Charlotte Trip and School Thoughts

Now that my cousin’s birthday has already come and gone, as of this Thursday in fact, I consider the summer on the decline. Man is it trucking by or what.
Remember all those fancy trips I’d pondered earlier on? Well, I don’t think any of them are really going to happen, for one reason or another. So, I’ve just had to make the best I can out of my little staycation.
I just returned from my third trip to Charlotte this year, this time to visit my cousin and his wife in their new digs. They live in a nice little place not far from where I spent some of my formative childhood years. There isn’t a whole lot in the way of restaurants or retail over there, but I suppose as a residential area it’s pretty decent. It’ll also give them the best chance to get off to a solid financial start.
I decided I’d take Friday and today off, since I would have done so if I’d actually gone to Washington DC as planned. On Friday I headed to Charlotte, having an entertaining train trip in which I got to talk to a nice woman all the way down to Greensboro. She said she’s 20 years of age, attending UNC Greensboro, and working a full-time and part time job. The full time is at Burlington Coat Factory and often can encompass 5 and a half days per week. The part time is babysitting children closer to her home town of Fuquave Marina. Right off of that train, she would go to work at the store from 7-10 that night, and by 9 AM Saturday morning.
“Wow, you’re a hard worker!” I said.
“I have no choice,” she responded.
And in a demonstration of how out of control our education costs are these days, she will still have to take the Fall semester off in order to save some money before continuing. This makes me sad, as one must have at least a Bachelor’s Degree, and really more than that, if one wishes to have a decent career.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and especially as I try to decide what kind of path will get me to where I’m going. As I prepare to begin this HTML course, (last day to enroll, by the way), I of course know and hope that others who are taking it are aware as well, that it alone will not result in some sort of magical employment opportunity. In fact, I hope that my experiences in the job market haven’t pushed my idealism/realism meter too far to the other side, to the point where I’m not really sure anything will quite work. I do hope this course will get me thinking about how I can use my newly acquired skills, along with ones I already have, to start the hard work of building credentials and experience. And as I discover that some of my long-time friends will also be taking this course, I grow even more excited by the possibility of firming up professional relationships.
Will I find a graduate school program to attend? Well, I’m not sure. As I said earlier, education expenses are increasing exponentially. And those points were in reference to undergraduate students. On this past Friday alone, I met three (3!) individuals who said they either were taking this semester off or had taken the previous semester off in order to scrounge up enough dough. While I hope I can get something to work out with my idea to become a professional blogger or social media manager, I know there are no guarantees. I’d like to avoid a $200,000 student loan debt that I’d never be able to repay with my workshop salary. So the tough adult choices continue to spin through my head, with no one to give me definite answers on which are correct.
My Charlotte trip did give me some respite from all of these worries, even if only for a couple of days. I ate, slept, enjoyed chatting and listening to baseball games with my cousin, and had my regular Charlotte lunch dates with a good friend I met online. On Saturday night, I even helped to make delicious fudge brownies that we enjoyed with almond milk, after having consumed garlic bread that my cousin made, and a couple of plates of delicious spaghetti with meat sauce and parmesan cheese.
So all in all, it was a great weekend. When I returned to Durham, I met the kind cab driver who has often assisted me these days in grocery shopping, going so far as to accompany me up and down the aisles and thus making it a lot less irksome a process. She quite regularly works with many of the area’s blind folk, and started telling me about all sorts of places near my apartment that I might want to know about as well. Things like that make Durham feel to me less like just a place to stay and more a bit of home.
More soon, probably on what I think after experiencing my first couple of HTML classes. I hope you’ve enjoyed this summer.

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Thinking Of Attending Grad School? Some advice

Dove-tailing off of last week’s Grad week posts and still quite relevant as people are walking the stage this week too, I thought I’d give some, unsolicited, advice on entering grad school. If you’re planning to go this fall, I’d hope you’ve completed many of these suggestions by now. Even so, they can be used as a sort of checklist. If, like me, you’re mulling over the idea of getting it going in the fall of 2014 or later, then you’ll want to consider these along the way.
I speak from experience. I also speak knowing that it’s pretty difficult to understand how to implement some of this unless you’ve actually walked through the fire, as much of what people tried to tell me went into one ear and out of the other. There were some aspects though that I’d not been made aware of at all, so perhaps what I have to say will help at least one person to obtain a Master’s or Ph.D. in one go, rather than having to suffer the humiliation of being dropped as I was and trying to figure out a way to get things restarted. So, let’s go.
My first recommendation is probably the hardest for most folks of my generation: try to enter with a clear goal. Sit down with yourself and ask: “What am I trying to do with my life? Is there anything I think I can stand going through the fire for, sacrificing social life, sleep, and the like to attain?”
I don’t know if I grasped the necessity of this thought process until it was far too late. I came in with the same mentality I had as an undergrad: I don’t really know why I’m here but I’ll figure it out as I go.
The big problem with that is you may find it more of a challenge to direct your research. And if you can’t direct your research, you may never get your major project, (in my case it was just the literature review that was meant to begin my major project) to a level that departmental advisors would consider defensible.
So I think that what I’m going to do this time, once I decide on the general degree I wish to pursue, is to begin talking to as many current and incoming students and professors about work they’ve done. It also pays of course to chat with program alumni about actual jobs they’ve managed to get as a result of receiving this degree.
In my previous program, projects and requirements rarely changed unless new professors were brought in. This means that, generally speaking, you may be able to take a look at past syllabi and actually get a bit of a jump on some of the projects that must be completed. Goodness knows I’d have benefited from trying that! All of the initial reading and writing of several papers that were suddenly thrust on me meant pretty much instant overwhelmedness from which, it can be argued, I never really recovered.
Following on that, and this is very important, know the style of writing (e.g.) APA, MLA, that your program uses. And if you don’t know how to write in that style, please! Make an attempt to learn before arriving on that first day. They will likely test your abilities in this area immediately by making you compose a small essay wherein you cite sources, use formatting, and the like.
I was directed to see if perhaps the good folks at my university’s writing center might be able to help me out, but I believe they provide most of their services to undergraduates. Perhaps this shouldn’t be too unexpected, as an individual on the graduate level is expected to have a basic understanding of paper composition. There are various reasons why some of us may not have that understanding, and so I’d just suggest that you keep it in mind that you should work on sharpening it before getting started.
Given that I’m totally blind and largely deaf, many of my suggestions are aimed at persons with disabilities. Still, I think it benefits anyone to be aware of the kinds of technology that will be necessary to stay on top of in-class assignments. For example, I got bonked by my inability to use PowerPoint in organizing two major presentations in that fateful first semester. Not that the presentations were all that great even without them, but especially for the treatment manual I had to write for a Diagnosis class, I may have managed at least a P or pass, (B by most grading systems) rather than the L or low pass C, I actually got. That grade forced me to retake the course the following year.
Especially for others with disabilities that require materials to be made accessible, I’d recommend sitting down with all of the professors as well as staff from the campus Disability Services office to discuss how each project will be made doable. Try to avoid surprises if at all possible. I found myself surprised a few times, and was usually too intimidated by the time that I realized I hadn’t a clue how to get something done that I failed to notify everyone in a timely manner.
Finally, and speaking of surprises, make sure you have enough money to get through that first semester without there being too much financial stress. Seriously, by November I was drawing dirt from my bank account and praying that somehow I’d get it accepted as payment of rent and other expenses. This meant that as the major papers of that semester ratcheted up, I had also to worry about cobbling together enough pennies to avoid being tossed out onto the streets. I think even this issue could have been mitigated by making small changes to my budgeting habits.
That’s just a little advice that I write here more for my own memory than anything else. If if helps you to experience more success, then that’ll be a pleasant byproduct. If you are planning to start that journey some time soon, I certainly wish you well.

Intro Post: Old hats may wish to skip

So I realized that since I zapped that other blog, I no longer have an intro post. This means that I should try and come up with one, right? Well its as good a time as any to examine who I am, I guess. Those who’ve known me a long time might wish to skip this post, but maybe I can make it interesting for you, too.

I was born. I’m told the day dawned cold and rainy, but I’ve also been told that it was Friday, September 13, 1979. I know that last wasn’t possible, since the calendars say the 13th was on a Thursday that year. In any event, that kinda makes for a good story.

I have a rare genetic condition called Norrie disease, which results usually in total blindness from birth due to retinal detachment. It also causes progressive hearing loss, which has been the more adjustment requiring part of things for me. It’s all good though: I have not and will never let it stop me from doing the same crazy things I always do.

Hailing from the queen city of Charlotte, I grew up in a family of five sisters. For much of my early life, my only real male influence was my cousin who is about a year younger than my 33. My dad then came into my life during teen aged years, and he has certainly taught me a lot about what it means to be a good and honorable man. And anyone should know that one doesn’t have to donate sperm in order to be a good father.

I went to high school in a small town called Southern Pines NC, and while I complained at first about being out of the city, it was probably the best thing I had done to that point. It allowed me to find myself academically.

Eventually I returned to Charlotte to attend the major university there, going on to experience even greater academic success as a psychology major. What is it that they say about psych majors needing the most therapy?

After five aimless years just working in a sheltered workshop for blind folks in Charlotte and enjoying living with my cousin, I made the somewhat random decision to attend grad school. I did this at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where I attempted to complete an MS in rehabilitation counseling and psychology. Let’s just say all that academic prowess I thought I had pretty much went out of the window. The program was supposed to take two years to finish, but I clung to that raft as it got sucked down the raging river for almost three. It wasn’t a total waste, though. Is anything, it showed me how not to adequately prepare for such an expedition.

Is I do make another go of that, I know now that I need solid, definable goals. I’m still working those out, but part of me is longing to do something in a journalistic capacity, as I had started to consider shortly after undergrad ended. I’m not really sure how to begin taking that from dream to occurrence, though. Just doing a lot of thinking.

And now I reside in Durham NC, where I again work at a sheltered workshop. The nice thing about this one though is that there is real potential for promotion, should I choose to take that path. We shall see how it all plays out.

Of course, there’s more to me than I could easily capture in one post. If you continue to read, you’ll see lots of stuff about books I like, my favorite sports teams, (I’m all about North Carolina except for the duke Blue Devils), music I love, and not surprisingly, the places I go. Feel free to chime in with questions or suggestions whenever you like. And most of all, enjoy.