My first thought, ‘Is this what college is supposed to be like?’ Answer: apparently. Who knew. I managed to forgo my frequent flyer miles at the local hospital (after all, the rewards are less than desirable, I’ve already ‘won’ enough scars to last me) and get to all of my classes. I didn’t miss a class for feeling sick - instead I missed a couple of classes for attending an IBD conference and running a half-marathon. Beats my ‘sorry-I-decided-to-live-in-the-hospital-now’ line that has accompanied every semester.
My parent’s reaction to this: IT’S ABOUT TIME (yes, the feeling can only be expressed in caps). This semester has been full of college firsts - having a kitchen, living with roommates, starting my senior thesis. I think of my roomies, we’ll call them Maya, Mimi, and Ana, and can’t remember a time when I didn’t come home and see their faces, grinning at me, or bake them cupcakes or have silly dance parties to Disney songs. I felt this kind of way after my ostomy surgery a couple of years ago, like the reset button had been pressed and all of a sudden I’m turned out bright and shiny (quoting Grey’s, but of course).
If things were always sunny, I wouldn’t know any different. But when things are dark sometimes, there’s something nothing short of glorious to open your arms wide and squint in the sun. Not metaphorically, having had a rough go for my freshman through junior years, it means all the more to have had a wonderful fall semester of my senior year.
But this is not all to say that challenges are hiding behind my closet door and under my (impossibly high) bed (note: the bed is very high, I have a stool to propel me atop it). My small gut is dotted with grumpy ulcers, ready and waiting it seems to rain on my beautiful parade. But now it’s different - I have the say in my care, an absolutely wonderful GI, roommates and the best of friends to pick up prescriptions and see what I’ve eaten during the day (“Jennie-fer, what can you had to eat today?” note: ‘Jennie-fer’ is my name for when I’m ‘in trouble’), and just be there and not talk about IBD or bowels or bags and just be 21. Of course sometimes I’m scared, sometimes there are tears, and sometimes I am angry that my body can’t give me a break.
But more often than that, I am so very happy to be where I am. The other day I was standing in my living room on the phone with my Mom, and had this thought of, ‘Wait, how did I get here?’ The sheer fact that I’m a college senior, without any medical leaves, spanning two surgeries, and extensive hospital stays, made me wonder how it all happened. And here’s how - with a lot of help. My parents, my friends, my professors, the disability office on campus, and my doctors. My education has and always will be, if I am so lucky, a communal effort. There is no way to thank everyone, all I can do is try and keep running as fast as I can toward my dreams.
Life is big and giant and arguably impossible and overwhelming at times. Maybe you feel like you can’t do something, but the thing is there’s no reason you should have to do anything by yourself. There are so many others who love you and who are rooting for you on the sidelines (if you can’t hear them, maybe it’s just that your thoughts are turned up too loud). You can do it.
Remember, in the wise words of Justin Bieber - never say never.