School · Self-Reflection

A Reflection on the Fall 2020 School Year

Hello everyone. It has been a very long time since I reflected on my time in grad school. I completely skipped reflecting on the 2019-2020 school year. For my newer readers, I did reflections a long time ago on the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters in grad school. I did not do a reflection of the Fall 2019 semester because I would usually say what grade I got in the class and I was worried about failing a core class that requires at least a B to pass. Also didn’t do a reflection of the Spring 2020 semester because… well, you all know why.

So this is how I did my reflections. I would name the class I took, talk about my feelings about the class, and say my final grade. I posted my overall GPA at the end. In the 2019-2020 school year, I got 3 B’s and a C. I can only have at most two C’s, so I have been working hard to have no more C’s.

Software Engineering 1: This was my favorite of the two classes. My professor talked about software engineering practices that go on in the tech industry and he would also help us revise our homework assignments. While I typically hate asking for help since that opens me up for criticism, I took advantage of it because a few extra points can make a difference in your grade. My industry experience really helped me. However, I had so many assignments to do near the end that I developed stress headaches that lasted for about two weeks. The final paper was hard to write because each section had word count requirements. I honestly had no intention of taking this class, but the two classes I have left to take in the Software Engineering class requires me to take this class before I take the other classes.

Final Grade: A-

Object-Oriented Methodology: I wasn’t a fan of this class because we were forced to have our webcams on during class (it was a class rule written in the syllabus), but this class is a requirement for the Software Engineering track. My professor had a weird grading scale (for example, a B+ started at 91.99%) and the programming assignments were 60% of the final grade. I am very horrible at programming (I gave up on being a software developer because of it) and except for the first programming assignment, we had to do the assignments individually. We were supposed to have partners, but more people voted against partner work. This scared me because if I failed this class, I would have to switch to the general program that is not track-specific. Someone I used to have class with failed this class and he was also in the software engineering track before switching out to the general program.

Final Grade: B

Current Overall GPA (coming from all the classes I took in grad school): 3.334

Last Fall, I had lost motivation to study and the Fall 2019 classes were hard! While my grades definitely dropped in the last school year, I’m glad that I gave myself a stricter studying schedule to put in more effort in the Fall 2020 semester. I am only taking one class next semester, so that should ease the stress a lot especially since I also have to work on my proposal for my graduate project. The track requirement classes aren’t offered every semester which is why I’m doing one class next semester. If they were, then I’d be taking my final two courses next semester instead of one class in Spring 2021 and the other class plus my graduate project in Fall 2021. I’m getting closer to the finish line.


Goal Check In

Back in August, I wrote a blog post naming my five goals called My Goals for the Future. I set some goals for myself because I feel like I haven’t really accomplished anything in my life. I said I was going to post about my goal progress, so I’ll do that now since I have winter break from grad school. You can read the full details of my goals in that blog post.

Goal #1: Write one poem every one to two months.

Synopsis: In August 2020, I started a personal writing project where I write one poem every month or two with my final poem being written by June 2021.

Progress: I have written three poems so far as of this posting. I intentionally skipped writing in October because I was busy with studying for my midterm exam. However, this meant that I definitely had to write a poem in November. I have up to seven more poems to write if I don’t skip March to study for midterms or June for the vow renewal.

Goal #2: Recite one of my poems at next year’s annual poetry service in July.

Synopsis: I will present a poem I wrote during my personal writing challenge at my Unitarian Universalist church’s annual poetry service in July 2021.

Progress: I think I have decided on a poem already to present in the poetry service, but I still plan on continuing with my writing challenge. I think I have to wait until June to express interest in reciting a poem, though.

Goal #3: Do a lay-led service next year.

Synopsis: I wish to do a lay-led service at my church with the topic being “You’re Never Too Old to be a Changemaker”.

Progress: While I have some ideas in my head, I haven’t had the time to sit down and work on what I will say in the Call to Worship and the Sermon part. I also should decide if I want a reading or have someone do a reflection. I’ll look back at previous orders of service during the 2020 lay-led service time for inspiration.

Goal #4: Keep my grades up

Synopsis: In the Master’s program, I need to keep my GPA to at least 3.0 because that is the minimum GPA requirement for graduating with your Master’s degree.

Progress: My GPA is still above 3.0 and I did better than I did in the 2019-2020 school year. I think my GPA was brought up a little bit, so I’m happy. For my Software Engineering class, there were some assignments where if we emailed it to my professor no later than 5 days before the due date, he would review our assignment and give us ways to improve. I hate asking for help and I have trouble accepting critique, so I would always be nervous when I’d get my assignment returned with the suggestions. I only did this so I could get extra points that I would not have gotten before. A few extra points here and there can make a difference between letter grades.

Goal #5: Getting proper mental health help

Synopsis: Therapy has failed me in the past and I want to figure out why.

Progress: I started with a new therapist in September (therapist #6) because therapist #5 left the practice because she was relocating for her day job. I switched to a new practice with a much lower turnover rate and this new practice treats more severe mental illnesses compared to my previous practice where it seemed like the main things treated were anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, and a few people treating ADHD. This therapist could tell right away that I’m neurodivergent and that my Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a comorbidity of whatever neurodivergent condition I have. Right now, I can’t get a neuropsychological evaluation because none of the neuropsychologists she works with is doing evaluations right now due to Covid. I don’t want to travel out of state for an evaluation because my therapist only works with neuropsychologists who are knowledgeable about the difference in symptom presentation in women and girls. Studies only focus on neurodivergent males which is why girls slip through the cracks. I am learning some things, but I feel like we can only work on so much until I can get a new diagnosis in hand.


If He/She/They Can Do It, Can You Do It Too?

February 2022 Update: Wow, I sounded so whiny in the original post! This post has been edited to reduce how whiny I sound. I was also diagnosed with autism and an additional anxiety disorder almost 6 months after I posted this, so edits will include those factors too.

Hey everyone. I have been really busy with school lately, so my constant posting had temporarily stopped. The semester is over, so I am back. This is kind of a rant, but doesn’t have the same raw anger that exists in my other rants. Heck, this rant isn’t even as angry as I usually get.

I’m going to be blunt. I will never be the neurotypical definition of “successful” due to being autistic and having two anxiety disorders. These factors caused me to not be able (or allowed) to make my own decisions as well. You might be thinking “Dia! You’re just making excuses! You’re not trying hard enough to be successful!” How many times have neurodivergent people been told they aren’t trying? Countless people, including myself, have been told that we’re not trying. However, to be realistic, not everyone is able to be successful.

We’re bombarded via various forms of media about “the disabled” overcoming their challenges to become successful. People think “If they can do it, so can I!” But the truth is, you might not be able to do something they did, and that’s okay. One person is not and should not be the representation of EVERY person. If you think about it, some of what you see is called “inspiration porn”. Inspiration porn is media that portrays a person with disabilities (or disabled person, depending on if you like person-first or identity-first language) as inspirational, mainly due to their disability.

For every one disabled person who became what society deems as successful, there are at least one hundred disabled people who struggle a lot with basic self-care skills like self-feeding, getting dressed, or wiping themselves after using the bathroom. For every one person who overcame their struggles with trauma, there are hundreds who still can’t rebuild their lives. For every one person who became successful despite where they came from, there are thousands who became products of their environment. For every Dr. Temple Grandin, there are many autistic people who require 24-hour care who can’t live independently (like my uncle who died years ago). For every Toshia Shaw, there are hundreds or thousands of women who can’t recover from the PTSD of being trafficking victims.

While I cannot properly define what success means to me, we need to realize that not everyone can be successful like the people we see in the media. Just because they can do it, doesn’t mean you can. No two people with the same disability are alike in their challenges. For example, my cousin struggles with hyperactivity and my ex-boyfriend struggles with focus. They both have AD(H)D, but don’t have the same challenges. A churchgoer struggles with language that isn’t literal while I struggle with social cues and social appropriateness. We’d both fit on the autism spectrum (he has a diagnosis of Aspergers while I was diagnosed as autistic in June 2021, though getting a diagnosis years ago would have probably put me in the Aspergers category as well).

Take this time to recognize your (or your child’s limits). Unfortunately, “inspiration porn” can create unrealistic expectations for a disabled child. Just like how no two people with the same disability have the same challenges, no two people with the same disability have the same strengths. I’m an autistic kickboxer who is one of the higher-ranking students in the class. However, another autistic person might get sensory overload from the loud music, loud bell timer, and the coach shouting instructions during warm-ups. One of my strengths is that I can often drive to places without a GPS just by studying the directions on Google Maps before I leave my house. Aleksander Vinter, an autistic DJ who goes by the stage name “Savant”, feels like his autism gave him the gift of having exceptional musical abilities.

This blog post was actually inspired by a post a military wife wrote about her son who was diagnosed with ADHD, and then later received an autism diagnosis as well. She said she told her son “You will go to college.” First of all, college isn’t for everyone, and this is true regardless of whether the person is neurotypical or neurodivergent. Second of all, is the college environment going to be a good fit for that child? I have heard that some colleges and universities are not very good at meeting the requests for accommodations, especially since accommodations in a post-secondary setting are based on what is reasonable and what the student is eligible to receive.

We do so much harm by forcing people to meet unrealistic expectations.