13 September 2009

Learning new patterns

I was talking about real-life journaling with my friend Anna last week while she was visiting my hometown. One of the things that I find most challenging is figuring out who this public personae IS. I think that I started this journal for odd reasons - I wanted a place I could refer family to about the recovery process on my leg - which is healing fine, though the relearning how to walk part is painful AND boring - and then never really used it for that.

I guess I have to think about who I am in this public space, what it is that I want to say.

But Anna had an excellent set of suggestions, none of which are this post.

I'm awesome, I know.

I have been following a lot of stuff that makes a meeting point of my personal and professional lives (multiples of both, of course, because I am a model poststructured subject who knows that I have more than one professional life, more than one personal life, even if it's not all that HEALTHY). One of them was the entire clusterfuck that happened around two researchers who recently graduated from Boston University (who falsely represented themselves as still being associated with the university, which they are not) performing research with a fatally-flawed research tool and methodology on fannish communities that are, frankly, smarter than they are. You can review both a general summary of events and a summary/analysis by a non-fannish academic who plans on using this case as a part of zir Research Methods course.

Amazing. It seems like, more and more, social science and cognitive researchers are coming into communities that I have been connected to for years. Is this a good thing? Is it a sign of mainstreaming or a kind of creation of an intellectual zoo, a place to sit and stare and point at the weirdos in their cages?

Or is it something else?

I'm not sure. But I'm currently in the middle of starting some research on the semiotics work that has been done with groups who are "deviant" or "odd" or "fringe" groups to see if there's something in this. Because what I keep seeing is people not speaking the same language - sometimes unintentionally, but sometimes that lack of connection on language is very intentionally created, formed through a complex set of signs (much like a light flicking off and on in an underground queer bar pre-1969) that have meaning to those within the community but appear innocuous or meaningless to those outside of it.

I start another master's program in the fall. I think there's something here, something about creation of internal languages and sets of signs that give us meaning within a community but cloak our communities from others.

It's going to be something. It's something new for me, something that shoots far enough off of my previous research to be something different.

We'll see where it goes.

12 August 2009

I know you! I see you. Come over here. You are shaped like me.

So I've been obsessively reading through The Blogess' archives lately. She's funny, she's snarky, she seems to find her amazing Internet Friend Nancy W. Capps, Paralegal as amazing as I do.

And mostly? It's funny.

But then I came to this post, written by people who attended BlogHer and found some kind of connection.

The idea of looking at the world like Picasso is amazing, but even more?

Sometimes, we just recognize people. We look at them and we think "You. I know you. I've always known you or I should have."

And it's not about their faces or their bodies or anything nearly that visible. But it's like the triangles and circles in us recognize the triangles and circles in them.

One of the best people I know is coming to see me in two weeks. And I had that kind of recognition with her, like her rhombus looked kind of like my rhombus.

I thank whatever there is out there, actually, for the friends I've made through my mind and the lizard brain part of my head that sees people as having something that looks like me.

I never would have been brave enough to befriend most of you. But my life wouldn't be anything like it is without it.

04 August 2009

Let's talk about joblessness

So, yes, so far this journal has largely (well, 3 entries strong) been about the saga of my obnoxious broken ankle. Like anyone else who has a blog, I obviously find myself so entertaining that I cannot imagine why you wouldn't want to know.

But we're going to change tracks for a bit. My job, currently, is to work as a career advisor in a Career Services department at a mid-sized state university. I love my job (and I'm not just saying that because this has my name associated with it) - I have the opportunity to help college students and alumni take what they have learned at university and translate it into a career. It's challenging, but every time I get a phone call or an email that says "I GOT THE JOB!" or someone stops by to tell me about their first few weeks at their new position, it's pretty cool to realize that I helped that happen.

So, of course, I was interested to see that a recent MBA graduate of Monroe College is suing her university because she hasn't been able to find a job. Now, having done the post-graduation job search thing twice (I have a BA and an MA), I can sympathize with being freaked out about job hunting. It' s scary out there right now - more people competing for the same jobs means that it's easier to get your application packet thrown into the "no" pile, for one.

However, my mind is a little blown that the next logical step for this 3-month old job search is not to ask for more advice, to get creative, or to network, but to sue.

Now, I'm not going to get into personal attacks on this alumna (although I will not lie and say that I haven't thought of some - I'm not an angel). However, I do want to address some things that it seems that many job seekers don't know, especially about looking in a recession.

  1. Career Centers at universities are not placement offices. Many trade schools have "placement offices," where they set up interviews for students and alumni. Many of these schools, whether they are for medical work or mechanics, also brag about placement rate post-graduation. These are all good things! But there are different laws that control what we are allowed to do in career services at a public university and, in fact, I can't do the things that some students want. It is illegal for me to place students in a specific job - all students must have access to jobs or internships. What I can do is point students to resources, proofread their materials, help them strategize, and give tips. I can HELP students with their job search, but I can't do it myself.
  2. Make sure that all of your materials are pristine and professional. Sure, most people have their resume proofread well enough (though I have seen that references will be "furbished" upon request more times than I can count. References are not furniture and are not "furbished"). But what about the email that you send your resume in? What about your cover letter, ensuring that it is addressed to the right company (recruiters repeat this one over and over again). And then you get into the things that go beyond your spell-check and basic fact checking - do you have an appropriate voicemail message or do I get to listen to you rapping along to "Cop Killa"? Do you have a signature line on your email that refers to radical any-political-view politics? Do you actually address your email to Dear Ms. Benson, and use appropriate punctuation and sentence structure? Do you have a professional email address or do you really expect me to get back to sexyguy4u@anydomain.com?

    Make it clean. Make it appropriate. Make it professional.
  3. Clean up your online profile. Students and alumni hate this one, especially those of us who spend a lot of time online. Sure, your Facebook and Myspace and bulletin board conversations are on your own time (or they better be). And sure, they're your personal life. But that doesn't mean they're private. Once something is on the internet, it is open to anyone who can figure out how to find it. And that doesn't mean that locking your profile is enough - none of the security settings on these sites are foolproof enough that mistakes don't happen. So start to think of your online presence as if you were standing in the middle of a room full of potential employers with a megaphone. What are you going to say into it? Because, while you may not LOSE a job because of those photos of you doing body-shots off of that girl you met in Cancun, you might not GET the job because the other most qualified candidate didn't post that picture on their Facebook profile.
  4. Use social networking sites to your benefit. Ah! Contradiction? Not so much. Social networking, including sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others, is the leading edge of employment recruiting. Many companies and professional networks have moved into Web 2.0 - they will list employment and networking opportunities and chances for communication with other professionals on their social networking sites. So. Since you've already cleaned it up, don't delete! Use it! And get a job through social networking.
  5. Network. The most common thing I hear from people who are looking for jobs who aren't finding networking to work for them is that "I don't have a professional network." Everyone has a professional network. Every single person. Everyone has a friend of a friend who is starting a new non-profit and needs a volunteer to help do the books for a few months (professional development, a reference, and a possibility of a paid job down the line). Everyone has a cousin's mother-in-law who works as a receptionist for a local university that is hiring. The more people know what you can do and what you're looking for, the better your chances of being the first person to pop into someone's mind when they hear about an open position.

    There are also networking opportunities opened up by recruiters, often hosted at universities or at their business. Attend these - dressed professionally and always staying sober - and have a chance to make a personal connection with people who might decide your future employment.

    Everyone can help with your job search, no matter their background or current job. You just have to ask for the help.

29 July 2009

A word of caution

There is actually no way to more quickly dismiss someone who has been seriously injured than to tell them how you would manage to deal with what they're doing.

Whether it's telling me that I'm awkward on my crutches or joking that if you were me, you'd be moving all around the campus by now?

Shut the hell up.

Stop it.

Because, really, a major injury like this changes my entire world. I can't wash my damn calf. So why not just shut up and let me do what I need to do?

Today has been frustrating in a way that seems like it'll extend beyond now.

A lot went well, including 2 really good career advising sessions and an awesome conversation with an acquaintance about interviews for jobs. It wasn't a bad day, just an eye-opening one.b

26 July 2009

Recovery sucks

Well, that was surgery.

We went in at 6:30 Thursday morning to check into surgery and I was finally released at 6 pm, approximately 6 hours after they thought I would be.

For the most part, I loved my entire medical team. The nurses were great, my surgeon is amazing, and people (with the exception of a couple of raised eyebrows) didn't say a damn thing about Willow being my medical decision-maker. Sure, it shouldn't be a surprise, but it was still good to know.

The anesthesiologist left a lot to be desired - he was abrupt, dismissive, and insisted on giving me a spinal block (like an epidural some women choose when giving birth) that nobody else seemed to think I needed. It was the spinal block wearing off that kept us in the hospital for longer than we'd thought we would be.

Apparently, I am very susceptible to anesthesia, something I suppose I wouldn't really know since I've had three surgeries in my life - two were before the age of six and all before now were before 18. The spinal block didn't even work properly (a bad batch of medicine, they think), but it laid me up for nine hours. The nerve block on my leg lasted for more than 32 hours - in the end, a good thing, since I was able to get a good night's sleep and wasn't aware of some of the worst of the recovery pain from the surgery.

So now, I'm just dealing with being laid up. I am, incidentally, not a very good sick person. I hate asking for help, I hate being limited, I hate not being able to control my own life. I can't even go up the stairs to where our bedrooms are to get a pair of underwear.

I'm getting more mobile every day, though. Today, I took a shower on my own, I took out some garbage and did some laundry (it's not folded, I can't carry anywhere to fold it). These seem like small things, but they're a start.

So I'm at the cranky, feeling overlimited part of recovery. The little bit that I've done today has exhausted me, leaves me sitting on the couch, staring into space, wondering if I'd fall down if I tried to do anything else. But it'll get better. Tomorrow, I return to work in the office, thank god. That'll get me out of these 2.5 rooms, away from the futon that may be developing a permanent butt imprint.

And, maybe, at some point, I'll be able to get my own damn underwear.

22 July 2009

Surgery, Living Wills, and How Being Queer Actually Changes Things

Tomorrow, I go into surgery for my ankle - apparently, I am awesome enough at breaking things that I managed a spiral fracture in one side of my ankle and something that moved the bone away from my ankle joint in the other ankle while also tearing my ligament at the back of my foot.

So, 3 pins and a metal plate later and I will be a cyborg! So that's exciting.

I was doing the medical history thing with the nurse on the phone today to save time tomorrow - it's outpatient, so if the surgery at is 8:30, they want me there at 6:30 and I should be leaving by 11 or so. One of the (many, many) questions she asked me was: "Do you have a living will or an advance directive?"

They have to ask this with any surgery, I know. And it's not a very high risk surgery. But the question took me aback and not just for the reasons that it does for everyone.

Because, you know what? I used to have a living will. But it was made 8 years ago, in my Sociology of Death and Dying class and it doesn't much represent the things I worry about now, beyond the basic facts.

I still don't want to be kept alive on life support if I have no brain activity. If I have minimal brain activity and don't improve, pull the plug. It's pretty simple, really. I have no funeral directions beyond "please don't mourn someone who isn't me, please remember me with my flaws and all."

But other things have changed. Since 8 years ago, the person who is most likely to be responsible for my medical care if I can't make decisions is my partner. Because we are not (and cannot be) married, she has limited legal automatic right to these decisions.

So, while many heterosexually-partnered people (especially those who are not married) might have living wills, married couples need them to protect the injured/disabled person's rights. Queer couples? We need them to protect my right to have my partner make those decisions; to access medical information, status and care; and to override my parents if necessary.

Because there's a snag. My parents know that I do not want to be kept alive on life support past a very specific point. But, should everything go wrong tomorrow and I go into a coma, could my mother make that decision? I don't know.

And if it came down to Willow knowing what I want and my mother doing what she thinks best, Willow has NO legal standing unless I have a living will.

It's crazy how fast such a small medical situation (it's just a broken ankle, not a stroke, you know?) can drive home how different my life is now than when I was partnered with a man. So we'll be meeting with the living will/advance directive team tomorrow morning to set up some failsafes. They're good to have anyway - really, everyone should have one.

And I'm sure that everything will be fine. Why wouldn't it, right?

21 July 2009

New starts or: My Adventures in Broken Bones

For the last 7 years, I have journaled at LiveJournal. And, frankly, as much as I have enjoyed it, it seems like there might be a reason to start something new, to have something associate with me at 29, not me at 22.

Plus, I just googled "what to expect" and "broken ankle" as keywords and brought up no personal experiences.

So, why not start with a story?

I live with my partner, 3 dogs, a cat, and the snake (it wasn't the snake's fault). The other night, Sunday to be precise, I was going to bed late, denying that the weekend was over. I had turned off the light and went to go up our long flight of very steep stairs to our bedroom and the guest room. And ... my foot snagged.

On our 85 pound dog. (See, I told you it wasn't the snake's fault. Snake-haters).

I've probably tripped on Callie a few dozen times - I'm clumsy and she's big, so it happens.

This time, however, I heard a very distinct "snap" as I fell onto the ground. Looking down at my ankle, I remembered another time I had fallen (I've mentioned clumsy, right?) and how I thought I might have broken my ankle, but it was just a bad sprain.

Here's something I found out late Sunday night and I want to share it with you all: With this kind of break, there is no "maybe" about it. Through the haze of pain, I could actually see that the bone piece where it shouldn't have been.

Which was both gross and cool.

So my partner, Willow, drove me to the emergency room while I tried to curse QUIETLY, so as to not offend passersby. And, potentially, people 30 miles away.

I have no idea how long it takes normally to get an ankle looked at, x-rayed, set in a split , and discharged. In my case, it took just shy of 4 hours. The longest wait was between the x-ray (when the tech asked me "can you turn your foot that way?" and I hissed "no" as I tried not to pass out) and finding out what was going on, which kind of worried me.

Well, as worried as I could get while wondering why I hadn't had any painkillers yet.

They came back and, shockingly, it was broken. Apparently, the wait was surrounding not the break, but whether there was ligament damage. After putting on the splint, they decided not to operate that night, but to refer me to an orthopedic surgeon this week, so I was (FINALLY) allowed to drink water. Apparently, pain and shock make your mouth cotton-dry.

They gave me a 'script for Percocet and one for anti-nausea meds, both of which I am trying to avoid taking - vomiting and dizziness are pretty much my two least favorite things EVER.

And now, I'm discovering all of the things that I used to take for granted that, at least for the duration of this ankle thing, I no longer can;

1) Bathing: Oh yes. Before I moved to England to go to graduate school in the fall of 2004, I was a twice-a-day bather. And, although the stereotypes about Europeans being stinky is patently untrue, I will say that I ... relaxed over there. However, I still wash my hair every other day, bathe every day. That is, of course, I did these things until NOW.

How, exactly, is one supposed to bathe with a huge splint on a foot that they can't rest on the ground? I know, theoretically, the garbage bag thing should work, but do you have any idea how LONG that would take? So far, I'm subsisting on sponge baths and hoping to bribe my long-suffering girlfriend into washing my hair in the next day or so.

2) Having hair longer than 1": Speaking of the previous issue, I will be getting all of my hair cut off on Friday, after getting paid. It's just not POSSIBLE to do even the little bit of beauty work I do in the morning (wash, brush my hair; wash my face; lotion - yeah, I'm high-maintenance), so short hair it is.

3) Going to the bathroom: I am now carefully balancing staying hydrated (very important when taking any pain meds, even Advil) and how long it takes me to go to the bathroom. Seriously, the 50 foot trek from the living room futon (which is quickly becoming my home) to the bathroom has become a obstacle course. In that time, I have to dodge 3 interested dogs who want to know what's up with my foot and what those things under my arms are (crutches are AWESOME), chairs that have fallen, a cup that fell on the ground that I can't get, a pair of running shoes, and some piles of debris from my dogs destroying things. It's easier to just hold it.

4) Stairs The FEW blogs or articles I've managed to find about broken ankles say something along the lines of "stairs will be your greatest challenge!" And yes, they have that damn exclamation point and, yes, they are always obviously former athletes or masochists or something. Because stairs? Stairs suck. Going down them is easier, but still precarious, what with the whole potential for re-injury. Going up them? You're going to feel like you're pitching forth into nothingness every time and it's going to hurt muscles in your arms you didn't even know you HAD.

5) Eating: Oh man, food used to taste so good. But in the not-quite 48 hours since breaking my ankle, nothing sounds good and nothing tastes good. I'm basically eating as an excuse to take half a Percocet so I don't chop off my own leg.

So. This is probably going to be something I talk about for a while, being that it looks like I'll be swinging around on crutches and discovering entirely new muscles in my arms for the next 6 weeks, at least.

But you can be here with me!

I know, who could give up an invitation like THAT?