I am a college graduate

Well, it is now official, I am a college graduate. I may not have been able to have a proper graduation but I am able to hold my diploma in my hands, and it’s an amazing feeling, I worked so hard for this.  I struggled so much over the years and because of issues with my mental and physical health, I spent almost 15 years trying to just get a two-year degree. And given the trauma of my brother’s death in middle school and how difficult high school was, I never imagined in a million years that I would have a college degree. In fact, a few weeks before graduating high school at my alternative school, I talked with a counselor and she asked me what my plans were and I told her I just wanted to get a job somewhere and earn a paycheck. She shook her head and asked about me going to college and I told her that I wasn’t sure about it at the moment, she shrugged her shoulders that was the end of the conversation, like at that moment we both gave up on me, college was out of the question.

I took a year off of school and worked at a Grocery store, bagging groceries. A year later, I started college and took a few classes but I wasn’t ready, I was in bad shape emotionally and physically,  I had to get up several times to use the restroom, I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the other students, I felt stupid and I didn’t understand the lectures so, I quit after a few weeks,  feeling like a total failure.

 

I gave up and found a minimum wage job ( one of many over the years) and worked for about three years, just trying to earn any money I could, my emotional and physical problems got significantly worse and it affected my job performance and I was treated poorly at every job I worked at. Finally, my physical difficulties became so bad, that I could no longer work and I forced to stay at home. During that time, I wanted to learn something so I taught myself Spanish by watching Spanish language television, listening to the radio, and reading my dad’s old books in Spanish.

Eventually, I decided that I should take a Spanish class at my local community class and I signed up, I also signed for an English writing course, I took a test and I was required to take a remedial English course to get me up to speed to a credited English course.  I remember the Spanish class well; it was a beginner’s course and I had already learned most of the language concepts. On the very first day of class, I met my teacher, she was pretty with curly hair and she said she was Cuban. My family is Cuban and I excitedly told her my family was Cuban, she looked unimpressed as if I was trying to brown-nose her. And when she heard me speak Spanish, she told me that I didn’t belong there, I belonged in a more advanced class, I didn’t complain.

When I took the English course, they had us write simple compositions about our favorite vacation or just creative writing, I enjoyed it, I didn’t see myself as a writer or have a passion for it yet. One day the teacher told us we could write about any topic we liked but had to have a 3 to a 4-page minimum. Well, I decided to write about the counterculture of the 1960s, a topic I knew a lot about since I watched every documentary I could on the subject.  A few days before the due date, I hadn’t written anything. I sat on my couch and started writing in a notebook every idea that came to my head, it was page after page. Eventually, I was able to mold that into a paper that spanned 10 pages, I just couldn’t stop writing. I turned it in, a few days later the professor talked me and said the dean was concerned because he thought I had plagiarized it but couldn’t prove it, I said sincerely that I didn’t, I just loved to write. The teacher said “I believe you” and handed me back my paper and like the other class, moved me to a credited college course immediately, it was one of the proudest moments of my life up to that point, I felt really smart. After those classes, I took another semester with two classes, I continued the English writing and Spanish courses, I did quite well, I was proud of myself.  As I was taking this class, my family was planning to move out of state, so I have to stay with my Aunt for a few weeks to finish my courses.

 

I moved to another city and took another year off to just get settled, I found another low paying job that I hated but, in my heart, I wanted to be back in school. After a year, I signed for classes here at the local community classes, I now had a school counselor and a set number of classes I needed to take. I started to branch out, I took a communications class and some other class I can’t remember, I did well in those classes, considering I was also working a job that was stressing me out at the time.  During my last year at this job, I missed a few semesters and just lost interest in school, I think my mental health was really deteriorating at this point. Sadly, my job was affecting my mental health so bad that I had a breakdown, I quit after 3 years and I was so distraught that I didn’t know what to do, I came home upset that I lost a job and I also liked a co-worker but she wasn’t interested, I was a mess. I was at one of the lowest points in my life and feeling hopeless. I was on Facebook and I saw a post from an old friend and they were now working with people with disabilities, I was impressed and I was also angry because I had disabilities and I was treated so poorly in the workplace, I wanted to do something to make a difference. I found a book with college programs, I was outside chain-smoking and I saw a program called “Human services technology developmental disabilities” And immediately I pointed at it and said to myself “I can do that”  I didn’t even hesitate.

A few weeks later, I signed for a few classes and I entered the program. I met with the man who was the chair of the program and he became my school counselor, he was kind and really believed in me ( sadly he no longer is working for the school anymore) He was teaching a lot of the classes I was in and I was excited to be there, I excelled, I loved the curriculum and I got good grades without even reading much, I was just interested in the classes, I wrote papers and loved the discussions we had. I especially loved when I had assignments where I had to interview people in the disabilities field, I got so much out of that. I was just proud that I was doing so well. I  was required to take a counseling course, which was the hardest class of them all, everyone feared this professor, she was tough. She would get upset at me if I wouldn’t follow the format of writing she expected. She would tell me that she didn’t care about the content, I didn’t follow her directions and I could do better. But once I was able to follow her format, she started to really like what I turned in and I was one of the few person’s that got A’s on her hardest papers; both required us to write over 10 pages, it was hard work but I love to write. I ended up getting an A in her class, I just jumped for joy.

 

After that semester, I had some financial troubles and I wasn’t working, my parents were retired and couldn’t help me much with paying for classes. Again, I had to stop classes and after a few months. I applied for a Pell grant, which basically gives low-income students an opportunity to finish school without worrying about finances, they paid my tuition and books, I even got money back at the end of the semester, it was a godsend. So, I was finally able to go back and get closer to getting my degree.

I took a few classes and began an internship program at a large agency in the area, it was a day support center where they had classes and art time for disabled adults. I was working at the time, so it was hard at first to get my hours. I really loved the clients and they loved me and I also got to know the support workers there, we got along well. I, however, did not like my supervisor, I could tell from the moment I walked in that she did not like me. I am not sure what it was about me but she had this disdain, she looked annoyed every time I would ask her a question, she never gave me direction, so I ended not doing much except helping teach the classes and interacting with the students, I felt frustrated because I didn’t know what to do unless someone took the time to show me what they needed. I finished my first round of internship and passed but I wasn’t happy and neither was she, I questioned whether or not I belonged in this field.

As time went on, I continued my classes, I slowly but surely got closer to my degree, but one thing was bothering me, I have a learning disability in math and I had been avoiding it until the very end, I knew it would be difficult. I finally had to take a remedial math course and it was this large computer room ( like you see in a library) with a station with 5 or 6 computers attached. The course was done in class and online, I was not allowed to use a calculator and I got so frustrated, I’d go home and just want to scream, I didn’t get it. After a week, I walked out, totally distraught, and thinking that I could never pass. The next semester, I tried again and passed the first remedial course. Oh, and the course was only for 4 weeks at a time, which didn’t give me the time I needed to learn and that only added to the frustration.

Before I took this next math course, I talked to someone at the disability department about getting accommodations, I qualified and was able to have a student write their notes for me, I was able to have more test time and to take it at the learning center instead of the class, I felt like this could help me pass. I was also feeling like I could pass this next math course because I heard that I could use a calculator, that was my main issue, simple arithmetic was holding me back and I could figure everything out if I just had a calculator. It turned out that I could use a calculator only if I passed the first test.  When I attended my first class, I was so lost and I kept looking at the girl next to me, she was so much farther along than me and I felt so dumb, I’d asked the teacher assistant a question and she’d explain it and I still wouldn’t get it, I’d ask again and could tell she was annoyed. I had it, I was cursing underneath my breath, I angrily threw my stuff into my bag and walked out. I called my mom and told her that I couldn’t do this, I felt like an idiot and I was never going to pass, I felt so bad at that time and hopeless. I talked to my counselor after and she explained to me that the class required no calculators and there was nothing she could do about it.

At the time I had started volunteering at a Christian organization for adults with developmental disabilities and I was telling the woman in charge about the issues I was having and she offered to help, there was also a parent of one of the disabled adults and she would sit down with me and go over the math problems and explain it slowly so I could understand, she was kind.  Also being there had given me the confidence I had lost while I was at the internship, volunteering I felt valued and loved and knew that I was capable of being in this field if I had the right guidance and people who cared.

I ended up having my mom come with me and explain to the counselor the difficulties I was having and how I was at a disadvantage because the trauma of losing my brother really affected my education in high school ( and that was the truth)  I asked if I could waive the math course and she said that usually never happens unless it were extenuating circumstances. She mentioned that the school might offer the option of substituting a class but it would be in science, I was concerned since I was not good at science either and had dropped out of a few of those classes over the years. She said substitution was also rare and I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I walked out feeling somewhat disappointed because this was my last resort and I didn’t get a solid answer but we did request that the class be substituted, I was told that it would take some time for a decision to be made.

 

A few months passed and I heard nothing, I contacted the school several times and didn’t get an answer, I was ready to give up at this point. I finally got an email from my disability counselor and said that they were looking over the decision and I’d know soon, I knew in my heart that it would be denied, I’d never pass this course and get my degree, after all those years of hard work. I was thinking of trying to find another community college to finish up at and see if they could waive this math course, sadly, I was told that it was a state requirement. My last resort was to write a letter to the state board and keep going higher up until I got an answer. One day, I was checking my school email and I saw something from school with the subject “Class substitution ‘  I was nervous and opened the email, it stated that the substitution HAD been approved and they were offering astronomy. I literally screamed for joy and jumped out of my seat. I didn’t know a thing about astronomy but I knew that it was better than math and I had a chance of passing.

 

I quickly signed up and attended class in the fall. I was concerned though that I might not do well but the first class, I enjoyed the lecture and the teacher was really cool. It was both an in-class lecture and online work, that was ok with me. But the best part was yet to come, the professor mentioned that we did have in-class quizzes and exams. When the exams came, he surprised us and said that the exam was online with open notes, everyone was relieved. I ended up passing with flying colors, my heart soared because I knew that I was going to do good in this class. The next exam came and I studied so hard, I made flashcards, I got notes from the professor ( like in the math class), I just focused on that one class. And to my surprise, the next exam was online as well. Most classes never allow exams online so I was ecstatic. It turned out all the work online and I was able to eventually pass.  The last day of class, I was on top of the world, I knew I passed and it was like a huge boulder had been lifted off my shoulders and I could finally rest easy, it was over, I had gotten my degree

After struggling on and off for 15 years and when I saw that I got an A, that was the proudest moment of my life. Me, someone who struggled so much in his life, someone who made to feel he was stupid and not good enough, finally got a college degree, I was a college graduate at last. I never thought this would happen. I never thought it would happen when I was an 18-year-old kid in that class with that counselor, I was just happy to be out of high school. I didn’t think it would happen when I was working low paying jobs, treated like garbage every day, and sick to my stomach. I didn’t think it would happen when I couldn’t solve a simple math problem ( that a child could solve) and I felt so stupid. But it did happen and it could happen to me, I could happen to anyone. If you want something in your life, you have to work hard with every fiber of your being for it, you have to picture it in your mind and never stop until you reach that goal. You can struggle but never ever give up, that is one thing I learned from this whole experience. I am a walking miracle and I hope somebody can read this and be inspired to achieve their dreams just like I did.

 

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Learning disabilities and college

I just started a new school semester and have devoted all of my energy on this Math course which is the only class I need to take in order to graduate.  I have learning disabilities and it mostly affects Math, in fact I passed every other subject with flying colors, I have about a 3.5 grade average.  I excelled at writing papers and in my counseling, class was one of the few students to get an A in one of the hardest classes offered by the degree program. So not to pat myself on the back but I feel like I’m a pretty smart guy.  So back to math, my degree program in human services disabilities, Math has nothing to do with my chosen career and yet it’s forced up upon me.

So, I signed up for what’s called a DMA course, that means that it’s a class that designed to get you up to speed so you can pass 1 college level math course. It is not designed for those that specifically have learning disabilities despite that the name of the course implies it.   I was actually given a scholarship so I could finally get my degree after many years of attending this community college. I took all the precautions; I talked to a disability counselor and managed to get accommodations (although not as many as I had hoped). The class requires that I not use a calculator until I can pass the midterm test, I tried to waive that but the counselor told me there was nothing that could be done. But she did give me the option of taking the tests in the testing center with more time and that is pretty much the only accommodation that I have right now.  In addition to class time, there is a tutoring class which was offered, it consists of student volunteers that help guides you. It is not individualized or designed specifically for those with disabilities.

So, I got to the class and it isn’t even a classroom, it is an open computer area and all the lessons are done online. So basically, you sit in front of a computer and the teacher and her assistant try to help you with questions and sometimes they are of help and sometimes they aren’t.   You have taken these little quizzes based on videos and an online textbook.  I haven’t taken math since middle school and due to the trauma of losing my brother and having mental health issues, high school is a blur, I didn’t learn much. Needlessly to say my math skills are very limited, I can barely do long division and multiplication without a calculator, so to take away the one tool that COULD help me succeed is almost cruel.  Sometimes during class, I’d just jot down notes or stare at the screen because I couldn’t figure it, I felt so stupid, seeing everyone figure it out and I was stuck on the basics.  I felt helpless.

I decided that I had to take the tutoring courses, which were offered at two campus. At  one campus, the class was in an enclosed classroom but there were 4 or 5 students with one teacher, I couldn’t get the amount of attention I needed because she kept jumping to help every other student. She explained some things here and there but it wasn’t enough for me to fully understand, even if I wrote it down. The other tutoring session was in the same area of the math class but was in an open area, above a lobby where many students gathered, there were 3 volunteers to help me but it was noisy and I couldn’t concentrate, she was trying to help me solve a math problem but I was so frustrated by all the noise that I just gave up for the day. I also have ADHD and I was furious, I wanted to ask someone to do something, I was trying to learn and this was impeding on my learning process. You’d think tutoring would be a private and quiet area, right?  I just shake my head at how many obstacles this school sets up for those who struggle with learning disabilities

So, on top of the class, I could do schoolwork at home which at first was nice, I was in my own space, I could concentrate and really think about the problems. But I found myself studying for hours at a time and still not understanding. I was getting angry and frustrated and stressed out, I couldn’t sleep and it has taken up all my thoughts.  And doing it at home is difficult because all you have is a computer program, they don’t have a person explaining it to you, step by step, which is helpful to a person who has disabilities. An online video can  can only help so much.   Mentally and emotionally, I am totally drained, I have been so frustrated, as if I am a kid again and I’m being forced to learn something that I cannot understand, until eventually they stopped teaching me because it caused so much distress.

So, I have a midterm due and I have done almost every quiz except for one, I have tried and tried and cannot get it right. I actually went through all the videos, wrote an example of each concept, twice, my notebook is completely full and I have looked at this math concept every which way and still cannot figure it out. So, after 2 or 3 days of little sleep, I threw my hands up and decided that I cannot do this, this is unhealthy.  I will take the test tomorrow, that way they can’t say that I didn’t try and afterwards I am contacting my disability counselor and telling her I cannot continue.  They can either waive this class so I can finally graduate or I don’t get a degree, all those years of hard work down the drain because they don’t recognize that my disability severely impedes me from passing this math course.

But here’s the thing, this is a wonderful opportunity to advocate not only for myself, but for others who will come after me, those struggling with disabilities that try so hard and fail because of the school’s refusal to adapt to their needs. So here are some of my suggestions. The first is that if a student has a history of documented disabilities (makes no difference if it is specifically in math) and has passed all of their other classes and has made several attempts at math and failed and math is not a part a specific part of their degree program then they should be able to waive that math requirement.  The second part is that if they are adamant about forcing math on those that are learning disabled, then they should have a class geared specifically for those with documented learning disabilities; with instructors that can meet the needs of the learning disabled; with the attention and guidance they so desperately need. And the last suggestion is that there should be individualized one on one tutoring for students with learning disabilities. There is no reason why a learning-disabled person can’t get more individual attention, our needs are greater than most students and we do require more attention and time to understand certain courses. I can’t see why this isn’t possible with this school.  It’s all about ensuring that students with learning disabilities succeed, when the disabled students succeed, so does the school.   So instead of getting angry and feeling sorry for myself. I use this has an opportunity to educated the school and the public as whole about better adapting to the needs of those with learning disabilities in higher education.

 

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I’m back in school

I want to make a quick update. Today was a new semester of college for me and I only have a few classes until I can get my degree in human service disabilities and finally graduate. I have finished all of my classes including internships and now all that I have left are these math courses.  All my life I have had learning disabilities in math and every time I see a math problem; I automatically feel dumb and I feel myself get frustrated. When I got to class; we had to take knowledge check and I didn’t know anything.  Out of 20 questions, I got 1 right; again, I felt stupid.  Luckily, it didn’t affect my grade but it shows how far behind I am; I’m not bad at math; I simple can’t do it. I said a little prayer and told myself not to get frustrated because that only makes it worse. On a positive note; I am determined this time around; I am going to make this class successful. Late last year; I got in touch with a disability counselor and she said she could give me some accommodations; which hopefully will help. I’m going to email her tomorrow and see how she can help me. There is also a tutoring class available and I am going to go to that tomorrow; I really intend on making the effort. I pray that God will see me through and I am fortunate to have a lot of support and I am blessed.  Thank you, friends, for all your kind words and understanding; it really makes a difference in my life.

 

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New Year goals 2019

New Year Goals

Well, a new year is upon us and it has been quite a incredible year for me; I made a lot of progress and really grew as a person. I pray that 2019 will also be a good year for me; I plan on making the year to come a very successful one; I’d like to improve myself on a mental/emotion, spiritual, social and financial/career level; all aspects of my life. I am ending the year on a somewhat sour note; being unemployed but I have perseverance and I am very driven. I am many goals for this year and I plan to achieve a lot in the coming year.

One of my goals is education; I am determined to finally get my associates degree in developmental disabilities; I want a job in the field; maybe as a job coach, a peer mentor or a motivational speaker in the future. I can sense how my writing and story has inspired others and the idea of using it to help people is something I very much like to do. I will take any opportunity to use my experience to inspire others to do their very best and not to give up; this may be one of my callings in life. I want more career aspects because like anyone else; I want to make enough money so I can be independent; I don’t live with my family by choice; I’m with them because my health issues and disabilities limits the kinds of jobs I can take; I want to push myself to do better; I think we all deserve that.

And speaking of my career; I want to continue to volunteer with the disabled ministry; I plan on spending more time with them this year; getting to know them further; and learning the skills I need to enter the human service field. It also helps me grow closer in my faith and become a more spiritual person. Through this group, I know God is working in my life. I plan on volunteering in other areas such as teaching English as a second language and other volunteer opportunities throughout the area. Now that I have all this free time; I plan to use it wisely and maybe get involved in church more as well. I think God has big plans for me in 2019 and I just have to follow his lead.

I think this will be a big year for me socially as well. I plan to continue reconnecting with friends and hopefully making new friends as well; I am trying to learning to face my fears and learn to meet new people and not avoid social situations; just to put myself out there. Something as simple as asking for a someone’s number who I’m interested in is a big step for me. Maybe dating is on the horizon for me; that is an exciting new chapter for me. That’s something that creates a lot of anxiety but I know God will guide me through whatever happens. I plan on maybe taking a trip back home to see old friends; there are so many people I want to see; just the idea of traveling is new to me but I am ready for it. I am so thankful for all the friends I have connected but am sad most of them live far away; so I have to make the effort to see them. This will be the year where I expand my social life.

I will continue to write; exploring new ideas and forms of writing; I am going to keep my blog and hopefully gain more followers and connect with more writers; I am so excited about that. With my free time; I hope to find a writers group in the area and meet fellow writers face to face; maybe get the chance to share my poetry to a live audience; I would love that. Yes writing is my saving grace and I have no idea where I’d be without it.

I figure if 2018 was such a big year; then 2019 will be even better; I just have to have faith; I need to stay positive and move forward in my life. I want to inspire and encourage others and do my part to make the world a better place. I want to be a more compassionate and forgiving person along the way; I remain in prayer and I hope for the best in the upcoming year. And I wish all of my family, friends and followers a very happy new years. May 2019 be a successful year for you; may you be blessed with all the happiness in the world

Dave

 

 

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The language of Art

Anyone who reads my blogs or has met me in person knows that I love music; it is my refuge; my escape from a chaotic world.  Ever since I was a little boy; I loved to sit alone in my room and listen to music after a tiring day; it calms me down and as an adult; it inspires me to write.  I love to escape into art; whether it be through music, film or writing; I immerse myself in it.  I have also had an eclectic taste in film and music; I like things that are unique or different; often films or songs that are much older than I am; art that makes you think and look at the world in a different way; I don’t like what everyone else is listening to or watching.   I started exploring film a few years back and realized I loved foreign films; I love hearing a new language and learning about different cultures; I appreciated other countries take on film making and how it made me see film from another perspective. I learned to enjoy reading subtitles; instead of seeing it as a chore of having to read the movie ( like many see it as).   And here was the thing what made the film beautiful was the fact that it wasn’t in English; it was the way they expressed themselves and the words seemed to flow and an almost jealously on my part that I couldn’t speak that language; English to me just sounds so boring to me ( maybe it’s because it is all I hear)  You may not know this but my father and his family are from Cuba, I remember sitting with them at lunch and hearing my father converse with my grandparents; I had no idea what they were saying but it sounded beautiful to me. In fact I felt my father had two personalities; who he was in everyday life; speaking English and this other person when speaking Spanish; it amazed to me for some reason. And maybe that where my love of foreign languages began why I seek it out in art.

A long time ago I decided  to teach myself Spanish; lamenting to myself that I never got the chance to have a conversation with my grandmother; I knew she loved me but communication was impossible with such a language barrier ( she spoke no English).   I figured that besides looking at my dad’s old books in Spanish and using a Spanish/English dictionary; I would watch the Spanish channel and listen Spanish language radio to lose myself in the language until I could learn it.   It helped that all the women on the Spanish channel were beautiful even if I had no idea what they were saying.   So I ended up teaching myself a lot of Spanish by watching and listening to Spanish language media.   I then start exploring music in different languages; a lot of it were used in some of the foreign films I watched and I realized how that the language wasn’t important; it was the music itself. In fact the inability to understand the language added mystery and intrigue and made me like it even more.   I ended up buying some bossa nova records  (  I love Portuguese sounds like a mix of Spanish and french; a really sexy language) and finding a lot of old foreign music on Youtube ( thank god for the internet)  It’s not the type of music you can play at full blast in your car with others and do car karaoke but it’s the kind music that you’d listen to after a long day to relax and unwind and escape to anywhere you want; Italy, German, France, Japan, Cuba; anywhere).  Watching foreign films and listening to world music allows me to go places that I’d never be able to go to otherwise and that is the reason why I go to it.  So I encourage anyone to go exploring and you might find English media to be a little bland and boring after discovering what the world has to offer.

Dave

 

One of the first foreign films I fell in love with “L Eclisse”.  Bellisimo

 

 

Do you have 15 1/2 hours to spare for this German masterpiece?

I will not give up ( school update)

Today has been such a frustrating day; I have been struggling with this math course. All my life I have struggled with math; I could do everything else but Math makes me want to throw a fit.  In fact I passed all of my courses with really good grades; half the time without even trying; to be honest.  If I didn’t know how to write I would have never passed my courses. I avoided math until the end because I knew that it would make me so frustrated that my other classes would suffer as a result.  I have learning and emotional disabilities and I get flustered very easily when I don’t understand something and math is my aquiles heel. In fact I am on the Autism spectrum ( or so they tell me)

I got to class today; prepared to take a few mini tests and do some vocabulary worksheets; I was pretty optimistic I could figure it out. I had written down notes from all the chapters including examples and diagrams.  Oh and I forget to mention that for the first 2 weeks of this 4 week math course; I cannot use a calculator.  I cannot multiply or divide large numbers without the use of a calculator; so  to not have a calculator only adds to the stress. A lot of my math works has to do with fractions; dividing; multiplying and simplifying ( it might as well be Chinese because I don’t fuckin get it)  I sat there; problems after problem and I couldn’t figure it out. And I could feel myself getting angry; I was muttering curse words under my breath; giving the computer a middle finger; I was obviously upset. Like a little kid I’m writing in my notes “this is total bullshit”  “fuck this” etc; because when I do math; I’m a little kid again. The girl next to me seemed to be disturbed by how angry I seemed; which really helped :(.   I closed my notebook, threw it into my backpack and walked out. I called my mom and told her I was ready to drop this course.  I sat waiting for my ride ( I’ll share that journal later) and wrote how I was feeling at that exact moment.

I got home and I talked to my mom and she contacted the disability counselor at a different campus who suggested I email someone who specifically helps those who are learning disabled in math. Since it was past 5 pm; I couldn’t get her on the phone so I sent her an email. I let her know that i was struggling; I had learning disabilities and how could she help me be successful because I only have math left. My mom also informed that if I have learning disability specifically in math then I can substitute it for a different course. I am not quite sure if I have specific disability but I know I was in LD math classes all my life; that counts for something, right. So I called work and took the day off and I am going to take care of this school thing tomorrow because I am determined to get this degree.  I just feel so frustrated at myself sometimes; I am so confident when it comes to every other subject but it hurts when I see people figuring this math shit out and I can’t get it.  I felt like crying; like less than a man.  But I will pray about this and I appreciate all the support.

But I want to end this on a positive note and say there are things I do have now that are helpful that I didn’t have before.  On my social media; I often talk to my old friends who no longer live near me; people who I grew up with. I share my struggles with them am very open about my disabilities ( aside from being on the autistic spectrum) and they have been so supportive; I get so much love from my friends and that makes a huge difference; to have that support system.  So even though they are far away and we can’t go to lunch or talk about it; I know I can post about it and I get words of encouragement; I am truly blessed. And what’s even more helpful is some of my favorite people who I were friends with are now in the disability field; they understand me and accept me for who I am; which means so much. The other resource I have is my writing and the encouragement I get from my followers; I love having this outlet to express my frustrations. It’s much better than flushing my math notebook down the toilet; which is very tempting by the way. I opt for writing about it; I hope someone can read this and understand where I am coming from. Maybe they want to give up and I hope that they try to overcome their struggles and to push themselves to do better.  Even if I have to fail this course; I want to know that I did everything I could to succeed.  I can do this and whatever it is you are struggling with you; you can do this too.

For now I am going to relax, get some unhealthy junk food in me and try again tomorrow.

 

Have a good night,

Dave

Dealing with learning disabilities in Math

All my life I have struggled with math; to the point where I find myself enraged every time I have to look at a math problem; I used to throw my math book on the ground because I got so frustrated; 25 years later; in college I find myself doing the same exact thing. Throwing a fit like a kid because I just don’t fuckin get it. I don’t know what the exact diagnosis is but I have a learning disability in math and it used to make me feel so stupid. I will never forget when I was about 9 years old; they moved me from my special education class to a regular classroom; I had no idea what so called “normal kids” were like. Anyways this teacher made me go up to board and solve a math problem in front of all the students; I can still remember turning red and hearing them laugh when I couldn’t figure it out and the more they laughed; the angrier I became at them but also at myself. I was angry at this teacher for putting a child with disabilities on display; knowing I struggled with it. In fact I hope things in school have changed since the early 90’s.  I felt so stupid because the other kids understood math with ease and I would look at a problem a million times and I still couldn’t figure it out. Due to the bullying they moved me back to the special ed class ( at least for Math) and I was given easy math assignments I could understand and got plenty of one on one help. By the time I hit high school I was still getting help for my learning disabilities and by that point; I don’t remember any math courses; then again it was a chaotic time in my life. I just remember now having to deal with math from 7th grade on; I figured I was free and never needed it again; I couldn’t have imagined at that time going to college in the future.  I got kicked out of high school and ended up in a bunch of alternative schools and their only requirement was that I showed up; not a lot of expectations. I look back and I feel cheated but I was a troubled kid and I needed to be there.

So fast forward to 2018 and I am so close to my degree. I have all of my classes passed; all the internships done; a good grade point average and I have taken 1 developmental math course (  passed by the skin of my teeth)  Now I am in the second class and it has to with prime numbers and simplifying fractions. mixed numbers etc; probably basis shit to most people, but for someone with maybe 6th grade knowledge of math ( and that is stretching it) it is all complex.  I don’t know how to divide or multiply without a calculator and the class requires that I not use a calculator for the first two weeks ( I had a assumed i could use the calculator from the start)  A lot of the coursework is done online ( thank god) but the tests are done in the computer lab ( which does not help my anxiety)  Yesterday was ok; I took notes of all the basis concepts and was able to finish some assignments; i felt confident.  Today I worked all day ( I am in retail and cannot take weekends off) so I was already tired. I came home again and started on my math work; took notes and tried to limit distractions.  When it came to taking the practice tests; I drew a blank and had to google the answers just to finish the assignment; it doesn’t help because I still don’t understand the concepts and I again feel like that 9 year old kid; I feel stupid, frustrated and incapable of learning this math.

I asked my family for help and said because of my temper they refused to help ( which is understandable) but that just frustrates me further; I feel helpless sometimes. I just say to myself I can write a 10 paper in a few days and get and A, but I can’t solve a simple 7th grade math problem; it hurts.  It’s the weekend; I am working; I can’t go to the school so I am sitting here; trying to calm myself down and take it a day at a time ( or in my case; a fraction at a time). I am going to get the right documentations and ask for accommodations because I need help. I NEED HELP!! There is also free tutoring and I am going to take advantage of that too.  I know I can do this with the right help and resources; I am not stupid; in fact I consider myself quite bright; I just have a disability and it isn’t my fault. And I’m not 9 years old and no one is laughing ( as far as i know)  I hope someone out there understands where I am coming from. The lesson of all of this is never be afraid to admit you have a problem and don’t be afraid to ask for help and never ever think or allow someone to make you feel like you are stupid due to a disability. You are not stupid; you just have a different way of learning things and need to find a way to adapt. With that ,I am emotionally drained and I am spending the rest of the night watching movies and leaving the math until tomorrow.

Good night

Dave

 

The disability ministry at Church

Today was such a wonderful day; as most of you know I have been very passionate for a long time about helping those with developmental disabilities and am in school working on a degree in human service/developmental disabilities. A part of that passion comes from the fact that I got special needs services from the time I was a small child; I am so blessed that at that time ( over 30 years ago) there were people who were just as passionate about helping children like me as I am with the disabled adults I have had the pleasure to work with over the years; it’s amazing to give back.  I am also blessed to be part of a church that serves the developmentally disabled  in many ways; there is actually a ministry dedicated to helping the developmentally disabled in the community and when I heard about that I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of that somehow.  I have made a lot of changes in my life. There was a time; not long ago; in which I said I would do this or volunteer or help with this and I never followed through; things are different today; when I say I am going to do something; I will try my best to make that happen.

So today was a lunch served by those helped through the ministry; it was wonderful to see them interacting with people; feeling a part of things; being productive; I just was smiling seeing this because some of the kindest most wonderful I have met have been disabled in one way or another. In fact if I had a choice between spending time with disabled people or non-disabled people I would choose disabled people;  they are a hell of a lot much nicer and much less judgemental overall than people that don’t have special needs ( some; not all. I don’t like making generalizations) I sat next to a lady who had been to the lunch before and she was explaining some of the things they do out in the community; the activities through the church; I was impressed. She was also very friendly and I was glad to be seated next to someone who cares about this community. Her daughter was also there and was also interested in helping those with special needs; I told her about my internship and that it serves the many needs of the disabled and I gave her the card I got from there. Even though my experience was bad there; I hope she finds it rewarding.  Actually my internship experience soured me a bit on getting into the disability field, but after talking with people today; I feel more positive about it. I think if I can just connect with the right people I can be successful; like anyone else I just need the right guidance It is refreshing to be around people who care so much about serving those in need; I am not around people like that on a regular basis. I went with my mom because she knew a lot of the people there and she introduced me to some of the leaders there. I talked to a young woman who’s mom founded the organization; she was very friendly and I enjoyed talking with her. I told her about how i was in school to get a degree in human services and she seemed very enthusiastic. She told me to email her and the other leaders about what times I can volunteer. Sadly I work retail and my schedule is erratic to say the least but I will talk to my boss about making time for this ministry because it is important.  I am just so excited to be a part of this; I feel this is God’s calling for me.  And I love to be around people who as passionate as me and who want to help others. I am just at a loss of words at how happy I am right now. Truly a God moment.

 

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Life update August 2018

I first want to say thank you to everyone who follows and interacts with me on this blog.  I still can’t believe how positive the comments have been regarding my posts; I have received a ton of support and I really appreciate that. Lately I have been I have been making less posts than I did in the past; I guess I have been busy and haven’t had the energy to write as much or respond in a prompt manner.  But this blog has been therapy for me; a way to get out my feelings in a safe place with people who understand and it’s an amazing thing. I plan on blogging for many years to come.

In the past year and especially since I have started blogging my life has changed in many positive ways.  I am slowly adding enriching things in my life; things I was too scared to do in the past; if something suggested this or that; I’d say I’d think about it; knowing I would never taking them on the suggestion; a lot of had to do with fear; more than anything else. I am a fearful person and I think like most people I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone. But know I am doing things that I wasn’t doing a year ago; for example this blog itself.  For many years I had many thoughts and ideas, feelings that I never shared with anyone. I thought if I shared these things people would laugh or reject what I had to say; I was wrong. Writing and the feedback I got from it gave me a boost of confidence that I have learn to use in other areas of my life; I feel like I am actually good at something and have something to offer others; a conversation starter. Through the blog and sharing and reading poetry online; I recently decided to attend a poetry reading; I had never heard poetry read out loud; I was amazed at how encouraging people were of each other and at that moment realized that I could face my fears and share my poetry at the next meetup. This is all new to me and I am the first to admit that I am terrified of public speaking especially when sharing personal writings with strangers I do not know; but my friends have encouraged me and that has given me the confidence to get up to the mic. Next week is the meetup and I will muster up the courage to share one of my writings ( no more than 1!) with an audience; we’ll see how that goes and I am sure that I will make a post about it.

I have also ventured into other areas; I am partially bilingual but sadly have no place to practice my Spanish outside of the home. A very long time ago a counselor suggested that I join this Spanish conversation group where you sit around a circle and speak Spanish; I dismissed it that the time because of fear ( of course)  A few years later I decided to just go one day and was pleasantly surprised; I took my dad for support and I came to realize a lot of the speakers were at the same level as me; no one laughed at my Spanish; I met some nice people and I could finally have a conversation in Spanish without someone rolling their eyes; I loved it. I love to speak Spanish and to learn new things; I always say you should never stop learning.  I regret not going to this conversation hour in the past; I suffer from anxiety and depression and at the time I was scared of meeting new people.  The idea of a large group of strangers scared me; so I was more content just to stay at home and hide. I no longer think that way; I am not content sitting at home when I could out meeting new and interesting people.  I figure you will never meet people if you stay home feeling sorry for yourself; I never had that kind of positive thinking before; it’s amazing

As many of my followers always ready know I am in school trying to a degree to help adults with special needs; it is something I am passionate about and I think it is a great field; I want to make a difference.  I work retail and I never get a Sunday off ;so I miss church, which has been something I would like to participate in.  In the past; I stayed away from church; I didn’t like being up early on a Sunday morning; being with large crowds and sounds of people coughing or crying babies. Anyways I finally got a Sunday off and just happened to be at the service where they were talking about a ministry for adults with special needs; it made my ears perk up.  I told the minister I was really impressed with this ministry and he said he wanted me to be a part of it; I was really excited at the prospect at working with the disabled; and without being graded or judged; I can really enjoy this experience and be there for the pure enjoyment and not a part of school. I had an internship where I was at agency for those with developmental disabilities and I loved the clients but  I struggled with the staff; I felt judged; I felt my compassion wasn’t enough and that I wasn’t guided into making the internship successful; I was really disappointed. But I am one that believes God leads to where you need to be and I just happened to be at that service on that one Sunday so I could hear that message of the ministry; I feel it could be my calling. I have contacted the ministry and I hope that my schedule will allow me to participate somehow. I just can’t believe this is happening because 5 years; I was unemployed; dealing with health problems; emotional difficulties; disabled and feeling sorry for myself. I turned that around and now I am able to be in service of others; I can take those dark moments and use it to help others who are struggle; life is a funny thing to me.

I just feel like a different person these days; a year ago I felt I had no friends; no one who cared about me and I just couldn’t relate to other people; I couldn’t make people understand how I felt or what was in my head. Through my writing people have insight into everything I have been feeling over the years and it brought me closer to others. I’ve learned how to reach out to others ( mostly online since I have moved away and don’t know a lot of people where I am). I have learned to be a good friend who encourages others and I try to be kinder more gentler person than I was in the past. I have always been a sensitive person but I saw it as a weakness; I didn’t want to express my feelings because as a man it made me seem vulnerable but now I embrace it. In the past I kept everything bottled up and it really affected me emotionally; I became a wreck and I all I felt was anger all the time. Now I see sensitivity as a gift and I no longer fear being labeled as weak because I see myself as a strong person; it takes strength to express your feelings openly and without regret; so I’m proud of that.  So this is where I am at now in my life. I am adding things to my life; I am reaching out to people and facing my fears. I hope one day to use my story to help others who have struggled just like me.   And for those who took the time to read the whole thing; I know it was a long post but remember I write as much as I talk; a lot.  It’s a work in progress.

Take care,

Dave

 

Life update: A crazy few months

As I stated earlier, I just finished up a very stressful internship that seemed to be never ending. I have to say that these last few months from the end of November to now has been some one of the most chaotic periods in my life.    I work in retail and the holiday season was hectic; I was working 40-50 hours on my feet; sometimes closing and coming in early in the morning; which for my up and moods is just the worst thing that could happen; it was exhausting; not to mention the increase in customer traffic and orders; just absolute insanity.  I was so caught up in working a full time schedule that it was difficult to attempt to return to school. Through working a full week; I had to find an agency to complete my internship at; sometimes I’d email the school and have to wait a full week or two for a reply; as time was dwindling. Or I’d contact the agency and they would take forever in responding; so i had to email and call ( while having a job where I couldn’t really make phone calls) until I finally got an answer. I finally was able to secure an internship and sign up for classes; it was stressful as and at times I felt like throwing in the towel; and accepting I was going to work in retail forever. I also didn’t have time to meet with a school counselor or find an agency that best suited me so I got whoever was going to accept me as an intern; if I had the luxury of shopping around I may have had a better experience.  So after the Christmas season ended; I only  had a week before school started and that was spent still working my regular job; so no Christmas break for me. While I saw all my friends take vacations and spend the holidays with their families; I was working my ass off while they sat by the fire drinking coffee and enjoying the festivities; I did have actual Christmas day off but I missed Christmas eve service because I had to work that day. Oh and to top it off I had come in early the day after Christmas; because of all the lovely customers who can’t go a day without shopping. Can you tell I love them? Anyways I started my internship literally after Christmas.  At first I was relieved because I wouldn’t be working nights or doing turnarounds but I soon realized that I was working 6 days a week with a short day for school. I worked Mon, Thurs, Sat and Sun and did my internship Tues and Fri and went to class on Wednesday; I had never been that busy in my life. It felt like I was being pulled in a million different directions; playing different roles. Helping the disabled one day; on my feet for 8 hours in a warehouse the next; it was jarring and not  to mention tiring. My sleep was way off; which isn’t great for the emotional state.  My anxiety has been sky high and there’s a reason; I just haven’t had the rest I need and I think before you tell people that you have anxiety; you have to explain your circumstances. I’m not anxious because I’m sitting at home in my pajamas worrying how no one likes me.  I’m running around like a crazy person; going from one end of the city to the other; everyday; feeling dismissed and unappreciated and feeling no one gives a shit; that’s why i’m anxious. I’m anxious because I haven’t sleep 8 hours in probably six months. I’m anxious because this is all new to me and I’m dealing with it on my own; having been rejected by a therapist who I trusted. So if my blogs seem erratic; it’s because I’m erratic but it’s over for the moment.  I going to get some well deserved rest; I am to take care of myself; I am going to get back to praying and get back in touch with God; I am going back home to see my friends who I care about so much.  So thank you to everyone has put with my crazy posts over the last few months; I did the best I could considering how difficult things were. I’m just glad it’s over and I get to calm state. Deep breaths…….