“Sorry bro, this is really not a good time”

Something I wish I could tell (or yell at) my lungs right now.

For about one and a half weeks I’ve been doing a terrific job at imitating a dying seal and coughing without much of a break 24/7. It started off quite harmless with something I mistook for either the flu or allergies, but whatever it was, it left my lungs weak enough to have them end up in this mess. My mother wakes up a couple of times a night to help me get rid of the phlegm, and I can’t sit through a single lecture without causing noise disturbance for my fellow students approximately every 3 minutes or so. At times I’m so short of breath that my head feels kind of fuzzy, and overall I notice other signs too that my lungs are doing a shitty job at being lungs at the moment.

During the last couple of days this feeling of uneasiness has been creeping up on me. But only tonight after a doctor at my physiotherapy session listened to my lungs and expressed her concern I’ve decided to allow myself to feel slightly defeated and so I’ll be making a doctor’s appointment first thing tomorrow.

But here’s the thing; I really really really can’t afford to fall ill right now. I’ve been making such progress with studying and catching up on uni and this has brought not only pride but also hope for finishing this semester semi-okay, I have about one zillion deadlines and exams approaching, and last but certainly not least I’m attending this phenomenal rock festival called Rock Am Ring coming weekend. I’ve been rigorously prepping and counting the days to seeing Foo Fighters, Muse, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Alt-J and Gorillaz amongst amazing others live for so long that I’ll even be willing to attend it from the comfort of a camping bed and attached to an oxygen tank. After the 16th of July, when I’m officially done with my first year of university and may enjoy summer break, I might allow my body 1-3 business days of being ill. But not now. No way.

One final sprint*

I’m by no means a genius and daily feel like an imposter at the university more than I like to admit. I sit there amongst people that are used to hacking their school library’s computers for fun during breaks, and then there’s me: big smiles and thoroughly proud that I managed to bluff my way through the most recent homework assignment with a 5.8 or so.

Recently I started the fourth and last term of my first year and this journey hasn’t always gone smoothly.

It started off really well with a Logics course which I absolutely loved, and a Cognitive Science course which I found interesting enough but turned out to be quite challenging for me with the vast amounts of texts, details, and cramming involved. As university in general and this particular study was all very new and exciting for me I dived right in. Adjusting to a new situation in life costs anyone a lot of energy, but with the decreased amount of energy I sadly have I found this was quite a high price I was paying. On top of that came the travelling, the exploring of accessibility (“which entrance can I use for today’s new building?”, “where is the closest disabled toilet located?”, “how do I open these special doors, does open Sesame work?”) and long long nights of studying. I gave it all I had and can proudly say that hard work payed off; I passed both of my classes nicely.

From there on it went downhill, with me failing both the Mathematics for AI and Modelling & Programming courses next. With the first term being so extremely draining I found myself slightly off balance. I was able to recover rather fast, but inevitably I was falling behind. I noticed this during the very first two weeks or so and that gap just kept growing up to the point where I was so defeated that I decided to just give up and walk away, and enjoyed a bit of “holiday” while the others finished the courses.

This time off allowed me to regain some strength and the third term went quite okay as I enjoyed and passed one of the two courses, being Linguistics. On the other hand I sadly failed Adaptive Systems, an interesting but extremely tough and broad course. Both the midterm as the endterm were 100% multiple choice (“nice!”) and allowed you to bring one A4 scribbled with whatever the hell you wanted (“what??! easy peasy lemon squeezy!”). Well, my dear reader, forget it. Let the fact sink in that the professor composing those rules must have still been sufficiently confident in the difficulty of the exams. Yep… I’ll admit I didn’t go at it like my first term, where I went absolutely all in and with 120% of the little energy I have. But with my strength and health this is just a terrible strategy, probably strongly discouraged by any doctor you’d ask. I can’t afford to put my physical wellbeing on the line like that again. I felt how it effected me and don’t consider that a price that one can expect me to pay.

Thing is that there’s this minimum of classes you need to pass in order to prove yourself worthy of university. In my case that’s 6 out of the usual 8 classes. I asked the university to take my disability into consideration but they’ve been rather mysterious so far about whether or not I would be granted more time to get these points.

Right now I’m doing Data Structures for AI and Computational Linguistics, which seem to be quite fun but equally as challenging from what I can gather after these first weeks. In an attempt to save my skin and not get kicked out of uni I enrolled in an extra third course called Mathematics for Poets, Thinkers, and Doers. Initially the one and only reason I took that class was to gather enough credits to be allowed to continue my second year, but to my pleasant surprise I’m actually having a great time with it so far. I mean, we spent the first lecture going over angles in the final shoot off in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly :-) so yeah, there are worse fates to walk upon.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to pass all three of these classes, and if I do I certainly will need a miracle or two to peek from around a corner. However I’m trying my very hardest, am working on that aforementioned gap with this ridiculously friendly and patient fellow student, and going all in with My 1st Term Strategy 2.0.

For a while now I was rather disappointed that I haven’t turned into this brilliant hacking super nerd yet, but I’m slowly starting to realise that I actually have learned quite some things since september. The fact that others are further along the road and going steadier than I am shouldn’t blind me from the progress I’ve made.

I’ve had the privilege to keep feeding my curiosity, walk into walls with new things puzzling me, and even though I haven’t passed all of my courses I’ve unquestionably learned at least something. Now, for this last 8 week long sprint of my Bachelor’s first year I refuse to let others’ achievements diminish my own and won’t allow my motivation to be effected by them. And I’ll be damned if I get kicked out of a place I feel so good to be in.

* I’m an excellent marathon runner, as you may or may not have expected.

La Différence

I woke up to this view and had café au lait and pain au chocolat as breakfast for the past 3 days.

This Saturday I found myself fastened and strapped down in a big white van; the perfect ingredient to a brilliant thriller. Instead of heading to a serial killer’s basement I was heading to the beautiful country of France. After a 13-hour long drive me and 7 others were climbing up steep little roads in the dark accompanied by a thick layer of mist. Again, perfect ingredients to a perfectly fine horror movie. At last we pulled up in front of a beautiful house in the city (consisting of perhaps 4-5 whole houses) of La Brousse. I’m skipping uni and staying in a gorgeous and completely accessible little paradise, and although this stresses me out more than one could tell I feel like it’s exactly what I need at this moment.

For a while now stress has been my constant and loyal companion. Stress about failing my studies, stress about work, stress about life, stress about moving and living on my own, and quite literally every other aspect of life you could possibly think of. I’m proud to say that I’m handling it pretty well, both mentally as perhaps more importantly also physically. There’s no one to blame for it but me, and I’m putting this on me 100% voluntarily and consciously. I simply decided for myself that it was going to be a temporary state and nothing but a quick stage I had to power through. Even so I feel utterly peaceful escaping it for a week.