This afternoon, I distributed an email to ~150 or so folks, ~50 of whom replied to let me know that they really appreciated the update–for a variety of reasons. Their responses made me realize that it might be prudent to share the missive with you, dear JA reader, too.
Recently, a friend who is distant from me in miles but (I thought) “close” to me in terms of personal connection issued the following query:
What’s the Reader’s Digest version of what’s going on with you? You post so much on FB that I get about 1/15 of them, and then trying to scroll through them to find out what’s up leads to me getting through about a day in 3 minutes of scrolling. Are you still in school? How/where are you going? Are you constantly on the road or going back to CA in between? What’s Just Adventures?
* Oct 2013 – I decided that a PhD in neuroscience would not be the best fit for my future. Instead, I would seek to become a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OT), with a focus on neuro-rehab. Pros: The OT program is shorter, more hands-on, and more practical. Cons: The OT program is crazy expensive + I would need to take the GRE (math!).
* Nov 2013 – To ready myself for the expense, I took a 3-day-per-week/1-year limited contract job as an attorney specializing in Holocaust Reparations claims for a nonprofit legal services agency, Bet Tzedek. To further cut expenses, I fired my cycling coach.
* Dec 2013 – While working at Bet Tzedek, I earned an “A” in Psychology and an “A+” in Neurophysiology at UCLA, with the following special note on my term paper: “This was one of the best-researched papers to ever be submitted in the 8 years I’ve taught this course and it was absolutely the most well written. You have a talent for words and a bright future as a scientist.” This served as a major turning point for me. Up until then, I was on the fence about the whole “Damn, I am a pretty good lawyer and I sorta-kinda miss that life and I’m not sure that I have what it takes to hack it in this new science-y world…”
That note changed everything. I was all-in for OT, now!
* Jan 2014 – I got a mountain bike. His name is George. When I wrote about him on on my blog, some people got confused. They thought I’d found a new boyfriend to replace Jay (who cheated on me and was summarily dismissed from my life in Sept. 2013). Nope. George is just a bike, but I *do* love him! And, no, I’m not dating anyone currently…
* Feb 2014 – I helped lead a 3-day training camp for U.S. veterans who seek to use cycling to help them recover from / better deal with various injuries. It further solidified my resolve to become an Occupational Therapist.
* Mar-Apr 2014 – I spent a lot of time in hospitals/specialists offices due to myriad, complex, and not-easily explained failures of various biological systems. None of the doctors knew what to do with/for me. Ultimately my GP said: “Z, maybe you should just re-hire your coach and get back to riding your road bike on a more regular basis...”
* May-June 2014 – I: (a) rehired my coach and resumed cycling (including doing back-to-back Century rides one weekend!), (b) helped raise nearly $5000 for OneJustice to send a bus-load of volunteers to provide free legal assistance to low-income veterans living in remote areas of California, and (c) continued working part-time at Bet Tzedek AND going to school full-time at UCLA. I felt truly whole for the first time since …. well, maybe ever!
* July-Aug 2014 – Still cycling, still working, and I also doubled down on school to get all of my prerequisite courses done. End result of my post-baccalaureate academic efforts at UCLA: 3.87 GPA. Not bad for someone with brain damage! Going to school as an adult with a new-found sense of purpose and determination is awesome.
* Sept-Oct 2014 — Period of super-intense: (a) GRE-prep/study, (b) cycling training, and (c) work at Bet Tzedek. The intensities paid off with: (a) GRE scores in the 99th percentile for verbal, 95th for writing, and 85th for math, (b) a successful ~500 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Santa Monica, and (c) the resolution of reparations claims for ~400 Holocaust survivors. Nice!
* Nov 2014 – I concluded my contract at Bet Tzedek and submitted my application for the Occupational Therapy program at USC, the #1 program in the nation and the only place that I applied. Accordingly, anxiety was my constant companion.
* Dec 2014 — On Dec. 18, 2014 two things happened: (1) USC accepted me into their program and (2) I officially embarked upon a ~6-month period of 100% free time that I’ve decided to call #funemployment (fun + unemployment). These two events generated 2 changes in my social media landscape: First, I updated my LinkedIn profile to indicate that I was/am now the “Chief Innovator” at JustAdventures. Second, I launched an Instagram account (http://instagram.com/justadventures/).
What IS JustAdventures? It’s my personal brand identity and therefore also my “full-time occupation” during this period of #funemployment. I invite you to follow my BLOG and/or IG account to remain caught-up on my shenanigans…
* Jan-May 2015 – #funemployment hits the road! On Jan 23, 2105, Zolie the dog, Avengelyne the road bike, and I all hopped into Mustafa the car to commence an Epic Homeless Vagabond Coach-Surfing Road Trip around the U.S. So far we’ve been to Phoenix, Las Cruces, Austin, Spicewood, Baytown/Houston, New Orleans, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. About 75% of the time, we’ve enjoyed staying and reconnecting with friends. THANK YOU, FRIENDS!
Tomorrow I will catch quick flight home to celebrate my birthday and to prepare my taxes and financial aid application. Zolie, Avengeylne, and Mustafa will stay in Atlanta. I will rejoin them on Monday.
I’m not sure where we’re going next — the weather gods are making things difficult to plan.
Ideally, we will make stops in: NC, KY, WV, VA, MD, DC, PA, NJ, NY, RI, MA, ME, Toronto, OH, MI, IL, MO, SD, ND and ID (roughly in that order) before spending ~2 weeks in CO at the end of May where I will participate in the Iron Horse Classic Bicycle Race.
If you are interested in having me, Zolie, Avengelyne, and Mustafa visit with you, let me know! We’d love to see you *if* the weather gods make your locale appropriate for Avengelyne to enjoy!!
My OT program begins on June 15, 2015 — 4 years and 4 days after I smashed my skull and nearly died. I love this juxtaposition.
Saturday is my 42nd birthday. Or, as I like to think of it: My 2nd Anniversary of being 21. It seems fantastically appropriate that I am currently enjoying an epic road trip and soon heading back to college. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate being alive than by living precisely This Life that I’ve created for myself.
If you happen to be in Los Angeles on Saturday (Feb 21), I’d love to see you at Q’s on Wilshire (the place where I celebrated my first 21st birthday!). I’ll be there sometime around 7:00pm.
If you’ve read this far and you’re NOT in L.A. and you want to celebrate my birthday, I’d LOVE it if you would make a donation to OneJustice in my name: http://www.one-justice.org/cristin
Thank you for joining me on my adventures!
There’s more to come…