Normal life events throw me for a loop.
When I went to elementary school, high school and university, I’d become melancholy at the end of each school year. Instead of being glad school was over for the summer, I would find myself thinking of all the moments I would never get to experience again: another class with my favourite English teacher, dancing with my crush at grade eight graduation, teasing and making friends in high school, getting used to lockers, going to high school dances, attending lectures, etc.
Birthdays were more of the same. In my later teen years I would feel anxious about my approaching twenties and sadness about never being a teenager again. When I did reach my twenties I consoled myself by thinking that I was still in my early twenties. The thought of the years slipping away on me was very much on my mind; a constant fear that continued to dwell in my heart.
The truth is, I’ve always been the sort of person who looks back instead of forward. A lot of the life changing events in my life took place before I could remember them and as a result my gaze is stuck in the past. Since puberty I have become increasingly aware of the uncertainty and fragility of my medical situation and life in general.
I used to have a picture from my fifth birthday sitting on my bookshelf of me, pre-transplant (big belly with a nose that looks like it has seen a recent nosebleed), with my cousin Lisa (a baby at the time) on my lap. I loved the picture until I found out the back story. My parents, fearing my fifth birthday would be my last as the doctors had told them, invited my Mom’s side of our family for my birthday to celebrate. A good-bye birthday.
All my cousins, three of them at the time, are there in the pictures, except my fourth and final cousin Cam, who was a little less than a month away from being born.
Now I find myself less than a month away from turning 25, a quarter of a century old. Twenty of the years I’ve lived have not been on my own steam but on the life-saving gift of a complete stranger. And although it has been twenty years since I was supposed to die, I like to think I have not lost my appreciation for the miracle that life is.
In twenty years I have had a life. I have made friends, gone to school, moved, made more friends, graduated from high school, dated, fallen in love and had that love returned. I was my sister’s maid of honour and watched my lovely niece be born. I’ve known a life full of more than just being sick. I’ve laughed and cried and been silly and grown up, something that must have seemed impossible 20 years ago to my parents.
But here I am. And instead of looking back this November and mourning the loss of another year, I am stepping out. I’m inviting old friends and new, cousins, my sister and her family, and my parents to a dinner party at one of my favourite restaurants to celebrate the life that I have had, and to look forward to whatever may come in the future.