A person standing dramatically in front of a falling hurdle. After the hurdle falls, there is a white flag raising.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Should Give Up

I took middle school Practical Arts. It was required for all 7th graders in my school system in the 1960s. The curriculum consisted of four classes in a 9-week rotation. There was sewing, woodshop, cooking, and manufacturing.

It was the same curriculum that my parents took in the 1940s and I think the same teachers likely taught them.  Once my father got to high school, he took two years of woodshop in a three hour per day block. His final assignment one year was to build a bedside cabinet with two shelves.

I have that table, and my routers and modems sit on it as they operate our house's digital link to the outside world. It seems odd that my dad built something that I use for a technology he could have scarcely imagined. And he got an A for his diligence.

I could have paid more attention

But back to my middle school experience: I was not so successful. In sewing class, I sewed both ends of the pillowcase together. It seems that is not the way to demonstrate proficiency. I made a fish in woodshop that made my father happy but had an irregular notch for a mouth. A regular notch was important, as I got a C. In industrial design, I made a hard plastic paperweight that was lopsided.  In cooking, my pizza was tasty, but I may have eaten the evidence before the grade. In retrospect, that was something I should not have done.

Looking back on things, I could have done a better job in these classes had I paid attention. But as an 11-year-old, it was just not in me. And even if I had retaken those units, it would have been worse. In high school, I received an E in typing. No, that did not mean excellent. E was for the kid who was not capable of doing the subject. The teacher explained it like this: we do not want to fail you, but we cannot pass you; and for goodness sake, we do not want you back. I took my E and went on down the line.

Staying motivated while living with RA

I bring all this up because despite my apparent issues with the "practical curriculum," I knew that I was not a failure. I simply had not found my thing in that curriculum. Unfortunately, I did not find it in language, math, or science.  I enjoyed social studies and, as proof, I received two As (my only two As in all of my K-12 education) in social studies. Finally, I found my thing. But even that was not all that big of a deal.

I knew I wasn't a failure

Still, I refused to believe that I was not destined for college.  When I enrolled in college, success was not a forgone conclusion.  But I had faith and, four years later, I graduated with a GPA of 2.47. Again, no one would have predicted much success.

I had dogged determination and in my Master's program - my GPA was 3.80. And when I achieved my doctorate, my GPA was 4.0.

I refuse to give in to my RA

I brought that same dogged determination to RA/RD. I refuse to give in to it. Like many of us, my first reaction was, "Hell no, I am not giving in." Sure, I would be compliant (to a point), but I was a long-hauler. I might stumble or have some issues, but no way was RA/RD going to interrupt my life.

Well, it did not turn out that way. RA/RD did interrupt my life, and it still does. It has impacted my wife and family, and it affects almost every day of my life. I told RA/RD the other day that I would not surrender. I stared at it in the mirror this morning and I announced, "RA/RD will not win."

My determination will see me through

It is the same determination that was okay when I got an E in typing (I still can barely type).  The same "dig in, do it over" determination when I sewed both ends of my pillowcase together. It was the same "yeah, so what?" attitude that I expressed when my German teacher told me that I could not understand German until I learned English. And the same, I-will-not-be-deterred resilience I had when my English teacher suggested auto shop as a career choice.

I did not give up then, and I will not give up now. RA/RD should stop trying to make me quit; I am plain determined when someone or something tells me I cannot do it. RA/RD better get the message - I never give up on my dreams. I realize I will never be good at most things. But never should RA/RD think that because I sewed both ends of my pillowcase together that it can take away my dreams. I am tougher than that and so are you. I am sure of it.

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