Theory of Mind – a reflection

Last year, when I found out I had autism–more specifically aspergers–I read and read and read every list of symptoms, traits and attributes of the disorder. Well, I’m an aspie after all, so why wouldn’t I obsessively research the hell out of something? Anyhow, one of those traits is Theory of Mind. It’s a relatively easy way for psychologists to diagnose children as young as 3-4 years old with autism spectrum disorder. I have my own thoughts about it.

Theory of Mind Defined

First, what’s theory of mind? As it’s defined by Google

Theory of mind (often abbreviated ToM) is the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own.

When dealing with autistic kids, this tends to be true. They don’t understand that you don’t know what they know. But, in hind sight, normal kids struggle with theory of mind, but have to actively remember that not everyone knows the same things. It’s the number one reason mom and dad cease being cool in your teens. Your theory of mind has developed and your experience has removed itself from your parents, so they’re no longer impressively knowledgeable. /tangent

I have been an active participant in quite a few groups on Facebook that facilitate interaction with other autists. I have noticed over the past 8 months that it’s not adult autistics that struggle with theory of mind. It’s adult NT’s (NT stands for NeuroTypical, which accounts for the other 67 people). I have interacted with a lot of NT’s in the world and the common underlying factor is they expect you to read their mind, experience what they experience, do what they do, see things the way they see them, etc ad naseum. It’s quite frustrating really. Especially when I go to my autism groups and chat with my lady friends and there’s very little misunderstanding, lots of asking questions and not much arguing (if any at all). We come from all walks of life with very different interests and beliefs and we tend to take people at face value.

How do NT’s have 0 theory of mind?

All I can give are examples. Ranging from the very rich commentary during Katrina “Why didn’t they just go to their summer homes?” to the idiot on facebook that says “everyone knows who Jim Parsons is, he’s on Big Bang Theory, played in [some obscure Broadway shows] and [some other really really obscure random fact about Jim Parsons].” As if that’s a reason for me to know him at all let alone recognize his face. I’ve only seen one episode of BBT and thought it was droll. I have no desire to watch it and probably never will.

Honestly, though, I don’t recognize faces very well and if I haven’t developed a way of recognizing you, I won’t. I still have to map my mother-in-laws face every time I see her because I only remember her by her short pudgy build. You should have seen me when I used her hair as a mnemonic… haha, I would look at her completely confused whenever she dyed her hair or changed the style. She’d ask me if there was something wrong with her hair and I’d have to tell her no, but really I wanted to say “you look like a completely different person.” I had to find another feature to recognize her by. She loses weight or starts walking more elegantly and I’ll be lost.

So, another example would be a lawyer I’ve dealt with recently. When you live in the city, as a woman, it’s kind of a running joke to carry a weapon with you when you’re out alone at night. Women are 10x more likely to be raped than a man. Especially at night, especially in the city. A weapon is a necessary thing. It doesn’t make the neighborhood unsafe for children to grow up in. Children aren’t going to the store by themselves at 10pm and they’re not playing outside by themselves. So the point is moot. But he says, “why did you have to carry a knife to the store with you at 11pm if the neighborhood is so safe?” Mind you, the neighborhood my ex lives in has survived 3 murders during the day within the past 4 years. The guy was never caught. So… How does this question even get asked? For one, your white male privilege is showing and two, you’re completely oblivious to the real world and how it works. Honestly, he got the idea from a tweet I posted. If you take a tweet seriously, I got some tweets to show you that my ex posted to a 17 year old girl. I’d love to bring those up in court and use his complete lack of theory of mind against him. But I’m not petty.

Plus, there’s just about every republican or rich person who doesn’t understand poverty. Michelle Bachman, this chick… “It’s so bad being homeless in winter. They should go somewhere warm like the Caribbean where they can eat fresh fish all day.”  —model/socialite Lady Victoria Hervey. It’s really a matter of theory of mind here. They assume the whole world is like them and lives like them.

Reflection

When reflecting on this, I start to think theory of mind isn’t an autism issue. Over the past 8 months, I’ve definitely figured out that I don’t have theory of mind issues. What I thought was a struggle with theory of mind was just being a considerate person. I assumed that consciously thinking about other people and their needs and emotions was struggling with theory of mind. After a few talks with both Aspies and NT’s I realized that this is the exact opposite of lack of theory of mind. I realized that people who expect you to read their mind, live the way they live, understand things the way they understand them lack the theory of mind. Only a few of the autistic women I know and none of the autistic men have this issue (I know way less men than women, so this is not a representative comparison). The idea that theory of mind is a way to determine autism is a joke. I think it’s a way to determine nuerotypicalism. And the more I interact with people who assume I know what they’re trying to say when they call a DVD player a tape deck and Facebook messaging texting, the more I am aware that, as adults, autistics don’t suffer from theory of mind issues, NTs do.

So, maybe it’s flipped. Maybe young Autists struggle with theory of mind and young NTs don’t, but because autistic children have to develop or be taught theory of mind, they don’t lose it like NTs do. It’s actually pretty rare for an NT to have theory of mind. When I find them, I am so refreshed and the interaction is so easy and smooth. I would love for everyone to have theory of mind. I wish they taught it in school so the kids don’t lose it as they get older.

Fight Club: a reading response

I got 100% on this paper. This is a reading response for Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. I’m actually pretty excited about this. This is my second 100% paper. Like I said in the earlier post, I usually get 48/50. It looks like the teacher is busy catching up on grading before the final tomorrow.

Part of the human spirit is to thirst for belonging. It’s simply human to create connection where none existed; to inject themselves among likeminded people. Their existence gains purpose and meaning. They identify with another person, and with that they gain empathy, compassion, a perspective that includes other people. They share something now. They belong to the same cause. They are family. It’s natural to follow the crowd and search for a greater purpose. The activities don’t seem to matter as long as they’re connected and part of something. “You don’t ask questions is the first rule of Project Mayhem” reinforces this standard of belonging, but you don’t try to understand why or how, just belong. Belonging to a group is their purpose. Without belonging they are aimless, lonely, dejected.

The groups represent a connection with a higher purpose. Their loneliness gives way to the purpose of the group. In their previous lives, before the meetings, before fight club, before Project Mayhem, when they were alone in the world working their remedial jobs, they felt isolated. They didn’t connect with other humans. They were islands. The narrator emphasizes this when he says, “I set to work playing solitaire on my computer” (128). When you take these lonely souls and put them together, filing them under a common trait—whether it be brain parasites, testicular cancer or an overall dissatisfaction with the state of the world—they reach out to each other, they embrace the lonely because they no longer feel alone. It’s in that connection that they abandon their loneliness, throw off their isolation and embrace community and intimacy. They’ve found their higher purpose.

The nature of society is reflected in the different groups represented in the story. For example, the support groups are full of illness and death, fight club is full of dueling and debasement, and Project Mayhem is full of anarchy and dissention. Society is sick and needs healing. Project Mayhem gathers to make a decision for the world. They then offer their style of healing, but at the potential cost of estrangement. Tyler says “The liberator who destroys my property… is fighting to save my spirit” (110). He feels justified in creating Project Mayhem and supporting their efforts to destroy humanities accumulated stuffs and, more importantly, their attachment to those stuffs. “I’d rather kill you than see you working a shit job” (155) Tyler says without reservation. He holds a gun to the head of all service workers when he holds the gun to Raymond K. Hessels head. He is daring them to live by giving up what they currently have. This violence is used to call attention to the sick and despondent society Tyler lives in. This is terrorism. They keep their terrorism under wraps to avoid the ostracizing society would inflict on them. Society doesn’t want to be healed. They would rather their own group be left alone to do the thing that makes them feel connected, whatever that is.

The purpose and meaning the men in Fight Club get from this comradery is dependent on the ritual and organization of the group. They find comfort, purpose, meaning in the regular activity. Weekly meetings “every Tuesday night” (34) means you have something to look forward to. You have purpose, even if your purpose is to show up every Tuesday evening. It’s the connection they long for and it’s the connection they find in those groups.

Africa: a reading response

Africa is a beautiful poem by Maya Angelou. This is my reading response after reading it. I got 50/50 points. First 100% paper. All the others were 48/50. Rad!

Maya Angelou uses personification and metaphors to create an image of a country under siege in her poem “Africa”. Imagine a beautiful woman lying vulnerable to the ravages of man. She lies there, as a mother, nurturing her children with her tears and laying riches at her feet for them to take. But others want her riches, her gifts. Others want to take of her bosom and pillage her people. They take them away, leaving her sad and aching for her lost children.

“Thus she has lain” is repeated throughout the poem to emphasize her vulnerability. She is not moving because she cannot move. She’s a continent after all. But eventually she moves through the empowering of her people. They move. She has nurtured them and encouraged them through the famine, war and pestilence that their country has gone through. They are stronger because of her support.

The poem transitions into movement in the first line of the last stanza “Now she is rising”. And emphasizes this by saying in the last line, “although she had lain.” This stanza is a call to remembrance of her rich history, of the pain she suffered and the cries of her children. And because she hasn’t forgotten all the suffering, she rises up and empowers her people. She calls them to take action, to take charge, to remember. Never forget or else it will happen again, she implies.

In the second stanza, she uses the rhythm of the words to emphasize the attack and torment of her people. The rhythm quickens here as you read the words aloud. I’m not sure how to describe the rhythm, it’s almost a waltz, with rules and emphasis on movement. Which reminds me of an army overcoming an enemy. Each movement precise and calculating. Each movement in response to the enemy. The whole poem reads in this waltz style rhythm, but the second stanza in particular is where the rhythm quickens. I believe it’s to create urgency and call attention to the woes of mother Africa. The quickstep of this stanza further emphasizes her vulnerability. It happened so fast, what could she have done? Thus she has lain.

The assault emphasized in the second stanza is foreshadowed in the first stanza by calling the country “black”. This is a strong use of metaphor to emphasize a challenging era. It assumes that it has been in darkness for a long time, “through the years”. That the pains and woes of the country are so bleak that no light can be sought. All at the hands of northerners from white seas and icy waters. A stark contrast to the warmth of the deserts and sugar cane. This contrast is also emphasized by the use of the colors black and white. Though, I feel the white created the black.

“Now she is striding” shows hope. She’s up, she’s no longer lying there in the darkness. She’s taking charge and taking back the beauty she once had. But not before they remember, remember where she’s been, remember the darkness so it doesn’t happen again. She is no longer vulnerable. And because her people remember, it won’t happen again.

The Silence of Women: a reading response

I got an A on this paper. Thought I’d share it, though, reading it almost two months later, there’s some changes I’d make. Stylistically, I like it.

The “Silence of Women” speaks to me in a way that opens my heart and bares my soul. The oppression and control of women through intimidation, diminished rights and subjugation shakes me to the core. I see it, even subtly in text and reply. I see it, permeating the books our children read. It saturates media, including those made for innocence. I see it, even when it’s not there. It has overwhelmed my senses and clouding my judgment. My life has played this record over and over. My mother sang me that song as a child, and again as an adult escaping that same oppressive torment. My heart aches for the suffered and for the time when it will stop.

Oppression is apparent in this poem when Rosenberg writes “the chicken hatching back into the egg.” A chick escaping the confines of an egg is converting from a prisoner to a free entity. This line reverses that image. It creates a contrast of reversal in its metaphor. Freedom is lost for the chicken when the egg envelops it. The egg hatches—or engenders—obtaining the woman for encasement, oppressing her, excluding her from the freedom the men inherently enjoy. This oppression, though not as common in 1994, is the chest we beat against and the egg shell we fight back.

In that “baritone storm” she loses her voice amongst the men’s. Her silence is lost in the storm of oppression, required silence—no matter how loudly she laments. The baritone is the man, the leader, the controller of her movement, of her voice. She calls out against it and loses the power she expels as the baritone storm swirls and encompasses her. I can imagine her voice (read plea) barely audible at arm’s length due to the gusts of men’s voices (read rights) overwhelming her.

The instrument she’s using to amplify her voice is disabled. It can’t persevere in the storm, the prevalence of men’s rights. It “must make music” or it’ll lose all hope. No matter how strong the storm gets, how overpowering and intimidating the baritones get, her voice can’t stop. Giving up isn’t an option. No matter how angry she gets. No matter how her bones get weak with age. No matter her frail state. She must call out against her oppressors and demand to be heard. Relenting means death. Relenting means finding herself encased back in the egg. Her instrument, though broken, cannot be forfeited. It must keep trying “any way it can”.

This poem calls to women to be the voice, to carry the instrument, to persist, to not be that angry old lady with osteoporosis snapping and hissing at her husband after years of compliance. Women must speak up, say the important things, even if it will fall on deaf ears. To not get to the point of being recoiled snakes ready to strike. And my heart cries for the women to speak up, to take back their lives, to stop the cycle of perpetuating oppression. The children, boys and girls, must not hear the songs of control and oppression. The cycle must end with us.

This will be a book one day

Every time I think of an idea on how to be independent while making a living, I come up against these walls. I hate them. They’re self inflicted most of the time. I wanted to make graphics, so I’ve been trying a lot more techniques, sharpening my skills, no bites. Okay, one bite. I need to get out more than I do. I’m networking. I’m posting new work out into the world. Waiting for sales.

(I need to draw more)

I wanted to do copy editing on the side, but there’s an interview process on elance. Ugh. Why does that seem so friggen difficult to me? I see that they want me to set up a skype interview and I immediately retreat into the shadows.

I still have this feeling of not being good enough. And the logo I just did turned out amazing! I actually like the two color version better than the full. No joke. I look back at other projects and I see a quality that’s uniquely mine and yet, I don’t feel confident enough to sell that quality to people. I suck, and I don’t mean my skills, I’m talking about my confidence. It’s in the tank and, believe it or not, after dealing with a sadistic jerk for 10 years, I’m doing better now than I was a year ago or even 6 months ago.

I just wish I didn’t allow him to string me along, lie to me or manipulate me. I could have done so much in that 4 years that I was a slave for him. I cooked, cleaned, took care of the kids, house (you know, the one he kept telling me was his though we were having children together), yard, made him food for almost every meal, made sure there were supplies/food in the house and even let him join bands and play video games however long he wanted. I wasn’t a bitch. I let him live his life. But he chose to live it at my expense. 

His complaint was comprised of those moments that I finally would stand up for myself after being told “no one likes [me]”, that I “gave [my son] his congenital heart defect”, that I “don’t make good decisions”, plus all the names like “crazy”, “useless”, “fucked up”, “lousy lay”, etc. Then, being followed around the house when trying to escape a barrage of the former mentioned harassment. Any time I wanted to take a walk to clear my head, I’d get followed outside “for my safety” because I “might be fucking a whole school bus of basketball players”. Yes, I was accused of that when I went for a 30 min walk after an argument. The reason he came looking for me? Our daughter was crying and he was playing video games. Fun stuff!

I was tired of being beat down and fed the excuse that he was recovering from being in an abusive relationship with his ex wife. I guess “she yelled at [him] for 4 years”, was “crazy” and was “a seriously disturbed person”. I’m sorry for believing him. A mutual friend confirmed that she’s emotional, but said she’s very sweet. I’m gonna believe her instead and apologize for believing his manipulative talk. I’m sorry YG.

His family was no better. He never took care of the kids, but when his family was around he offered a break–I took it. He so wanted them to see him as someone he’s not. He wanted so badly for people to see him as a caring, compassionate, humanitarian, socialist. His family supports everything he does and their idea of compassion is doing whatever he asks them to do. Charity isn’t in their nature. Oh, money they’ll give. Time? Fat chance!

By the way, do you know what he does all day? While I’m volunteering my time at the local farmers market or CASH meeting with a baby in or around my person or generally taking care of the house, he’s playing video games, texting his penis to random women he meets on the internet, confessing his love to a choice few and planning dates with these women. I put up with this for years thinking all I had to do was show him compassion, love him through it. He can’t accept himself, so he needs someone to accept him as he is, full tilt. I thought I could, but I couldn’t deal with the way he treated me. I couldn’t withstand the psychological and emotional abuse. 

Being told you’re worthless can take its toll. It can cause more damage than physical abuse. Plus, living in fear that he’d hit me any day, kept me in line. I never dared to tread on his “clear superiority”. 

Why did I think he would hit me? Just about the time we got back together he told me that he was about a month away from punching his ex wife in the face. If he hadn’t kicked her out when he did, he would have. He swore this to me.

Fast forward to me being 3 months pregnant with our daughter–the child he wanted more than anything for the 10 years before I got pregnant–and the incident where he leaned over me, both hands on the arms of the big leather chair I was sitting in and screamed in my face “I WANT TO HIT YOU SO BAD RIGHT NOW!!!” A statement made during an argument about whether or not I have rights and make good decisions. I never rose my voice, I didn’t demean him, I didn’t try to infringe on his basic rights, and yet all those things he did to me and more. When I ran crying from the room, he followed. He made fun of me for crying. When I protested, “YOU threatened to HIT ME!” He replied, “oh wah, now you sound like [my son].” Then proceeded to mock me.

I started packing immediately. I threatened to leave. I would have. Except… he started talking. He started manipulating me. He started first on where I would go, trying to play on the move being not so well planned out. When I told him where, he switched gears and said that I needed to think about it more; not to make a rash decision. Then, he brought in the big guns. No apology was ever utter about that incident, but I was made to feel like I was overreacting because he was in pain. Because his ex wife put him through so much. It was disgusting, looking back on it.

During all this he was sleeping with a 17 yo and flirting with her excessively on public media and through text. He had stopped flirting with me and just about stopped touching me altogether. If I remember correctly, it was right after he came back from India when he stopped being as affectionate with me. It came full stop once we found out I was pregnant.

Ok. This is where I have a little empathy for the guy. I was raped by a friend of his 4 years earlier. He was still friends with him and his friends, but mostly his friends. While trying to be friends with these friends, I found out that my rapist had raped other women in the group and molested countless others. I started to get a little indignant about being told that I need to “suck it up and just get along with him for the sake of the group”. HA! HA HAHAHA HA! Wasn’t gonna happen and I have no idea how the other 3 managed it other than one, I know, stopped going to the parties. Another kept her distance. The other denied it was rape in the way that she denies everything because life is too hard. So, I get that he may have been under emotional stress because of that.

I honestly think he was looking for a good excuse to drop them and used me to do it, but he wouldn’t admit that now. That’s intimate pillow talk kind of stuff.

So, I think I had more than enough valid reasons to think he would hit me. To think that all I would have to do is challenge him, his existence, his comfortable little bubble he makes for himself; the perception of perfection that he feeds the world. When I left with our kids, I knew. I just knew he’d never let me leave. Not without a fight. And all I’d have to do is walk out the door with my children. I never wanted them to see that. There’s no need for them to witness that. I’m glad that they didn’t. But then again, the emotional abuse is harder to prove. I have PTSD. I thought that would be enough. 

In the end, I’m still struggling with my self talk. I hear his voice a LOT. In all the crap that denies me any hope, any progress, I hear his voice telling me that I don’t have any money, that he’ll win no matter what because he has all the money, that no one likes me. Well, he won this battle.

After reading his psych eval, I’m sad for my girls that he won this battle. They’re missing out on so much love and care that they’ll never get with him, just because he’s fully incapable. And because he blatantly refuses to allow me rights to my children from the very beginning, he’s hurting them in the process. I would never deny him because they love him and need their father to be in their lives. I miss them, but I know this is temporary.

He thinks he’s driving me to suicide, but I have news for him, this is just a workout. As tenacious and resourceful as I am… It may take me 5 years, but I WILL be a consistent part of their lives. And none of this weekend mom crap. I gave him 3 days a week with mutual decision making, he wins custody and gives me 4 days a month with no rights whatsoever. Fun stuff!

An open letter to my friends and family

I started to type this out on my facebook feed, but I felt others with Aspergers would probably like to read this. I know that not having light or sound sensory issues makes me feel like a freak in the autism community, but I have other sensory issues that should be addressed and recognized on the high functioning part of the spectrum. So, here’s the post I started on facebook and elaborated for you…

Cleaning out my feed. Simplifying my life. I may just have to specialize to survive. Math and science it is. I’m done trying to get along with everyone and trying to be normal. If you don’t like what I wear, how I do my hair or what I’m interested in, then fuck it. Walk off. I spend way too much energy trying to seem normal that I can’t focus on anything else properly. And that means you.

Notice how I don’t ask questions or how I turn the conversation back on me a lot? It’s because I’m concentrating so hard on seeming normal, trying not to say the wrong thing that I can’t think about you, only what you might be thinking of me. SO, I sound clever, spout facts, recite pop culture references. Mostly I’m afraid of looking stupid and saying the wrong thing. I’m so tired of that. I want to have friends and interact with people.

Now that I know WHY I have so much trouble meshing with people, I don’t want to struggle with it anymore. I thought everyone struggled with it but I was just especially retarded. That’s not true. I can’t process conversation (non-verbal as well as verbal) the same way you can. But it doesn’t make me less than. Being Aspie will help me learn how to mesh better, believe it or not.

I notice when I’m with my son or other people that know me really well–that I can relax around–I’m a charismatic, considerate person and I can turn the conversation on to the other person like I’m supposed to. I can stop myself from being overly chatty about myself and my interests and talk about the other persons. If I stop caring what y’all think of me, then I can be that amazing, awesome person I try so hard to be (and fail at because it’s not really me).

Aspergers is a blessing. I love being an aspie and finding people that experience life the way I do. I am high functioning even for aspergers. But where others have sensory issues related to sound and light, I have sensory issues related to emotions. I can feel your emotions. I can feel everyone’s emotions. It’s really hard to turn that off and when I’m already not doing well from my own depression, I isolate myself. I turn away from everyone and regular routines involving people because I can’t deal with your emotions as well as my own.

I’m trying to learn how to deal with them–the emotions. I’m trying to learn how to shield myself. I’m just taking it day by day. So far it’s been difficult to figure out how to fit it all together. But I might be at the edge of a break through. The more I write the easier it seems.

I hope it just becomes easier as I get older. I’m looking forward to that.

Job Hunting

When I was younger I wanted to be an architect. I wanted to build houses and create things with my hands. I would drive past houses and wonder what the layout was. I would wonder how many windows belonged to a room and imagine where the doors and walls were. Victorian homes always fascinated me. Now, I look on and wonder, but it’s no longer what I want to do.

What I want to do has changed so much that I wish trying to figure out what you want to do with your life was a paid gig. It’s not. I checked.

When I entered college at 20 years old, I pursued a career that my brother told me was a good one. Electrical engineering. My feminine sensitivities¹ would prove that a bad idea and I’d quickly move on to the next interest.

why psychology isn’t for me

Psychology was that interest. I’d spent so long trying to fit in and understand why I didn’t that to find out how NT people behave was a treat. I took sociology as well and took to both subjects like a fish to water. I was called a natural psychologist. Mr. Anderson, my psych 100 and 206 teacher, even said, “you naturally have what many psychologists will go to school for 12 years to learn and never learn. Some would even be jealous of your gifts.” And yet, the prospect of employment as a research psychologist being limited turned me off to the idea of being a psychologist.  I didn’t want to treat people. I just wanted to see how they worked.

When I was 5, I took my mothers mechanical alarm clock apart. It worked just as well as it did before I took it apart, but I just wanted to see how it worked. I wanted to look inside, see how the pieces fit and, as I reassembled it, see how the pieces worked together to create a working clock. I have learned that figuring out how things work is my passion. I create for the joy of working through problems and make a vision real. I sew, crochet, sculpt and carve to make things fit together and work out an idea. Drawing is just a fun side effect. ;)

habitual mind changer or indecisive, I can’t decide

In the past 10 years, I’ve changed my major again to engineering. But again because someone said it was a good idea. I don’t know if this is the Aspergers, but I seem to take the gentle nudging of someone I respect as full on lobs into that direction. I can’t remember who suggested Civil Engineering, but once the idea stuck, I was all in. Except, I had no idea how to get there. That alone is what got me where I am today.

Because I don’t have an innate understanding about how to ask the right questions to get the answers I need, I tend to miss a lot. AND because I don’t understand a lot of nuance and am limited in my understanding of hyperbole, I don’t always catch when someone is exaggerating or lying.

Now, I do understand how to ask questions. I don’t want you to misunderstand that. My questions tend to be the ones no else asks though. I ask the hard hitters, the major leaguers. I swing for the fence when all I need is to run the ball down center field. Any nuance or hyperbole I DO understand is because of walking into walls and loving friends and strangers explaining to me why I can’t walk through that particular wall. Most of my knowledge is empirical. Good thing I have a lot of it, eh?

Not enough, though, to know what I want to be when I grow up at 37 years old. Circumstances have brought me to this point, but I’m now at a culmination in my basic understanding of how things (and by things I mean society) works to get to work on what I need to do to be successful. I’m in a learning process that most teens go through. Some even experience it as late as their early 20’s. I was 31 when I started on this path of understanding. I just happened to take a 5 year hiatus to have a family and another year to recover from domestic abuse. I’m in process though, so that’s what matters right now.

where does that leave me

Let’s see, I started with electrical engineering, then psychology, then civil engineering, then mother, then business owner, then back to civil engineering. That’s a lot of indecision. I hate indecision. And yet, there it is.

A couple months ago when the civil engineering seemed too daunting, I looked into what could be wrong² with me. I checked my chakras, my aura, my emotional health and well being. It was all screwed up, so I figured, why not help others while I heal myself? Take a massage therapy course, do some reiki and energy healing and in the process learn how to better take care of myself. Ah, well… there’s a huge human aspect to that that I’m just not comfortable with (see above ‘why psychology isn’t for me’). I realized it’d be way more work to stay employed as a masseuse and what’s the likelihood of being happy only massaging comatose patients? So, energy healer is off the table (ba-dum-tssh).

Giving it more thought, I realized looking at the UW courses available (because my degree IS transferable) would give me a clue as to what might work. Business management offered a leap up the corporate ladder from where I started in my career path. I’ve been a shipping and receiving clerk, a junior buyer, a logistics coordinator, a warehouse worker, a trainer and a general laborer. I’ve done almost every job related to business management in my 9-5 jobs as well as running my own business. My experience screams BUSINESS MANAGEMENT. And yet, the schooling and high competition of the program turns me off. It seems like a no brainer, but there’s a lot I’d still have to do and I’m not sure if I want to be the boss of people. Oh you people!

So, I took my transcripts to an adviser and asked her to look into her crystal ball (tall stack of majors) and find a path that fit my current degree the best. Liberal arts. No, I’m not shitting you. My degree is all over the place. It’s embarrassing. But I also found out that I can get another AS at that school. This time the prereqs are done and I can specialize. I can specialize! Do you know what that means?

do you

For 18 years I’ve been studying nutrition and paying close attention to my own physiology. I’ve been diagnosed (mostly misdiagnosed) over the years because of food intolerances. I’ve been very interested in the way food and drugs, but more specifically lipids and sugars work in the liver and interact with our own body chemistry. I’ve been told I should be a nutritionist (ah, human aspect. It’s so pervasive!) or dietitian. But my interest lies in how this stuff works. How the body adjusts and thrives with certain chemical reactions.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Back in the engineering program, when we were deciding our course of action for our degrees, chemical engineering came up. The presenters at the lecture told us it’s not a good idea/that we’d struggle/it’s a lot of school/it’s too hard. Wow, way to stifle a whole class of freshmen! I remained interested in the subject, but found it to be too daunting. I kept being told to hurry up/I need to finish a program now/get it over with, you can always do what you really want later. I’m 37. I was 31 when this went down. How much time do I actually have? Last I checked I’m a finite human being. Didn’t realize I was immortal! Sheesh!

So, I came to the realization that I want to be a biochemist. The push to make all the money in the world doesn’t faze me any more. Not like it used to. I can be perfectly happy making $20,000 a year, as long as I’m doing what makes me happy. Synthesizing chemicals, hormones and researching the relationship between foods and our own chemistry is what interests me. It’s why I watch all those food and psych shows. It’s why I love House. It’s why I have hung onto nutrition for so long³.

So, I’m not settling anymore. I’m not letting other peoples expectations rule my life. If I’m 50 graduating med school with a doctorate in biochemistry, then so fucking be it. I’m already fighting the uphill battle of ageism, may as well do it in style.

 

1 Feminine sensitivities is a condensed metaphor for my being a feminist and the complete and utter lack of support for feminine women in engineering programs. I didn’t have the wherewithal to withstand the discrimination.

2 Wrong is used very lightly here. It’s simply to imply something was off not bad.

3 Nutrition is so cut and dry, you can learn all you need to know in 5 mins. Honestly. It doesn’t take years to learn it, but it does take years to unlearn all the bullshit the media tells you. Email me (hedgehogandrabbit on gmail). I do $50 consults. In an hour (through skype or phone), I’ll have your diet fixed and full of awesome and win.