Blind Academic Lady Life 1

I’ve been thinking for a while I’d start writing this blog again. Do I set up a deadline-driven schedule like I used to so it will actually happen? Probably not. I want to write again because lately I’ve been thinking a lot of things, and talking to people about a lot of things, that seem not…unique, to me, but unique enough to my situation that it might be good to write it down so I stop talking so much about it with my wonderful, patient friends, who have heard me struggle with things for a while.
I am blind.

Surprise!

I also am an emerging scholar and second year PhD student who is in the humanities.

I am not saying that its harder necessarily to be in the humanities and be blind, but I mean it is. It’s a unique kind of difficulty because no one in the administration expects me to get this far, and so the structures that are in place for both blind people in the humanities or blind graduate students are not based on someone in my situation.

It isn’t my first time carving out a path for myself, especially in the theatre, it feels like I’m constantly the “fr=fist” for a lot of people. I won’t write about those experiences right now, because I’m still a bit infuriated that I’m constantly teaching. Constantly teaching myself and the wonderful people around me (mostly) ways to even begin to innovate through this journey.

This came out really whine-y. I’m sorry. I didn’t want it to be this way.

Me me me, things are hard for me, blah blah blah, is not how I wanted this to go.

But for now there has to be explanations of my experience so others can take on some of the invisible work of just thinking. That’s been enough, actually, the past week has been me sitting around tables explaining, again, the easiest way for me to do research, and watching humans who’ve never had to do this work before ask for my advice and then do the work. That’s been a slow roll in my department, not for lack of wanting to but lack of knowing the resources available to them…and its nice, it really is, a little bit, to get a bit of the stres of f of my shoulders. That doesn’t mean the worry goes away, but atleast the idea of having to keep advocating on this one issue has lifted, a little.

It is so funny to me how comfortable I am talking about my blindness and my struggles with this fluctuating disability in a professional context. It informs my methodology, it informs my pedagogy, it informs my everyday introductions professionally and networking capabilities. It is constantly a teaching opportunity, and it is a constant state of stress and confidence; I am able to do all of these things with, because of, and despite my blindness. But the moment I want to socially engage, maybe romantically, I am terrified to disclose at all that I cannot see.

Why is it more socially acceptable to have a disability in my career but not in my romantic life?  

Does experiencing blindness somehow make me less of an attractive person? Most of my friends would say no, actually everyone I articulate this worry to says that. But they’re being supportive. I need someone to realistically agree with me. Some people do, or hint at agreeing, by saying “well if he cares about your disability then you don’t want to be with him anyway!” How well-mannered, so ttrue, and obviously if he isn’t into me then he shouldn’t come around, but that doesn’t change the absolute terror of telling someone that I cannot see their facial expressions across the table, co-pilot a road trip, ride bikes…but I can do a lot of other really sweet cool important things!

And I’m brilliant, or can be, so why isn’t this enough for me?

I’m actually not looking for advice, please don’t comment below and tell me how I should be empowered by my disability, this is my journey and I’m not exaggerating when everyone has told me I shouldn’t care: I know. I know that. It’s just not how my brain works. Something that some people forget is that this blindness is super new for me, I started dating, curating an identity, deciding who I wanted to be with sight. I could see the reflection in the mirror, apply eyeliner without having irritations, I could read print books and drive a car, so in the past ten years I’ve lost who I wanted to be, most of the dreams I’d been having since I was a young girl, and I’ve found beautiful new ones, but its caused me to become a very reserved dater and social engager.

I have amazing friends and colleagues who make me feel better than most people I can imagine dating, for example at a conference last weekend with people who are huge in my academic community I disclosed left right and centre and refused to apologize for not recognizing someone, making jokes, answering questions, smiling when issues of access were brought up and when they weren’t, taking note, observing, laughing, it was a beautiful experience to feel almost-comfortable to be myself, which gives me hope in a world where everyone assumes (outside of the community) that I will have a hard time. I feel more comfortable introducing myself as a blind academic to an editor than I do to a prospective man-friend.

Social situations, work, life, is hard. As I write this though I am dancing in my bright, clean apartment in Toronto, preparing for a long rehearsal for my fringe show, after preparing for a work trip and drinking coffee while listening to a feminist podcast, and am happy. I am happy resituating my life to not to chase after things but to stand in the middle of a river Arwen style and catch things that come rushing by me. I’m in the last half of my twenties, I’m chugging up a mountain of academia with fun colleagues, I do impactful and meaningful research and work for my communities, and I enjoy what I do. How lucky is that? Despite the thousands of things bubbling under the surface, things are okay.

xx Jess

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MY Virtual March

I’ve recently been told that I’m “such an academic,” but at the same time pursuing a PhD is old news and doesn’t make me different, both comments came from men, both comments came in the last twenty-four hours, and I truly have to believe that both comments were not maliciously made, but nevertheless I’ve taken both to heart. I’m “such” an academic? Because I think critically about the world around me? Is that a bad thing? I don’t let it disrupt my life to an extent that bars me from having social relationships, but I let it work into my world in a way that activates those around m. I hope to provoke thought from my friends and family, so no, I actually don’t think that because Harry Potter becomes more dark throughout the series it is a bad thing, because I do think that the series follows the cognitive level of its characters and after the hope is really gone then yes the darkness gets let in in their lives and for us as well, it reflects growth, it reflects CRITICAL THOUGHT.

Friends of mine, over pints of beer, bitch about spending thousands of dollars and thousands of hours worrying and pursuing degrees that will “probably not” get us jobs, but then I sit down today and read about marching, about critical thought, and reflect on the differences in my thoughts and those around me who haven’t had the critical experience of theory and literature, or theory and culture, and I consider myself worthy and lucky to have spent thousands of hours pondering and worshipping and seeking more answers from the world around me. How lucky am I that I could have that? It means that I have the toolkit to look at the world and see bigger meaning, and that is a privilege.

As for pursuing my PhD, it is a big deal. No one in my family has stepped a single foot in graduate school let alone thought about doctoral work. No one. No one has had the opportunity, and that is a privilege. No one in my family also has a disability that prevents them from easily accessing school in the same way that I do and so yes, this is a big deal to me. It is a big deal to my family, but because of that it is a big thing for me. I am the one who brings the critical thought, the ideas, the support, the innovation, the big city vibes, the activism, and no I am not the only one in my family with these thoughts but because it is a priority for me it allows them to have those priorities too. This allows me to have meaningful conversations and make good change in lives that otherwise don’t have the opportunities I have had.

So yes, to both thoughts, I am SUCH an academic and it means SO much to me to be able to think critically, because its giving me the platform to live a full life. To support people that I care about, to hold them up when they need to, and to be an activist every single day in every breath that I have.

Today we MARCH because WOMAN are PEOPLE. WOMEN can DECIDE what to do with their LIVES because THEY ARE STRONG, BEAUTIFUL HUMANS. WE STAND TOGETHER.

We love. We care. And we do what we can to make the world a better place.

xx Jess

Mini Break: Montreal in Mid-July

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Coming home from Montreal, on a train, brings back memories similar to coming home from Europe.  Maybe not the entire trip, but for sure coming home from a smaller trip like Ireland or Brighton, you leave the simple oasis of a city unfamiliar to your own and slowly slug back to reality.  For me, right now, as I start this post, I am listening to an audiobook and sipping a glass of red wine in a blissful air conditioned carriage, bumpy and bright, cool and calm.  It is less like Europe now I think, heading back to Toronto, but that is only because Toronto is now my home, and I do not feel bitter upon my return but feel…”recharged.” “Recharged” in parentheses because I still need a bit of a sleep, but my week is due to be productive and full, my mental state however feels recharged, so if there was a way to be half recharged then that is what I am by. By mid-August I hope to get back up to the green light to start everything all over again.

A few highlights from the trip would be wandering around Old Montreal with my good friends as I won’t be seeing one of them for a long time, and then entering a courtyard nirvana to have some sangria and poutine, and then eventually adventuring north to find some good bagels.  We never went out for breakfast but slept in (as it was vacation) and have a bagel with good juice and a small coffee, as well as guac and cream cheese, apples, bananas, it was basically just a lovely morning every day in an air conditioned, quiet, dark room before heading out into the heat.

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Saturday was rainy, which we only managed to get wet for five minutes total as we hopped from coffee shop to bar to hotel and back to dinner, finding beverages and snacks and most prominently wine, and ultimately ending the day off with some fireworks at the old port.  It was a cooler day, which was welcomed happily by two little intoxicated Ontarians all day.

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Sunday was warmer, and we set out in the quieter neighbourhoods to have coffee and wander the beautiful houses and streets before waiting in line at Schwartz’ Deli for some tasty sandwiches and, again, more importantly PICKLES.  We ate in a small park and ended up just finding more beers and ice cream before heading back to the train where we rode business class to have more space and a comfortable trip home to Toronto.

Travelling to Montreal is always a bit strange because it is like home but not, there is always something a bit different…not quiet, not challenging, I know enough French to get by and I am a nice enough person to be patient when we get lost, but there is something fun about being in an unfamiliar place that makes every moment, every uphill walk in the sweltering heat, every photograph, every laugh, every loud or quiet minute just a bit different than those that I remember in Toronto.  I can’t put my finger on it, but I will be back in November and again a few times next year for conferences and visiting good folks so if there is anything I took away from this trip is smiling, regardless of how I feel, to smile and to breathe in and remember there is a quiet moment in every minute.

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xx Jess

Calgary Vibes

Good morning friends,

I am writing to you this morning from my sweet “hotel” aka dorm room on the University of Calgary campus in Calgary, Alberta! What a cool way to start this post, because really I’ve been wanting to write something but things don’t always get done. There’s yoga to be had and a final mammoth paper to finish, but today I am in Calgary. The non-humid, delicious coffee-totalling city that, despite having only seen literally forty minutes of campus life, is wonderful.

It could be because Ontario is currently in a huge heat wave nonsensical flood of humidity and there is nothing but fresh, albeit mildly wet, air here, it could be because this trip feels like a cool academic retreat/holiday somewhere new, and it could also be because I slept for the first time in a few days last night being so jetlagged and so breathing fresh cool air with my coffee after being well rested realy has just hit me in a wonderful way, a way of wonder, if you will.

I am in Calgary for Congress, and more directly the Canadian Association of Theatre Research conference, which begins tomorrow and follows on until Tuesday afternoon, to which I will then take a bus to Banff and spend nearly two days loving my life near mountains and good friends. Ah, the academic’s life, full of spending the only morning you have off in Calgary editing, transcribing and reading, and also planning on doing more reading in the evening, and then planning out your budget for the journals/books that will come upon registration for these events.

Jenny (my room mate and I’d like to say good friend from the Drama Centre at UofT) dropped the book bomb yesterday: every academic publisher brings their books to congress. We had a good twenty-five minute conversation about where I’d put these books and we finished on I’d have another carry on for the trip home full of them. I will update you later.

This is so exciting for me, to be on my first “lurk and learn” in the professional academic world, and I have some great birds who’ve taken me under their wings to introduce me to the people and show me the ropes, its een a good day settling in here.

The next five days might be exhausting, and long, but I am positive they are going to be full of beautiful and fascinating panels and conversations had by people researching important things for our culture. On the brink of sounding sentimental I hope that this begins my life long presence at conferences such as these; where the people are smart and nice and welcoming, the food is present, and the books are abundant. Oh, and maybe the ideas that are generated are brilliant, as well.

xx Jess

The Big Spring Clean

While on my hands and knees this past bright and warm Saturday I found myself stereotypically following through this season’s motions of cleaning. “Spring Cleaning” means a lot to me, as does “Back to School Shopping” and “Christmas Starts December 1st (or as soon as the poppies come off people’s jackets)” because having my surroundings be clean is important to me as an adult. It wasn’t important when I lived in my parents’ house as a teenager and would hardly clean my room, or when I lived in dorms and lived extremely alone, but now I still live alone, in an apartment that I take care of myself, and yet I find myself scrubbing the bathroom floor, sink, and toilet as if I owned the place.

I just kind of like to clean.

Its like doing a mind-hijacking yoga class or having just enough wine for a buzz; cleaning numbs the mind to other worries because I’m preoccupied with my end goal of cleanliness.

I tend to ignore cleaning when other things like deadlines come up, but when I do put my Bad Girls playlist on my speakers, open the windows, light some candles and put my hair in a bandana I feel as though I could clean right through the walls. The freshness of the apartment when it has just been cleaned is unparalleled.

I am looking forward to be in a space with multiple rooms for just this reason: more places to clean? Maybe, but more importantly more windows and windows to open.

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The changing of seasons has finally begun from cool winter into Spring and the windows in my apartment are open, my winter tights are being packed away, and florals are back. I almost bought flowers for my kitchen table this morning but refrained: in due time flowers wiil be back in my life, but for now I will rejoice in the windows being open.

I also love the new season because I feel inspired to cook again, and buy fun vegetables and make cocktails with lemonades, Spring provokes me to change things up in general, which I hope it does for everyone because it really is the time to. The changing seasons mean new weather, new holidays, new things in general. Some people are afraid of change, but I have learned to embrace it.

As I online shop, shop in person, cook, bake, establish new routines, and make new and exciting plans with people I try to remember that as much as I am planning to move forward this is the time now. There is a future coming, yes, but I can’t always plan for it, there has to be living in the moment too.

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“Live your truth” as a friend of mine told me last week, and I would venture to put “Live your truth, NOW” at the end of that.

So as I pour myself another glass of lemonade in a wine glass (Beyonce-inspired), open my window, and don a nice sweater for the weather, I am living my truth now, because that’s the only way to be.

xx Jess

Saturday Morning Relationship | #27

I do love mornings.  I love breakfasts.  I love the way that the air is cold, and crisp and new.  I love the light early on, when its just new and brightening, not stagnant like the afternoon.  I love the smell of coffee, and yawns and pulling the sheets to my chin before being able to get up.  Fighting off the urge to clean or write or get to the to-do list, to just sift through Twitter and laugh out loud and breaking the morning silence.  I love mornings, I do, I am in a relationship with the mornings.

I would consider myself a morning person.  Lately I must be accompanied by a coffee, but I do love to get up and listen to my YouTube and drink coffee and watch the sun lighten the sky.  This morning I spent the first two hours of consciousness in bed watching the FFiles (post coming soon…with my thoughts…of the first season, upon first watch) and then made a lovely breakfast and read vogue while listening to some internet women, which you can see above.

Living alone has changed mornings for me.  When I am at my parents’ house I am used to spending the morning with a coffee and a mimosa and football with my dad and mom, big breakfasts, noise, talking, laughter, phone calls, multiple showers in succession and brunches or lunches out.  Here, I spend the morning in silence.  I wake up to nothing and no one, and that’s very different.

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I’ve been trying to do yoga in the morning to ground my body and help my seminar-ridden body get a bit of time to lay on a mat and not sit in a chair reading/writing.  I didn’t do yoga this morning, but I’ve not felt so comfortable in a long time.  I don’t have any plans until this evening, and not being rushed is the best part of mornings when you live alone.  No fight for the shower, coffee machine, milk, etc.

How do you spend your mornings?  I made two eggs with avocado for breakfast and a small piece of baguette, no apple this morning but I’ll be having a few early this afternoon.  Breakfast is a bit standard for me right now which has become boring and I am looking to explore some different breakfast options that are healthy, energizing and quick.  I’m going to be trying some stove-top oatmeal this week…We shall see how this is.

Happy Saturday, folks!

xx Jess

 

Where I’ve Been: 24 Years | #24

Yesterday my family came down to Toronto to celebrate my birthday with me, and after trying to stay at one restaurant we ended up at the Duke of York, a small pub that had good beers and good food.  We are the kind of family to need an atmosphere where we can laugh and eat with our fingers without feeling like we are alone?  So this was the place for us.  Amidst good conversation, I got my birthday meal of steak, Caesar and fries and a Fuller’s beer, which is a prequel to the amount of English beers that are about to be in my future when I head there for mywinter break.  Afterwards, we had some tarts for dessert.  My brother and sister really dug their toffee pudding, but I got a milk chocolate salted caramel tart, shown above, that was so delicious I just sat there looking at it for a while.  I am not a huge cake person (unless it is mccain deep dish, cold from the freezer, eaten out of the tin with a fork) so small little treats like this are perfect.

And then on the way home from the bar later, I picked up a bag of chips, which I just remembered aren’t finished and I should hide them because I will eat them all in the first half of this week with all of the stress I have!

After the celebrations are over (kind of, I have more this week, prolonged birthday celebrations!) I have been reminded how important it is, not just for the birthday girl, to celebrate on birthdays.  They are special days, and when things are tough its nice to be acknowledged and taken care of, and have people offer for you, and celebrate as a community, come together, and forget the woes of the days around and just focus on the good things, the good times, the laughter, the boys, the mixed messages, the bruised hearts, the gay-lean as Tita would say, and anything else that comes with that.  There is nothing more fun to me than a no-stress environment, drinking a champagne sangria, with good people who keep conversations going without even trying, and smiling.

Birthdays are for smiling, and I smiled a lot yesterday.

Where have I been lately?  I’ve reached my twenty-fourth year of life, and I have decided to be healthy and happy and embrace the work that I love to do, the people that I love and want in my life, and do.  Just do.  Just be.  Because there is nowhere better than where I am right now.

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xx Jess

My Day In Photos: Moving Day

Hello my friends!  Welcome to my Moving Blog post!  Below are a bunch of photos describing my moving day.  Thanks to my parents and my lovely Grandpa who came and set me up, provided me with lots of goodies for the kitchen and some night lights to help me get around, and make it as comfortable as possible for me.  I am so grateful to them, and so happy and proud to be in my first solo apartment!  I’ve made it my own, and will slowly keep adding to it!

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xx Jess