Over the past year, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has taught eight different college courses. The largest class had 32 students and the smallest class had 2 students. Each class had, on average, 7 students.
Preparing each one of these courses required quite a bit of work. Not only did I have to come up with a completely new syllabus (I teach my classes in English, and all of these classes were previously taught in Spanish), but I also had to find the appropriate reading materials and then do the usual tasks of preparing lectures, writing exams, reviewing projects, and calculating grades.
What struck me most about this experience was how much I had to learn – and relearn. Sure, I was familiar with many of the subjects, and have quite a bit of professional experience in the areas in which I teach, but knowing something and teaching something can, at times, be further apart that I could have previously imagined.
And thinking about this philosophically, we never really get to completely know all there is to know about something. We just continue to learn more about it, over and over, with each instance adding more insight or raising more questions that had not been considered before.
Which brings me to my rheumatoid arthritis. I get amazed sometimes. I feel like I continue to get to know my illness better and better – which I do. But at the same time, it feels like each new flare and each new symptom is a completely new experience, unlike any previous one – which it is.
And talk about relearning!
I have to once again learn to cope with my hair falling out. (At the moment I’m cool with my shaved head, but a week ago seeing my hair everywhere was driving me nuts.)
I have to once again learn about the importance of taking constant breaks and giving my body time to rest during the day and during the week, especially after my marathon work schedule earlier this month.
I have to continue to learn how to look at my hands during times of distress, when they are pulled way out of shape due to extreme inflammation. (Most recently, this past Friday evening. I just sat there and stared, even though it was quite difficult for the reality of my physical situation to actually register in my mind.)
And I have to continue to learn to pick myself back up time after time, after if feels like someone (the troll under my bed) came out and whacked my entire body with a sledgehammer while I was sleeping. (This afternoon. But I’ve learned that just as quickly as things worsen, they also get better. Two hours later was able to do yoga without a problem.)
Most importantly, I’m learning that when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, the learning never ends.
And I’m okay with this.
(Oh – in two days I am starting a new class. For the first time this year, I will be teaching a course that I have previously taught. The syllabus is ready. The reading materials have been chosen. The tests are written. I have no doubt, however, that there will still be much that I have to relearn.)
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy.