Sunday, December 6, 2015

Freshman 15 and other college wonders.

First semester of our freshman year is winding down. And no, that is not a typo. I might not have earned any college credits this time around, but any member of my family will tell you that I have been right there in the thick of things this semester.

My skin is breaking out from lack of sleep and unhealthy eating (and yep, freshman 15 is painfully real.); my hours are ridiculous, and I can type in MLA format in my sleep.

We have developed a routine, Benjamin and I. I drive back and forth to Belhaven multiple times a day. We have a system -- I have even made friends in his main building by distributing french fries on Mondays. And he is getting used to tagging along with me when his classes are done but I still have volunteer work to do at Cate's school. The staff know him now and "Hey Benjamin" echoes through the halls from Cate's classmates and teachers.

He is a creative writer, this guy. A theater major with an emphasis in creative writing. This semester he is in a CW English class in addition to his Advanced Composition class, so his writing requirements have been intense. Benjamin types with one finger on one hand. The spasticity from his Cerebral Palsy make anything else impossible. He also uses voice recognition software. 

If you are unfamiliar with such software, let me assure you that it is far harder than it seems. I hear him re-doing sentences for hours on end. And still, I am astounded when I read his work that he was able to make it get as much as it does. In the end, however, we sit together and edit his work. He tells me where to change the ridiculous things the software adds -- like "fair trade melons" rather than what he intended to be "far reaching elements." Seriously, think how many crazy texts you send -- or almost send -- using SIRI. Now imagine writing a paper like that.

The voice recognition can not format for him. He needs my able hands to highlight and double-space and indent. I would be lying if I told you he doesn't get frustrated. But he has a gift that he needs to develop and hone. I don't want him to give up because it is hard. And I certainly don't want him to give up because I am tired.

Tonight, my Benjamin was getting his semester portfolio together for his creative writing class. This guy has overcome so much this semester. I am so proud of him I would smile from ear to ear -- except smiling takes a lot of energy and we are in finals week, y'all. I have to conserve.

But as I helped him format his portfolio, this amazing guy had written a poem about freshman year. A really amazing poem. And though it begins with things that are universal to college freshmen -- stress, time-management, etc -- he transitioned in to what makes his experience unique. He wrote about the challenges of being a creative writer when the only modem to get his ideas out requires me to come behind and re-format. He wrote about his exhausted mom.

I didn't need that recognition. I didn't. But sometimes gaining perceptive on what is going on in Benjamin's head is exactly what I need to face another long day of back and forth to Belhaven and long late nights coupled with super early mornings. 

With his permission...

Freshman year
by Benjamin Shrader 

The stuff that's going on
Will force you to go crazy
Constantly out of step
Confused yet? You will be

You work so hard all day
All day and into night
We students get no sleep
No sleep? Oh yeah, that's right

The games we’re forced to play
All structured, no new change
The rhythm and repeating
Could force you in a rage

And that’s not all there is,
No, it gets worse you see,
For lies atop all other things,
A disability.

I cannot walk, or open doors,
Or scribe words that are due.
College is colored differently
Another shade, a different hue.

Most papers run late,
Due to my typing slow
Who helps me refine
My mother wouldn't you know

And as for you, my new dear friend
Although you may not see it
You will face trials akin to mine
Just with different specifics

But see, the time has come
Remember why you're here
Despite the pain and struggles
As they say, "have a great year!"

Two more exams to go for this son. My work load will ease but my prayer life will increase as the other two will then begin their finals' weeks. Perhaps I should pray and walk -- that way I can stay awake AND work off my freshman 15.

Carol - The Blessings Counter