I honestly do not even know where to begin. So much has happened in such a little time this past year that I have not gotten the chance to sit with it, let alone process it. It has been full of pain, hardship, beauty, and light. Thinking I had it all together and learning that I knew absolutely nothing at all.
I had absolutely no idea who I was at the beginning of this year. I had no idea how much things mattered, and how little they all mattered at the same time. To place this year’s event’s on a checklist or a timeline would misrepresent the beauty that it truly was. It has been the hardest most challenging year of my life so far, and yet the most important and wonderful.
I had spent most of this year in and out of doctors offices and hospitals. I was made to feel like I had lost my mind by doctors to the point that my family and even I started to question whether I had. Deep down, I knew something was not right and finally was lead to the right place at the right time. After speaking to a doctor who was willing to listen, I was scheduled to have a diagnostic surgery in June. I was terrified, but at the same time relieved to feel heard finally. My family finally coming around in support only made it that much easier for me to face. However, it was not the surgery I was afraid of, but the results. My doctor had suspected that I had endometriosis, a painful reproductive disorder that causes the tissue to grow outside the uterus. I was not afraid of the surgery; I was scared of the results.
At 24 years old, I had to start thinking about whether or not I could ever have a family. I had dedicated my life this far to working with children and being faced with this reality made me realize there was nothing I wanted more out of life than to be a mother. Every day that had led up to the surgery, I had to go to work and hold a newborn baby wondering if that would ever be a reality for me. I had not expected to feel so effected at 24 by the thought of never having children. I was only 24 I was supposed to have plenty of time before I needed to even think about the possibility, and yet, it was now the only thing I could think about.
With these thoughts on my mind every day, I felt the need to process it all on my own. My family was worried enough, and I just wanted to be strong for them. I had spent a good portion of the year weak and in bed. When an episode would appear, it was hard for me to walk and caused me to be overly fatigued. My friends did not understand why I canceled plans last minute, and my bosses did not understand why I constantly forgot information and could not focus. I had everything riding on this surgery to give me answers so that everyone and I could understand.
The surgery happened on June 6th of 2019. We were left with very few answers other than it was in fact endometriosis and that they had found some fluffy tissue that they needed to send off to pathology. My fears of not having children soon turned to worries that there might be cancer.
My family was called into a private room post-surgery and told this news, leaving them terrified. My new goal was to make everyone feel better. I did not want to see anyone hurting let alone over me. It broke my heart to see my mother cry, and I would have done absolutely anything to comfort her.
For three years leading up to the surgery, I had no answers to what was wrong with me. My constant pain and poor attitude put a massive wall between my family and me. Most of our conversations were me begging for understanding, and them wondering if it was all in my head. I was angry and so incredibly upset with the world. I did not understand why the world was against me or what I had done to deserve having to face this alone.
And then this surgery happened. Years of anger turned to fear and lead me to more questions than answers. Why did I waste my life being angry? Why did I push everyone who cared away? Why did I get upset about things that did not matter at all? If I were to die today, would I have been proud of the life I had lived so far?
I had put up a wall between me and the world to keep myself from getting hurt. Refusing to accept help from anyone as I had made it this far alone. I had spent years refusing to be vulnerable and honest with people because I did not want to burden anyone or see anyone hurting. In the end, I realized I was only hurting myself.
In that week, waiting for the test results, I set out to change who I had become and the life that I was living. I held onto my family tight and let go of all the anger and resentment I had felt over the years. I told people how much I loved them and made a better effort to be the kind of person who people would remember fondly.
A week after surgery, I ended up back in the hospital, this time with my mother by my side. We spent hours making fun of cancer and laughing in the face of what was by far the hardest time in my life. We had never been closer, and that closeness is what helped me get through the scariest time of my life. As we were doubled over laughing in the hospital, we got the news that everything had come back benign.
Life had given me great news, but it was up to me on what I wanted to do with it. There was nothing I could do about the endometriosis as there is still no cure. These painful episodes were going to be a constant in my life if I were to want a family someday.
Through my realization that I wanted a family someday came a lot of strength. Now when an episode hits me, I remind myself that I am going through this pain so I can have a family one day. I remember how blessed I am that being a mother is still even a possibility and that I have my life. Something about this change in perspective makes it a lot easier to get through the hard days.
I learned that perspective is everything. I now look at life through a far more positive lense and am better at letting things go that are out of my control. I learned this year that I genuinely have very little control over what happens in this world or to me, but I have all of the power when it comes to how I respond to it.
I stopped doing things and being the person that I thought everyone wanted me to be. I started focusing on living the life that I could leave feeling proud. For the first time, I realized that I only have one life to live, and I wanted to make the absolute most of it. It was time to forgive and find peace in my life and to give back.
I have decided to spend the rest of this year and the years to follow self-reflecting. Choosing to focus on the parts of myself that I can change for the better and what it is that I can do to be a better person for others. I want to be able to be the open person I was before these past few years again and to let people in so I can experience the joy in life and the second chance life gave me to be someone I’m proud of.
I’m learning that by choosing to do so, I am going to make many many mistakes. I am going to face failure again and again by choosing to change, grow, and open up. I am going to be let down and feel disappointed and have to face that with grace and courage.
What I have learned this year is that you cannot find joy and happiness in this world if you are closed off to truly living. Guarding yourself does not only keep you from getting hurt, but it also keeps you from experiencing all the good that life has to offer. Through facing the hardest time of my life head-on, I found healing and strength. I figured out what it was that mattered to me in life, and I will not take any of these life lessons and second chances for granted.