Lately, I have been finding Facebook to be more of a curse than a blessing. People I would have had no contact with after elementary and high school are suddenly at my fingertips, pictures of their lives spread out before me. Trips taken, romances had, marriages made, and children born. Not necessarily all in that order.
June marks the tenth anniversary of my high school graduation and Facebook is making me painfully aware of all that I have not accomplished in that decade: autonomy, marriage and procreation.
Imagining a high school reunion makes me sweat as I am gripped with jealousy. I want to be someone who has achieved what I consider to be the ‘normal’ accomplishments in life but I am not. What would people think about my lack of a degree? How would I justify the fact that I don’t hold a 9 am to 5 pm, full-time job?
What have I achieved since high school and how do I convey that to people in way that does not make me seem like a slacker, complainer or a pitiable creature?
It is time to admit what I have been up to all these years – I am a Professional Sick Person (PSP). This is a position I must be good at because I keep getting promoted to new illnesses.
You may wonder, how does one become a PSP? While others stumble upon it later in life, in my case I started out as a Sick Child (SC) and did so well it was difficult not to parlay it into a professional career. Really, after having transplants for two different organs there was nowhere to go but pro.
Being a PSP is a full-time job and I am the ultimate workaholic because I take my work with me everywhere I go. The pay sucks, and while being a SC had perks like meeting celebrities, being on television and getting gifts, being a PSP does not garner the same attention.
My job description includes interfacing with several departments, tolerating physical pain, working in the face of extreme fatigue and allowing pieces of my organs to travel around the world. Job skills I have honed over the years include patience, flexibility and creativity.
As a SC, I remember instinctively knowing that being sick was not something to be envied. It was not ‘normal.’ No one actually strives to be a PSP when they grow up.
But since the only way out of me being a PSP is a time machine and some serious genetic re-sequencing, I am not holding my breath. You could say being a PSP was something I was born to do.
The catch phrase for The Phoenix Pages my sister and I developed is “Manage Your Illness, Live Your Life.” The idea we’re promoting behind it is that a person is more than his or her illness. There is so much more to me than the illnesses I have endured, but I still think what I have been through deserves to be recognised, hopefully with respect instead of pity.
I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a granddaughter, a cousin, a niece, and an aunt. I have written a book and I write my own blog. I volunteer my time screening books for a reading program for high school students. I have co-developed and co-taught a college course called “Assisting Families Dealing With Chronic Illness.” Those are my accomplishments. I am not a wife, a mother or a university graduate. Instead, I am a Professional Sick Person with two transplants to my name, and that is an accomplishment too.
Even if I haven’t achieved the same things as my classmates during these past ten years, at least I can say that none of them have achieved what I have.