Inspire – Women of Dartmouth Stories

Two Pieces of Advice for Women at Dartmouth

First of all, quench your thirst for knowledge throughout your life.

Secondly, discover and nourish your “passion.” That is, an activity which, when immersed in it, you lose sense of time and place. The piece is completed, only after it has been shared with others.

Both will give you pleasure, will help you build lasting friendships, guide you to offer and to graciously accept, help from others throughout your life.

When I was 49 years old, I suffered a brain injury followed by neurosurgery. I survived and returned to work three months later. Shortly thereafter and, again, a year later, I had neuropsych testing. The first revealed that I had the same IQ, the second, an improvement overall.

During recovery, I reached for my pen as soon as I was able. Exercising my brain through writing as my passion, helped me to recover and to live a full life.

I wrote a book to encourage other victims of a brain injury, and let them know that they do not have to live lives predicted after being injured. Just as I did, they can recover much of what was lost, either through the brain creating new pathways or through regeneration of neurons (“neuroplasticity”). These facts were not widely known when I was injured and I hope my book has contributed to increased awareness.

It was only through nourishing my passion (writing) and continually learning, that I was able to both research and write a book.

Ironically, my husband has a “rapidly progressing” dementia resulting from a brain injury 40 years ago. I hope that my writing has inspired researchers to seek a cure.

TWICE LOST IN A SINGLE LIFETIME

I bid you farewell, though it’s not the end.
Goodbye when all’s not yet lost.

You linger on as dignity deserts you,
We fight it, but at such a cost.

Your body still remembers,
But the image begins to fade.

Those long ago tender moments,
And the promises we made.

Creeping over you, soft and stealthy,
More bits and pieces gone each day.

Your depression separates you from me,
I miss you more than I can say.

Doctors told us there was no hope,
A better life for us now to create.

Wouldn’t it have been better, to be honest,
Rather than resign us to your fate?

I pity others for they too sensed,
All that you touched turned into gold.

You always saw the best in everyone,
Under your broad wings, all to enfold.

My face you no longer recognize,
Of my support, you’re no longer aware.

Still conscious enough to know what’s happening,
You’re distancing yourself from those who care.

Deep sorrow as I say farewell,
But such gratitude have I.

That the one I love more than life itself,
Won’t feel the pain I will after you die.

In summary, I regret not taking advantage more of classes devoted to the craft of writing. However Dartmouth encouraged and solidified my love for learning. Whatever career path you choose to pursue, rest assured that there will be an opportunity to contribute. Your decision will be better made if you practice your passion. Learning from the brain, passion from the heart.

4 thoughts on “Two Pieces of Advice for Women at Dartmouth”

  1. I would like to offer two pieces of advice for the women at Dartmouth. First, I would recommend that the women at Dartmouth create a “Support Group.” This “Support Group” can be used as a forum to discuss the unique challenges and successes that women face while attending Dartmouth. The “Support Group” can also be used as a resource to connect women with mentors, resources, and role models. Additionally, the “Support Group” can be used to advocate for change on campus. For example, the “Support Group” can work to increase the number of female faculty members, or create a more inclusive curriculum. My second piece of advice is that the women at Dartmouth should take advantage of the opportunities that Dartmouth offers. For example, Dartmouth offers a number of great programs, such as the Women in Science Project and the Women’s Leadership Program. Additionally, Dartmouth offers a number of resources, such as the Women’s Center and the Office of Pluralism and Leadership. These programs and resources can help the women at Dartmouth to develop their leadership skills, broaden their networks, and learn more about the issues that they are passionate about.

    1. I love this poem and the story (I remember you, Carol Gieg!, though not the exact circumstances under which we met so many years ago). It also reminded me of two other books by stroke survivors about recovery, partial or otherwise, from brain injuries — My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, and Stolen Identity by Debra Meyerson. As for Sam’s advice — it’s on target. I was in the second class of women admitted to Dartmouth as undergraduates back in 1973. That experience, and others, shaped a life-long feminism and interest in learning more about gender and gender roles (recall that gender is the social construct based on biological sex — that is the way in which people create societies, expectations, social mores, what’s considered acceptable behavior and roles, etc.), which expanded to include interest in all the ways in which identities are shaped by one’s circumstances of birth and social expectations. I co-founded the Women in Science Project in 1990 with chemistry professor Karen Wetterhahn after I had returned to Dartmouth to work at Thayer School as assistant dean. It was constructed to provide community, information, advice, and encouragement to perfectly capable women, already interested in STEM, but understandably daunted at times by the substantial underrepresentation of women in these fields of study, in the professions associated with them, and on the associated faculties of Dartmouth, along with the many inadvertent, or occasionally intentional, slights, discouraging behaviors, and harassment they sometimes experienced. The way to survive and thrive in a gendered, racialized, class-based world is Sam’s #1 – find your tribe (and welcome and learn from allies — not everyone shares your experience, and there is much to learn from all); the way forward is Sam’s #2 – leverage collective action (after many, many years of experience in higher education, I can tell you it’s pretty much the only way forward) to advocate for change. There is a lot of pressure in STEM to conform, not to “rock the boat,” to focus on individual achievement, and to keep silent about needed change — all those (not only women) who see the need for progress need to work together (and do, fortunately!) to create that change. The old African proverb applies: To go fast, go alone; to go far, go together.

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