Hi. Remember me? I know. It’s been a long time. Life got busy. My bad. Won’t bore you with how or why life got busy. Instead I thought I’d do a bit of reflection on how far I’ve come up to this point, right here, right now. The idea for this post all started when I saw an old “famous” photo of me on social media, pictured above. I say famous not because I think I’m famous. Please. I’m probably the farthest one could possibly be from famous. I only use that word because the photo/post generated a ton of likes, more than usual for that time. Anyway. I saw the photo and thought I’d write a little post about its inspiration and how it still applies today, about one and a half years after having SDR.
As you can see, this photo of me is really two photos. The one labeled before in the upper right hand corner and in black and white is from 2011, before my fourth orthopedic surgery. It’s just a photo of me standing on a street corner in my neighborhood. I’m using crutches and my left leg is crooked. The other photo, the bigger one labeled after, was taken in 2012, right before I went off to college out of state.
It’s easy to notice I was all smiles in each photo but I was really so nervous about all the unknowns ahead. I really didn’t know anything. At least, not when it came to college. Would I be able to handle living in a dorm with roommates? Would I be able to shower ok without anyone around in case I needed help? How was I going to be able to get food in the dining hall if using crutches meant I couldn’t carry any plates, bowls, or cups? Beyond what was related to my physical challenges, other questions rose, too. Would I make friends or find a friend group? What if I didn’t like the college I chose after all? You get the idea. I remember being nervous as hell.
I also remember thinking that fourth orthopedic surgery was finally going to get me off crutches. Ha! If I only knew. Was I overconfident? Probably. Was it wishful thinking? Absolutely. I remember my surgeon telling me that surgery would set me back. I didn’t hear that part. Or maybe I did and just didn’t focus on it. Definitely didn’t consider that straightening my crooked left leg would completely redefine my center of balance. At least that’s what it felt like to me. I basically had to relearn how to walk all over again with new body mechanics. Yikes. Despite my best efforts, I didn’t stop using the crutches. I just got more dependent on them. Probably a little bit because of The Fear. Got much worse as I got older. We know that already, though. Bottom line is, I really struggled with walking independently like I did before that surgery in 2011. It was like I possessed the ability to walk across a room unassisted and lost it overnight. Not even overnight. In a matter of hours, as long as the operation itself took from start to finish. Sounds kind of depressing, right? It was. Tiny bit. It would’ve been too easy to fall into a bad slump back then. I mean I don’t remember falling into a bad slump. Was probably too preoccupied with my recovery, rehab and physical therapy to let myself go too far into my own head. Plus, I was a senior in high school then. Was more focused on finishing my college applications and senior year on a strong note than I was on feeling badly about myself. And if I ever did, I told myself that the benefits to that surgery far outweighed the drawbacks. Yes, my surgeon was right. The operation did set me back. But I was also in pain from my leg being so crooked. Any day with less pain is a great day as far as I’m concerned.
Back then, I didn’t know SDR loomed in my future. The possibilities were actually bigger and brighter than I could’ve imagined when I was only 18. I mean come on. I can walk with a single point cane indoors now! I have less pain and discomfort. I don’t get as fatigued. My posture has improved. My balance has improved. Those are all huge pluses. Seriously.
I’ve heard many times that life is a journey and that it’s the journey that really counts, not the destination. Whoever made that up got it right. Life’s a journey. My own has been quite the trip so far. And I’m not even exclusively referring to my disability and all related to it. Life’s been a trip with all that and more, not just because of that. You all should know by now that I’m more than my disability. It’s just a part. A fraction, a piece. Doesn’t define me. Sometimes I even feel like it’s the least interesting thing about me, honestly. *Cue laugh track* But seriously. It’s what happens along the way that matters. Might I add that it’s also really easy to get caught up in the highlights of other people’s lives thanks to social media. At least it is for me. I often fall into the trap of comparing myself to other people then after feel badly about all the things I want to accomplish and haven’t yet. Almost like I’m in a race against the clock, asking myself why haven’t I done x or y at my age? Here’s what I try to tell myself when that happens and maybe it’ll help you, too: Don’t do that. Screw social media. People only usually post the positives anyway. Just as life’s a journey, everyone’s journey is different. Life is not linear. No way. Whenever I feel frustrated or “behind”, whenever it feels like I still have a long way to go, I think about how far I’ve already come.
In case you were interested in other things I tell myself and maybe want some advice, don’t look back. Look forward. I’d actually like to break that advice right now. For a moment, look back and realize all you’ve gone through to get to this point, wherever you may be. Every twist, every turn. Look at all you’ve done. Be proud. Don’t ignore the tough moments. Those tough moments build character and make you stronger. When I say you, I mean me, too. Multiple surgeries, including SDR and its arduous recovery. Going away to college and succeeding. Attempting the MD track, realizing it wasn’t for me and being brave enough to start over and redefine what I want out of life. All that matters. A lot.