You want the truth?

17 Oct

OK. I’ll give it to you, now. Because I think you can handle it.

Back then? No. You couldn’t. So, I didn’t tell you. I didn’t tell you the real reason I left Manatt.

Last week’s blog post teed up what we (Q and I) told the world about my plans. We said I was leaving to: “pursue a new career relating to treatment and therapy for U.S. veterans and others who suffer from traumatic brain injury.”

We said that, because that’s what I told him. That was The Truth as he knew it.

And while I didn’t exactly lie to him (I really did/DO want to explore treatments and therapies for TBI survivors!), for sure I did not tell the “truth, the whole truthand nothing but the truth.” That “whole truth” part was too much. Too hard. Too impossible, and if I had told it, then y’all likely would’ve initiated a series of solicitous, supportive, overprotective, smothering “caretaker” actions that would have (at best) driven me batshit crazy, or (worse) totally stunted my own actual recovery.

No, it was far better safer for me to say: I’m leaving the law to pursue a PhD in neuroscience.

Given my history of living boldly and loving audacious challenges, that kind of goal made sense: “Oh, that Zeisler! There she goes again! She’s crazy, but in a kinda admirable way. Good for her!”

And then y’all’d just stand back and let me do my thing. Perfect. Thank you.

If I had said: I’m leaving the law because I can’t sustain the focus and energy required to do this job and I need to just futz around and ride my bike and stare at the sky and conduct random cognitive development/recovery experiments on myself for a couple years while I try to figure out what I can do with this broken brain of mine, …. well, I suspect you (the collective) wouldn’t have let me actually do that.  

You would have come up with other, “better” solutions. Things that seemed more “productive,” from your perspective. And I would’ve had to explain, over, and over, and over again that No, I really CAN’T do any of that. I know I “seem” fine to you, but I’m not fine and I need to just fucking chill and not really worry about “being productive.”

And while it may seem counterintuitive to you that “pursuing a PhD in neuroscience” is my idea of “chilling,” let me remind you that I am not actually IN a PhD program — I’m just taking a bunch of “pre-req” UCLA Extension courses, which may or may not hold any relevance for my future.

Here’s the truth: These classes are just a marvelous way to challenge my brain to see if it works. To see if I can learn. To see if I can make and retain new memories. To see if I can manage my life around a variable set of obligations. To see if I can become a dependable member of working, interdependent society.

By navigating these learning challenges (which only impact me and have no real bearing on anyone else’s life, thank dog), I could, eventually, craft a realistic, coherent, genuine life plan.

If that plan leads me to become a Doctor of Neuroscience, great!

If it makes more sense for me to become a Specialized Road Cycling Ambassador, great!

If I miss the law and want to return to Manatt (and can do so with a genuine belief that I can actually accomplish the job-at-hand, whatever it may be), great!

And if it’s something else all together, great!

Guess what?

It’s something else all together.

As mentioned last week, I scuttled the PhD plan; in part because of the “bullshit mountain,” but also because I no longer feel like I need a 7+-year runway to ramp-up to being a dependable member of working, interdependent society again (as you likely know, PhD students are notorious for using school as a way to escape reality, and —again, to be honest— that concept definitely was part of my initial PhD plan’s allure!). My broken brain is generally performing better than expected in this little experiment that I’m running on myself and although it’s not entirely up-to-par yet, it clearly does not need the “7-year escape” plan.

Yay, me!

While learning how to help my brain (and myself) function more effectively over this past year, I’ve discovered the following:

1. Yep, I really DO love science.

2. Yep, I really DO miss the law — especially the do-gooder parts.

3. Yep, I really DO want to help veterans (and others) have meaningful recoveries from TBI incidents.


4. Yep, I really CAN now, finally, re-engage with working, interdependent society — at least on a part-time basis.

There’s only one problem: I want to do ALL of that!

How in the hell can I do that?!

Enter a series of closely timed calamities and coincidences and sprinkle-in a heaping dose of good luck (disguised in the form of disaster) and you come up with The New Plan — a plan that never could’ve been conceived or shared back when I cut the Manatt cord, because it could only happen by letting go of planning and letting life just have its way with me.

I am so, so, so thankful that life baked up this big ol’ cake of crazy for me and I can’t wait to devour it. Sometimes, you really CAN have your cake and eat it, too.

6099822911_b9a5262551_zSo, what’s The New Plan, you ask?

1. I will continue to take UCLA Extension courses for the 2013-14 academic year, but they won’t be taken in accordance with the Pre-Med Certificate program, which I had enrolled in in connection with the PhD plan (HUGE BONUS: No need to torment myself with Calculus or O-Chem! Woo hoo!!). Instead, I’ll freelance the pre-reqs for USC’s Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy. I’ve already taken 2 of the 7 necessary courses, so I can easily knockout the rest of ’em before I apply at the end of 2014 (for admission in ’15).

2. Because the OT Master’s program is pricey (unlike the PhD program, which would’ve been tuition-free + would have given me a stipend), I’ll need to earn some cash to round-out my finances. I can’t take on a full-time gig because school remains my #1 priority (after sleep) and I don’t want to have to learn a whole new skill-set, either. I decided that I’d need to find a part-time gig that would allow me to build on my existing strengths and it would be a HUGE BONUS if the gig somehow came with benefits (COBRA is f*cking expensive!!) …

<cue harps and trumpets ‘cuz a miracle is about to occur>

Starting on Monday, I will be a 3-day-per-week Holocaust Services attorney at Bet Tzedek for a 1-year contract — parking and benefits included.

For those who don’t know; from 2008-2011, I basically had a second full-time (totally UNPAID) job at Bet Tzedek, developing and running its Holocaust Survivors Justice Network — the nation’s largest-ever coordinated pro bono program, involving 120+ law firms/in-house legal departments in 31 cities working together to assist over 5,000 Holocaust Survivors with German reparations applications. This project is my heart and soul, my bread and butter, and THE thing I miss most about the law.

Getting paid to do this job at Bet Tzedek is a dream come true. Having this job be only 3 days per week (so I can concentrate on school) is an unbelievable blessing. And getting to re-engage with that portion of my contact list and that part of my mind is truly a miracle.

So … Watch out APBCo members, your phones are gonna be ringing, soon!

3. So, the Science and Law pieces are covered. What about Veterans? When Ride2Recovery asked me if I could head up a nascent Project HERO training site at the West L.A. VA, I thought they were kidding.The West L.A. VA is almost literally in my back yard. I desperately missed the pro bono programs I established there (which, thankfully continue to run even after my departure). I couldn’t believe that R2R finally made in-roads with the VA administrators, who are known to be “slightly prickly” regarding the development of programs actually designed to, oh, I dunno … , help veterans (see e.g., this news story).

Running a Project HERO site for R2R at the West L.A. VA sounded like a mighty fine (and fun!) idea, but, really, what the hell did I know about developing a cycling training/healing program? I didn’t have much confidence in my ability to pull this off, but if I could recruit my Coach to co-lead this thing with me and if we could get a bit of joint direction from the R2R program staff, that would be a HUGE BONUS

And so it comes to pass that Coach and I will head up R2R’s newest Project HERO training site and we’ll start by attending the Project HERO Training Camp in San Diego next week. We’ll tag-team the training event so that I can work at Bet Tzedek on Monday and Tuesday (and he can work at the bike shop on Weds and Thurs) — talk about teamwork! Thanks, Coach. Go team!!

We likely won’t launch/open our site until ~January, but we’ll begin laying the groundwork now. So, if you’re an L.A.-area cyclist, be ready for us to call upon you for help!


The fact that I’ll soon be running a cycling-based recovery program at a site with a new-found enthusiasm for helping veterans with TBI, while getting paid to assist Holocaust Survivors with legal issues, all within a construct that allows me to continue to test my brain while working toward earning a degree that will launch me into a health care profession aimed at enabling people to live life to its fullest is pretty much THE BEST THING that could have ever happen to me!

How does this all shake out long-term?

To tell the truth, I have NO idea.

And that’s the best part!

‘Cuz as I’ve now learned (HUGE BONUS): Life works out pretty marvelously when you just let it happen…

Parting Thought: We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. ~Joseph Campbell

27 Responses to “You want the truth?”

  1. Cheryl Zalenski October 17, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Wow!!! That is all really wonderful & amazing! (And I am sure you are not giving yourself enough credit for assisting the stars in aligning so very well.) Looking forward to hearing about these projects as they progress.

    • justadventures October 17, 2013 at 8:07 am #

      Thanks! I am SO excited to be back in the pro bono world — even though (or perhaps especially because!) it’s part time.

  2. Anonymous October 17, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    Just let it happen Z!

  3. Cynthia @ Flotsam of the Mind October 17, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    Fabulous all around.Win, win, win. And, by the way, I would have completely supported the “I need time off to figure out how my brain works” excuse, while the PhD thing sounded like complete lunacy to me. As you said, I expect such things from you and wouldn’t presume to influence your decisions, so I didn’t say anything then. That was then. Now I will admit it sounded like insanity, while this sounds (potentially) like you’re own weird nirvana. Hooray.

    • justadventures October 17, 2013 at 8:10 am #

      “My own weird nirvana” — what a perfect way to label this! Thank you.

  4. Carrie Kiley October 17, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Never a doubt that things would work out for you Mama Z – you put that much good karma out in the world, and there is no doubt it will come back to you. The best part is all of these great things still allow you to put all that good karma out in the world! You’re amazing and inspirational. Glad you’re so happy!!

  5. Welch, Bobbye October 17, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Spectacular Cristin! Boy you are a tenacious little shit! You really are something and I wish you everything good in your life…… “Live on” and enjoy! Love Bobbye : )

    • justadventures October 17, 2013 at 8:59 am #

      Thanks, Bobbye. “Tenacious little shit” — something worth considering as a possible epitaph. 🙂

  6. Jodie Berger October 17, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    What a great result…this sounds perfect, challenging, multidimensional, great steps forward on 3 fronts! Plus, I bow at your feet for that most amazing cake.

  7. Anonymous October 17, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Holy cow Z – this sounds so awesome. I am very very very excited for you. Lucky BT….

    • justadventures October 17, 2013 at 11:43 am #

      I’m excited for me, too! Tho (again, to be honest), I may NOT be so-super-excited about the timing of all this. Next week:
      Monday: BTz from 9-5, then Neurophysiology from 6:30-10pm (with quiz);
      Tues: BTz from 9-5, then Psychology from 7-10pm, followed by a drive down to the OC to drop off my dog/crash at my mom’s house before driving down to SD the next morning at ass-crack-thirty
      Weds: R2R training camp in SD from 6:30am-8:30pm
      Thurs: See Weds + add return to OC to pick up dog and then back up to LA sometime past midnite
      Fri: BTz 9-5
      Sat-Sun: hide in a cave and study like a fiend for my Neuro and Psych midterms on Mon & Tues.

      If that’s not a solid test for the ol’ brain, I dunno what is!

      • katerinadiaviano October 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

        You sure you don’t wanna come up to Paso with us??

        • justadventures October 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

          I can’t. That’s the day Coach & I get to ride with R2R as they close out the CA Challenge ride. So, have double the fun for me, please!

  8. Kathleen Fisher October 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    Well Brava to YOU Cristin. Have fun with your new adventures. I will send pix of Bacon/Wine Fest from Paso on Sat.

  9. Carissa Barker October 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Oh my dog do I ever know how life does not go as planned! I’m delighted with how your present is shaping up. Sounds fun and important and right up your alley.

    Don’t forget there is lots of free (at least no cash charge) lodging in SD if you and your coach need a place to sleep. Mom and Dad would love it.

    • justadventures October 17, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

      Thank you for the offer of lodging at Casa de Barker — we’re all set though. 😉

  10. kristapowell October 17, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Sounds like life is pretty fabulous – way to listen to your heart/body/mind.

  11. Anonymous October 22, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    I’m speechless. You’re amazing. Way to juice those lemons. I’m REALLY excited for you and I’m gonna see if my little brother’s interested! Go Cristin, Go!!!

  12. Lauren Teukolsky November 1, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    This makes me SO HAPPY on so many different levels. Win-win-WIN.

  13. Anonymous December 18, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    You are amazing. Big Mike


  1. Best Year Ever! | JustAdventures - December 30, 2013

    […] and thereby totally reverse course on January’s drop-out. The result is nothing short of insane brilliance that yields a ridiculous amount of […]

Something you wanna say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: