I remember the anticipation that came with my ten-year high school reunion. That is an anticipation that begins very early. It truly begins before we even graduate high school. You predict where you will be in life after those ten years pass. You speculate who will move from the area, and who will be the one to never leave home. As years go by, you tend to forget of long-ago plans to meet up once again. Yet, as the date of this ten-year reunion draws nearer many people will again have an increased interest and allow questions of the event to enter their mind. I know as the date drew closer, my thoughts of “would I” came more and more frequent.
Would I attend? Would people think I had changed? Would they have changed? What would I wear? Would I recognize my old classmates? Would they recognize me? As that night came to be, I found myself experiencing a thought and emotion I never would have predicted ten years prior. I spent that night not in a new outfit trying to show off my figure. I spent the night not comparing stories of the years gone by. Rather, I spent that night alone, crying for the first time, in a hospital bed. That was the first time that I allowed tears after my surgery and stroke. That was the first time that I allowed self-pity.
There I was all of twenty-seven. Rather than hair done up for the event, I had my bald head wrapped in a scarf to hide the incision. Rather than partying and dancing, I was wondering if my fingers would ever again move by their own free will. I cried selfish tears. Tears that fell for memories of how far I had come and yet how far I had recently fallen. In the yearbook’s question of where do you expect yourself to be in ten years, I never thought to answer bald in a bed with a paralyzed body and a missing piece of my brain.
Do not cry for me. I did not shed tears for long. Actually, my tears quickly turned to a deep chuckle that brought laughter up through my soul. I did not have much. I was no longer able to drive a car. Yet, I figured after a late-night party, my classmates really should not be driving a car either. I knew that I could currently not walk without someone’s arms around my waist to help hold me up. A chuckle arose again as I wondered which of my classmates would need an arm around them as they stumbled home for the night. And in the morning, I would not hurt. My world would not be consumed by a pounding headache. I would wake refreshed and ready to meet with my physical and occupational therapists. Yes, I had fallen a long, long way. Yet, I was at an advantage over many twenty-seven year-olds that night. I had the chance to learn the basics of life all over again and be aware this time that I try my hardest to never leave a stone of life unturned. Every time I touched a piece of the world, I now would understand the true value of leaving it a little better in case I never had a chance to walk the same path again. In those previous weeks, I gained wisdom I never searched for but would never dream of allowing myself to forget.
My tears dried that night, and I remembered that I had two of the greatest, most powerful gifts available to use. The gift of humor: It was okay to laugh as I walked crooked and slurred my speech. No, I had not drunk too much at a class reunion party. However, I could see how some might interpret it as that as they watched me shuffle along. The gift of hope: My classmates were surely sharing stories of success with each other. I may not have been able to equal their stories that night; however, I had been there before defining my own success I had created in life. I had tools to return there. I had the greatest medical care and social support in the world. With enough hard work, I would not only return but surpass my previous level of success.
Ten years ago I may never have been able to predict what life would have brought me. However, it was all right that night. All the medical problems were a blessing in disguise, and the best of my life was yet to be discovered.