Lina has made some comments to me about my lack of participation in our blog. She thinks you will all think she made me up! To be fair, she’s right about my absence and the truth is, I have a lot to say, but I wasn’t sure how to share it. I write for myself, not for other people, so honestly the thought of writing this to a public audience has made this more daunting than I had anticipated. But in the spirit of trying new things and being more honest, and for my 30-before-30 goals, I’ll start here:
30-before-30 for me really started about 4 years ago when I was 25. In October of that year I remember having a fairly stereo-typical mid-life crisis; Although, because I was only 25, I now refer to it as my quarter-life crisis. This is a real thing, friends, I promise you. I woke up one day and realized that a quarter of my life was gone and that I had absolutely nothing to show for it. I hadn’t graduated from college yet, I was working at a mall in a dead-end job that I hated, I was still living at home with my dad, and I felt lightyears behind my high school friends and acquaintances in terms of accomplishing milestone events. Needless to say, I was unhappy and something about being stagnant and remaining in that unpleasant reality spurred me to take action and attempt to start changing my life for the better. Suddenly the fear of remaining where I was, was greater than my fear of change.
The few months leading up to that birthday, I made some pretty significant changes. I bunkered down and focused on school and my health. I started working towards goals and made a plan to get myself to another level by the time I turned 30. I realized that I had been in some weird hibernation type of mode since my early 20s and I had isolated myself from people. I vowed to stop being so afraid of rejection as I wasn’t allowing myself to take the risk to make new friends or meet new guys. As a result, I found myself with a very small social circle – one that was barely existent. As I stand here now at 29, I find myself looking back thinking that I could have done more, but I’ve experienced a lot and honestly I’ve accomplished a lot. So I need to be grateful for what I have managed to do.
Shortly after my 25th birthday, I found out that I had cancer. Tongue cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma. They don’t know how I got it. I wasn’t a smoker, I wasn’t a heavy drinker, I was only 25 for crying out loud… and it wasn’t related to HPV. The truth is, this is an uncommon thing that just… happened. Being told that you have cancer is a significant moment. It was April fool’s day and I remember asking the doctor if he was kidding. He wasn’t. I remember sitting there alone getting the results of my biopsy and not being able to completely comprehend what I had just been told. I mean,… I was changing my life for the better. Could life really be throwing this in right now? Right as I was starting to get back on track? I remember feeling surprised, even though the weekend before the results came back I was fairly certain that I had it. I think instinctively I already knew, but something about the confirmation made me surprised that I had been right. I’m not sure anyone knows how they will react when they are given that kind of diagnosis, but I remember thinking to myself that the only thing worse than the diagnosis itself, was that I didn’t have anyone to tell.
I know this seems like an odd thought, but remember how I said I was lonely and isolated? When you get that kind of life altering news, you want people to care. You need people to care. And with the exception of my parents and my best friend at the time, along with a few acquaintances, I had a very limited amount of resources when it came to social emotional support. I remember feeling a brief sense of guilt because there were so many people who died from this who had people who wanted them back and I felt as though I had no one. I know this sounds like I’m making myself a victim. I realize this sounds like a poor-me statement. But I’m trying to be honest, and that’s honestly how I felt at the time. But, I think that was another significant moment of change for me. I did have my parents and my best friend. I had my few school acquaintances, but for the most part, I went through cancer alone. And I survived. And I think I needed that because I’m a much stronger person because of it.
Luckily for me, the surgery went well and my cancer was removed. I did not have to have further treatment although I’m technically not in full remission until April of next year. My 30th year.
I might not feel like I’m exactly where I want to be now, hence the purpose of this blog, and I feel like I might not have accomplished much, but when I put things into perspective and remember where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through since that time, it’s significant. I survived cancer. I lost 80 pounds and got myself in shape. I graduated from college even though the cancer threatened to derail me in my last semester. I got my first good adult job. I fell in love for the first time and had a long-term relationship. I made friends. And I stopped being so afraid and ashamed of being who I am. It’s a lot. And though my journey is not over, I am now realizing that the journey did start with my quarter-life crisis. And yes, there have been set-backs, but as I look back I realize I’ve overcome these obstacles (even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes). Which means I can overcome them again. And so I will.
I’ll sign off by saying that I just need to remember that I’m a very different person than I was at 25. And I do have people around me now who care. And with whom I can share this with. I’ve come a long way, and I plan to go much further even if I have to pivot around these unexpected obstacles. If you ever find yourself dealing with roadblocks, take a second to look back at where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished. I bet it’s more than you realize.