Crowd Sourcing my future

25 Oct

Yes, I know. I owe you a whole mess of stories about my recent bicycle-based adventures. I’ll get to them. Soon(ish). I promise. It’s just that I have this other “little” writing project that has pretty much consumed my every waking non-working/non-cycling moment — and there aren’t many such “non” moments to begin with!

What’s consuming me so thoroughly?

Well, the “Statement of Purpose” for my Occupational Therapy application, of course!

Here is the formal writing prompt:

Please describe a significant experience, achievement or personal characteristic that demonstrates why you would be an effective occupational therapist. Include your understanding of occupational therapy in your essay, which must be less than 600 words.

I think I’ve finally nailed the storyline, but I need to lose at least 17 words. I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t seem to do it. So, I’m coming to you all: Get out your red pens and find 17 words for me to kill in this story. And if you think this story sucks, or fails to answer the prompt, or you have any other “constructive criticisms,” feel free to let those loose as well.

We’re all in this together, friends:

* * * *

When I underwent an emergency craniotomy following a cycling accident in June 2011, I wasn’t expected to live, or if I did live, it would be with significant cost to my function and intellect — so warned my treatment team. As I began my recovery (and notwithstanding my aphasias, apraxias, and other “fun” challenges), I knew —without a doubt— that I would be 100% OK. My certitude about this came from what I learned while serving as the Pro Bono Partner at my law firm.

For nearly a decade, I’ve had the honor of working with thousands of Holocaust survivors. Hearing their stories of strength and perseverance and seeing their optimism for the future is inspiring. Indeed, just thinking about these remarkable, resilient clients was enough to inspire me to heal quickly and fully. They needed me. And I needed them just as badly.

In addition, working with a wide range of attorneys taught me that the true measure of intellect isn’t just solving problems or identifying an advantage and seizing it. Intellectual functions are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, and compassion. Working with survivors helped me build my courage, love, and compassion muscles and working with my occupational therapist after my TBI helped me exercise those “muscles” even more fully.

Our society places great importance on filling the brain with knowledge, but few seem to care about filling the heart with compassion. I’m proud to occupy an area of the legal profession that does. My job is to give compassion away freely each day to all who need it — clients, volunteers, and caregivers alike. Being trusted to tell survivors’ stories to German government agencies and training others to do the same is a valuable gift that gives my life meaning in more ways than one — not so different from what is accomplished in occupational therapy!

I celebrate the fact that I defied all predictions and successfully resumed my legal career. Although I inhabit an abundantly happy corner of the legal universe, after a great deal of reflection, I determined that I should transition out of law and into a world that explores, and enables recovery from, neurological traumas.

Why? I am unwilling to merely accept the “medical miracle” label. Although the sentiment behind that phrase is lovely, I believe that my remarkable recovery stemmed from a replicable, scientific process — not a “miracle.” I intend to demonstrate that the practices I brought to my own recovery can (and should) be made available to all who suffer TBIs.

Initially, I intended to pursue a PhD in neuroscience under the guidance of Dr. Winstein in USC’s Motor Behavior and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory. The fact that I could clearly elucidate my potential research hypothesis (specifically: adding cycling as an adjunct to traditional therapies will enhance synaptic plasticity and cognitive recovery for brain-injured patients) just 14 months after my own TBI made Dr. Winstein keen to have me on her PhD team.

As I worked in her lab and amassed background courses at UCLA, however, I also explored whether I could deliver upon the promise of my hypothesis without undertaking an elongated PhD program. My history of providing “bedside lawyering” to unique client populations feels more closely aligned with a clinical practice. USC’s OT/OS program is designed to enable people to live life to its fullest. This is what I do every day — as a lawyer, a student, and as a TBI survivor.

Everyone deserves a chance to thrive beyond their present circumstances. That hallmark of my legal career will remain the foundation of my practice as an occupational therapist. I am excited to extend my lifetime of service to the OT field and I believe USC uniquely suits my goals.

* * * *

Other updates on this whole thing:

1. I’ve already submitted my “omnibus” application to the main OT clearinghouse, just waiting for my letters of recommendation to come in for that one.

2. I got a preview of the letter that Q wrote on my behalf. It made me cry. In a totally good way. When I shared it with my mom, sibs, and a couple of other trusted allies who are not on my letter-writing committee, I included the following reflection: “If I don’t get into grad school now, then something is seriously wrong with the idiots at USC (like: clearly they can’t read)!” Seriously. It’s THAT good. Lawyers are excellent, persuasive liars! Thanks, Q!

3. I recently got WAY SUPER EXCITED when I learned that children of USC employees who teach/work at the school for more than 15 years get FULL TUITION coverage — including for grad school!! Finally all of dad’s super obnoxious decades of USC-loving fandom would pay off! …. Or not.  Sad, sad news there: I ceased to be an “eligible child” when I attained age 35.  …. I shoulda smashed my head sooner, I guess.

Now, help me eliminate 17 words! As soon as we do so, I’ll submit this thing and return my attentions to writing up the cycling epics. Go, team.




5 Responses to “Crowd Sourcing my future”

  1. Scott D. October 25, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    Cristin, this is inspiring and wonderfully written (of course!).

    That said, you asked for recommendations, so here goes: Para 1–cut the entire parenthetical. Para 2–cut “Indeed” and “just as badly.” Para 3–cut “In addition.” Para 5–cut “after a great deal of reflection.” I believe that’s a little over 17 words without doing violence to the overall essay. Feel free to disregard and curse my presumption :).


    • justadventures October 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

      I’m keeping the parenthetical, but accepting all of your other comments, which also helped me kick-start a few other changes. Now at 598! THANK YOU! Application will be submitted tomorrow. Beers on me when I roll through Texas in February. xoxoxo

  2. Cynthia @ Flotsam of the Mind October 26, 2014 at 4:57 am #

    I’m on it. Will scan and send a hand-edited markup.

    • justadventures October 26, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      Therefore I LOVE IT! Thank you. xoxoxo


  1. Crowdsourcing wins everything! | JustAdventures - October 26, 2014

    […] many fine folks who offered edits, comments, and suggestions to my (allegedly) “final” OT essay, I offer my sincere […]

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