Movin’ On?

And in continuing to contemplate my next move, I must now do so in an even more literal sense. That’s because it’s coming time for me to decide whether to remain in this here apartment.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here since January 25 already, just over nine months! For some reason, both Carrboro’s Estes Park Apartments, my previous residence, and Durham’s Duke Manor, where I stay now, require that one submit a notice of departure two months before the lease is up. I’m not sure what would happen if I don’t submit this and attempt to move anyway, but I probably shouldn’t find out.

So this means that right before Thanksgiving, I need to determine if I wish to remain here, and in all likelyhood with my current employer, for another year. I know that the latter will probably happen anyway, as it’s just taking a bit of time to really firm up my next path.

Someone has suggested that I look into working in a library. That could certainly be an interesting concept, but I’d like to speak with other blind people who have done so, if in fact there have been others in a library setting.

But I digress. I think the first thing to do in thinking about whether and where to relocate is to lay out the pros and cons of where I am at present. On balance, I guess this area isn’t too entirely bad.

Pros

  1. Very affordable: Rent only $475 per month, highest electric bill was $102 and that’s only happened once.
  2. Strong sense of community: I’ve often waxed on about my great neighbors, and especially the older woman who took me to the store and paid for many of my groceries that first week I was here with practically nothing. She’d do that for anyone, trust me. I’ve seen her do it.
  3. An easily accessible bus stop to Chapel Hill: this could matter in the event that I begin doing something at UNC again. Of course I still half live in that area anyway, going there almost every other day after work and on weekends. Will probably do so less as it cools, but we’ll see.
  4. A gas station/convenience store within walking distance: anyone who knows me knows I gotta have my pringles, brownies, snickers, and anything in that vain. All of the cashiers already know me so well that they often come running out of the door as I approach.

All good things, and many of them pretty surprising. This mostly because I moved into this place without having previously visited the place, something I said I’d never do again after my dicy experience moving into a complex way off of the bus line and full of half-crazed, tear the place down college students near UNC Charlotte. But because I was out in the coutry, I hadn’t had much choice.

Cons

  1. Few if any sidewalks: and this is a big one! One that, had I reconoitered the place I may well have chosen not to move in. Little snippets of walk exist, meaning I must either hop into the grass or do a semidangerous tightrope in the shoulder while cars whiz by, oblivious to speed limit and speed bumps. I avoid grass, because while I like dogs, I’m not so fond of what they leave there and don’t wish to drag it into my apartment on my shoes.
  2. A less accessible bus stop going in the other direction, toward Durham Station: this is because it requires one to cross a rather expansive thoroughfare that can be busy during peak traffic hours. Fortunately, it tends to be very lightly traveled at 5:20 in the morning when I use it, though.
  3. A somewhat difficult to locate leasing office: well it’s basically a straightaway during which I can follow the curb. There are a couple of complex spots though where I must jump from one curb to another, and if I don’t hit it just right I’ll end up sailing down the wrong street. The iPhone and Ariadne GPS have helped re-orient me in that event.
  4. A block of hard to reach restaurants: well I’ve walked up there with a sighted person, but she said that area is kind of built more for vehicular than pedestrian access. It’s too bad too, as they have a nice outdoor patio with tables that is wonderful during warm weather. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable crossing those parking lots with a busy street roaring just to my left.

So I suppose that by looking at my Cons list, I should be able to get a sense of what I’d like to be different or present in another complex. I could deal with a slight rent increase, though I’d probably not go up to like $850 per month. I don’t want to be struggling to get by, wondering how I’ll avoid late fees and feed myself. I’ve been there before.

I’d really like to find a place with more sidewalks, on the bus line of course, and hopefully within walking distance of stores and restaurants. I’ve been told by a couple of people that there are such places that’d charge about the same as I’m paying now. Would you happen to know about them, and if so could you pass that information over here? Thanks for any assistance.

Lookin’ For Work in All The Write Places

Ah, I think I’ve finally reached the time of year where significant change must start. It arrives along with several other milestones that have in the past represented big changes as well.

First, it was roughly five years ago this week that I began my ill-fated trip to graduate school. Well I launched that process, anyway. My initial thought was to go into communication Studies, but I decided against that avenue for practical reasons. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to actually make a career out of it. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake.

So, I thought perhaps I could become a rehabilitation counselor of some sort, with an emphasis on serving clients with multiple disabilities, as I have. Good idea, I think, but unfortunately not enough passion to really carry it through. Or perhaps more not enough knowledge of what it really takes to make it through graduate school and into that competitive, challenging field. I always say I have a lot of respect for those who take working with their clients/consumers seriously and do it well.

And now, we’re revving up the engines again, this time with more support from family members and counselors at the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind. I spoke with someone this week who is going to connect me with an individual to whom I can speak about my most ideal career option: Writing.

Practicalities there still make me nervous, but I feel good that the folks at DSB are at least allowing me to approach this with an open mind and decide if it will be in any way a viable option. I don’t have much time to waste, and I know that it is really important to make as sound a decision as I can going forward. That said, there is just no way to know exactly what will happen, even with the best planning.

To try and generate thoughts about which field I might like to enter at least until I have enough experience to do the writing thing on a professional level, I solicited my Twitter followers regarding some of their job titles. I also of course asked about passions. They include:

  • Administrative Assistant
  • Assistive Technology Teacher/Instructor
  • Care Provider
  • Customer Service Agent
  • Darkroom Technician
  • Digital Content Manager
  • Domestic Engineer
  • Mainframe Senior Systems Programmer
  • Management Analyst
  • Receptionist/Account Manager
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Writer

I know I won’t end up doing most of this stuff, but still find it interesting to ponder. I could also plug some of these positions into a job database to come up with related fields, generating further ideas. And, if you wouldn’t mind adding your position to my list I’d very much appreciate it. If you want to do so in private and follow me, send a DM or a Facebook message to my inbox. Otherwise, you can email me at johnmill79 (at) gmail dot com.

As always, I write about my journey in the hopes that it will help others out as well. Things should get interesting soon, so stay tuned.

Book Review: Wreck of the Nebula Dream, by Veronica Scott

I’m currently reading a book that is technically classified as Science Fiction Romance, but is also packed with all kinds of action. It’s entitled Wreck of the Nebula Dream, (Kindle) by Veronica Scott. A very sociable and interactive person on Twitter, Scott also possesses considerable writing talent, having won an SFR Galaxy award for this interesting story.

Scott sets off to write what in many respects is a retelling of the Titanic disaster set in interstellar Space and in a distant future. As such, we are not surprised to encounter passengers from different life stations, and with varying degrees of reasons for being onboard this ship.

The story begins with a scene that reminds me somewhat of the 1997 Titanic movie, as a well-to-do passenger nearly misses the departing shuttle from one of the now colonized planets. This “shuttle” has the distinct feel of an overpacked airliner, as people squabble over space and rummage for any snacks they can find to keep the kids happy during the extended delay. Once the passenger and her husband are onboard and the shuttle is airborne, well, remember Rose’s hectic run toward the ship railing to get out as she kind of melted down? Yeah, something similar.

And of course, you have a new ship that its builders feel is nearly indestructible and wish to push to unsafe speeds in order to break a record. We get a glimpse of its engines through the eyes of Nick, the story’s main character, as he is shown around by officers of the ship. Scott notes in other places that she is less interested in the hard science behind how such Space travel might actually work, and more in the dynamics that drive people to take the actions they do, including of course, finding love.

From the moment he boards the shuttle, Nick’s eyes are drawn to Mara, a high-powered businesswoman who seems mostly to be lost in her work. Yet she, a whiney, high-class socialite, a member of a race of brothers who must always provide assistance when called on, and two young children essentially become the focal point of action once disaster strikes.

It shouldn’t be surprising that this story is not an exact Titanic replica. We see strange, very powerful alien figures, all sorts of unusual technology that would likely exist in such a world (for example, a grav lift that allows for floating up and down between ship levels), and wildly advanced artificial intelligence machinery. I’m about two thirds of the way through, and I can’t anticipate how it will end.

The story is told in the third person and from Nick’s perspective. We see his shyness, lack of confidence in approaching and trying to get to know Mara, and also a strength in decision-making that probably comes from his being a part of the Special Forces. He also uses this military experience to come up with what he hopes will be an effective plan for the escaping passengers in his immediate care.

I think I can safely recommend this book. The story, the technology, the worlds are imaginative; and yet the emotions they evoke are definitely real.

It is available in audio too, which is how I’m enjoying it, via the Audible iPhone app. With continued support to independent authors, I say check it out!

On Blindness and Race: My Response to an NPR Code Switch Article

I recently came across an interesting article by NPR’s Code Switch blogger Kat Chow entitled Studying How the Blind Perceive Race. In it, she notes an individual who has carried out a research project collecting thoughts on ways that blind people are effected by and respond to racial differences. I would recommend reading it, so that you get a sense of what all I’m talking about, but I wanted to take a look at some of my own thoughts regarding this often polarizing and challenging subject. There are five main points, so I will post each and then make a few remarks.

The first is that individuals who are blind are inherently color blind as well. I had been, for much of my early childhood. Oh sure, I realized that some of my teachers spoke in a different way. I couldn’t quite figure it out though, was that just some sort of professional tone that needed to be adapted? If it were, then why didn’t all of my instructors use it. Mind you, I went to an elementary school attended and staffed by predominantly black and latino persons. Most of the White folks I knew at that age were my resource teachers, individuals who were brought in to make sure that my and other blind students’ needs were met as we attended mainstream classes.

“How do you feel about White people?” one of my sisters asked shortly after we relocated to a new neighborhood.

“About who?” I replied.

“White people, like some of your teachers and our neighbors.”

I’m pretty sure I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade at this time, and yet it was the first real exposure I even had to the concept of people actually looking different. I have of course since learned many things about the history of race and racism in this country, and while I hope we are getting to a point where there’s less of the latter, I don’t know if I could say we’ve reached color blindness yet.

As an example, I can talk about my experiences as they relate to the article’s second point: blind people make dating decisions based on their knowledge of another’s race. I have never actually dated an African American woman, and have only been in two serious relationships in total. There were some cultural issues, especially when I became involved with someone not from the US, but I was never treated in an overtly racist way.

However, as soon as I state that I have an interest in someone to others, the first question often still is: “Is she black?”

This somewhat saddens me, as I’ve always been one to approach everything with an open mind. I want the person I end up being with to have chosen me, and I her, based on mutual interest, commonalities, differences that we actually enjoy, and the like. While I acknowledge that cultural, and yes racial,background do play a part in these, I think that to say I’d only date a black woman, or that I’d only not! Date a black woman, would impoverish my life greatly.

(As an aside, I’ve never felt someone’s hair specifically to get an idea of their possible racial/ethnic background, though I’ve been surprised by some people’s hair given their speech.)

That last leads to the article’s third point: that speech doesn’t necessarily tell you to which racial group one belongs.

I think maybe it did moreso many years ago. I remember being a kid, and listening to my dad watch the Tar Heels game. He’d often say “C’mon Naw-ca-lann-ah!”

Naw-ca-lann-ah? I thought for the longest time that was another state somewhere.

And I know I’m not the only one who grew up saying “Mama, I want some mo!,” or, “can I get something out the figerator?” I don’t know, maybe kids still say that somewhere.

I’ve been surprised to discover that certain individuals were indeed African American, for instance when I lived in Southern Pines North Carolina, where many sound similarly country. Two teachers worked together in the disabilities room and got along great.

“Yeah, we call ourselves sisters, Ebony and Ivory,” one quipped.

“Wait, who’s ebony,” I asked, causing them both to giggle.

“You didn’t know I was black?” she drawled. Nope, I’d never guessed.

This brings us to the fourth point, which is that perhaps blind folk could be racist toward a group to which they actually belong. I’d say that is probably unlikely, given that unless one has been adopted into a family of an entirely different cultural background or perhaps just not exposed to his or her parents for some reason, the individual should have over the course of life with the family discovered enough about the basics to know of which group they are apart. But, maybe amusingly, probably sadly, one could befriend another not knowing that they are of a disliked racial/ethnic background.

As the article points out, racism is just as prevalent in the blindness community as it is in the rest of society. This is because hatred or fear of others is usually passed down by family members. Certainly people can and do overcome these influences to an extent, but if they are hammered home early they often remain engrained in a person’s psyche.

And the final point is that blind people have a way of creating their own type of visual of a person’s race. I admit to doing this, based on a combination of factors: texture of hands, sound of voice, use of dialect, among other things. Even with all of this information, I’ve sometimes just been plain wrong. I think that with everyone being more or less exposed to the same content, especially within the U.S, things are standardizing in such a way that it really is becoming harder to tell. And of course, there are many cases in which people don’t fit neatly into one category.

Many have asked me about my thoughts and experiences on this topic, but I’ve rarely had a good way to articulate them. My favorite thought is that people are people, no matter their skin color and/or other attributes. However, I acknowledge, and celebrate, that there are differences among us, for these differences are what make us human. I think if we could ever learn to stop fighting about this and just embrace and enjoy it, then our human experience would be all the richer. I am aware though that this remains wishful thinking, and may always be.