I’m Baaaack

In many ways I had to keep you waiting. Evasive and misleading, maybe. But necessary.

As many of you know, I just finished my first semester at Duke University. One year late and several hundred mindsets later and I’m back on track. Each time I committed to writing an update, I was overwhelmed by an imperative to present a balanced account of what I had done and what I had not done, tangling with competing gossamers of detail and trying to decide just which braided pattern would most accurately capture the incredible array of experiences I encountered. So… I was lazy, and I’m sorry.

All things considered, I had a remarkably smooth start to my collegiate career. There is a significant amount of logistical crap that must be dealt with when entering college in a wheelchair. Thankfully, Duke supported me 100% of the way. I work closely with the student disability access office in hashing out academic, housing, and other accommodations. Of course, my disability has colored my entire university experience. There are many related issues I will explore in greater detail in upcoming posts, but suffice it to say for now that while differences matter greatly, they can also prove fertile ground in which novel experiences and relationships may grow. Despite the difficulties I faced – and they were not small – returning to school has forced me to look forward and helped me make meaning from madness.

I have spent the last year and a half desperately wishing to return to school, and my fervent rehabilitation was all one big effort to make that happen. Somewhere along the way I forgot why I even wanted to go back to school, and it became more of a mindless abstraction rather than a concrete goal. But after the first week of classes at Duke, I remembered. Truly exceptional professors, courses, and peers— not to mention the deep well of thought from which the readings allowed me to draw — all reminded me why I have always loved school and how it could provide me an avenue of liberation. In the classroom I am able to participate just like everyone else. My contributions are not defined by what I can or cannot do.

Although I did not intentionally choose courses that cleanly blend together, those I took this semester were thematically cumulative and the effect was pretty powerful. As part of a thematic cluster centering around the theme of knowledge in the service of society, I took a public-policy course on civic engagement, one on ethical issues at the end of life, and an interdisciplinary dinner seminar uniting the two. In civic engagement, I explored different models of citizenship and how those can be translated into actionable policy and behaviors. I’ve always been fairly committed to a career in the public service, and this course provided useful theoretical and practical frameworks in which to discern what exactly I want to do. The course on end-of-life issues, or death class as I affectionately (?) called it, provided a unique experience to approach the study of the only thing that will happen to all of us – death. I intend to explore a few of the issues discussed in class in upcoming posts which I promise will be surprisingly optimistic. Courses on contemporary French politics and the meta-history and analysis of European diffusionism rounded out my first semester. Overall, studying however narrowly these disciplines has reminded me just how much remains to be seen. Another glimpse of the academic black hole I’ve always been drawn to.

As I grew more comfortable with a new academic routine, I slowly began getting involved outside of the classroom (those of you who know me understand that school is only part of the equation). I now serve as the undergraduate representative to the arts and sciences Committee on Curriculum. I have also initiated a project to narrow the gap between the Duke community and students on medical leave, and an initiative to enhance the ethos of political advocacy on campus. This, in addition to therapy workout sessions three times a week and cheering on the #1 basketball team in the United States…which is Duke, if you’re not up on the news. I look forward to exploring additional co-curricular activities this next semester.

Again, I apologize for the absence. I intend to update much more regularly in the future. I’ve got some ideas and initiatives coming up that I’m pretty excited about, so stay tuned!


26 thoughts on “I’m Baaaack

  1. So happy your back and if you consider yourself lazy for your lack of communication, then I can’t begin to consider where I fall within the lazy barometer. Thank you for your update and have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends. You just made my day!

  2. I’m delighted to see you moving forward, young man. There is an old saw that goes something like “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. You are clearly tough … and clearly moving forward. I look forward to your future posts.

  3. Loved to “hear” your voice again, Jay, except for that Duke being #1 in hoops now! The Hoosiers will be ready in March… I hope I get to see you over the break. Wanna help me grade English 11X finals?,

  4. So very proud of you this semester. You are going to do amazing things, Jay Ruckelshaus. I’m glad that I am along for the ride. Love.

  5. Love you Jay! I owe you an update as well. It has been a year I did not expect and you have been a daily inspiration for me. A letter is coming very soon!

    Nine Ladies Dancing!
    Ms. P

  6. Hey Jay, so great to hear from you. I miss you, and I hope our paths cross again soon. Looks like you are making the most of all the opportunities Duke has given you; as always, you should be really proud of yourself. Merry Christmas!!

  7. How delightful to hear of your exploits again. As you have been busy “getting on with life” You have remained a constant in my prayers. So glad all seems to be going well for you!
    Merry Christmas and Blessed, Happy Healthy 2013 to you and your family.

  8. Jay, you are truly an inspiration! Have a merry, merry Christmas, give my love to all….. especially Teddy!

  9. Jay,
    It sounds like you truly found your niche at Duke. Loved reading about your involvement…and not surprised in the least. Looking forward to the ” next chapter”,
    Sally Hasbrook

  10. So great to read all of this, Jay. You are an amazing man with incredible capabilities. Continue to update. We all care about you so very much!

    Many hugs
    Mrs. Bechtel

  11. So glad to read your words again, so glad #1 Duke is going so well for you, have a wonderful Christmas here in Indy with your family.

  12. Jay,

    I am so proud of you. Always knew Duke would be a good fit for you. I was I could come and see you over the break but I had foot surgery yesterday. I am not allowed be on my feet for 11 days. How Lon will you be home..

    Have a blessed Christmas. Give my love to your family.

    God bless,

    Charlene Witka Director of Campus Ministry Cathedral High School Sent from my iPad

  13. Jay, it’s great to hear from you! I knew you’d find a great home at Duke and they are lucky to have you there! As always, I’m very proud of you! Love, Mrs. H

  14. Jay, I look so forward to reading about your adventures. I, too, love “going to school” – the education, professors, classmates – maybe that’s why I have 3 graduate degrees!!!!! I will live vicarously through your life for now!! Keep your head up!!! Mrs. Farrell

  15. Thanks for the gift of your inspirational voice! May this be a wonderful Christmas for you and your family! And a fabulous 2013 for you and Duke Blue Devils!
    Candi Hawkins and family

  16. I am merely the friend of one of your acquaintances, so I am a stranger, but I was thrilled to read your update, Jay. Your parents, siblings, friends, and teachers must all be so proud of you. As a teacher myself, I loved reading the parts here about what you are learning at Duke. It sounds wonderful. Best to you! Keep learning. The world needs you, and you clearly have so much to offer.

  17. Very nice, Jay. Perhaps I will be able to attend the fundraiser in January. Wishing you well and praying for all~~ Mary Schott

     “If it succeeds, I bless God, if it does not succeed, I bless God, because then it will be right that it should not succeed.”  -St. Elizabeth Ann Seton-

  18. Jay, Glad to hear how prayers bear fruit! Thanks for your witness and sharing your story. We continue to carry you in our hearts and prayers. Father Jim and the St. Pius X Community

  19. It is exciting to see the wonderful world that school is for you and all the opportunities you are being presented With there. Thanks so much for keeping us all in the loop. Merry Christmas to you and yours. Love dawn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s