Shelby Gibson

I met Duane sometime in 2016.  As a customer at my job, we encountered each other by chance one day in my department.  He asked me a question, I pointed him in the right direction while delivering my standard customer service.  However, Duane was impressed by my attitude and energy and extended one of his mysterious business cards.  At first, I was skeptical, having had many strangers offer me vague or misleading opportunities that never went through.  That same night, out of curiosity, I visited the link on the card and read this blog, as well as the stories of former students.  Although I was still slightly wary, Duane and I exchanged emails until we eventually agreed to meet up.  We had lunch where he asked me questions and even showed me a magic coin trick.  We have been buddies ever since, as his odd quirks seem to complement mine.

Fortunately, Duane has always been upfront and candid about his intentions.  He (jokingly) promised to ruin my life, and that he did!  He has since corrupted my personal and world views, encouraging me to evaluate my opinions and beliefs.  We met a few more times, and together we explored the results of my Myers-Briggs personality test.  Somewhere along the way, Duane pointed out that I, like him, may have Aspergers.  All my life, I have always felt different and grappled with the anxieties and isolation resulting from this.  Since I was very young I was convinced there was something wrong with me, but only ever had my suspicions.  I did my research, took tests, and now realize that most of my life difficulties have stemmed from the attempt to not only please others but to categorize myself into the label of normal that I have no business being in!   Without Duane’s insight, I would never have been able to deal with this life-changing diagnosis.

Among many topics, Duane and I talk about history, politics, ethics, and the future.  He has taught me about economics, motorcycles, traveling, and the second amendment.  He has instilled in me the value of networking, the essence of integrity, and the importance of believing in my capabilities. Talking with and visiting him regularly over the last two years has exposed me to many ideas and qualities that were otherwise lacking in my life.  He is the first person I go to when I have plans for my educational and financial future but need the guidance to make decisions.  Because of Duane, I have also realized how our perception is responsible for the world we make ourselves, especially with that of luck and opportunity.  He has taught me to gravitate toward the unknown, challenge my beliefs, and move out of my comfort zone for good.  I wish I had met him many years ago when I needed a hero most, but I am glad that we met when we did, as fate would have it.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mr. Ausherman.

Fast forward to 2020. Although Duane and I don’t visit as often as we used to, he and I still keep in constant contact as my life continues to take off. In fact, he has become something of a little angel (or devil?) on my shoulder that I carry around with me when faced with doubt or uncertainty. In troubling times he is often the first person I think of. He encourages me to seek out the unfamiliar, question everything, and embrace how wonderfully different I am. I can’t believe I was the person who met Duane four years ago—I had no passions, no pursuits, no plans. Without any guidance or support, I was just drifting by in life. If only I had met Duane earlier, I could have gotten a headstart on my life.

A year after meeting Duane I enrolled in community college where I studied physics and mathematics. I left a toxic household, got my license and a car, and started investing in my future. Now, I am a student at UC Berkeley studying Earth science. I plan to take my education all the way to grad school—without acquiring any student debt, of course. And although I haven’t been able to travel yet, I have a list of places Duane has told me about that I plan to see in the future. Since meeting Duane I stopped struggling against my true nature, embraced my flaws and past, and totally shifted my perspective to one that is excited to experience life.

Updated 29 April 2024

I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2022 with a degree in Geophysics. I did so as a working and commuting student, and I also completed two internships during my time at Cal. Just before graduating, I boarded a research vessel navigating from Oregon to Alaska as part of a scientific expedition—I turned thirty years old on a ship in the Pacific Ocean! The summer after graduation, I moved to Seattle with my long-term partner to take a year off from school and explore opportunities in a new place. I didn’t find much luck in that market with my new degree and ended up working at a courthouse (of all places!) for a few months. Around that time, I finally got my passport and traveled to Curacao and Costa Rica for fun. In early 2023, I was accepted to the University of Rhode Island for the graduate program in Oceanography. I had never been to Rhode Island, let alone spent time on the East Coast, but I decided to try something new and moved across the country last fall. I am now a first-year graduate student loving this little state, learning a lot about New England, academia, and how to start this new chapter alone, far from home, in love with what I do. My research involves monitoring the carbonate chemistry of a pond in Rhode Island as part of experimentation with ocean alkalinity enhancement, a potential method for carbon sequestration. As of right now, I hope to work for NOAA (after such a positive internship experience in 2021) and continue my travels, maybe even move abroad someday