My Medical Narrative: Part 2 of 3

In my last post, I talked about studying for exams and what it’s like to study medical humanities. As much as I enjoy reading the books on my list, it’s really easy to feel disconnected from the text when you are not suffering from the illness or trauma the author is writing about. The more books I read, the more I thought about the narrative I wish to share. The only problem was that, according to me, I didn’t have a medical narrative to share. Then I remembered that I actually did, but it didn’t hit me because, well…I really don’t like talking about it. After reading so many of these books, I wanted to try. And “try”, not as a scholar of medical humanities, versed in the theoretical applications and a specific vocabulary from my studies, but just as a guy sharing his story. This is Part 2 of 3.

(to read Part 1, click here)

This is going to sound really dumb, but I promise it’s true…

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Studying for Candidacy Exams During a Pandemic (Or, Why I Love the Show Community): Part 1 of 3

I just finished my third year of my doctoral program at Ohio State. There’s so much to write about, like teaching online during a whole year of quarantining, studying for candidacy exams, and moving into the phase of dissertation writing and the academic job market search. I’ve also been meaning to write about my academic focus on my blog for a long time now. Medical Humanities is a really interesting study, but I’ve always felt like I can’t just “write” about it, as if I’m describing what I had for lunch. I want people to feel what it’s like to study this field. For that, I’ve decided to write about my experience with all of this in a three-part series of blog posts. I hope this series gives my readers a sense of how my program is going, and I’m happy to chat about it if you have any questions. This is Part 1 of 3

After finishing coursework last year, I moved into the candidacy exam phase of my program. I complied a list of over 150 books that reflect my major and minor fields. (Major: Medical Humanities; Minor: Post-1945 American Literature, with an emphasis on graphic narratives) This sounds treacherous to some, but for me, this was one part of my program I was really looking forward to. Ever since I became a full-time student (by “full-time student”, I don’t mean starting my program at OSU; I mean back to when I decided to quit my job to pursue a career in writing, and taking Intro to Literature classes at my community college), I’ve always felt like I was years behind my colleagues when it came to being familiar with the literary canon. It feels like not that long ago, I didn’t know who William Faulkner was, or even what the word “canon” meant. Every summer, I would spend hours on hours at libraries or parks, sitting at a bench, reading the classics and other books that I felt I should be familiar with. I actually really enjoyed it! It felt like I was enriching my knowledge, climbing to the top of the shoulders of giants I’m supposed to be standing on. Now, I get to gain the specialization I’ve always wanted through doing just that. I am now posed to apply my strengths while in my program.

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First Day of Spring Semester, 1/11/21

Just finished my first class of the Spring semester. There were some Zoom mishaps, which ate up a bunch of time, but we all got to know each other, and we talked about the class and our course theme “Empathy as a Vehicle for Critical Reading”. I’ve had a lot of First Days as a teacher, stretching back to CSUN and GCC, so today’s class wasn’t too significant, until I realized something…

Today is exactly the halfway mark of my program. It’s mind blowing, feeling like the time between the start of my program now feels both tiny and gigantic. It’s awful that in the middle of this, a pandemic is ravaging through the country, and I don’t wish to minimize its impact. I wish for little more than just being on campus, in the classroom with my students, then moving to The Thompson to continue working, then meeting up with friends for Happy Hour after, but we’re all indoors, doing our part to stop further spread.

All I can say at this point is that, for what it’s worth, I’ve really enjoyed the last two and a half years being here, meeting awesome people and continuing my research on cutting edge theory and pedagogy, and I look forward to making the most of the remainder of my time.

To the next Two and a Half Years- Cheers!

Drinksgiving 2020

Years ago, when I was working on my undergrad degree, I learned about Drinksgiving. I worked at a local bar on the weekends, a place made up of mostly locals and regulars. I’ve been to plenty of bars, but working at one, and being an aspiring writer, you observe things really quickly and very astutely. Every Wednesday shift before Thanksgiving, I noticed two distinct clienteles that would show up: large groups of friends, made up of thirty-somethings from out of town seeing each other again, and the regulars, staying extra long and being a little more jovial than usual. I didn’t get it at first- why are they here? I’d rather be at home with family or a gathering at someone’s home than this place. But the more I watched, the more I noticed how they were together. They didn’t just like hanging out here; it’s like they were observing something. They stayed really long, drank way too much, yet no one ever got belligerent, and some even brought food from home for their friends, and for us working that night. (they also tip really well, so I’m not complaining) It took a couple of years to realize that this “a thing”: getting together with friends, celebrating with those we care about, becoming a kind of buffer for the next day. It made a lot of sense after working a couple of these shifts, then even more sense when it was my turn to come back home this time of year. The holidays, for some, can be difficult, dealing with unpleasant family history, hoping everything goes well, which in turn becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for disaster, while unpacking how the year has gone, including the highs and lows.¬† Drinksgiving is a kind of time and space where you don’t the need to perform a kind of happiness, where you can share something free of judgement, where you could be around people you want to be around with instead of those you feel obligated to. I think we could all use a Drinksgiving night. I think after this year, we are all searching for that space.

The first half of the semester has now come to a close, and I reached some important milestones, but working through a pandemic, relegated to working from home (something I’m not a fan of yet accept it necessity), it’s hard to tell if the semester is really over, or if the last nine months was a big blob of time. My days consisted of waking up in the morning and getting dressed, only to show up to a class made up of black squares with names of students I rarely saw face to face. I’m currently in the “reading for candidacy exams” stage of my academic program. A year ago, (and I know I’m gonna get slack for this) I would have been really excited to spend hours in the library, reading books from a list I curated. I envisioned myself surrounded by pillars of books, devouring them, one after another like a hungry wolf. I love reading, and I love my studies, so to spend hours solely reading works well for me. Instead, I’m confined to my apartment, where I’ve always struggled to get any work done. I’m not a homebody. I am much more comfortable studying at a library, calling it day after, and walking home, leaving my work behind me. I can’t do that here. I wake up, and I see my work station, about three feet away. It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s hard, and as versatile as my work experience is, I feel like I’m never going to get used to it. Some days after working in front of my computer for several hours, I feel like I need to wash the blue light off of my face, or find some errand to run just to get away from my desk. On top of all of this, I really missed seeing my friends, colleagues, and mentors, some I haven’t seen in months, and a few quitting their program. I try to find some highlight of the semester to focus on when I blog, but this one has been extra challenging. That’s where Drinksgiving kicks in.

Due to spikes of COVID-19 infections in both Ohio and California, I stayed at my place instead of going back home and seeing family. It’s a bit difficult knowing that I have to wait another God-knows-how-many more months not being back home, having to hear about my friend’s and family’s life events through a medium like social media. Asking people to get together is borderline-problematic, as we’re all trying to social distance. As Thanksgiving came closer, I remembered about Drinksgiving, and it was a perfect compromise. I set up multiple Zoom meetings with friends and family, seeing and catching up with them, sharing stories and really dumb jokes, all while drinking profusely. (that was mainly me, but that’s beside the point) My favorite part was keeping up with friends while trying to figure out time zones. (I stayed up until three in the morning once!) Sure, we would all love to see each other instead of using video conferencing, but like navigating a pandemic, we are making the most with what we have. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything remarkable to say about this semester, or sage advice that is a product of working through what was probably the most difficult semester of my program. But it’s okay, because like the spirit of Drinksgiving, the point isn’t to wallow about the coming day, but to be around those you’ve waited months to see, in an effort to give yourself emotional space before the coming day. The semester came to an end, and I got to see friends and family. I have little to complain about.

Today, the first day of the new year, I’m doing the thing I’ve been working towards for years: writing what I want to write. I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow (I heard it’s going to snow again), but I think it’s going to be a good day. Below is a slideshow of screenshots during my Drinksgiving gatherings. We all laughed, shared, reflected, grieved, rambled, and drank. Also, some of there were taken after the semester was over and during the holiday season. (one was taken on my birthday- Happy Birthday to me!!!) Pandemic or not, I’m glad we found some time to stay festive, and to celebrate a holiday that is now very close to my heart, Drinksgiving.

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Happy Holidays to all who read this, and even those who don’t. I hope 2021 brings you nothing but happiness, joy, love, and a renewed perspective for things to come ūüôā

First Day of My Second Academic Year, 8/21/19

It’s morning, mirrors fogged up, as I stand in front of my bathroom counter, shaving, with small traces of spice in the air. It’s my second year at Ohio State University, and today is the first day I teach Freshman Composition, a class I’ve taught dozens of times, only with different course objectives, and in a different state. I’m moving my face around to get a good shave, while muttering the things I wish to tell my students. I go back and forth about the information I wish to share with them. Do I talk about my background? That I’m a grad student? Maybe I need an opening joke to put the class at ease? I’m on the edge of a doubt spiral, until my cat jumps on the counter, giving me a look of affection. I pat him on the head, then, in Piece Brosnan’s voice, he says, “You’re going to be fine”. Then it hits me- I don’t have a cat. I look to him, then spot a red lever mounted on my bathroom wall that I’ve only noticed until this moment. It says “PULL” in large red letters. I pull the le-

7:08- I’m awake, exactly seven minutes before my alarm goes off. Do I try to salvage these seven minutes, and try to get a bit more sleep, or get an early jump on my day? Hmm….umm‚Ķ…Oh, I have to shave! I jump out of bed, and start getting ready.

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What Seeking Infinite Jest Means Part II: Completing My First Year of My PhD Program

Thompson Library

(to read What Seeking Infinite Jest Means Part I, click here)

A young man walks out of the Thompson Library at OSU, with a smile on his face, borderline smug, after completing his first year of his PhD program. He’s texting his friends and making plans for the break with an air of confidence that is only granted to those who have marked off accomplishments years in the making. The world is at his fingertips, walking as if he has been granted access to a kind of knowledge reserved only for the most privileged. Perched from a rooftop about a hundred yards away, invisible to everyone else, I can see this young man and his gait. I watch from the shadows, silently observing, attempting to predict his next step. I look at his jovial walk, with something between envy and resentment, and let out a whisper: “What’s going to happen to you?”

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Spring Break Catch-up and Program Update

Generational Synthetic by Beach Fossils
(click play to listen- no quarters required)

Today is Tuesday, March 12th, the Tuesday of Spring Break at OSU, and I’m doing the thing that I enjoy the most: writing. It’s strange to start a blog post dedicated to what life is like in a PhD program about how much I love writing when that’s all I do- I write papers, I read books for research for future papers, I’m always thinking about the next writing project, and it’s almost impossible to read a book, and not think to myself, “I can write about this”. It’s important for me, to write, in this silly blog, because I love it. I’m trying to dive into writing like a young aspiring poet attending his first open-mic night. I’m sharing this rather intimate insight because, well…‚Ķ..I’m really damn busy. This is partially why I haven’t written a new blog post in so long. I have several drafts that were supposed to turn into really nice stories and observations about PhD life, but they’ve all been brushed aside.¬† But I don’t wish to speak ill of my program- that’s not what this blog post is about. Rather, I was hoping to share a bit about how my program is going. And it’s definitely going. Continue reading

Luz Por Las Nubes

(para leer en espa√Īol, haga clic aqu√≠)

A couple of months ago, I stepped out of the country for the first time in over twenty years. My parents were planning a trip to Mexico and wanted me to come along. As great as it sounds to go out of the country, I mulled over this for a long time. It wasn’t the flying or awkwardness of visiting other people that bothered me- to be frank, I’ve grown so distant from my family and roots from years of studying and focusing on my career. I didn’t even know if I wanted to go. While studying was always a convenient way to describe this distance, it feels like it has always been there. Growing up, I never liked a lot of things my family liked. Music, certain foods, or even speaking Spanish- I spoke so little Spanish around others. Today, when I speak Spanish, it sounds like an alien taught himself Spanish, then taught me, and gave up halfway. When my mom asked me about the trip, she made me deal- if I get my passport, she’ll buy my ticket. (Who the hell is going to say no to that?) I got my passport, booked the tickets, and we were scheduled to go. It came at a really good time, too. I just finished sending out a stack of applications for doctoral programs. (read all about that here) Something about sending out those applications and putting my future in the hands of cloaked readers made stepping on a plane and heading to unfamiliar territory sound really enticing. It ended up being me and my mom, on our way to Mexico. We boarded, flew away, and I didn’t look back because I didn’t want to.

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“Luz Por Las Nubes”

(to read in English, click here)

Hace un par de meses, sal√≠ del pa√≠s por primera vez en m√°s de veinte a√Īos. Mis padres estaban planeando un viaje a M√©xico y quer√≠an que fuera. Por muy bueno que parezca salir del pa√≠s, reflexion√© sobre esto durante mucho tiempo. No fue por volar o la incomodidad de visitar a otras personas lo que me molest√≥. Para ser franco, me he distanciado tanto de mi familia y mis ra√≠ces en los a√Īos de estudio y de centrarme en mi carrera. Ni siquiera sab√≠a si quer√≠a ir. Si bien estudiar siempre fue una forma conveniente de describir esta distancia, parece que siempre eh estado distanceado. Al crecer, nunca me gustaron muchas cosas que le gustaban a mi familia. M√ļsica, ciertos alimentos, o incluso hablar espa√Īol; habl√© tan poco espa√Īol alrededor de otros. Hoy, cuando hablo espa√Īol, parece que un extraterrestre aprendi√≥ espa√Īol, luego me ense√Ī√≥ y se rindi√≥ a mitad de camino. Cuando mi madre me pregunt√≥ sobre el viaje, ella me hizo tratar, si obtengo mi pasaporte, ella comprar√° mi boleto. (¬ŅQui√©n diablos va a decir que no a eso?) Consegu√≠ mi pasaporte, reserv√© las entradas y est√°bamos programados para irnos. Tambi√©n lleg√≥ en un buen momento. Acabo de terminar de enviar una pila de aplicaciones para programas de doctorado. (Lea todo al respecto aqu√≠) Algo sobre el env√≠o de esas aplicaciones y poner mi futuro en manos de lectores encubiertos hizo que pisar un avi√≥n y dirigirse a un territorio desconocido suene realmente tentador. Termin√≥ siendo yo y mi madre, en nuestro camino a M√©xico. Abordamos, volamos, y no mir√© hacia atr√°s porque no quer√≠a.

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Last Call

There’s a small bar on my commute home. I found it a few weeks after I started working at GCC and getting used to my new route. They used to serve a really cool line of liquors by a distillery called Art in the Age. They had some really great ones, including Sage, Root, Snap, and Rhubarb. Unfortunately, the distiller discontinued this line, becoming a small reminder that even things we love come to an end.

Today was my last day of teaching at Glendale Community College. It’s a job I’ve come to love, feeling very much part of this community. I met a lot of really good people, and had the privilege of of working at a campus that supported me and brought me in front of a diverse group of young learners, at a period in their academic careers I was in not long ago. I’m going to miss waking up to the best job on the planet- teaching students to think critically. Some days, it was a miracle if one student asked a question; other days, I left home feeling hope for this generation, so sharp and witty but also empathetic and tapped into the concerns of the world, in a way I couldn’t comprehend at their age. I’m never going to know if I made a difference. My only hope is that they left my class a bit more as thinkers, and not afraid to be honest, or to try something new. I wish nothing but the best for them now, whether I have a part in it or not.

My music selections finally come on in the jukebox. The song Destroyed By Hippie Powers by Car Seat Headrest starts to play.

I am freaking out in my mind
In a house that isn’t mine
My end goal isn’t clear
Should not have had that last beer

It’s more than what you bargained for,
but it’s a little less than what you paid for
My bowtie’s come undone,
my microphone hangs
limp on the mic stand

Tell my mother I’m going home,
I have been destroyed by hippie powers
Tell my mother I’m going home,
I have been destroyed by hippie powers

This next step is not a loss; this job is a chapter which must come to a close if I wish to continue on this new career path, no matter how I feel. Indifference, however, has never been my strong suite. I’m drinking a Manhattan with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. One of the first times I had this was at my first out-of-state conference. It reminds me about how long it took to get here. All the years of studying, writing, holding on to something I care about. And now it’s here. It’s time for my next step.

“Hurry up, please. It’s time”, the bartender says.

I take one last swig, get my tab, and slide off of the stool. My Lyft is waiting outside. A small voice says to cancel it, and to stay as long as possible. I step in and lean my head back on the headrest. We’re on the way home, with highways crossing overhead in a million directions.

Tell my mother I’m going home,
I have been destroyed by hippie powers
Tell my mother I’m going home,
I have been destroyed by hippie powers