My Visit to Detroit

My family took me to Detroit so I could visit my hospital to see my caregivers and my school to see my students. Here are the things those experiences made me feel.

1. Botsford Hospital

On Sunday, at Botsford, it was a surreal experience. I was talking to all of these people whom I didn’t know but who knew me.

All of the people I met were simply amazing.

I gained something from that experience that I hadn’t been expecting. Surrounded by medical professionals who had seen me immediately after my accident, they took the time to walk me through how serious my injuries had been. They showed me scans of my brain and explained what normally is expected from those injuries. At one point, I had a dozen bleeds in my brain. The doctors said that nine times out of ten when they see injuries like that, the chances of recovery are super low.

My family and I took my main resident out to eat at a restaurant. My dad asked him if he had ever thought that less than seven months since my accident, he would be eating dinner with and talking to me. He said absolutely not. That conversation and those like it made me even more thankful than I had been about being healthy.

2. School

Another teacher at my school had many of my students do a project where they wrote letters to me while I was in the hospital. I read them a month or two ago and was saddened because I didn’t remember many of them. But then I re-read them the night before I went in to visit my students, and I remembered almost all of them. My students’ favorite game to play with me was “Do you remember my name?” I remembered a lot more than I thought I would, and those that I didn’t remember, I knew at least the first letter of their first name.

Many of my students told me how I was one of the first math teachers they had ever had who made them want to learn math. Statements like this were great for my confidence, which has been frustratingly low since the accident.

Also, I was so happy to see my coworkers doing the things they are doing. My students are in great great hands.

My Remarkable Recovery From Traumatic Injuries

My Remarkable Recovery From Traumatic Injuries

I wrote the above post (if you follow the link) for Botsford Hospital’s blog. Botsford Hospital was the hospital I was in immediately after the accident. I chose to use the stories that made it in the piece because I feel like they capture my entire recovery in a microcosm.

Super Saturday: A Hypocritical Heart Heavy with Hyperbole

I originally posted this on November 17, 2011. These kind of violent hyperboles are literally everywhere. I can see them now in a way I couldn’t before the accident. It’s made me stop using them myself. So I guess I’m not a hypocrite anymore!

I’m about to criticize the world for something I know I do on a regular basis. So I’m hoping you can afford me the love and grace to recognize the truth in the following words even if they do make me a hypocrite.

Your exams are not going to kill you. You have a cold; you are not dying. You broke up with your boyfriend; you are not forever alone. That class did not rape you. You don’t want to kill everyone. You don’t hate everything.

Hyperbolic phrases. I get them. They are sometimes humorous. Except when they aren’t. There are people all around you who are struggling with deaths, with sexual abuse, with terminal illnesses, with depression. I don’t know. I don’t mean to be a debbie downer here. And believe me, I understand being stressed or uptight about things that are seemingly unimportant to others. But that doesn’t mean that you should compare those things to grave things like death and rape.

Life is not exactly a walk in the park (although, it is a bit like standing in the ocean), but if the biggest thing we have to worry about is a tough exam, maybe we should be blessing the world instead of cursing it.

Super Saturday: A Life-Changing Incomplete Thought

I published this post on December 22, 2011. It’s something that I need to remind myself of just about daily now. Since I’m doing lightyears better since four months ago, I want to be out doing things. It often feels like my life is on hold. I’m waiting for that magical moment where I’m teaching again like it’s going to be the life-changing thing. I think it’s the journey of recovery that is actually the life-changing thing.

What if we woke up one day and someone told us that all of the stuff we were doing in preparation for that really important life-changing thing was the really important life-changing thing?

That’s a little confusing.

Let me put it another way.

You might be busy building a social media platform, training for a marathon, dating in an attempt to find a life-partner, getting a degree for a job, starting a business, or starting a movement. Currently, I have a couple of things like that on my plate. I am trying to get a degree. I am starting a student organization on campus. I am trying to build a platform as a blogger. And it’s hard. And a lot of time, I think my real effect on the world will happen when I have my degree, when my student org is running by itself, and when I have over a thousand people following my blog.

There’s a really great war novel I once read where these soldiers are training for war by using video games, but you find out in the end that the video games were the war.

That’s how life works. The life-changing part happens while we are trying to get to the part we think is going to be life-changing.

Super Saturday: Life Is Like a Box of Titleists

This post was originally published on November 13, 2011. Today, less than four months after my accident I am golfing!

I like to golf. A lot. My dad’s a golf pro and so I’ve grown up around the game. My dad likes to say that everything in life can be related back to golf. Being a 20-year-old college kid, I like to roll my eyes at that, but the truth is that everything does kind of relate back to golf. Take for instance trying to find a golf ball. Sometimes, you hit an errant shot, and you have to figure out where your ball is. Over the years, I’ve developed a skill that makes me pretty good at finding golf balls. Here are some of my strategies:

1. Observe. This one seems really simple and stupid. It is simple, but it’s not stupid. No one likes watching bad shots. But bad shots are the most important ones to watch. You know where a good shot is going – straight down the middle. A bad shot, though, can go anywhere. But a lot of people will turn away in anger and stop watching. And then they wonder why they can’t find the ball.

Sometimes the time to take the most diligent notes is when we know things are going horribly wrong.

2. Don’t be afraid to dedicate the majority of your time to the place where everyone first looked. People tend to have really good instincts. And so if your playing partner thinks he hit the ball near the 150-yard-marker, but then starts looking near the 100-yard-marker, chances are, the ball is closer to the 150. I always feel like a jerk when I am searching 50 yards further back than the guy who hit the ball. But when I find it, it’s all worth it.

Focus on the basics. Sometimes ideas are abandoned too quickly.

3. Gain perspective. Sometimes the most useful thing is to stop looking for the ball, and climb up on a hill or climb down a hill. Looking at the same area from a new perspective is incredibly helpful. Sometimes the grass is covering the ball from one angle. But it might be completely in sight from another.

Taking a creative break is almost always a good idea.

4. Be confident. The pros almost never lose balls. This is because they have scouts, but those scouts aren’t literally everywhere on the course. They have to watch the ball just like everyone else. Part of the reason the scouts are so successful is because they are closer to the ball’s destination and because finding the ball is their only concern. But the main reason I think scouts are so successful is because they are confident. They have a ten-foot by ten-foot area they think the ball is in. Not a 50-yard by 50-yard area. That makes things really easy.

If you are 90% sure of something, it’s probably best to go against the rest of the group even if it makes you look like a lone ranger.

5. Know when to cut your losses. Knowing when to give up the search is a talent in its own right. Some people stop searching too quickly. They find their original ball after they have already put a new one into play. Others search too long for a ball that is probably in the water. There’s a happy medium. The key is to have a healthy realistic understanding of the world. Not too pessimistic but not overly optimistic either.

You aren’t always going to find what you want, but that’s okay. Take it in stride.

Super Saturday: To My Brother Upon His Graduation

This post was originally posted on May 29, 2012. When I read it a couple of days ago, I felt like the paragraph about making each day better than the last speaks to me now. I try to be better every day–always improving.

To my brother and (if they feel like reading) the class of 2012,

You have done it. Congratulations! Thirteen long years have resulted in a diploma. Here are some things you should know.

First, a lot of people are going to try to give you advice. Don’t pay attention to it. Maybe that makes me sound like a jerk. But here’s the thing. One, you should probably pick and choose the advice you follow anyway. And two, at the end of the day, you aren’t going to follow advice. So I’m freeing you from it. Just make up your mind now. At some point in the next part of your life, you are going to remember the words someone wrote on a graduation card to you, and you are going to ignore them. Revel in it.

The next part of your life is not the best. The last four years of your life were not the best. Life should be lived somewhere where you are trying to make each day better than the last. The last day of your life should be your best. You still have some ways to go.

Don’t buy into the real world/childhood dichotomy. You have been in the real world for a while. Thirty year olds still watch cartoons and play video games. Seventeen year olds are beating cancer. Think about that.

Always act as if you have a ton to learn. When you are an expert in something, you will know because people will want to learn something from you. Until then, ask a lot of questions.

Remember that for four years, you mostly got along with a group of 300 something people. That’s amazing. I’m lucky if I get along with a couple of people every week. Remember that no matter how much you disagree with someone, they were a teenager once, too. They once struggled awkwardly through a first kiss and stayed up too late on a school night and tried that thing with the Pop Rocks and the Coke. Believe in humanity.

As much as you can, stay away from anger. All anger will do is make enemies out of friends. There are already too many enemies in the world.

Sometimes, you won’t be able to avoid anger. When that happens, remember that you are angry at ideas, behaviors, and situations not at souls.

Find something to believe in. Believe in it wholeheartedly. If it turns out you are wrong, believe in something else.

Super Saturday: You Have Roots, Too

I decided to change the name of the weekly post that I repost AGAIN. Like I said in last week’s original post, I don’t want to be known or defined by my accident and surviving it. I thought the name before was falling into that trap.This post was originally posted on January 8th of 2012.

I’ve been reading through Exodus. It’s a pretty epic story. I’ve always liked Moses. I loved the animated movie The Prince of Egypt as a kid. And I would plead with my parents to let me stay up to watch The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston when it would be on television near Passover. (IMDB says that Heston was not only Moses in that movie, he was also the voice of God. What a man.)

What’s not to like about Moses’s story? It’s got everything you could want. An evil king. A strong male lead. Magic. A chase scene. A few fight scenes. Blood. A burning bush. And snakes. That’s pretty cool.

Except Moses was nothing like Charlton Heston. He was a man who had been raised as royalty who one day found out he was actually a slave. And that did not create a sense of justice in him. It scared him. He fled Egypt because he was scared. And then when God talked to him in the burning bush, Moses was scared again.

He argued with God. He said, “I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). Moses was not a natural born leader. He wasn’t witty. He wasn’t popular at cocktail parties. He didn’t always have the right thing to say.

But God reassured him and told him that He would use Moses’s brother Aaron as a mouthpiece. And then Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and demand that the Israelites be let  go. And he says no and forces the Israelites to make bricks without straw. Moses and Aaron are defeated.

The people of Israel turn on Moses and Aaron. And Moses calls out to God “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all” (Exodus 5:22-3).

Then, two things happen. First, God gives Moses and Aaron a pep talk. I’m pretty sure all sports movies are modeled after the book of Exodus. Underdogs train hard. Underdogs are unsuccessful at first. Coach gives an amazing monologue type speech. Cue musical montage to a classic rock song featuring the Egyptians falling prey to the plagues.

Second, the author of Exodus (probably Moses?) stops narration to give a genealogy of Moses and Aaron. At first, it feels like really bad story-telling. It disrupts the flow of narrative; it doesn’t feel entirely relevant; and it’s hard to read.

I started thinking about it, though. Who has genealogies? Kings. Royalty. Important people. No one cares about a slave’s genealogy. Slaves hardly have names.

I think, often, I’m a little bit like Moses, pre-success. I’m angry that God has asked me to do something that doesn’t make immediate sense to me. I think that people are more important than me. I rarely stop to ponder my own identity, my own name, my own genealogy. And so I start thinking of myself as a bit player in someone else’s life.

There are no bit players. In God’s story, we all deserve genealogies.