I am sitting on the edge of my bed, staring at my newly-framed, 2015 diploma. It was a gift from Momma and Poppa Ape, getting it mounted; they kept meaning to get it back to me but we always forgot when I was over. Poppa Ape finally remembered yesterday, and I brought it home to my apartment last night. I still don’t know where to hang it, so I put it somewhere relatively safe from feline interference, which happens to be directly across from the bed, leaning against the wall on a long, low, cherry bureau that probably used to be a coffee table, now repurposed as a supplemental linen closet.
I didn’t realize how unlikely my accomplishments were last May, when I walked across the makeshift stage centered in the basketball court of the campus colosseum, my long list of scholarships and awards trailing the billowing of my flimsy robe. Knowing what I know now, I am still in a bit of awe at what I went through to secure the framed document in front of me. I’m grateful I couldn’t see what was waiting for me when I started out. If I had, I’m sure I would have balked at the oppressive workload, the extended timetable, the debilitating bouts of fatigue, the pain and resulting disability, the Asperger’s discovery.
Instead, I overlaid the obscurity with all of the wonderful things that were going to come out of this second degree, the opportunities, the accolades, the successes, the multitudes of high-paying career options. We apes are an optimistic bunch when it comes to our own capabilities; I personally seem to have a special propensity for inflating my prospects to epic proportions.
For many, this sort of fantasizing helps keep them moving along when things get rocky. But for me, it’s best not to get too invested, if I can manage it. This past May I walked off that stage thinking I was on the fast track to a career in research. I thought I could do anything I set my mind to, no matter what had happened to my body. I thought I would be an outstanding graduate student.
Silly T.G. Ape. Will I never learn? Why didn’t I remember what happens when I try to take control of my own fate? Better to try to herd cats. Big cats, like mountain cats. From inside the pen. Where I’m the only food-sized mammal and they haven’t eaten in a few days. None of us has any business going up against fate’s capriciousness, any more than the twig against the proverbial flood. (No-one ever talks about what became of the twig, you may notice.) Thick or thin, green or brittle, rooted or drifting, it makes no difference. There’s no avoiding the rocks. Least of all for this great ape.
It was one week ago that I received the official diagnoses. One week from today, I will have a second surgery to try to prevent what happened to my right shoulder from happening to my left. And this afternoon, I will submit my notice of intent to withdraw from graduate school, with absolutely no idea what it is I am going to do next.
and so begins Book Two.