having survived another 365 days, i've thought about what has happened in the past year as well as reflections on life in general. being older and hopefully wiser (eh...probably not. my breakfast today consisted of a fruit tart from my favorite little french bakery and dinner looks to be like birthday cake oreos) here's my own list of what i've learned so far (eat your heart out buzzfeed).
in no particular order:
1. self care was the hardest and yet most important life lesson i've achieved. and i mean self care in the truest all encompassing sense- mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. this was something that took years of practice before it really sunk in. there were times when i did treat myself, but the trick is to *consistently* do it. it's like moisturizer in that the effects only really take place when you apply it daily. having struggled with losing my vision, among other major life setbacks, i was slow to catch on to regularly practicing self care. blindness never gets easier, but taking care of myself in all aspects has made me a lot happier, and coincidentally, healthier.
2. i will always be a work in progress. this seems like another obvious one, but accepting that fact has been a huge relief. i'm a recovering perfectionist and so in letting go of ideals and expectations i've gained a better stronghold of self. i know, that sounds like it doesn't even make sense. but yet i feel more free and secure at the same time. look at me, being philosophical and mature and shit. but for reals, i often got down on myself for "not having my shit together"- not finishing school at the expected rate, not having a "solid career" (still trying to figure out what i want to be when i "grow up"), or other usual life check marks. i've sort of adopted the longhairdon'tcare mentality about doing things i believe in/make me happy. like taking time off from school to have the time and energy and extra money to run a marathon. i originally left school to recover from a car accident and haven't made my way back yet. i only recently realized i haven't because my bigger goal right now is running a marathon. i'm on a limited time frame for that as my vision continues to deteriorate so it's a bigger priority for me. some people may not understand, but whatever. not afraid to answer honestly anymore about school questions. i used to hate the "when are you going to graduate/are you in school right now/when are you going back?" questions. now i''ll just answer with "whenever i finish/nope not yet/and when i feel like it's the right time." i know in my heart getting my degree is a life goal that i'll accomplish in my own time on my own terms. even if everyone else has their own opinions about it, i just remind myself that sometimes you gotta say
this leads to my next point...
3. i've learned to stop apologizing for things i haven't done wrong. it's weird how some people can never seem to manage to mutter those words when they need to the most, and other people overapologize like i t's some sort of reflex. "aw man that person just totally stepped in front of me and i almost hit them: oh! i'm so sorry!". um what? why am i sorry? because i assume and near misses or actual accidents are my fault because i'm visually impaired. it's an easy assumption to make that you're always at fault. but then why am i apologizing for something out of my control? and oftentimes accidents are a mutual bumping into each other or maybe not even my fault, since i usually yield to other people to avoid any collisions. but once i realized that by automatically apologizing and walking away whenever someone gets angry at me i was actually hurting myself and perpetuating ignorance. basically, i got fed up. i remember the exact moment when i stood up for myself and said i wasn't going to take it anymore. i was at an airport bathroom and coming out of the stall i bumped into someone as our paths crossed en route to the sinks. it was a busy time and women are coming/going every which way. i apologized for bumping into this woman who was really short (like reallllly short. i'm 5'6" and she had to be about 4'10") and out of my peripheral vision. in this case it may have been more my fault than hers, but it was crowded. i didn't knock her over or step ON her, so it was a pretty harmless accident. i sincerely apologized and continued to the sink. she was washing her hands next to me and proceed to chastise me for not watching where i was going and how i needed to be more careful. that's when i snapped. i turned to her, politely but firmly told her "ma'am, i apologized for bumping into you and i sincerely meant it. but please don't lecture me on my 'carelessness'. i'm actually legally blind and did not see you. it was an honest mistake for which i am sorry about." and you know what? SHE apologized. too often we jump to the worst conclusions and maybe even ignore sincerity. she felt like an ass, which she should have for not accepting my apology at face value. i shouldn't h ave to explain to people that i'm blind without looking blind. so to the people reading this, please keep it in mind when dealing with what you might consider rude or careless behavior. accept the apology and let it go.
4. in the theme of not caring so much about what other people think and self care, i've started using my cane more. it's been interesting, especially when i used it for the first time in front of people i know (went to disneyland after christmas and definitely needed it to navigate crowds after sunset). it's been a bag of mixed emotions- sadness, fear, empowerment. once when using it during rush hour in downtown SF i had two strangers offer help in a span of 4 blocks while i was walking to the BART station. it was right before christmas and i'm sure most people were rushing home that friday evening for late shopping or travel plans, so i was touched by strangers taking 30 seconds to be nice. it was also sort of awkward for me declining them since i'm sure they were wondering why i appeared to look "normal" and sighted but using a cane. but then i learned to not focus or care about that.
5. being your own advocate sucks, but it's just a part of life. i never wanted to be some sort of poster child for RP, but the fact that i have this disease just means it's part of the territory. like, it's a part of me and affects my life sometimes so i at times have to be a one woman PSA about it. like with the whole bathroom incident. and knocking over expensive lamps (see previous post). that being said..february is Retinitis Pigmentosa Awareness Month. if you don't know about it, i encourage you to check out a more official website like Foundation Fighting Blindness, which covers other eye diseases as well. you can also check out their Facebook page if you want to learn more about research developments (most recent one is that THC helps slow the progression...guess i should move to washinigton or colorado and start smoking for my health!). honestly, the more people know the better it is for people who have RP. no, you'll never get what it's like for us, but it does save a lot of stress of trying to explain/apologize/etc. i used to be so affected by people who were honestly just mean because they didn't realize i wasn't simply rude/careless/selfish. compassion only comes after awareness.
6. running is my lifesaver. whether i'm a current runner or a recovering runner or a runner on hiatus, i have come to terms that yes, i am indeed a real runner. even if i go months without running, whether self or injury imposed, it's an integral part of my life. i'm so fortunate to have found this sort of love in my life at a young age. i was 11 when i joined track and became a runner. it has literally saved me from a deep depression and self destruction. it's my therapy, my escape, my teacher and first true love. as a runner with a long injury list, i've learned to embrace the healing process and move forward. lately i've had some mental blocks about running again, but like with anything in life, you've got to push through and face your fears. and while it's a delicate balance of being sad over losing my vision and limiting what capacity i can run versus savoring the miles i can still log, i know that it's a lifelong affair for me. everyone needs to have that one thing that keeps them grounded and motivated and sane. if you haven't found it yet, you should try to figure it out asap. it's bittersweet and so worth it.
ok, so it's not a long list but it's an important start for me. there will always be bad days and periods when it's painful or depressing or stressful or perhaps seemingly unbearable, but as always, life goes on. in the grand scheme of things, life is actually pretty great. so yes, happy birthday to me!
ps- thanks to all those who have made my birthday, and life as a whole, special. i feel so loved =)