Daniel Za.

I arrived at the Carlisle House to some new faces. I walked around and greeted many people, and spoke with some for extended periods of time. This took the majority of time, going from conversation to conversation. There was a woman working on her crafts, and another woman sweeping up that I spoke with as well as those in the common area. The conversations I shared were mostly about Dickinson, but some of the longer ones were about the sudden change in weather, hurricane Katrina, or favorite hobbies. I proceeded to mingle in the TV room until I realized that the people in there would probably rather be watching TV. The rest of my time was spent saying goodbye.

Though the previous paragraph is not very descriptive, it was a rather bland day in terms of what I participated in. I basically spoke with people having not had a specific goal in mind for when I came. There were other activities going on but I did not want to participate in them, I had rather wanted to get good conversations. As far as my socializing, it was interesting to hear what people had to say about subjects I occasionally brought up, including Katrina and the weather. Some times we would be speaking on one subject and seemingly randomly skip to another. For example, one man I spoke with talked about Cadilacs for twenty minutes. I found these changes of pace very odd but when I thought about it very similar to the course of my conversations in the Dickinson caf. The most interesting things were said about Katrina. They were most interesting because I heard very constructive ideas on what should be done, and what has happened- and not simply a spouting of information of the TV. Some people spoke with such lucidity that I was surprised I expected otherwise.

Between the way I spent my time and the reactions and conversations I recieved due to it I was very surprised. I had expected very little out of menial conversations, and recieved much more than I had expected. The very interesting facet of it all is that I would expect more boring conversations out of a social cocktail than those I recieved at Carlisle House. I have been milling it over in my head since yesterday, and also considering what I would write here, and looked over my notes from The Dismodern Body. I discovered that this experience was very similar to the epitome of Motherless Brooklyn. In Motherless Brooklyn, the protagonist has much more inside than he expresses, and in fact quite opposite to this he expresses much more on the outside than whats really going on. I found in some of the longer conversations truly deep ideas that can only be heard with an open ear, one that Lyonel wasn’t given until the end of the novel. I found this to be a perfect real-life example of what I thought was a romanticism of Tourrette’s Syndrome- except not in people with Tourrette’s.

I expect this experience to be a unique one in my life. Though I have spent time with many people with mental disabilities, I have never been enveloped in their world. Unlike other institutions I have seen, this one is primarily run by the members themselves. As a result, I won’t be surrounded by professionals who would go out of their way to make me comfortable. This is not to imply that I will be uncomfortable, but it means that for the hours I will spend at S.T.A.R. I will certainly be removed from my element.
The great benefit of this is that I will be able to interact with the members in an environment in which they are more comfortable. This will allow them to act more themselves. As such, I expect not only that they will reveal themselves more, but they will also be mischievous and joke around. The coordinator at S.T.A.R. warned us of this, but I look forward to seeing people be people, and not trying to conform to social pleasantries.
Besides what I expect of them, there are some qualities within myself that I can offer. Primarily we will be interacting through some activity. I play a great deal of card games and billiards, as well as swing dance and play Frisbee. I am considering teaching them some activity. In whatever capacity we interact, however, the most important facet of the experience is getting to know one another. In this respect I will be able to offer my open mind and my understanding, as well as my willingness to share my own life experiences. I am not expecting soul-searching conversations, but beneath every conversation is a glimmer of one’s true emotions and being. I hope to be able to recognize this in them and project myself to them in a likewise manner.
I believe that I can impact the agency as well. This is not such an overt task as simply taking my time to be there and actively engage the members and service. When I give my utmost effort to help out and care about spending time there, I feel it is inevitable that I will impact the agency. Perhaps they will have a slightly different view of Dickinson, maybe they will see some way I interact with others and enjoy it and seek to do so more in the future, or any number of other subtle changes. Also, as I have been around similar agencies, at the end of the experience I wish to give my feedback to see if it may perhaps be helpful.
Despite my best intentions and hope for the experience, I know nothing ever goes perfectly. Hence I have several concerns as well. The first of which is that I am not one to keep up with the news or popular culture, which is often the center of conversations between strangers. I hope that I am not forced into awkward conversations of such things. Likewise, I hope that I others don’t falsely assume too much of me simply because I go to Dickinson. I don’t like being stereotyped, and it is often difficult to change one’s pre-formulated opinion. However, there is the possibility that I may break down some barriers of ignorance, and perhaps they will also edify me. Despite my concerns and in light of all that I expect, I anticipate that this will be a very good experience.