A stack of science fiction books including Terry Brooks, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and Anne McCaffrey.

Goals. Goals. Need Goals. Need things to do to keep my mind busy.

I’m currently waiting on docs in regards to the AVM in my left occipital lobe that led to a small hemorrhagic stroke and ER overnight stay in July 2020. The neurovascular surgeon I was referred to within my state, highly regarded by all who talked about them, decided that my particular AVM would best be served by a team out of state more familiar with unusual and difficult cases. Though small, it was suggested to not be embolized before a craniotomy and that it flitted along the border of what a gammaknife could safely do. Now, I wait.

While in the ER, staring at the ceiling, wondering why my head felt like it was slophing off, I had that stark, horrifying realization that most people have when faced with their own mortality: had I done much of anything significant that I could die being proud of doing?

True, I’m married to a great person, raising another great person, have self-published a work of fiction, have three more short stories being printed in two anthologies,, and had an academic article published, but after that? My dreams have washed by the wayside in an effort to be financially safe. Currently, that choice was a wise one to make. It may mean that insurance may cover a larger amount of my craniotomy then might have been the case if I had pursued a career after graduating with my bachelor’s degree.

However, I got to stare at the ceiling of the stroke ward after an angiogram, waiting as the clock hands ticked the resounding thud of time standing too still when I desperately wanted to utilize the bathroom and not a bedpan. While contemplated the evil little artery/vein malformation in my brain that put me in such a compromising position, all the things I had wished I had done before dying, maybe dying, hopefully not dying decided to land square on my chest and forced me to analyze my life choices.

To become an archaeologist, a paleontologist, a professor of Japanese Art History, to study the origins and lead ups to modern manga and anime, the Japanese publishing industry that revolutionized the graphic novel and cartooning practices. Some of these things have changed. I still love dinosaurs, but not with rabid curiousity that would place me in a pit dusting away at tiny fish skeletons. Archaeologist – maybe, though the Jomon, Yamato, Heian, Kofun periods are enjoyable, they are not my bread and butter. Where I’m at is the fascinating intersection of Ukiyo-e and the Impressionists. The advent of mass market, the early start of populace literacy, the public adoption of easily transmittable ideas through visual means at low cost.

And so, with that poignant reminder that I had made a promise with myself that I would help in raising a small human being up to the point of no longer requiring to pay the exorbitant cost of a daycare system, thereby negating all wage earnings while pursuing a Master’s Degree, I am returning back to the field of academia.

But wait, there are problems here.

A. Covid. Yes, I’m aware of this problem. Intimately aware. I’m trying to figure out brain surgery while teledocing my surgeons in an effort to not get sick while waiting to determine if they are opening my skull, throwing radiation at my brain, or leaving it alone and hoping I don’t stroke out once more – which are all current options on the table.

B. My brain. George the AVM resides over a spot that has to deal with visual processing of information, math, and possibly some areas of my motor cortex. Fun times. It at least explains why I had issues with math in school. I also have discovered that what I kept thinking were panic and anxiety attacks, along with selective mutism, and an inability to lose weight all have to deal with focal seizures. The inability to lose weight has to do with a history of growing up being taught that, as a child of a type 1 diabetic, I too, would most likely end up becoming a type 1 diabetic, therefore, every time I would get nauseaus, shaky, headache, stressed, didn’t feel quite right, I’d eat, because it was “probably low blood sugar.” Yeah, no, those are simple partial seizures, as I’m finding out. And so, I have actually lost 6 pounds in the couple weeks since getting on an anti-seizure medication while we wait to see what the docs are going to do with my brain.

C. GRE scores. I took a test a few years ago in an effort to get into a Masters of Library Studies, only to discover that most of the classes were on information studies – not a topic I was interested in. I was more in the line of academic and archival research and preservation, and this particular program did not provide enough background. I was also, at that point, trying to handle a screeching, demanding toddler, and was not mentally ready to handle that kind of devotion to a topic that in the end, would lead to a job in a field that would leave me unfulfilled and heavily under paid. It’s only significant value was that it was located within the city I was living in and almost the entire degree was hosted online, both things that made raising a toddler more affordable. I did not do well on the GRE for having studied for three months on it. My main failing was math. I am now realizing why. I am hoping that with either surgery, or at least anti-seizure medication and a doctors note about timed tests giving me more time and less stress to trigger said seizure, I might actually do okay on the test.

D. Letters of Reference. I have none. I was not much of a kid to go talking to professors, unless I really didn’t understand the material, and quite often, I would end up just talking to another student, figuring it out, and moving on with my life. It didn’t help that classes would lead to partial seizures, that I would be battling every step of the way (thinking they were panic attacks), I would escape, go home, and review my notes and the textbook, look up extra information on the web, and call it a day. I could live in the academic library for source material and do pretty good on tests, so never found any good reason to bond with a prof. Now, ten years out of school, and a house-spouse to boot, I have no experience in the field or much to show for other than one academic article.

And so, with those issues laid out, I am setting myself with goals. I am going to go back to school to obtain my Masters degree in Japanese History and my PhD. in Japanese Art History. Where? Preferably in Japan where I can have access to first hand materials. This will need to be done after the AVM is dealt with, I am aware of this, and COVID has been sorted. Kind of need to survive both of those issues.

To do this, I must retake the GRE, and I would prefer to obtain the highest points feasibly possible in hopes of obtaining some kind of useful financial assistance not in the form of a loan. With math problems on the brain, I need to be realistic and figure out how to work with my limitations in remembering asinine math formulas. I would ideally like to work while obtaining my degree with the staff or within a relative field of study that would benefit my thesis and dissertation: museum, dig, archives, preservation studio, etc. I’m not sure how that works if I am studying in Japan, but there must be some exceptions made for older adults looking to obtain their degrees and needing to contribute to the household wages of a family at the same time.

I have no references. I am hoping, through creating book reviews, that I may in time form some professional networks within the Japanese historical community and prove myself to be a decent academic worth references. Also, by putting together reviews of nonfiction within my field of interest, I hope to create a well rounded portfolio showcasing my critical analysis and capacity to write useful material that any college would be please to be associated with. That might be lofty, but I am not certain of any other way of obtaining “references, field experience, or academic experience’ when trapped in my house during a pandemic, waiting for brain surgery.

Ideally, in the midst of this, I would also like to prepare for the JLPT tests. I may be incapable of testing at this time due to Covid, but, I would like to advance my language skills, in order to open up the potential for first hand materials research sooner rather than later. If I can read the language, I will be able to do more than I can currently reviewing translated works.

I also plan on reviewing fictional works. For the fall season, I plan on reviewing some old school sci-fi/fantasy books to revisit a bit of my teenage years. Something that feels good, and has been reviewed frequently before in an effort to become familiar with formatting and what information is truly valued by the reader. This will help ingrain a habit and methodology to be utilized while I explore at length the translated works of Japanese authors later in the spring and summer of 2021. In reading both text documents in the nonfiction category, and modern fiction of Japanese authors, I hope to develop a better understanding of not just the history, but the social, and psychological constructs of the society as a whole and that overarching influence on the interpretation of history within anime, manga, and the history of the Japanese publishing industry’s impact on the world at large.

And so, I have goals. I have goals of becoming the prof I wanted to become when I left from the graduation hall. I tried to settle into a content life of housework and book writing. Then the universe came up and whacked me across the head and reminded me, this isn’t a video game. I only get one round at this thing, and I’m wasting what little time I have left trying for financial security instead of dreams and ambition.

I will finish editing Fyskar, Subject15, Polaris Skies, and Subgalaxia. I will write A Feather on My Scale and an as-yet-to-be-named third book in the Gods of Fire trilogy that will mesh with the Kavordian Library Omnibus. My life in writing fiction is not over, but my life in academics is calling for me to return before I see the inside of a coffin lid. Now, just to make sure the graduate program actually hears my desperate pleas of ‘let me in, let me in!’ and actually lets me in.

Chapel Orahamm

I am a writer and artist working through the Kavordian Library series. I write sci-fi, fantasy, lgbt romance.

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