Saturday, December 21, 2013

31. Things I Learned in 2013

As 2013 is coming to a close I've been reflecting on what I learned over the past year. I'm always prone to nostalgia around the new year and I've found this to be an important part of my growth as an adult. The following is a list of important things I learned in 2013 (in no particular order).

  • I learned to drive a manual. Scratch that. I re-learned to drive a manual. I begged family members to teach me the art of driving a stick shift when I was in my late teens early twenties. My brother would occasionally cave and take me to the high school parking lot for an hour here and there but I was never allowed to leave the parking lot. That was the end of my stick shift driving lessons. Enter July 2013 and a fabulous car deal I couldn't pass up. A friend, who plans on moving soon, needed to unload her vehicle and was giving it to me and my roommate....for free. The catch? It's a manual. I managed to get the car home and then with lots of practice around my quiet neighborhood and the clinic parking lot across the street, I painstakingly re-taught myself how to drive a manual. I can now drive the car through downtown traffic without a hitch. *Pats self on back* It felt good to do this....really good. It was like a big ol' f-, well, you know, to those who wouldn't teach me in my younger days. I turned out to be pretty darn skilled at it if I do say so myself. 

  • I learned how to design a psychological study and obtain IRB (internal review board) approval. I'm at the stage in my thesis work where I have begun collecting data. It is an accomplishment in itself to be at this stage as making one's way through the IRB process can be complicated and slow. Thankfully, my coursework prepared me well enough that my initial study design only needed a few revisions for approval. I hope that with enough data this could become a publishable piece. *fingers crossed*

  • I learned that L-Kitty is one of the most dynamic animals I've ever known. He's right up there with Dublin (my friend's cat who feared no one and loved everyone) and Skip (the quarter horse I've known since the day he was born). L-Kitty can win hearts and make enemies like no cat I've ever met. For example, when my roommate moved in around January, his first reaction to L-Kitty was "you should really find a new home for him." L-Kitty is my problem child, yes. He's also brilliant, and sweet, and perceptive. By December of this year the roommate actually asked, "Can L be my cat?" The roommate has been won over by my feline and now expresses his love and devotion to L. L-kitty meows at me non-stop when one of his kitty sisters is in trouble. Examples include when Pi was accidentally shut in the closet, or when Cherry's claw got stuck in the screen door. L was the first to sound the alarm when I injured my knee and is the most tolerant of Orlando (my dog). He really is a special (and irritating, destructive, and exasperating) boy. 

  • I learned, and continue to learn, the cumbersome process of buying a new vehicle. My goal is to purchase a new (or new-to-me) car by June 2014. My current transportation should hold out until then and in the meantime I am learning about bank loans, APR, and trade-ins. I'm learning how to assess a vehicle for quality and how to talk down a dealer. The process can be overwhelming but I am making my way through it. 

  • I learned what I am up against with EDS. It isn't pretty. A big obstacle to a good quality of life for people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is the medical community. Yes, you can read that again if you need to. What infuriates me about living with this disorder is that 99% of the doctors and medical professionals I've encountered don't know it exists, and if they do know it exists, they poo-pooh and dismiss it as though it's not really anything to treat or care about. EDS is a scary disease making every part of a person's body fragile including organs. The vast majority of research being done about EDS is happening in the UK and researchers there actually discourage people with EDS from becoming organ donors because our organs would be no good to the people receiving them. If they are no good for "normal bodied" individuals, what does that mean for us? What good are they to us and why do doctors in the US remain so ignorant about it all? "Infuriating" is the only word I can use to describe my experiences with medical professionals. There is one doctor in Iowa who specializes in and treats connective tissue disorders. One. It is estimated that 1.5 million people in the US have some form of EDS and in Iowa, there is one doctor who will treat it. One! This learning process will not end for me because EDS (being a genetic disorder) will never go away. The reality is scary but there you have it. 

That covers the major lessons of 2013. What does your list look like?