The RoboTeam visit was one of many to labs around MIT on my recent week-long trip to Cambridge. It was an exhilarating several days and reminded me why I cannot wait to get back to school.
I stayed with Moseley in his dorm room. (His single was a little cramped, but we made it work.) I met up with others whom I had gotten to know while I was on campus in 2013, as well as members of the swim team, and met many, many more. I went to a few lectures in addition to labs, met with professors and explored Cambridge, did some "ice skating" and lots of standing (with help), and generally met my goal of re-acquainting myself with campus life and getting my head around the kinds of activities and pursuits in which I want to engage – basically: remembering why I am committed to recovering and returning to study at MIT.
- A two-hour lecture and demonstration on the physics of the New England Patriots’ “Deflategate” controversy. Oh yeah. Turns out, you can learn a lot about how warm footballs change in cold environments by using a little math and applying the Ideal Gas Law (just in case anyone thought physics wasn't immediately useful!).
- One significant experience I had on campus was meeting with the legendary Sangbae Kim at the Biomimetic Lab – where they model robots after animals, copying nature's ingenious designs.
These are not things that I could have discussed at all coherently two years ago – I knew nothing then like what I know now about how the body works, and why it is structured as it is for our movement.
Discussing those topics made me feel pretty good about being able to apply some of the knowledge I've gained through my rehabilitation process, especially because the kind of work they're doing really captivates me. I love it. That's one step toward being ready to return: having some real insight to contribute.
The big test for myself on this trip was managing everything independently. Sleeping on an air mattress in the dorm, using a different shower configuration, and eating at dining halls and cafes were challenges for which I felt prepared only after my recent progress in Hawaii in postural strength and general ability.
As I anticipated, I had to do some improvising and thinking things through ahead of time, but in the end I figured it out and made whatever environment I was in work for me. This included sometimes asking a stranger to push the wheelchair along the campus sidewalks, as I am very careful to protect my shoulders and neck from overuse. I’m happy to say that when I ask for that kind of assistance, almost 100% of the time, strangers are happy to help and sometimes even grateful for the opportunity. Altruism is not all lost in our society…
It's interesting that only after I found I could connect the dots of managing the basics could I begin to contemplate what other abilities I would need to master being an engineering student: it's hard to even think about soldering wires and using a drill press before having confidence that I could simply get myself dressed in the morning. At least, that's how it was for me. Another step in the right direction.
Though a very different kind of therapy trip from my visit to Hawaii, this one was tremendously useful for thinking about my therapy. I did much less dedicated working-out each day, and much more thinking-out how to interact with my environment in whole-body, active ways.
The trip was meant to serve a larger purpose. I’m not recovering feverishly in an attempt to regain every ability I had before. That would be escapist, a manifestation of an unwillingness to imagine and pursue a new way of being. My goal is to live a full life – in a way that I can realistically imagine, one free from certain limits that I am currently in a position to overcome, to eliminate forever. That’s what I’m doing now, every day, and catching a glimpse of my future recently while back on campus was an invaluable affirmation of those ambitions. I’m really fired up, and I know I have work to do...