Graduation season periwinkles

It’s graduation season. I have the graduation season blues. I thought that once all my peers finished their degrees then graduation season would go away. The problem with having been in a rather rigorous program, however, is that a lot of my peers went on to graduate school. And so graduation season didn’t end, just now it’s full of master’s degrees, PhDs and MDs. Now it stings even more.

IMGP1883

Me, probably talking too fast.

Ten years ago today I stood in front my of high school graduating class at our commencement ceremony and I delivered the valedictory speech. I don’t remember what I said, just that I almost certainly said all of it too quickly.

I do remember the day I found out that I would be giving that speech. Our high school determined valedictorian and salutatorian solely on academics and so the top two students gave the two speeches. I knew it would come down to me and one other guy, so when a few weeks before the ceremony the phone rang in physics class asking both of us to come down to the principal’s office, we both knew what it was about. I remember the gleeful chorus of, “Ohhhh you’re in trouble!” that followed us out the door. The two smartest kids getting called to the principal’s office was apparently very exciting to a class that was 83% grade 12 boys with senioritis and a gong show on the best of days.

But as I said, we knew what is was about. And we knew it was a close, but in the end I had come out a little bit ahead.

It felt really important at the time. And remembering this story ten years later, it admittedly still feels quite important. Which I feel pathetic about, by the way. It was just high school, after all.

The other guy probably doesn’t care anymore. He got his undergraduate degree, and then I’m not sure what but he’s in med school now, so he’s done just fine for himself. And the student who academically rounded out the top three of our grad class, she’s a doctor now.

Look at where they are now, their success. And look at where I am.

I think highly of those two classmates and I genuinely wish them the best. Them and all my peers who have worked hard to earn their degrees.

But as my best friend so eloquently put it last week when I was talking to her about my graduation season blues, “This is crappy and you’re allowed to feel crappy about it.”

I feel crappy about it.

img_4898

Quick pause for a photo of me and Best Friend at our high school graduation, ten years ago today!

I wasn’t able to finish my undergrad let alone go through the master’s program I was working towards. I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the last ten years, but my high school commencement was the last time I reached an end point for years of hard work. I know it’s not for a lack of trying that I didn’t accomplish what I set out to. I know what happened with my health is outside of my control.

But still.

High school doesn’t feel like “just” high school because high school was the last time I was healthy. It was the last time I believed that hard work was always rewarded with success. It was the last time I felt like I was in control, like I could do anything and be anything.

And now, realizing that it’s ten whole years since I felt any of that, it just gives me the blues. I want that back. Not high school itself, but the potential for my life that existed when I graduated. The version of me that got to give that speech. I want to be what she was set to become.

Speaking of that speech, I just went and found a copy of it and I read it. My theme, coincidentally, was success. Here are a few things I said:

“As we stand before you on our high school graduation, we are all hoping to reach that great place in life: success… but you see, true success is measured by impact. It is achieved by learning from your mistakes…And it is achieved by making yourself a better person every day so that you can help to make the world a better place…And our success is not who we are now, but how we have journeyed to this place. It is through perseverance and conviction that we have become the people we are today. We have worked hard and our work ethic will continue to lead us towards further successes.”

Well then.

Basically, current me, feeling bummed out because my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, just got schooled on the definition of success by 17-year-old me. That speech was a bit of a “snap out of it” tough love talk from my former self.

Don’t you hate it when those young’uns know what’s up?

When I said all that ten years ago, I had no idea how my life was about to change, but the last ten years of my life have still been full of learning from mistakes and intentionally bettering myself. My circumstances have changed but my work ethic has never faltered. It doesn’t matter where I am, or rather where I’m not, it’s about how I got to where I am, and there’s a lot to be proud of in how I got here. And 17-year-old me, while she would be surprised and probably sad about the way things turned out, by her very own words she would see me as a success.

And if that’s how she would see me, why shouldn’t I see myself that way?

Here is one more quote from my speech:

”My hope for every graduate here today is this: may we continue to push ourselves to our fullest potential, may we continue to find the joy in giving from our hearts, and may we never lose sight of who we are.”

I work within different limits now, but I have done just that.

I know who I am. I like who I am. 17-year-old me would be proud of me today, and I am proud of how she became me. It hasn’t been in the way that we had hoped, but she and I, we have still succeeded.

I can see that now.

I still have the graduation season blues, but they’ve softened. They were navy blues, but I guess they’re graduation season periwinkles, now.

I can see the flowers, now.

And that, well that is a success.

Saying things

Hi friends! Happy spring! Welcome to April. I guess we’re more than halfway through April now, but when I first started writing this it was still March, and apparently I unrealistically expected to publish this early in April.

Sorry for the radio silence around here. I don’t even know what that means, radio silence. It’s an expression, but radios aren’t silent so where did it even come from?

Okay. I looked it up. Literally it is absence of radio transmission. As an expression, it’s a period during which you don’t hear anything from a normally talkative or communicative person or group. So it’s true, radios aren’t normally silent. That’s the point.

Alright. So sorry for the radio silence around here. Although am I still a “normally communicative” blogger when last year I only published six posts? My frequency of posts has definitely decreased since the first few years of this blog. I don’t really know why quite honestly. I think mostly life has just gotten messier. I blog a lot in my head, and I start writing a lot of posts, but it feels harder to put together a coherent summary of things than it used to. Maybe I just have less energy than I used to.

I definitely have less energy than I used to.

And then like, do people even blog anymore? Do people still read blogs? A lot of people seem to “micro-blog” on Instagram but I don’t want my personal Instagram to be public. And I don’t want to have two sort of personal Instagram accounts.

I don’t know. I have things I want to say still and I still want to connect with the people who relate to the things that I want to say but I guess even when I do know how to say what I want to say I don’t know where to say it so then I just don’t say it.

But I’ve been reminded on a few occasions recently that saying things can be important.

Two friends this year, while telling me about challenging situations they were going through, have told me, “but I could hear your voice in my head saying…” followed by something I’d said to them at some point in time over the years. It’s a cool thing, knowing that even when you’re not with someone, you can still be there with them, simply because of words you shared with them in the past.

And then. I was tagged in a comment on Instagram, on a post of someone I didn’t know. This person was about to undergo a procedure they were nervous about, and my friend Lindsay was sharing words I had shared with her before she had undergone a major “this might help but it might not but even if it helps it’s still going to be far from perfect” surgery.

But it wasn’t just that Lindsay had remembered what I had told her. I learned that she had actually written what I had said down on a piece of paper and looked at it all the time before her surgery. Learning that really touched me. It actually made me tear up a little bit. My words had helped her, been there for her, encouraged her through a scary decision.

Words. They matter. They have power. And yes of course, as with any form of power, words can hurt. But words can also help. Words can heal. Words can connect.

Words matter. Saying things matters. And Lindsay reminded me of that.

I want to start saying things again. I want to keep saying things. No, I’m not exactly sure where and when and to whom and how much; these are things I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few months, and I still need to do some more figuring out. But what I have figured out is that I do want to keep saying things.

And so. I’m going to start right now and say some things right here. In fact, I’m going to say what I said to my friend before her surgery, that she then told her friend. It’s what I’ve said to other friends before big decisions. The reason I started saying it to anyone at all is because it’s something I’ve said to myself on more than one occasion. Here it is:

It’s always going to be hard. But maybe it doesn’t need to be this hard. And you’re worth that chance.

We’ve all got our problems. Like our big problems, not our “my hair straightener stopped working” or “the grocery store didn’t have the cereal I wanted” problems. I’m talking the big, life altering problems. We’ve all got them.

It’s really easy to get stuck in one of these problems. Life hands you something you don’t want to deal with but you have no choice so you just learn to live with it. You deal. And when over time the problem gets worse and worse you just keep dealing.

And sure, sometimes possible solutions come along, but all the solutions are accompanied by their own potential problems. And you’ve been dealing with this problem so long that you don’t even remember what life was like outside of it. Plus, you’re used to this problem and surely that’s easier than adjusting to the new problems that could come along with the solutions.

We get stuck. And we let ourselves just be stuck sometimes because getting unstuck is scary and unknown and overwhelming. And hard work. And because we minimize just how hard things are, just how hard the work already is. And, because we invalidate our big problem by comparing them to the big problems that other people are dealing with.

Life is just hard sometimes. We all know that.

But what if it doesn’t need to be this hard? What if there’s an easier way? What if in and amongst the unknown and overwhelming is a chance for a life that ends up being a little less hard?

A chance.

I just wanted to come here and say that you are worth that chance. There are many reasons not to take that chance, many valid reasons, just please do not let your perceived self-worth be one of them. And do not use someone else’s big problem to trivialize your own. When there is a chance, you are worthy of it.  

So yeah. Those are the things that I came here to say to you today.

Also hello, long time no see.

Hopefully see you for more saying things soon.

Okay now bye.

 

Happy Hopeful New Year

HOPE

Just over three months ago I wrote a post called Waking Up about how after months of living in a nightmare things were finally getting better. But then about two weeks later one of my doctors ended up stopping the treatment most responsible for that improvement to see what would happen without it. What happened is that it did not go well and I pretty much fell back into that nightmare.

It sucked. It sucks, actually. Because it still sucks. Because I’m still stuck in it. And we’re figuring it out but it takes time and work, and redoing work I already did. Which sucks.

Sigh.

I’m not ending this year the way I thought I would be, but it’s the end of the year nonetheless, which means it’s time for my end-of-the-year-thoughts blog post on this mostly-abanbdoned-throughout-2018 blog.

This year my end of year thoughts are a lot of what ifs.

What if my doctor hadn’t stopped my treatment? And what if it hadn’t taken three quarters of a year for that treatment to start in the first place? What if instead of assuming all my symptoms to be malnutrition for all those years doctors had believed me and recognized that something bigger was going on? How much nerve damage could have been prevented?

What if medicine knew nine years ago what it knows now? What if that doctor was right when she said that had I received the right treatment right away that I might be mostly healthy today? What if she’s right when she says it’s been too long and we might not be able to really help much?

And, shamefully, what if I lived somewhere else? What if I lived where I had access to the sub-specialists and the sub-sub-specialists and even the sub-sub-sub-specialists that just don’t even exist here, but that would know best how to help me?

It’s just been a hard year.

With unnecessary suffering. I’m pretty accepting of everything; I don’t think of myself as suffering every day. I’m coping. I’m managing. I’m doing my best. I’m living. And sometimes there is suffering and it’s just part of it all, but this year a lot of it was unnecessary, which is harder to accept.

So anyway.

That’s where I’m at on this last day of 2018. Some really positive end of the year thoughts, hey?

But I’m writing it all out so that I can let it all go.

Well, so that I can try, anyway. I’ve been carrying all that around in a bulky, awkwardly shaped, terribly heavy suitcase and I don’t need that kind of baggage in my life. So at the very least the process of writing it all out is akin to putting some wheels and a nice pull handle on that suitcase so it’s easier to cart around. It’s a start.

But really, there’s nothing I can do about any of those what ifs so what’s the point of being bitter about them? I can’t change the past. There’s nothing I can do about nine years ago. Or nine months. Or nine days. Or even yesterday. All I can do is try for a better tomorrow. Except not literally tomorrow because I’m pretty sick right now and that doesn’t change overnight. Probably not nine days from now either. Nine weeks…eh…but a better nine months from now? Very possible.

And as frustrated as I feel, as awkward as that suitcase of what ifs is, it’s not the only piece of luggage I’ve got with me. There are some other suitcases of blah. But then I have a backpack of gratitude, and I don’t mean the kind of backpack you use for school, I’m talking about one of those big backpacks you use to…to backpack around places. (A backpacking backpack? Evidently I’ve never backpacked anywhere.) I’ve also got a duffel bag full of things I’m looking forward to. As well as a backpack, but a regular one this time, of things I want to learn and try. A hat box containing my sense of humour (Why a hat box? Um, why not a hat box?) And three giant suitcases full of yarn. Obviously.

Metaphorical me is clearly very strong and coordinated, carrying around all that luggage, which is funny because real life me gets tired reaching for my phone and half the time ends up dropping it.

Just kidding. My imagination skills are not that strong so metaphorical me is kind of a disaster, too. But we, and by we I mean the real life and metaphorical versions of me, are lucky enough to have some pretty rad people in our lives. Metaphorically, they carry all my luggage around for me. And push me in my wheelchair through the airport. I’m not sure how we ended up in an airport but that’s where we are apparently. Maybe we’re going backpacking! Wow, metaphorical me is so adventurous.

As for real life me? Those pretty rad people help lighten the load of the bad stuff and make the good stuff more good. Whoops…better is actually the word I’m looking for. They make the good stuff better.

Okay so I didn’t really know where this post was going when I started it but I’m cool with where it’s ended up. But also that got kind of complicated so thanks for trudging through.

Anyway. My point is…I don’t even know anymore.

My point is that 2018 was not ideal. It really did not go very well for me. But I still have hope.

My point is that I’m still so hopeful. I don’t even know for or about what really, just that after all this time I still feel hopeful. Because after all this time I still choose to be hopeful.

I know that life doesn’t magically reset at the start of a new year, but I’m hopeful that in a year from now I’ll be writing about how 2019 was the year things finally changed for the better, remembering that better doesn’t always look the way we expect it to. And if not? Well then I’m hopeful I’ll be able to say the same thing again a year from now.

So yeah. I’m hopeful. Sick and tired and frustrated. And hopeful. Because all of the stuff in all of those various pieces of luggage, and all of the people helping me carry it, when I add and subtract it all up, what I’m left with is hope.

I hope that you have hope, too. If you do, I hope that you can share it with someone who might need it. And if you don’t, I hope that maybe when you do some suitcase math you’ll be able to find some hope of your own.

I hope to see you here again soon.

And. Of course.

Happy New Year!

Happy Hopeful New Year!

IMG_0260

It’s been a long time since I showed my face here, I realized, and it’s nice seeing faces sometimes so here’s my face. Also my sister’s face.