One of the most difficult parts of trying to live in the aftermath of dealing with a terrible illness and it’s decidedly uncomfortable treatment process is finagling out what comes next. I’m not talking about the Survivor’s Guilt or the Imposter Syndrome (although I have dealt with these things as well). Rather, what I’m referring to is our lives with respect to work and school and all that fun shtick. Do we just keep grinding to the same tune, or do we say, “Fuck this,” and find a new composition to light some jives beneath our feet?
In three days, it shall have officially been two months since my open-heart surgery. Over the course of the past eight to nine weeks, I have undergone a plethora of emotional break-downs and ruminations. There have been so many moments where I have questioned why I get to have this fresh, second opportunity at life when there are far better people out there in the world that probably deserve the chance much more than I do (things I have prattled about there at some point or another). Well, now that those feelings have been subdued, to an extent, the next part of the process is putting together a plan for the first step in this brand-new Rest of My Life Gig. I have an idea of what I want. The issue is trying to sort out whether my time has passed on it.
Before I can explain properly, here’s some context.
Last year in October, I had received news that I was accepted in my dream programme at my first-choice university. It’s actually one of the best programmes for that field of study on the West coast. Astonishment would be too humble a word to describe the thrilling glee that resonated through every inch of my body and mind. Five years ago, I never would have dreamt such a possibility for myself. Yet, it happened. Two weeks after receiving that news, however, I had my first near-death experience with my heart. That’s when everything started to go horridly downhill.
In the end, I ended up having to reject the acceptance and the programme due to my congenital heart illnesses. My heart was so utterly shattered (see what I did there?). This extraordinary mosaic of my biggest aspiration started to fall apart, and I was left standing barefoot in the tiny shards that had scattered across the linoleum of my kitchen floor. The bloody footprints of despair decorated my emotional state of mind like a Jackson Polluck. The deeper I fell into the fucked-up mess that was getting (more) diagnoses for what was wrong with me, along with projected treatment plans, the farther I was dragged from my ambitions.
When I went into surgery on September 14th, all I could think about in that hour-long preparation period was everything that this disease took away from me—mainly this big chance that became the largest sacrifice I’ve ever made. A humongous part of me didn’t want to come back because I felt there was nothing to come back to. At least on the other side, I had my brother waiting for me. And maybe some fucking peace of mind and rest from this terrible trip called Life.
Obviously, I survived. Mostly.
So, a few days ago when my dad started asking questions about what I was doing before the surgery shindig and what I planned for post-recovery, I was stunned to silence. The idea of being on recovery never crossed my mind, let alone what lies on the other side of the fence of it. So, I never bothered thinking about that shit. Even so, I started to explain to him about the programme I was admitted into and how much I wanted to make that happen; what it meant to me as a person and my passions and how devastated I was when I had to pass it up, which caused those musings to hang around like the scent of a bad sugary-sweet pre-teen perfume within my brain.
Afterwards when I came home, I pushed the thoughts of it out of my mind because it was too painful to think about. I even cried a little bit out of anger and sadness and frustration. I’m human. I’m squishy and sentimental, what can I say?
When the thoughts weren’t going away, I did the one thing that helps me the most (and the thing I’m decidedly not supposed to be doing, especially after the heart relapse that I had a day or so ago, oops) and went on a long drive. The number one thing that I pondered was: why can’t I try again? What’s holding me back? What am I so fucking afraid of, aside from rejection?
I came home and Madame Gabs knew something was wrong, so we had a heart-to-heart about it and she gave me a swift kick in the arse to try again (metaphorically, although I’m sure if she were sitting next to me, I’d have gotten flicked in the head).
After our chat, I started contemplating a whole pile of other existentialist crap. For example, sometimes picking up where we leave things in the midst of a sudden tragedy or other life obstacle can seem daunting. Or we may not even think about it all. For many folx, when that door closes, it’s slammed shut forever with twenty thousand locks and a cement seal. We cry it out, shout it out, or punch it out and move along with our merry little existences, hoping to never think about it again.
Why do we do that? Why do we look to stuff in the past—recent or far away—and feel that once it’s in that trunk of transpirations it’s stuck there? That “moving forward” means exactly that: moving forward and away from things that didn’t work out or even flat-out failed?
I’m someone who doesn’t like to keep trying something after it’s failed. I admit this while cringing at myself. However, I’m also someone who is trying to become a published author. So, does this mean that whenever I get a rejection letter on a specific manuscript that it’s failed completely, and I need to “move on” from it? Put it in the past, chock it up to my inadequacies as a writer and change cars entirely, instead of just changing the clutch? If I did that, then I’d never ever remotely come close to achieving the authorial goal. Because of this analogy (thanks Gabs), I realised that I wasn’t ready to give up on the programme and the university yet. Not quite yet. I was going to give it one more shot, especially now that I am relatively healthy enough to make it a bitchin’ success if I get accepted again.
Last night at one in the morning (so, technically today), I re-applied to the number one programme and college that I have been wanting to attend for the better part of a decade. I figured since my work on BiblioNyan (cultural anime reviews) had such a hand in helping me get accepted, maybe they’ll look at the work I’ve done again, and be understanding about my health struggles, and give me another chance. The worst thing that can happen is that they can say, “Sorry, you missed your chance, bub.” Of course, I shall feel devastated and I will cry and curse and be very angry and depressed. And then I’ll smoke (sneakily so as not to get murdered by Madame Gabs and doctor folx) and sigh and move forth.
I can look back on this in the far future and say that I didn’t give up. I didn’t just accept my fate laying down in the middle of the crossroads. I got up, dusted the sand and dirt off my bite-sized ass, and fought for it, at the very least. For me, this is what picking up exactly where I left off means. Trying even when life tries to sucker-punch the fuck out of you. You dig your heels in and punch that bitch back. “Not today, Sir. Not today.”