Crowdsourcing wins everything!

26 Oct

To the many fine folks who offered edits, comments, and suggestions to my (allegedly) “final” OT essay, I offer my sincere thanks.

To the intrepid few who continued to slog through the re-write and revision process with me throughout the day, I offer one of my kidneys if you ever need it.

Seriously, you people are the tops!

Everyone should have a blog and a readily accessible network of friends and random-but-awesomely-supportive strangers to aid with important life decisions.

Thank you, everyone. My applications are now all “in.” The outcome is up to the fates. It’s possible that I may be able to report good news to you before Christmas. Or it may not be until April. And it may not be good news. Whatever. If the fates decide that I am not supposed to get into grad school, then I honestly won’t care (much) because I already feel like I –no, WE– have accomplished so much already.

Here is the FINAL, submitted “Statement of Purpose” that may seal my fate. It’s 595 words of awesome — thanks to you.

* * *

My emergency craniotomy came with a warning: I might not survive, or if I did, it would be with significant cost to my function and intellect. As I began recovering from my June 2011 cycling accident, however (and notwithstanding my aphasias, apraxias, and other challenges), I knew—without a doubt—that I would be 100% OK. My certitude came from what I learned while serving as my law firm’s Pro Bono Partner.

For nearly a decade, I’ve been honored to represent Holocaust survivors. Hearing their stories of perseverance and seeing their optimism and resilience is inspiring. Just thinking about these remarkable clients motivated me to heal quickly and fully. They needed me. And I needed them too.

Working with a wide range of attorneys also taught me that the true measure of intellect isn’t solving problems, identifying an advantage, and seizing it. Intellectual functions are insufficient without courage, love, and compassion. Working with survivors developed my courage, love, and compassion muscles—and working with my occupational therapists helped me exercise those “muscles” even more.

Our society places great importance on filling brains with knowledge, but few seem to care about filling hearts with compassion. I’m proud to occupy an area of the legal profession that does. My job is to give compassion away to clients, volunteers, and caregivers alike. Being trusted to tell survivors’ stories to German government agencies and training others to do the same gives my life meaning in many ways—not so different from what is accomplished in occupational therapy!

I celebrate that I defied predictions and successfully resumed my legal career, although I did not resume 60+ hour weeks. My therapists taught me to embrace a “slow and steady” approach to problem solving. Tactics that began as interventions or compensations became new ways of living. Therapy healed my brain and repaired my soul. I became a more flexible and patient person than I was before the accident.

My refocused approach to life kept me excited about my post-TBI legal practice. After a great deal of reflection, however, I decided to transition into a world that explores, and enables recovery from, neurological traumas.

Why?

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

I initially intended to pursue a PhD in neuroscience under the guidance of Dr. Winstein in USC’s Motor Behavior and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory. My ability to clearly elucidate a 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 join her team.

As I worked in her lab and amassed background courses at UCLA, however, I investigated whether I could explore my hypothesis without undertaking an elongated PhD program. My history of “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, student, and TBI survivor.

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

* * *

Word.

Parting Thought: Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, and do so with all your heart. ~Marcus Aurelius

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