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A strange thing happened a couple of weekends ago. I attended my 10 year high school reunion. Well, I guess that wasn’t the odd part seeing as I’ve known it was coming well, for the last decade!…
But, first, let me backtrack for a second. A lot (and, a very small amount) has happened in the last decade. I was diagnosed with a life-altering disease. I defered school, I stopped working full-time and I slept through most of my 20s. This insane illness changed my life and ended it as I knew it. Everything I ever worked so hard for was now swept under the rug.
Through social media, I saw my peers finishing graduate school, starting careers and moving forward in relationships. It was heartbreaking for me. I knew social media inflated the good and skewed the truth but things like graduations, marriages and new jobs were just reminders of things I had yet to accomplish. I eventually became a bit numb to it. I accepted my path was now different than that of my peers. Just because I was taking longer to accomplish the same goals didn’t minimize my ambition. It wasn’t bad, it was just reality.
Fast forward to reunion weekend. I went to a private school so they took their reunions seriously (starting to see why I quantify success by my current achievements?). The events took place during the annual carnival that includes every school on our close: the elementary school, the boy’s and girl’s school and the religious institution we were affiliated with. Our specific class get-togethers spanned a couple of days and happened at different alum’s houses.
After ten years, I assumed (with the help of social media) that most of my classmates had their lives pretty well figured out. They shared ample articles highlighting their successes, med school placements (I’m still the only one going vetmed) and other good news. Granted, I had my own triumphs but that is beside the point.
I get there and parked three blocks away at the bottom of the massive hill. I needed my cane. I generally don’t use my cane but today, knowing the hill, knowing I would be standing for most of the evening, I thought ahead.
People asked me about the cane, the ones who already knew about my illness asked how I was doing and absolutely nobody judged me! At least, not to my face. Instead, they actually congratulated me on how well I was doing despite the RA.
This was one of the few times I was obviously “disabled” and no one thought twice about it. I knew most of the students because we had all gone to school together since we were five years old. Of course, that didn’t mean we were all friends. Like any school, there were cliques and groups of like-minded individuals. Everyone got on well but that didn’t mean we ran in the same circles. But, today, ten years later, it didn’t matter. We were all on the same team.
The one other thing that stood out to me was that everyone was still figuring out their lives. Sure, they were in school or “settling down” but really, they were just enjoying life and learning about themselves. In this respect, I was right on par with them.
I didn’t expect my peers to judge me but maybe I expected more questions, more pity, and judgement that I was ten years behind everyone else. I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t realize I would have so much support from the people I barely chatted with ten years ago!
Victory is subjective. Sure, the accolades, the awards, the recognition are all substantial but the truth is, if I try and work hard I still win. And, maybe, just maybe someone is looking at me and saying “wow, look what she’s done in the last ten years!”
Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.