Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cat Got Your Insulin Pump?

After the loss of our beloved 21-year-old cat Pumpkin at the start of this year, we were pretty heartbroken, and sure that we wouldn't love again for a good long time. Sometimes life has other plans, however; a pregnant feral cat was taken in by a co-worker, and soon some kittens needed homes. That's how Willow and Giles came into our lives (there might be a naming theme evident there) and they are absolutely adorable.

Meet Willow:

Meet Giles:

They are the best of friends, either snuggling with each other or play-fighting like crazy:

Okay, but why am I telling you this on a diabetes-related blog? Because sometimes kittens and diabetes don't mix. My original alternate title for this entire blog was "Cat Got Your Insulin Pump?" Cats, because they are weird, love the smell of insulin, and cats, especially kittens, love to play with anything that dangles. So, one day after dealing with frantically wrestling beasties, I started to feel unwell. My blood sugar reading seemed unreasonably high. I couldn't figure out the culprit, until I carefully examined my pump tubing.

It was covered in tiny, kitten-sized bite marks.

Cat got my insulin pump, indeed.

As a bonus image, here's me being interviewed about Toronto and multiculturalism on TV! It was a lot of fun. I'm excited about Princeton Reunions this weekend, so I'm wearing my school sweatshirt.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sharing the Love (D-Blog Week, Day 7)

Today's prompt: As another Diabetes Blog Week draws to a close, let’s reflect on some of the great bloggers we’ve found this week. Give some love to three blog posts you’ve read and loved during Diabetes Blog Week, and tell us why they’re worth reading. Or share three blogs you’ve found this week that are new to you. 

I feel like this is both the easiest and hardest post to write; easiest, because there are so many amazing blogs and blog posts out there and I hardly have to do any of the work, and hardest because there are so many amazing blogs and blog posts out there, and how can I choose just a few?

The posts that really stood out to me this year are all, fittingly, for me, about memories and art.


Kelly at Diabetesaliciousness - while I'm sure nobody needs to be introduced to this D-famous blog, I loved meeting Kelly at my very first D-Meetup, which was a huge breakthrough for me, and I love her story of a father who was willing to come to blows to protect his little girl's right to eat.

Mocha at PrettyPancreas - @PurdueMocha on Twitter - I've enjoyed our occasional conversations on Twitter, and all of the memories she recounts in this blog post are familiar ones to me (except the ketone stick one, because ironically, though I have a family member who was instrumental in developing this kind of technology, I never used them).

This incredibly moving piece at My Lazy Pancreas - one of the gems I discovered by clicking on any link I could find.

Finally, another blog I found from this week's blogroll, RainieAndMe - I love this one because it reminds me how lucky I've always been to have relatively advance diabetes technology at my fingertips (literally). That a disposable syringe was a precious gift once really opened my eyes to how far we've come in such a short time, even if we're all united in being told the cure was 5 years away from whenever we started.


I found a couple of pod poems or art pieces that I really loved; somehow, d-poetry seems more profound when written on the material we use to survive. Kudos to Death of a Pancreas and Melissa of Sweetly Voiced! Melissa (@sweetlyvoiced on Twitter) in particular has been super supportive of my work this week, and her words have raised my spirits greatly; it's always so nice to know that, when we blog, we're not shouting into the abyss.

Finally, this poem at T Minus Two struck a chord with me; a lovely way to structure a concept that resonates with most of us; how do we take the measure of ourselves?

I had a wonderful time with D-Blog Week this year and can't wait to do it again! Thanks to Karen for putting all of this together; truly, it's a movement with legs!


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ode to an Insulin Pump (D-Blog Week Day 6: Diabetes Art Day)

Today's D-Blog Week prompt:

This year Diabetes Art moves up from the Wildcard choices as we all channel our creativity with art in the broadest sense. Do some “traditional” art like drawing, painting, collage or any other craft you enjoy. Or look to the literary arts and perhaps write a d-poem or share and discuss a favorite quote. Groove to some musical arts by sharing a song that inspires you diabetes-wise, reworking some song lyrics with a d-twist, or even writing your own song. Don’t forget dramatic arts too, perhaps you can create a diabetes reality show or play. These are just a starting point today – there are no right or wrong ways to get creative!

This is tough for me, as most of my blog seems to already be diabetes art of some kind! You could check out the beginning of a mystery novel here, song parodies here and here, or the beginning of a diabetes Law and Order episode here (I will finish that someday, but I don't have the energy right now)! I get intimidated by art prompts, as I consider myself (or have been considered to be; sometimes I doubt myself) some kind of writer. I actually have a short diabetes-based relationship play I wrote back in mid-college when I was trying to figure things out for myself; I'd post it but I'd probably embarrass myself.  So today you get something quick and dirty: a Shakespearean sonnet parody (okay, I might be one of few people who call a Shakespearean sonnet parody quick and dirty). Diabetes seems to lend itself to Shakespeare; it's full of both wild comedy and high tragedy. If you want to quibble about the occasional extra syllable leading to a "feminine ending" of a line, I say it adds to the analysis, as a "feminine ending" often relates to indecision or distress.  Anyway, now that I've analyzed myself, I leave you with:

Ode to an Insulin Pump

Shall I compare thee to a pancreas?
Thou art external and more temperamental
Rough numbers do shake me as the hours pass
And homeostasis, achieved, seems incidental

Sometime too high the glucose rises up
And my once-pale complexion turns to rose
Or dropping fast, an orange-juice-filled cup
Must quell my shakes ‘fore everybody knows

Thy Bolus Wizard magics up a dose
Thy Basal, steadfast on its course it stays
And though you help me as I keep you close
Still, I feel you are shortening my days

My true one vanished, leaving but my fears:
That cruel promise, to “wait but five more years!”


Friday, May 17, 2013

The Chronic (D-Blog Week, Day 5)

Just like in the movie, today we’re doing a swap. If you could switch chronic diseases, which one would you choose to deal with instead of diabetes? And while we’re considering other chronic conditions, do you think your participation in the DOC has affected how you treat friends and acquaintances with other medical conditions? 

Today’s D-Blog Week prompt is all about “Trading Places” – if we could have a different chronic disease, other than diabetes, what would we switch to, and why?

This prompt amused me, because when it comes to chronic diseases, they’ve never seemed to be an “either/or” proposition; rather, it seems like an “and” proposition. You have THIS chronic disease! And oh, also, you have THIS chronic disease! And THIS ONE TOO! You get a chronic disease, and you get a chronic disease, and if you look under your seat, EVERYONE in the audience gets a chronic disease!!

That’s why we have the term “co-morbidities,” because misery loves company.

In many ways, “choosing” a different chronic disease seems like minimizing someone’s pain; it’s almost mean. I know that if someone with another chronic illness said, “oh, I’d rather have Type 1 Diabetes; it seems easier than what I’ve got,” I might feel indignant and wounded. It’s that feeling when someone says, “at least you don’t have cancer.” I would never want to have cancer; it is an absolutely terrible scourge, and fuck it six ways from Sunday. However, the “at least” qualifier bothers me, because, again, it minimizes my condition’s impact on my life. I’ve written somewhat extensively on the cancer/diabetes dichotomy and why one is easier to receive sympathy and donations for; much of it has to do with, in my mind, the status of the chronic illness as an atypical, unpleasant and uninteresting progressive narration.

Cancer gives you a villain; it’s a life-or-death struggle, there are peaks, a climax, and the person is either hero or tragic victim at the end. Even with the idea of a possibly-ending remission, that’s just the set-up for the sequel; the “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” villain popping up again.  Few chronic illnesses offer such a satisfying journey. This “cancer narrative,” while popular, is equally problematic for many people living with cancer, because it often casts them as victims when they don’t want to be. The concept that you “beat” or “lose” to cancer indicates a judgment on the person’s strength or strength of character; like a sport, a “loss” indicates that you just “didn’t want it enough,” which is maddeningly unfair and untrue.

That’s why I feel awkward and uncomfortable about choosing a disease instead of the one I have. My “grass is greener” is someone else’s “bĂȘte noir.”  However, if I had to pick, I would go for the one thing I have curiously never had: seasonal allergies (if that’s even considered a chronic illness).

My entire life, the one malady that has been curiously missing from my rap sheet is that of allergies. I am allergic to sulfa medication and nothing else. Twice, I have done a 60+-item scratch test at the dermatologist’s; twice, the only thing that has reacted has been the pure histamine control (so I really am skin reactive; I’m just allergic to nothing). Ironically, the one thing my skin is “allergic” to is being touched or scratched; I’m dermatographic (you can “write” on my skin and occasionally produce hives). So, just like everything else, my body isn’t rejecting outside stimuli; it’s rejecting myself, as usual. Stupid self-hate-filled body.

I realize that seasonal allergies can be a source of much consternation and misery (speaking to my cousin a few weekends ago confirms this). And I don’t want major food allergies; quite frankly, I’d rather be diabetic than be deathly allergic to some food that I had to avoid all restaurants for. But mild, recurring seasonal allergies that I can’t get rid of but goes away two weeks into spring? Sounds good to me.

This, of course, is cheating somewhat; I suppose an equal “chronic” illness should be something I have to deal with all the time, like what I have now. I guess it could be something that’s usually all right, but “flares” in nasty ways. But, I have to say, if it counts, give me a few weeks of seasonal allergies any year, over this. If seasonal allergies have a narrative, it’s that of a villain who comes back to make an impressive cameo over Sweeps Week, and then disappears for another year.

That, I could deal with.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Next Day: Diabetes Accomplishments, Big and Small

It's Day Four of Diabetes Blog Week! Today's topic is "Accomplishments, Big and Small"

We don’t always realize it, but each one of us had come a long way since diabetes first came into our life. It doesn’t matter if it’s been 5 weeks, 5 years or 50 years, you’ve done something outstanding diabetes-wise. So today let’s share the greatest accomplishment you've made in terms of dealing with your (or your loved one’s) diabetes. No accomplishment is too big or too small - think about self-acceptance, something you’ve mastered (pump / exercise / diet / etc.), making a tough care decision (finding a new endo or support group / choosing to use or not use a technology / etc.).

My greatest accomplishments have never been physical. They have been intellectual, emotional, artistic, social, but not physical. I have a certain degree of disdain for my body, as it seems to subvert my desires at every opportunity. The last time I remember being proud of a physical achievement is when I managed to speak on the phone without losing my breath while running more than 5 miles an hour on the elliptical. Mostly, my body seems a useless rag; something that’s never as thin or pretty or working as well as I want it to be.

Diabetes is a very physical disease, but there is a large portion of it that is mental, and the mental definitely affects the physical. I’ll never be a “physical” person, but the strides I’ve made with this condition mentally and emotionally have undoubtedly improved my physical well-being.

There’s a large movement out there that says, “don’t let diabetes define you,” and it’s one that I absolutely agree with. But there’s always the flip-side to this idea, which can be equally limiting and dangerous, and that’s trying to define yourself completely without diabetes; not letting diabetes be in your definition at all. That’s something I tried to do for a long time. It was an abject rejection of everything my body was trying to tell me.

My greatest accomplishment has been an acceptance of who I am. I may never accept my large bone structure and ribcage, but I can now talk about diabetes; not in the abstract, but as something that affects me, and something that I work on each day. I’ve entered into an incredibly supportive community. I never would have thought about blogging on this subject or sharing it with the world at large until I said, “this is who I am, and this is how I want to work to make my life better.” There are many, many people I can thank for this development, for encouraging me to get the pump and self-monitor and work to bring my A1cs down from the horrorshow of high school and college to the 8-9s of grad school to the 7s I’ve seen for the past 2.5 years. There are so many who deserve thanks for support. In the end, however, no matter how much encouragement or nagging I received, progress was all up to me and to the decisions I made. This is a lonely realization, but also an empowering one.

The problem with describing a “diabetes accomplishment” is that an accomplishment tends to describe one specific moment, frozen in time; it describes something you've done, that's over. That 7.1 A1c I achieved in February? I’m extremely proud of it. But to focus on it as an achievement can result in ignoring the work that still needs to be done. It’s not like the moment where I received my Master’s. That’s an achievement; it’s done, and it’s not going to go away (although receiving a degree never precludes further learning). My numbers, on the other hand, can and will change every minute. My health can be taken away from me at any time. It’s so, so important to recognize and celebrate the work that went into achieving these numbers and feeling good, but it’s important not to dwell on them as an impediment to forward motion.

Diabetes is scary, with its power to take your life away overnight. In a way, just waking up, having survived another day, is its own accomplishment. But it can’t just be about sheer physical survival; rather, it’s about living the best life possible. It’s the commitment to survival; the willingness to try, and try again, in the face of insurmountable odds, which is really what matters.

I woke up this morning, and I started anew, and I continued to take care of myself.

Every day, that is my diabetes accomplishment.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Life Of Moments

Welcome to Day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week! Today's prompt: Memories.

Today we’re going to share our most memorable diabetes day. You can take this anywhere.... your or your loved one's diagnosis, a bad low, a bad high, a big success, any day that you’d like to share.

I have many memorable diabetes moments; so many that they almost blur together into a life. Most of them feature horrible highs or lows (for highs, see, for example, the Super Bowl party that ended with a crunch, here). When it comes to lows, there's the day an intensely low blood sugar coincided with my first migraine aura, and I thought I was having a stroke, because I couldn’t say the words that I was thinking (“peaches” became “pockets”). There was the one time in undergrad that I missed a test because I went low and fell asleep after treating, but it had a happy ending.

I wish I could remember more days where I was blissfully unaware of my diabetes because it didn’t act up in any way. Paradoxically, these “no-hitter” sorts of days aren’t memorable because I don’t have to think about diabetes screwing with my life, and that’s a good thing.

My diagnosis day was memorable: the return of an ominous phone call from the doctor’s office, the “you have diabetes, honey,” from my mom, the immediate transfer over to my best friend’s birthday party with barely any time to process; me, a twelve-year-old declining cake and ice cream because I thought I could never eat it again.

Diabetes provides me with many moments of anger.  There was this one that occurred about an hour ago, before I wrote this. I’m going to have at least three or four surgeries this year, all for things that have nothing to do with diabetes (I’d never had surgery before I broke my elbow in March).  I had an awesomely fast recovery from the first, so I could say, “screw you, diabetes, and your ‘slower recoveries’!” Today I consulted with the oral surgeon who will remove my wisdom teeth. I have accepted that they need to be removed, so I have no anger about that. The conversation I had with the nurse, however, made my blood boil:

Nurse: Are you a well-controlled diabetic?

Me: Yes.
Nurse: So you never have blood sugar swings?

Me: (smiling) Actually, there's not a Type 1 diabetic alive who doesn't see BG fluctuations.

Nurse: So you're saying you're NOT well controlled.

Me: No, I'm just saying that every person with diabetes has ups and downs because it's a complicated -

Nurse: So you do not have control over your diabetes.

Me: *livid pause* I'M WELL-CONTROLLED.

Seething in indignation, this is Ilana Lucas, reporting from the front lines of the misinformation war.

Other memorable moments, however, are happier ones. These often involve the Diabetes Online Community and the effect it has had on my life. I will probably write about this in more detail tomorrow, but there was the moment that I finally truly felt understood by a wider community, the moment I started a Twitter account that dealt with diabetes to connect with others, the moment where I just started talking about diabetes in my “regular life” Twitter account because I’d come to the realization that I wasn’t “Ilana” and “Ilana’s Diabetes” – they were both part of me. There were the D-Meetups, the first time I truly went and met people from the Internet, that have afforded me meetings and/or friendships with amazing people like Jamie and Larry and Kelly and many others.  There was the moment I decided to get a pump, and the moment my endo finally told me she was proud of me.

There were the moments where I achieved more than many might think possible, including my awards and degrees from two of the best universities on the planet, and my artistic and extracurricular pursuits. There was the moment when I stood in front of a class for the first time, knowing they were trusting me to be a professor and a role model, and all the highs and lows and surreptitious site changes in the classroom and the pump conspicuously buzzing in my underwear could not take that away from me.

There was the moment my partner, who has seen me through all the moments of sickness and health for the past almost nine years, told me he was ready for a lifetime of moments and asked me to marry him.
Good moment.

That means there’s a moment coming up next year that I desperately want to be memorable, but not because of diabetes: my wedding.

Diabetes has done so much to attempt to spoil my fun that I am terrified of what my wedding day will bring. So much planning and money and work, and the knowledge that it could still be a Bad Diabetes Moment sends chills down my spine. Yes, there are logistical details, too, like figuring out how to put a pump pocket in my dress, but the uncertainty that is there is the worst part. It’s like how some people worry about rain. Rain I can deal with; there’s an indoor ceremony space. There’s no way to run away from this.

A Sondheim lyric I am fond of quoting goes as follows: “Oh, if life were made of moments/Even now and then a bad one!/But if life were only moments/Then you’d never know you had one.” That lyric gives me hope. My wedding – whether my blood sugar is high or low – is one moment – one important moment, but still, just one moment –of a whole life; one with ups and downs, but overall one which I will be able to analyze outside of the moments, and one I intend to have well lived. I told the nurse that everyone with diabetes has ups and downs. That’s true of blood sugar, moments, and life in general. It’s true for everyone else, too.

So I’m looking forward to my wedding moment, but I’m also looking forward to the moments before and after. Because, if you zoom out a little, all those moments blur into a life.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

We, the Undersigned... (Diabetes Petitions)

On the second day of Diabetes Blog Week, our prompt is:

Recently various petitions have been circulating the Diabetes Online Community, so today let’s pretend to write our own. Tell us who you would write the petition to – a person, an organization, even an object (animate or inanimate) - get creative!! What are you trying to change and what have you experienced that makes you want this change?

I couldn’t choose just one; here are my petitions for the day. (Sing with me: "On the second day of D-Blog Week, my prompter gave to me: four D-petitions...") Feel free to sign!

Attn: Pancreas

We, the undersigned caregivers of a faulty pancreatic unit, believe that it is time you returned to work. You have used up your unemployment benefits, and we all know that, like real unemployment benefits, it’s not nearly enough to live on, or at very least you can’t maintain the same quality of life you had before, while you had your job. Unlike most on unemployment, you have a job ready and waiting for you. Most people on unemployment want to work and are just having a tough time. You are sullying their good name, as you just seem recalcitrant. 

Once you have returned to work, we demand the return, retroactively, of all the time lost and all the moments ruined by dealing with your bullshit. This includes, but is not limited to, time spent taking shots, putting in pump sites, calibrating basals, calculating boluses, carb counting, glucose testing, fasting and non-fasting blood tests and A1Cs, time spent in doctor’s offices, time spent worrying, thinking, sleep lost due to the terror of the number.

You will also be held liable for any complications caused due to your period of inaction.

Attn: BG Readings

We, the bleeding undersigned, insist that you behave consistently in response to consistent stimuli. It is patently unfair to display such erratic behaviour to those who have close dealings with you. This costs them a great deal of time and energy, something that could be avoided if you would merely behave in any sort of reliable, sane, or understandable fashion. Please follow some sort of natural or physical law, or enter rehab. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. As this is your modus operandi, we petition to have you legally declared insane; we will not be responsible for any of your consequences.

Attn: Society and comedians at large
We, the weary undersigned, demand that you cease and desist using the term “diabetes” as a synonym to the terms “fat” “lazy” or “ugly”. This constitutes slander, or libel (depending on whether the words are spoken or written). As you can see, this is not a true estimation of the facts. Please, in the future, laugh at diabetes itself, not persons with diabetes. There is a difference. This is one of many differentiations that must be made.

The following obnoxious statements are to be discontinued, on punishment of
1) fine, and
2) showing the speaker’s day-to-day health and eating habits to the world at large for scrutiny:
  • “Someone ordered a burger and a diet Coke?! What an idiot!”
  • Someone “deserves” diabetes
  • “You must have eaten a lot of sugar as a kid”
  • “That show/cute animal photo/song is so saccharine, it just gave me diabetes”
  • “Diabetes” used as a monolithic entity. Type 1 and Type 2 must be differentiated, though the rule about shaming or jokes applies to both.  It’s like talking about “cancer.” Cancers share many similar characteristics, but having a mastectomy for lung cancer would be problematic.
  • “Can you eat that?” (The speaker will owe the wronged party a meal of his or her choice.)
  • “At least it’s not…”
  • “But it’s easy now that you have insulin/you’re cured now”
The phrase “just wait five years” will be punishable by a five-year jail term that extends for five more years at the end of the term, until the injured party is satisfied.

Special sanction for news providers:
Any facts about diabetes that are reported to the general public must be accurate and specific to the type of diabetes being mentioned. Dangerously inaccurate information may result in the website or reporter being charged with negligence.

Wilford Brimley references may be used, sparingly.

Attn: Diabetes Online Community
We, the grateful undersigned, petition you to continue to be open, giving and awesome. We insist that there be an official “DOC Day” to recognize your amazing ability to save and improve lives.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Understanding the Endo


Welcome to the official Diabetes Blog Week at Diaturgy! D-Blog Week, started by Karen at Bitter-Sweet Diabetes four years ago, was instrumental in getting this blog up and going, so I owe her a debt! It's also so much fun to participate in the community every year, all choosing the same topics.  Not content to leave well enough alone, however, I worked in a surprise; I kind of took today's prompt and turned it completely around.

Today's prompt: Often our health care team only sees us for about 15 minutes several times a year, and they might not have a sense of what our lives are really like. Today, let’s pretend our medical team is reading our blogs. What do you wish they could see about your and/or your loved one's daily life with diabetes? On the other hand, what do you hope they don't see?

Dear Endocrinologist:

This week is Diabetes Blog Week, and today’s assignment is for us to write a note to you telling you what we wish you’d understand about us in terms of the toll diabetes takes on our lives. It was perfectly timed, because I saw you today for the first time in six months. I was the first appointment of the day, and for once, I didn’t have to wait for an hour or more.  My numbers were both exciting and disappointing this time. Exciting, because the A1c I did in February was 7.1: a life-with-diabetes record. Disappointing, because thanks to breaking my elbow, pain medication, a stressful semester and no real time to exercise, I’m back up to 7.6. Endocrinologists often seem to go into “airport security” mode; with older data, they try to solve the problem that has already happened and been dealt with rather than the unseen problem ahead; my broken elbow is mostly likely the shoe bomber of incidents; stupid and scary and probably not happening again, but I guess I’ll take off my shoes at the office now.  I do wish you’d appreciate the utter unpredictability of my life and work a little more; I can’t just “take on fewer responsibilities” for my health; I take the schedule I’m given. When the office says, “so, Mondays are good to book six months from now?” That’s two semesters away, so damned if I know my schedule. It’s always going to be a crapshoot.

Here’s the thing, though. I’ve already written a “what you should know” post. It’s here. It’s comprehensive. I’m not interested in writing a version of it again.  I don’t want to draw a line in the sand and see you as an enemy, an impediment to my progress.

I feel lucky, in many ways. I feel like you do listen to me. You know I’m planning a wedding, and you asked how it was going, and whether I was stressed about it. You know what I’m up to in life and you seem genuinely concerned about my well-being. So I’m going to deviate from the assignment today, because today I’m going to try to understand you. For the first time, now that I’ve been a professor for two and a half years, I think I really can.

We had all of our difficulties when I was a teen, and into my early twenties. Some of the biggest issues were during my own college years. I felt you didn’t understand me, or my life. You said you couldn’t understand why I “couldn’t just do this,” a twisted rewrite of an awesome diabetes social media slogan. I felt like one of a zillion patients. You didn’t have time for me, to truly understand. You don’t know what it’s like. You don’t have diabetes. In a way, I was both happy and resentful when our relationship finally got better, clicked and soared; when I got the pump, when my numbers came down radically, when you felt I finally got serious about my health. Why only like me when I'm a "good" diabetic?

Replace “health” with “class,” though, and I could be one of my own students.

You see, I know what it’s like to have a demanding schedule, and to have 120 people whose progress I’m tasked with following over the course of a semester. I know how hard it is to sit and meet with everyone, to truly track progress; to give more than the most cursory comments about improvements to development, analysis, and grammar, because there’s NO TIME. If I met with each of my students for 15 minutes a week, that would be 30 hours with no breaks, let alone all the teaching and the prepping and the marking.  All of my comments, besides on drafts that nobody has time to write many of, can only deal with old data; how to fix a paper that's already been handed in for marks.

I know it’s loads more fun to work with a serious, passionate, excellent student who gets me and my subject; we talk, we fly and I don’t really have to do that much “work.” I know how much nicer it is to have a student who actually wants to improve. I know that I catch myself thinking, even with students who have English as a second language and horribly stressful home lives and illnesses and who deal with raising young children while being young themselves and are one step from poverty, “I don’t understand why you can’t just do this.” After all, I can do this. Look at all the studying I’ve done. Look at all the other people’s words I’ve learned and analyzed. Look at how good I am. I'm a model student, and I chose this course of study.

But you didn’t, my students. You didn’t choose this. English isn’t a major at my college. It’s a requirement. It’s difficult for many of my students; it’s not natural to their bodies. It’s not a first language, either literally, or metaphorically. Instead, it’s a hurdle they’ll have to deal with for the rest of their working lives. And, for me, in the end, it all comes down to the numbers: did they pass, or fail? I can only give so many marks for trying and working hard; in the end the work has to show, and measure up to an arbitrarily set standard. Many of their systemic language issues are such that I have no chance of fixing them in 15 short weeks, though I drill and drill.

I care about my students. I care deeply. I try my hardest to listen, to understand their lives and to make them easier. I know, however, that I need to be met halfway for true success, while I live in fear of failing someone who is truly in need. I’ve become a counselor for 17-year-olds, 30-year-olds, 60-year-olds whose life experience is beyond mine, whose problems I may never truly understand, but I know one thing, and that’s my subject. I know it as much as anyone. And I try to do my best with what I have and what my students give me. I’m only human, and I might flounder around a bit, but I’m doing my honest best.

In the world of teaching, I am you; I am my endo. But, while I have my students for a semester or two, and keep in touch with a few of them, you have stuck with me, through thick and thin, for the better part of a decade. You have seen me not care, and you have seen me come through the other side. Thank you.

So enough about you needing to understand me. Because, today, I needed to understand you. And I think I finally do.