Sunday, January 1, 2012

To Live

It's been a long time since I last wrote. This post has been in the works for a long time as I was unsure of how to express what I wanted to say. Then I realized I was procrastinating and being too much of a perfectionist again. So what follows below may not be perfect and may not make much sense but it is the honest truth and directly from my heart. (Hopefully, this will be the one and only time that I will post such maudlin sentiment. Mushiness really is not for me.)

The first two years after university passed by like a dream--I was alive but not living. It had always been expected, by myself and others, that I would graduate and find a job that I would excel at and quickly move up from. I was not the smartest student nor the most hardworking but I was tenacious, ambitious and always had a way of meeting challenges head on.

Reality has a way of biting you in really painful places. Truthfully, I was also arrogant, self-entitled and had a serious case of procrastination combined with denial. There are so many things that I did not do and which I should have--I did not work hard enough; did not participate in anything worthwhile, etc. This meant that I had no contacts to reach out to, no jobs lined up for me, and no social life since there was no incoming money to pay for it. There were  plenty of people with advice about what I should do though. Which did not help at ALL.

And then once you get into the funk of being unemployed, it's a vicious, vicious cycle. You apply, get rejected, get depressed, start rejecting invitations to go out because you're worried about money, get desperate, apply for something a little different from your dream job, get depressed, reject more invitations ... until you do not want to apply for anything anymore. You convince yourself that you are really talented but just that nobody has discovered you and that you choose not to be discovered. Of course, having a real injury helps the whole deception but how many times can a person go through their youth?

Nothing is more painful then realizing that life has passed you by. To know that even as you stood still, the Earth has continued to rotate. Actually, that is not true. It is more painful to have lost your way, to have forgotten what made you strong. There is an experience that I somehow have forgotten about or at least the unhappy parts of it. And it is silly, because it defines who I am so well.

Many people know that I have scoliosis and that I had corrective surgery for it. Many do not know that the surgery saved my life. My scoliosis was not discovered until the later stages but it resisted various attempts to correct it with non-surgical procedures.

Over the years, there have been too many trips to the doctor's to count but I still remember that one visit to the specialist vividly. After yet another day of waiting rooms, x-rays, and sitting in hospital gowns, I sat with my parents inside that hospital room listening to my doctor. He told us that my scoliosis needed surgery and soon. My mom asked in a shaky voice about what would happen if I did not have the surgery. The doctor replied that at the rate the scoliosis was progressing, at fifteen I would be a hunchback in a wheelchair. By nineteen I would be requiring the assistance of an oxygen tank to breath and I most likely would not make it past twenty. My mom broke down crying instantly.

The doctor explained that even though surgery was my only option, it was not a perfect solution. Surgery had a low rate of success but high rate of mortality or being left paralyzed. Even if it was a successful surgery, there was still a risk that my body might reject the foreign rods or infection of the wound. The rods would be left inside me for the rest of my life and there would be a permanent scar. Everything that I had taken for granted thus far--sitting up, walking, going to the washroom, even eating--would be wiped out. I would need to learn everything all over again. I would also have to be very careful to avoid any physical contact with others.

While he was telling me all this, I remember thinking calmly (or maybe it was shock) that being alive but not living, confined to a wheelchair and strapped to machines was not an option. I had things to do, places to visit, foods to eat ... I wanted to live life to the fullest. If surgery was required for that to happen, then so be it.

The operation was booked for six months later. It was the earliest appointment available at that time.

As always, things rarely go as planned. During a check-up appointment shortly after, the x-rays delivered some bad news. The scoliosis was progressing faster than predicted. The surgery needed to be moved up. For the first time, I had a sense of urgency when my doctor told his nurse to make something available and as soon as possible.

At my orientation meeting (yes, those exist), when they tried to explain the technical steps of the surgery along with extremely graphic photos, I told the nurse that I did not need to hear it. I had already made my decision and I was determined to go through it and move on to the rest of my life. If my life was to be ended on that surgical table, then I would rather live the rest of my remaining days happy. There was no need for me to be sad and scared for what was to come.

That is who I am. If it is important, if it is worth it, then it will be done. Risks will always exist but they should never determine my life. I have already fought a battle for my life and won. Every year that I live now, it is a blessing and a bonus.

It was not an easy decision to write this but I want to remind myself in times of good and bad that it has been worse. And I have always pulled myself through.

I do not want to settle. Mediocrity is not an option. In ten years, I want to look at myself and be proud of what I have accomplished. And be happy that I took the untrodden path.

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