My last post ended with the word “thrive.” A different writer might substitute “die” for “thrive” since unsolved neurological disorders have kept me indoors for the last 18 months. But I can assure you that my word choice was no mistake. While God may have limited my tolerance to most things connected to a battery or electrical socket, He’s still provided a special kind of light to brighten my days at home.
Ivan and my parents report that one of the questions they hear most frequently is “What does she do all day?” That’s fair enough, given that I live with most of our apartment lights switched off and rarely venture into the great outdoors. But I also can’t just sit staring at the wall all day, and I most certainly never have. I can and have been taking online college courses.
Two years ago my occupational therapist suggested I take an online course at a community college. The purpose was twofold: I needed more structure in my day, and she needed to evaluate my cognitive ability. My goal was to keep up with homework assignments and score a C or higher. I enrolled in a literature class since literary translation had been one of my minors and…let’s just say I scored higher than a C. We also discovered schoolwork was easier on my brain than social activities because I could take a break the moment I began to feel tired, whereas long conversations required more energy and endurance. Keeping my brain well-rested became essential as my seizures grew more and more serious.
When therapy and the online course ended around the same time, both Ivan and I agreed that I should keep taking classes. Not only had I fallen back in love with literature, but my need to stay occupied was even greater now that leaving home was almost a thing of the past.
But I never do anything by halves.
Not only did I keep taking classes, but I also convinced Ivan to let me enroll in an actual English degree program at our old school, California Baptist University. If I was going to keep taking classes in a subject I loved, why not work toward a larger goal? I’d already completed all my general education requirements during my first bachelor’s degree, so it was only a matter of more literature courses – and some creative writing, too!
Ivan doubted the sanity of my venture at its outset but graciously agreed to a trial quarter. When I got A’s, he told me to keep running. I can honestly say that school became my lifeline as the months slid by. It might have been true that I couldn’t do more than twenty minutes of schoolwork at a time. It might also have been true that those assignments were at the university level, and that I initially didn’t tell the faculty about my brain injury since I didn’t want pity grades. But it was absolutely, 100% true that those twenty minute chunks added up to success, and that they lifted my mood, filled my days, and expanded my intellect. Yes, in spite of being a prisoner in my own apartment, I was thriving.
And then the big seizures hit.
Listening to podcasts, keeping up with reading assignments, and writing papers became a lot less feasible once I had to sleep for hours after every seizure. I suddenly felt like I was earning a college degree in time management as well as a college degree in English. Thankfully my time at Stanford reduced the severity of my actual seizures, but the migraine disorder made attempting any sort of schoolwork even more daunting. Very. Very. Long. Breaks.
These past quarters would have seemed like the logical time to quit if ever there was one. But the truth is that God has brought something into my life that I love passionately. I hope it’s obvious how much I love writing. After all, I have maintained a blog for 2 1/2 years now! But I love the process of school and studying literature just as much. Physical lights may be fading from my life, and I’m not sure how they’ll come back, but God’s given me a mental and creative light that thrives in my (literally) darkest shadows. I haven’t felt this fulfilled since the last time I played a violin concerto.
Speaking of writing, I’ll be writing more in addition to the blog now that I’m done with Stanford. More coming later…