Welcome to College, You’re Going to Hell

On my first week of college in the Fall Semester of 2018, I sat outside my biology class waiting for the previous class to exit the room before my class began. A person then walked down the hall handing out papers folded in half. Since this was our first day of class, I thought that maybe they were the TA, and were handing out a syllabus or other document important for the class. I took a paper from them, said “thank you,” and then unfolded it as they continued to pass them out to the rest of my classmates. Much to my surprise, this had nothing to do with my class, but was instead a hateful document handed to me by a member of a discriminatory church in our college town.

areyoureally.jpg
(Image Description: photo of a document titled “Are you REALLY a Christian? If not, turn to Jesus!”)

Less than a week later I would be aggressively handed another one of these papers when I didn’t take it right away. The cynic in me finds it humorous. People like this have no power over my feelings, and are incapable of invalidating my identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. However, the Christian in me is saddened by their complete lack of understanding of the way Jesus lived and loved. The aggression and clear bigotry shown in this document does not correspond to the message of love Jesus preached. I also find it a bit paradoxical that one of the “deadly sins” they list is anger. They seem pretty angry to me.

I do not think it is right to push your religion on anyone else. Faith is an incredibly personal thing, and should not be forced on another person. The last thing anyone is going to do when reading this paper is want to join their church. As a queer Christian, and progressive person, I find it incredibly hard to identify with other Christians. So many of their actions are the exact opposite of what I believe in and feel is right. The anti-catholic rhetoric is also incredibly unhelpful, and leads to even more divisiveness within the church.

My college is very progressive for being located in Texas. If you are a hard-core conservative, you are in the minority at my school. This has lead to street preachers targeting our campus two years in a row with a similar (yet much more vulgar and aggressive) message. While many members of the student body have loudly protested these hateful messages, it still leads to students feeling unsafe on campus. Many students came to my college to flee their conservative and unwelcoming Texas hometown. It deeply saddens me to think that they would feel unsafe here because of people like the street preachers, and the group who handed me that paper on my first day of class.

These hateful actions need to be called out, but disruption and arguments are often the goal of these groups. It can be difficult to find ways to rebuke the ideologies of these people, without giving them the emotional response they are seeking. As a Christian, it is my job to speak up when groups discriminate against others in the name of Christianity. While I am proud of the student bodies response to messages like these, I hope we can progress to a time where these messages are not sent in the first place.

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Turning 19, Finishing my First Semester at a University, and More Life Changes

Ya’ll! It has been far too long since I’ve properly sat down updated / spent time on this blog in general. Finals are over (hallelujah) and it’s officially winter break. I’m going to try to rapid fire catch ya’ll up on everything.

Back on November 17th, I turned 19! It feels really weird to say I’m nineteen, as it sounds both far too old and too young at the same time. My birthday was on a Saturday, so I went home for the weekend and celebrated with my family. My older sister couldn’t come that weekend, so she came the weekend before to my apartment and we had a lot of fun hanging out. She lives four hours away from me, so I don’t get to see her as much as I’d like. We went to a queer coffee shop in the city my university is in and played Drag Queen Bingo, which was really fun!

School has been a whirlwind. I can’t believe this semester is already over. As a whole, I had a pretty good semester. I took Biology II with lab, chemistry I with lab, and Spanish II, which totaled to 13 hours.  Chemistry was HARD! Since I didn’t really go to high school, I practically didn’t take chemistry, so everything was new to me. However, even all the other students who had taken chemistry previously also struggled; I guess it’s considered a “weed out” class for a reason. I managed to pull out an A, but there were definitely times that it felt like I was holding onto that A by a thread. I’ve never studied so much in my life for one class, but I feel very proud that I was able to do it. I’m very pleased I was able to keep my 4.0 this semester!

After many conversations and months of internal conflict with my college major choice, I’ve decided to change my major to nursing. I think the nursing approach better envelops my ultimate goal of taking care of chronically ill patients and being their advocate, than the general approach of being a doctor does. I do however still want to be in a provider role, and plan on getting my masters to become a nurse practitioner later down the road. It took me a long time to get to this conclusion, but I’m really excited about it. Realistically I knew Med School would never work out anyway with my health issues, but I didn’t feel peace about letting go of that dream until recently. The only downside is that my university does not have a nursing program, so I have two options: 1. finish my prerequisites at my current school and then apply directly to nursing school for Fall 2020, 2. transfer next fall to a school that has a nursing program to finish my pre-reqs there and then go to that universities nursing school afterwards. I am planning on re-applying to my dream school because they have the best nursing program in the state, and if I don’t get in then I’ll just finish up at my current school.

I’m a little bit sad about the possibility of me leaving my current university. Although this semester has been tough, I do really like the school. On the other hand, the school I’m applying to has been my dream school for so long and it’s in the city I’ve always wanted to live in. I have not made the friends I was hoping to this semester, so the idea of starting all over again is both intriguing and terrifying. I’m really hoping I make some friends next semester, as I’ve been incredibly lonely.

Overall I am really grateful for this semester, and everything it has taught me. Thank you for sticking with me, even with the lack of posts these last few months. I’m hoping to be able to post more in 2019. How has your life been? If you are in school, how did your semester go?

I hope you all have / have had a very happy holiday season!

College Life Update

I’m sorry I was a little MIA in September, it turns out college takes up a lot of your time!

In my last update I had just moved to college and was having a rough time adjusting, but I’m happy to say I’m at the end of my seventh week of school and things have greatly improved home-sickness wise. Being a biology major is a lot of work and the classes can be pretty difficult, but I’m really enjoying my biology class. Right now the only thing I’m struggling with is chemistry, which is probably because I didn’t take it in high school, so I’m learning everything for the first time. My first chem exam didn’t go great, which is disappointing, but I think the next one will go better now that I know what to expect.

I’ve tried out a couple different clubs, but I’m still trying to find my people. Being a transfer makes it a lot harder to make friends, since you aren’t in a dorm where everyone is desperate to find friends like freshmen are. I’m hoping that it’s just going to take some time, and as I meet more people through these clubs, I’ll find people to hang out with.

On a health note, things have not been easy. When I started classes I wasn’t feeling well, but I wouldn’t say I was doing awful. It’s currently the seventh week of school (out of 16) and it’s become increasingly more difficult. My health tends to follow a pattern of doing it’s best around late-august and then declining until it’s worst which is usually mid-december until sometime in the summer. This isn’t set in stone, it has strayed and done something different before, but this is a very common pattern for me. It’s frustrating and discouraging to see my body continuing to do this, but I want to be at college and be successful in my classes so bad that I’m pushing so hard to stay here and do well.

Pushing yourself when you’re sick is a damned-if-you-do damed-if-you-don’t kind of situation. I often push myself too hard for too long and end up losing all progress I’ve made and go back to not being able to function at all. However, if you don’t push yourself you won’t succeed in the first place. I’ve been forcing my body to do so much that it has repeatedly told me it can’t handle that I’m afraid the current repercussions are only the beginning. For now, I’m going to keep trying my best and doing as much as possible while attempting to think positively.

I started seeing a new GI since my last GI, who I loved so much, gave me the “I don’t know what to do anymore” speech. I didn’t love the new GI right away, I felt like she didn’t really listen when I was speaking and she made me try a medication that I explicitly told her not only didn’t work for me in the past, but also made things worse.  Surprise, surprise it made me horribly ill again. My GI system is beyond messed up and the list of foods I’m able to eat in dwindling down rapidly. I have my second appointment with her at the end of this month, so I’m hoping we can come up with a better plan then.

I also started Xolair shots for the mast cell issues, and received my second shot earlier this week. So far I have yet to see a difference in my symptoms but this medication can be one that needs to build up in your system before it will work, so I’m hoping to see improvement after the third shot. The allergist wants me to cut down on the amount of antihistamines I take, but because I haven’t seen improvement I feel like I’m going to be miserable without them. I’m going to try to cut them down this weekend, so if things go bad then at least I won’t have to worry about going to class while being so itchy and rashy.

I’m also supposed to get my genetic testing results back at the end of this month to see if I really do have hEDS or if I have another type of EDS. I’m slightly nervous for the results, but overall I’m pretty sure I have hEDS and would be surprised if the results said something different. These past two months have been quite the whirlwind, but I feel lucky to even be experiencing the things I’m experiencing.

Moving Into My First College Apartment

On Friday I took the leap and moved into my apartment!

We had brought almost all of my stuff on the 18th, so I packed up my truck with the few things I had left and drove myself to my University. I’m not gonna lie, driving away from my parents and home was so hard. Luckily for me the drive is about 45 minutes to an hour, so it wasn’t too bad. I know I’m really close, but right now it feels super far.

I’ve barely been here and I miss home so much. Since I’m a transfer student there wasn’t all the events that new freshman have. They did have a few, but I would have had to leave on Monday to be a part of them, and I wasn’t ready to leave then. I’m spent most of my time putting together the last few pieces of my apartment, but I’m feeling super lonely. I know this will get better and is just a normal part of leaving, but boy does it hurt. I’m so close with my parents, especially because of all my health issues. I’ve been so isolated for the past six plus years that I truly have no one else besides my family. Dealing with not having friends is tough, but this is the most lonely I’ve ever felt.

For now I’m just trying to keep myself busy. My problem is that I can only exert myself so much before I feel sick and have to lay down, but when I lay down I’m less distracted from my sadness. I’ve been forcing myself to keep doing stuff even when I feel bad because at least I feel a little more distracted from being sad. I’m sure when classes start this will get better though since I’ll have a lot more to occupy my time with. Class starts Monday so logically I know it’s really soon and things will feel better then, but in this moment time is passing incredibly slowly.

I have a roommate but we’ve barely been spoken to one another. I’m hoping we can get to know each other a little more this weekend, and that things improve on that end.

I know I made the right decision to leave home and try to attend college at a University, but home sickness makes you question everything. Seriously, no one tells you it will be this hard.  Let me know if you have any tips for leaving home for the first time!

 

Life Update: Withdrawing from College

This semester has been incredibly rough for me.

Some of it I have shared with you, like documenting my journey at the Mayo Clinic, but there’s been a lot going on that I haven’t talked about yet. My health has been very poor since around the last few weeks of Fall Semester, and has been continuously getting worse. This was one of the major reasons I chose to go to Mayo in the middle of Spring semester. Unfortunately I missed a lot of class before my trip, and then a whole week for the trip (my first trip was during spring-break so I didn’t miss any class for that). While I was successful in obtaining multiple diagnoses, the treatment options are very limited.

As of right now, they are mainly focusing on the lifestyle changes; things like exercise, following the gastroparesis diet, and eating tons of salt. These things may or may not work, and if they do work it’s going to be months before I see any improvement. Since returning from my trip, I’ve only become more symptomatic and much less functional. I’m honestly not sure what to do right now, since I know if I contact the Mayo doctors they will probably tell me to just keep trying to do these things since it hasn’t been long enough to see results, but at the same time my body is incredibly weak and doing simple life tasks can be very difficult.

Missing this much school has seriously affected my grades. Some of my professors have been great, and others have been awful. I have disability services, but they aren’t very helpful and professors have found loop holes that essentially disregard any accommodations I’m supposed to have. It’s crazy how little legal protection disabled people have, but that’s a whole nother can of worms. I made the decision to withdraw from college, since my Spring semester grades were going to tank my GPA. I really wanted to only withdraw from the two classes I was doing poorly in, and stay in the two classes that I had nearly perfect grades in, but that isn’t an option at my college.

This also means I will not be able to transfer to a University in the Fall. I won’t have nearly enough hours after I lose these 14. Now, I’m going to have to do at least one more semester at community college, maybe two. I’m trying my best to remind myself that I’m only 18, so I’m actually ahead of my peers by at least one college semester, but withdrawing makes me feel so behind. There’s a lot of emotions to process, and I’m doing my best not to fall into a pit of despair, but it’s been really tough. I think hope and positivity are important when it comes to living as a chronically ill person, but I also think it’s okay to recognize that some situations just suck.

I’m planing to return to college in Fall, or even take a Summer class if I’m able to get my health under control enough. As difficult as this decision is, I know it is the right one. This is not the first time I’ve had to withdraw from school, as many of you know, I started this blog right after I withdrew from high school in November of 2016. It’s crazy to think that almost 18 months later I’m having to do the exact same thing. I’ve got to say it doesn’t hurt any less the second time around, but I know from the first time that it will get better.

What It’s Like Currently Being a Student in America

I’ve grown up in a post-Columbine world. The talk of school shootings is not something new to me, I’ve been taught how to prepare for one my whole life. I’ve spent hours siting in dark classrooms, huddled in the corner with my classmates praying it’s only a drill. As of February, there have been a total of 18 school shootings in 2018. The latest, taking place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 people.

As a current student, this terrifies me. Many days I wake up wondering if I could be next. I’ve made action plans for every classroom I go to, in case I find myself in an active shooter situation. When I see students walking with their hands in a hoodie, I wonder if they’re concealing a gun. When I hear screaming in the hallway, I immediately think “where should I hide?” The worst part about all of this is that it is a preventable issue, yet our government just won’t do anything to prevent it.

I don’t want to be the next victim of a school shooting. I don’t want to see my classmates be victims of a school shooting. I don’t want to see anymore children die in school a shooting. We’re required by law to go to school from the time we turn five until we graduate from high school, and yet we are not safe there. I may now be in college, and have made the decision to be in school, but I still deserve to be safe. No students will be safe until we have gun control, and no students will be safe until our government stops taking money from the NRA.

It is not too soon, now is the time to talk about this. April 20th, 1999 was the time to talk about gun control, December 14th, 2012 was the time to talk about gun control, February 14th, 2018 was the time to talk about gun control, and yet we didn’t. We’ve become so numb as a nation that we get over mass tragedy is a few weeks. We don’t even remember the details of all the recent shootings, because there have been so many. The victims of these horrific acts of violence deserve to be remembered. They deserve justice, and that can only come when we, as a nation, make sure this never happens again. People my age and younger, like Emma Gonzalez, are having to step up and lead a movement. Children, and people who are barely adults, should not have to constantly tell grown-ups that our lives are worth more than your right to own an automatic weapon.

 

Advice for College Freshman

Since my first semester of college just ended, I thought I would share some of the things I learned. For reference I go to a local community college, I’m a biology major, and I got a 4.0 my first semester:

  1. It’s literally just lecturing most of the time

Maybe this is because I only look core classes my first semester (history 1301, biology 1406, english 1301, and math 1314), but all we ever did was lecture and test. In high school you do a lot of busy work and activities, but there is no free time or “fun” days in college. The only class that broke this rule was my English class, where we did a lot of group discussion.

2. Give yourself time in-between some of your classes

Monday, Wednesday, Friday I had History from 10:00-10:50, and then my next class, Algebra, wasn’t until 12:00-12:50. I used the hour in between them to study and do homework, and it was so helpful! It was a designated hour to just work, and it really helped me stay on top of everything. It can be difficult to work at home, and it’s easy to talk yourself out of staying after class to work, so making your schedule with breaks in between is ideal.

3. Take good notes

This sounds like a no-brainer, but honestly it’s so important. I basically spent the entire semester trying to figure out what note-taking strategy worked best for me. I would recommend doing hand written notes if you’re able to, because I definitely retain more info when I write something verses when I type it. I also really like the strategy of condensing your notes down to key information that you’re still working on learning before a test or major quiz. It’s much more effective to study the most important/most difficult information alone, than it is to study everything your Professor lectured over.

4. Take advantage of your resources

This is something I wish I would have done more of. At my college, we have a writing center, and free math tutors which I never used, but should have. Having free resources is something you will probably never get again after college, so take advantage of them! Also, if you have a disability like me, sign up for disability services. They may not be able to completely accommodate you, depending on your needs, but in my case they were super accommodating and happy to help.

5. Do Practice Quizzes/Tests

Taking practice quizzes and tests online is the main thing I used to study. Just reading and highlighting your notes if often not enough. My biology textbook came with a code for online study materials, which is what I used to practice. I like practice tests because you not only need to know the information for your exams, but you also have to know how to apply it.

 

These were the most important things I took away from my first semester in college, academically speaking. Are you in college? What are your tips for college freshman / college students in general?