. Simmons also has high standards for closure. It's typically the last of the Colleges of the Fenway schools to close because most of the students are on or near campus. So when Simmons closed last night I was overjoyed. The feeling of winning when you get a snow day apparently does not go away when you grow up. 

I felt a little like I was cheating or skipping today, but it has made utterly wasting my time no less enjoyable. The view outside my window this morning wasn't that bad. 

It was a little windy and rainy, but the weather won't be scary until later, if at all. Honestly, I could have walked to class, but I thank the powers that be that I could sit in my room today and do violent things to pixalated baddies. Everyone be safe in the storm and have a nice snow day. 

If you need something to do, make me a list of things that do and do not go away when you grow up.
For instance:
Goes Away- 
  • Desire to eat grass
  • Ability to do splits/cartwheels
  • Licking yourself in the mirror
  • Running away from your friends and laughing at them
  • Ability to say the alphabet backwards as well as forwards
  • Unashamedly showing people your belly button 
  • Will to eat bugs
  • Touching other people's earlobes
Doesn't Go Away-
  • Joy over snow days
  • Randomly dancing
  • Attachment to good stuffed animals/books
  • Yelling “I didn’t touch it. It just broke!” after breaking something
  • Tripping and pretending it never happened
  • Occasionally crying piteously 
  • Need to play video games
  • Competing needlessly with others whether they know it or not

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Only a Sophomore

Today before class I was sitting silently staring at a book when the beautiful girl sitting next to me with her curly hair, nice outfit, and confident smile (I don't know her name) leans over and asks, "are you really only a sophomore?"

I laughed and answered "Yes?"

She then informed me "You seem really put together. Just like, you always have your shit together. Most girls I know who are sophomores don't have that. You get straight As right?"

Now I am freaking out and blushing. She's making my day, but I'm not really used to such a direct question, "Well yeah, but, well that's not good. I don't want to be obnoxious," I respond.

She continues "No. You just kind of exude that. Not like you brag or anything. It's just kind of obvious," She finishes and sits back in her chair.

I have no idea why this girl thought it was necessary to tell me this, nor do I know if its exactly true, but it was a perfect, random moment. As the saying goes, (I heard it from Jeff Grubb, game designer, world-builder extraordinaire, and author at ArenaNet) "Everyone is the hero of their own story," so obviously I think I am pretty fantastic. I suffer from  ego justification just as thoroughly as everyone else and believe I usually have my life going pretty swimmingly, but to have a complete outside observer lean over to me and say you are doing all right was better than hearing it from my entire family and my closest friends all at once. I sometimes miss events or do a mediocre job on assignments, but I am doing acceptable overall this semester considering I am only a sophomore.

The thing about it is, the emotion I believe I exude is non-stress. Whether I am as fully prepared for something as I would like to be or not, I simply have chosen not to worry about it. It's not really as important as most of my classmates make it out to be. You can only imagine if you have never been to college the amount of times I hear, "I'll die if I don't do well on this" to which I laugh. I work exceedingly hard, but it's simply not as important to me as health, life, or family. A lot of sophomores miss this I think.

To finally offer an anecdote to illustrate my point, last night I was dancing in the dining hall with a friend when the girl turned to me and said, "Don't you have homework?"

I causually responded, "Yup. I have to read a Shakespearian play by tomorrow. It was assigned yesterday. Don't worry. It'll get read."

She said, "Passive voice much? You have to read it." Needless to say, the play got read, I got eight hours of sleep, and this girl was thinking about homework while I was dancing. I like my way better. It's not perfect because sometimes I make errors, but I am generally praised as having "shit together." Sorry for the bad language, not for the attitude.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hey, Soul Sister

Sometimes humanity feels very far away. It sometimes feels like people are mean and cruel and you couldn't possibly be part of such an aggressive, torturous breed. Tonight, though, humanity is closer to me than its been in a while.I just got back from MixFest 2012, an annual concert at the Hatch Shell in Boston. It's free, open to the public and attracts just about everybody.

We took crowded trains out and back to the park. It didn't particularly help with the crowding that at the same time this missive concert was occurring a game at Fenway was taking place. Consequentially, the T was as full as ever. We crammed ourselves in more than ever. Three years ago this would have terrified me due to the potential for germs, but I've been healthy for so long I was surprisingly unaffected.  When the T is as full as it was tonight you can't hold on to anything. You have to trust the people around you will hold you up. You have to accept that you will touch the humans around you. Today, at least so far, it was better than alright, but completely hilarious. I made friends with the people around me and we honestly were entertained at a situation which could be crazymaking. We got to and from the amazing MixFest safely.

Last year MixFest featured Sarah Bareillas and Michelle Branch. This year it featued Andy Grammar, Gavin DeGraw, and mostly Train. It is enormous. Train is one of those bands that I feel like everybody, whether they like it or not, knows the beats and the lyrics to. The music is catchy, honest, and plays literally everywhere. I happen to like Train and when thousands of people stood around me yelling, "Oh I swear to you, I'll be there for you" I have to admit I was a little moved. I didn't cry or anything, but it made it a little bit harder to remember that most people, when instructed, will administer life-threatening electric shocks and a little easier to remember that someone in this city literally gave me their heart. 

We were all hot, wet, huddled together, clapping to the same music, and feeling the same music tonight. That's where humanity lies. It seems human to me to tell our neighbors "Together can never be close enough for me; To feel like I am close enough to you." When those words are played in stereo by thousands of lips and engulf me in their sound and meaning all I can think is yes. Between beats of the heart and the drum is where we can feel like we are one group. I am glad I was there with friends to experience the humanity of the moment.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Round 2

The first day of my sophomore year was much the same as the first day of my first year. I made a lot of the same mistakes. I made a lot of different ones. I did a few things better, but I did a few things worse as well. I don't feel like I have gained any real wisdom that would help a new student. I told a few first-years how they can sneak into the dining hall, but that is trivial. I'm not totally comfortable yet. I don't feel like I know what I'm doing. I'm having fun and I love my professors, but I wish it was within my comfort zone. 

The social pressures of my first year are gone. I know that I have friends, but with new courses, new instructors, a new schedule, and a new year it is not particularly easy. I should be able to conquer just about anything. I am physically weak and pathetic, but I have more mental toughness than most. I am not worried about this year, but Iam lacking the overwhelming confidence I thought I might have. *shrug* Here we go again.

Friday, August 31, 2012

That Was Earlier

In my last post I said that I was not going to reveal the identity of the content I added to Guild Wars 2 when I was there on my Make-a-Wish trip because I like the fact that it camouflages so well. While I am still immensely honored that I knew their game well enough to create an event and some names that fit well into Tyria circumstances have changed slightly. I am announcing, in a quiet but official way, that I helped create the Kessex Hill event 
Help Aria Venom slay Draithor the Drill.

Here is why I changed my mind and told the internet.
  1. Permission: This is the main reason I changed my mind. Recently, I was given official permission by several members of the ArenaNet Team to release this information. Multiple developers not only read my blog, but took the time to find out and inform me that it was fine to share this news. How it is that these amazing people are not only still paying attention to the blog, but have time to stop bug-squishing their three-day-old game is simply mind-boggling to me. I appreciate it and have told them so.  One of the reasons I didn't just say before what event I created was that I am incredibly terrified to break the trust ArenaNet has bestowed upon me by letting me see their game so early. If I wasn't supposed to tell, I just wouldn't. With their permission, though, I feel comfortable telling the world about Draithor, Aria, the beach, and the Black Lion Trading Company.
  2. Pride: I am so proud of what we did that day. I know that for the staff of ArenaNet it was just another day at work, but this event is the single coolest thing I have ever helped create. I think everyone who read my last post knew I wanted to tell my family, friends, and total strangers about the epicness of  Draithor's Demesnes. I was bursting and this is just beginning to let it out. 
  3. Human Knowledge: I fundamentally believe that the internet should be a compilation of the vast sum of all human knowledge. If somebody knows it, they should write it down because it stays indefinitely. Whether I write another word or not, I know that as long as this blog lives so does all the knowledge I put on it. I want to put down as many of my stories as I can. The story of my event is one of the coolest ones I haven't told. So here it goes.



On that day three years ago when nine of my heroes sat me down and said, "We want you to design an event. Do you have any ideas?" I was dumbstruck and shocked, but not paralyzed. My quick response, "about a million," was true, but miraculous. I was so terrified they wouldn't like what I was about to say. 

What I did say exactly I don't remember because everything happened very quickly, but it came down to an idea about organ donation and a necromancer. My favorite class to actually play in Guild Wars is ranger, but I have always been fascinated by necromancers. My fascination can be summarized by the quote that my necromancer, Aria Venom, says during the event. She says about her minions that they are, "Such useful vessels. Their accomplishments in death have far exceeded those in life," While I was there I don't think I ever said those exact words, but they are what I wanted the quest to say. It is essentially an organ donation story camouflaged so well as to be unrecognizable. You all know why I would want it to be that, as a heart transplant recipient/survivor. The idea is that a bad centaur, Draithor, is kidnapping people, drilling into them and trying to steal their magic. Then either you rescue the people or Draithor kills them all. If you fail the quest you have to collect all of the dead merchants bodies and give them to a necromancer to reanimate into useful minions. The minions then help you to destroy the evil centaur Draithor. Obviously it is a shrouded allegory for organ donation at best, but that is where the idea came from.

The event I helped create, but it isn't mine. I remember wanting Draithor to be doing some evil poking or prodding thing, but someone else came up with the idea that he had all these drills in his lair. I remember that I wanted him to torture innocents, but someone else made them into travelling merchants. I remember that I wanted Draithor to live in a swamp, but someone else picked out Blackroot Cut. Aria Venom was my character name since forever, but she is certainly a bit different in appearance between Guild Wars 1 and 2. It was honestly a team effort. I had some ideas, but the designers of ArenaNet (Kristin, Colin, Jeff, Eric, Bobby, Ree, Mike, Ben, etc.) are the wizards that amplified and coolified all of my ideas. They are the ones that made Draithor seem evil and the madwoman sticking dead people back together merciful and heroic. 

One of my greatest joys when I loaded up Guild Wars 2 for the beta test on June 8 was to find Aria Venom alive and epic, but also to find that the main trading system in the game is controlled by a group called the Black Lion Trading Company. When I was there, selecting names for Draithor and Aria, it was explained to me that important people in the game have names,  but that others are named simply villager or trader, peasant or noble, or some other generic term. The simple merchants that Draithor kidnaps, should be called merchant. The team thought my merchants deserved a bit more pizzazz if they were going to get kidnapped and murdered and reanimated for years on end and allowed me to name them more specifically. Due to the fact that the endlessly tortured humans travel from Blacktide Den to Lion's Arch (two amazing cities) I named them the Black Lion Trading Company. It makes sense due to their route and it sounds awesome. Now every time I log in to buy something I get to see that some traders are hard at work raising their (ironically white) banner.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the beach. When I visited ArenaNet three year ago the game was much different. It was a bit sparser. It was a lot buggier, but it was so fantastic. All the elements we  are now loving (the open world, the massive scale of artwork and story, the dynamic combat) were there, but the game crashed and failed and was broken in a hundred little ways. The developers kept apologizing for this, but I kept laughing. They were so sorry that their game, that was then three years from release, wasn't ready yet. I was so pleased to be allowed to play, three years early, that the glitches just made it feel special. At that point the game was evolving so fast nobody could have kept up. I remember that one of the healing elementalist skills kept killing Ree Soesbee (http://www.learsfool.com/). She questioned why and somebody in the back of the room responded, "We removed that skill last week." Ree's remark, which will live with me forever was, "I can never get good at this game because they keep changing the rules!" At that time everything was changing. I had never seen an environmental object so when someone showed me you could pick up sticks on the beach and whack drake and skale in the face with them I obviously said, "there should be more sticks on this beach!" I do not know where that beach was, but I was honored to play on it. It may or may not even exist anymore. There is no Emily's Beach, but Aria Venom will always stand there and reanimate the dead just as the doctors at Children's Hospital did for me. 

Thanks to Make-a-Wish for sending me to meet the magicians at ArenNet.
Thanks so much to ArenaNet for giving me this experience and letting me share it with you. See you in game.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

GW2 Release

My Make-a-Wish Trip (as you will recall from here http://www.emilysatr...nanet-wish.html) was to visit the offices of ArenaNet (the makers of a game called Guild Wars 2). That game was released today and the event I created was released into the world of Tyria for millions of people to enjoy.

Ravius  (http://www.killtenrats.com/2011/03/13/back-from-pax-east/ ) told me with his blogger-extraordinaire knowledge that I am "forum famous" for my wish. I am glad that Make-a-Wish made it happen with or without being well-known in certain circles. I acknowledge how lucky I am to have been able to meet my personal rock stars. Knowing the people of ArenaNet has been the best experience I could have imagined. I agonized over the decision of what to do for my wish and I would definitely choose the same again. It remains the best day of my life. The GW2 designers have always been kind to me and extraordinarily generous.

Recently there has been a (somewhat quiet) cry on the forums to release the name of the dynamic event that I created while I was at ArenaNet. Honestly, though, I appreciate that ArenaNet didn't take the event that I wrote and put a neon sign above it like "Emily's Event" but instead seamlessly incorporated the idea I had into their game. They treat me like a true game designer. They don't label their stuff "Colin's Event" and "Kristin's outfit" etc.

If ArenaNet asked to release the identity of my event I would let them. I don't think they would ask, but I thought they might tell the communtity which one it was. They don't seem to be telling. Therefore I'm not telling either. I've played through it, but I honestly like the fact that my event blends in. It shows I knew their game. I knew what kinds of things they would do.

I'm still not a good gamer, but I love running around, exploring this new world, and generally feeling epic. My biggest fear when I went to ArenaNet was that they wouldn't like me because I wasn't good enough at their game. It turned out though, that not being fantastic was okay. I was the first person to play Guild Wars 2 so I can really see the progress they made and how polished and fantastic it really is. I am still bumbling around a bit, but I love doing it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Beautiful Kicks

My third swimming lesson almost every day is a group of six adorable, smart, and observant children in "older pre." They are four or five years old. They can swim three strokes correctly and do at least 200 yards every day. They have whole thoughts that actually make sense, but I taught them the word astonishing today. There are four little boys and two little girls. I start every lesson with them same way and I have done so for the last eleven weeks.
Step 1- sit on the white part (in the gutter) so your feet are all the way in the water.
Step 2- show me some big splashing kicks (to get wet)
Step 3- show me some nice underwater kicks (because they need to practice/be reminded to keep their legs straight on flutter kick)
Step 4-  show me some beautiful breastroke kicks
Today one of the boys asked me why I always call the breastroke kicks beautiful. Kids are so awkward. They are so strange. They say and do really weird things all the time, but at the age of four and five they can knock you right over with a simple question. I told him that they are smooth and pretty and I like them. I love breastroke kick actually. I think it is gorgeous. When you do it right it looks like you are breaking your knees, but it feels like you are flying. It is impossible to explain, but so obvious once you get it. It is one of very few strokes where you can do more/second without going any faster. It makes only a very small splash, but can propel you more than ten yards. I love it.

Swimming in general astonishes me with its grace, but I have to admit I am genuinely in love with a lot of weird things. Breastroke kick is only one. Names. Words. Guild Wars. Orange. Trivia. If you can find things in life that you are honestly in love with you will be able to see the beauty. I am not really one for travelling a lot or going on massive adventures because I've never really experienced the wanderlust so many people describe. I am just fascinated by my life. I saw a three year-old boy get so lost in his own hands today that he almost drowned himself. That's my life. I find the beauty in breastroke kicks and imagine that every person on the street was the one who saved my life.

I have been depressed before, but I truly have a happy center. I have bad days and good days, but the details of every moment usually surprise me. I didn't start life out contented (I was a terrible baby), but somewhere along the way I saw that we are generally lucky. We, as humans, can see the beauty in whatever or whoever we want.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In Touch

I love when people ask me questions about my heart transplant. I like that they are showing some interest in my life. I like that they are not being awkward about it. I just like to tell the story. It's a good tale.

The questions have evolved over the years though. At first they were mostly logistical. Why did your heart fail when you were only 14? (HCM) How are you now? (good) How did it work? (read the blog) Can you tell the difference? (yes this one is awkward) These days the questions have gotten more reflective and philosophical. Do you know the family? (no) Has it changed your life? (yes) How did you handle it? (just barely) What does it mean? (who knows) I think the change is due to people knowing that I can talk about it now. I have some distance and can reflect just a little.

Strangely, one of the more common questions I get after I tell people about my heart transplant these days (after we get past "really? Do you have a scar") is "Do you keep in touch with the doctors, nurses, and surgeons that saved you?" I don't particularly understand where this question comes from or what the right answer is. Should I? All of the other question I get completely. I'm obsessed with the donors and the difference between the hearts too. I am not really interested in the medical professionals I met as much as I should be.

I think you could somewhat tell by recent post that I am not super in touch. http://www.emilysatrium.org/2012/05/still-healthy.html I don't speak with any of the nurses or surgeons that took care of me while I was dying. only see consistently two of the doctors and Dr. Blume only sees me really because of the hospital. I think my distance from these people is because I didn't know them particuarly well to start. I was so lucky. I only spent eight days waiting in the hospital for my new heart. I set all kinds of Children's Hospital records for recovery speed. Maybe if I was less fortunate and spent more time dying then I would be more in touch, but I didn't.

The only doctor I still see socially is Dr. Martin Maron. He is the world specialist on Hypertrophic Cardiomyopothy and we had lunch last week. I know he wouldn't mind me telling you that we traumatized each other a little. I was getting sick so fast and he knew it was bad, but I was so positive and falsely secure that every time he tried to tell me/us it was and my heart was failing I was pretty much like "Are you sure‽ I feel good. Really" That's what it takes to stay in touch. You have to have something more than just the medicine. He saved me. Without his persistence about the seriousness of the situation I would definitely be dead. I can't explain the difference between that and a surgeon just doing their job well. It feels personal with him. He had to do something that was scary to help me and I had to really trust him.


You look at a doctor like the pediatrician that caught my heart murmur and she should have been a hero in the story. We should be in touch, but she gave us one bad piece of advice and it was over. All hero worship dies once somebody makes a single bad call. She said I should go see a surgeon instead of a specialist and she was wrong. I needed to meet Marty Maron. I have others to thank for that. He is the only doctor I am really in touch with. Now you know.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Swimming Trials

I am still a swimmer. I had to quit my competitive team in eighth grade when I was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopothy and I never got back on a team for any extended period, but I am still in the water thirty hours per week and enjoy thinking about, discussing, watching, and performing the activity. Something as important as swimming you don't just give up because of a little heart failure.

I have been watching the United States Swimming Olympic Trials all week. They are just fantastic. They really bring out the swimmer in me. It almost makes me want to get in the pool and swim my guts out. It is just so cool and inspiring. This is my favorite swim meet in the world.
Here is the list of my top three favorite swim meets:
  1. The Trials
  2. The Olympics
  3. The Dual in the Pool 
The Olympics have drama, but the trials have real intensity. The Olympics is raw patriotism, but the Trials are raw athleticism. The Olympics have the some scattered outstanding moments (Jason Lezak in the 2008 4x100m relay), but every moment of trials is a race. No American swimmer would intentionally peak for The Olympics. They have to make The Olympics first and Trials is the fastest swim meet in the world. The reason that swimming only sends two athletes per country instead of the normal three is that America is too fast. Every year we would completely demolish all the other countries and sweep most events. Then they changed the rules in 1980 so the United States could only win two-thirds of the medals. This is why I love Trials: it is more pure swimming. Everything is just ridiculously quick.


My athlete of choice to cheer on this Trials is Ryan Lochte. Not only is he fantastically handsome (just look at him) and perfectly athletic, but he also has a kind and generous personality. He's done really well so far and I think he completely deserves it.

When I was sick Ryan Lochte sent me a card. He was not alone. I got quite a few cards (thanks!), but I got only one card from a celebrity. I must have shown every nurse in Childrens Hospital the get well note he sent me with the picture and signature. Most people just nodded and smiled because at the time he was such a minor Olympian, outshined by Michael Phelps, but now I will be able to say Ryan Lochte and a couple non-swimmers might know who I mean. I will always know, though, that Ryan is actually a decent guy, not just a good backstroker.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Roberts Family Reunion

I went home for the weekend this last weekend for a very special event. My family has a reunion every single year. No matter the weather or health or the economy or whatever else everyone has going on in their lives I get to see not only my immediate family, but all of my first and second cousins annually at Canoe Island Lodge in Lake George, New York. It is just completely mandatory. Every time I think about it I just find myself repeating, "how many people are really, legitimately friends with their second cousins?" I am. This particular photo is my brother and aunt, but it could just as easily be my great uncle or second cousin once removed. I know and am close to them all.

I have had a couple issues in my life, but all in all I am extremely lucky because I have family. Not just my parents, but my whole family. They love, support, grok, and accept me through anything. I stayed in my great uncle's house when I was recovering. My cousin, aunt, and brother came and took care of me for a while. Everybody reads the blog. Every time we are together I get hit with new waves of understanding and caring. You can choose friends, but you can't choose family so I am glad I was assigned a great one.

The family reunion is one of my favorite weekends of the year. We have so much fun. There are card games and sailboat rides. There are fireside chats and porch parties. We laugh so hard we cry at least once a year. I get to be reunited with my favorite person on the face of the Earth (my cousin Sam). It is just one whirlwind of entertainment. The event has grown with the family and it remains a living and evolving soiree, but it has always included cherishing, reuniting, and adoration. 

Thank you to Uncle Tom for another great time and a fantastic support system. There is no one like family.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer 2012

This blog post is brought to you by the Shaw's Market parking lot. I imagined it up while standing there, looking at all the miserable people around me. I grinned when the thought popped into my head.

In the sixth grade, at the awful age of twelve the state of New York told me I was disabled. A nice lady followed me around for a day and watched me sit in the front of class every period. She watched me pile my books up high on my desk so that my papers would be close to my face. She tested me during the time I was supposed to be learning the Spanish alphabet. It meant little then and it means little now. Yet even before my heart failed, I stopped growing, and I started taking poison daily I had a license by the State of New York to always be just a little bit helpless.

I never noticed it, but I internalized that lesson at some point. It might not have been until later. High school maybe. At some point, though, I set just a slightly lower mark for myself in terms of ability in life skills. I never learned to vacuum. I don't drive. I can't open a bottle. I can't really clean at all. I never thought I was stupid, untalented, or anything less than fierce, but I never imagined I could really be normal either.

This summer I have been the most normal I could have ever imagined. I realized suddenly, when I was getting my groceries for the week I was surprising myself. Not even a month ago had you told me that I would be doing groceries, dishes, laundry, going to work, dealing with my meds, coooking, and simply taking care of all my own stuff I would have been in disbelief. This all brings me a kind of sustained joy. It pleases me somehow to feel a little bit independent. It's simply liberating.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Still Healthy


I went to clinic today at Children's Hospital. They told me I'm still healthy, which I already knew. I've had no symptoms of anything or medicine changes in years. I am no longer a regular at that hospital. I didn't know any of the nursing staff. I messed up the signing in procedure at the blood lab. I didn't know what order the questions would come in from the the man at the front desk. I guess these are all good signs. I don't really want to be a regular at any hospital. Yet when I was there, it didn't feel particularly good.

The hospital has always made me nervous. I've never really gotten "good" news there. I've gotten news that I was worse. I've gotten news that I was stable. Arguably getting the heart was the best news I ever received, but at the time it didn't feel like good news. The only comfort I ever had at the stress-inducing crazymaking hospital was that I was a regular. I knew what to expect. Now even that is gone.  After a day at the hospital I feel like falling over (which I did today. Naps are great!) because there is no comfort level there for me. It's bad both ways. When I went to the hospital every day I was missing life. Now that I go every three months I can't go without getting physically and emotionally lost.

I actually did get lost today, trying to leave. You have to remember, my parents explored a lot. I mostly sat in bed. I eventually found where I was going and one of the transplant doctors was waiting for the same elevator I wanted. The doctor's see me so rarely that he didn't recognize me. I've grown up a lot since I was a dying fifteen year old. He only saw me for a moment. It was still staggering. I'm just too healthy. I'm apparently a star patient, never having missed a dose of my medication and not getting drunk and high. I just thought you should know the twilight zone I live in.

I never wanted to know anything about hospitals. I never thought I would. Yet for some reason I got very proficient at navigating one particular hospital. It was almost a point of pride. Now I go there so rarely they barely know who I am. They are done with me. They are actively transitioning me to another hospital. It's bizarre. I didn't know how patients could ever leave thier pediatric transplant centers. Now I do. I don't belong there anymore. They are mostly social calls at this point. Weird.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How I Feel About Finals

I'm not a fan of Finals. There is a lot of weight put on the last two weeks of class in all but one of the courses I've taken so far. In a couple of my classes the work of the first fifteen weeks verges on being only superfluous, when compared with the final. This is the set up of the work of most classes as far as I can tell. By the end, there is literally no way to keep up with the exponential pace. I try of course, and more or less succeed, but think the institution of it is terrible. Just saying.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Swimming Truths

I have been teaching a lot of swimming lessons recently. It seems around this time of year triathletes, competitive swimmers, and recreational beach-goers alike all notice that they used to love the water or would like to learn to enjoy the pool and run to get some swimming pointers. This has led to too numerous stories to tell, but I thought I'd share two swimming truths tonight.

One- It Just Feels Right

I was teaching an adult student flip turns and I demonstrated the move. The swimmer tried a few then looked at me confusedly and said, "how do you know where to put your feet? Do you look at the wall?"

As I often find when I'm teaching adult students I had to think for a moment, but then I said assuredly, "Well you definitely don't look at the wall because then you aren't tucked. After you practice enough it just feels right." I'm not sure how much that helped my swimmer, but it struck me that I no longer had to think about placing my feet in a flip turn. I know the minute I initiate a flip turn if it is going to be good or not. My muscles instinctively perform the flip without consulting me about where to put my feet. Sometimes my feet are planted perfectly hip distance apart at a ninety degree angle and sometimes they are not, but I never think about my feet during a flip turn. They either feel right or they don't.

It's not just a swimming phenomenon. Its a universal truth about sports and beyond. How do you balance a bike? It just feels right. How do you choose a college? It just feels right. How do you know if that relationship is good? It just feels right. How do you know if your writing is decent? It just feels right. Yet, as I told my swimmer, you only know if it just feels right after a lot of practice with it feeling wrong. My swimmer is still missing a lot of her turns, but she only needs to get it right a couple times and then she knows how to make it feel right.

Two- I Am Really Good At Chemistry

I find quite often when I am teaching an older swimmer, over the age of ten, that I have to completely ruin their stroke to make it real swimming instead of just a simulation of what they think swimming looks like. I have to tell people they are doing basically everything wrong. I tear apart their self-esteem and their stroke and then I put it back together afterward.

Today, after this one woman experienced this she reached the end of the lap and said, "I am really good at chemistry, just not moving one hand at a time." We both laughed at that. It was ridiculous because of the irrelevancy. I wasn't judging her as a bad swimmer and certainly not a bad person, but swimming leaves you so accountable that she felt the need to tell me she had skills.

Swimming leaves you accountable for yourself. Its not something you do with a team for the most part. Even if you have a team they can't pull you along if you aren't willing to put in the work. It seems easy. Kick. Rotate. Breathe. Pull. That's it. That turns out to be a lot though, when done all at once and it takes all but the most skilled people a long time to put the skills together cohesively. At least I am good at swim teaching, if not chemistry.