Growing up, I could tell there was something not quite “right” about me. Not inherently wrong, but different enough that -try as I might- I could not fit in. After I failed at almost every convention, I gave up on achievement and shifted my focus to survival. For good reason, it seemed: By my early 20s, I had a prognosis of early death. It was expected I would die by violence imposed by a companion or a stranger, or by suicide.
Navigating intense symptoms that are expected to be life long is a strange experience. It’s essentially an “alternate reality.” Little of the standard wisdom or instruction applies. The life manuals and advice columns make no sense in relation to our experiences. We’re flying by the seat of our pants, taking stabs in the dark, figuring it out (or not) as we go… Every day that we survive seems like a random miracle, one that -frankly- we don’t always want.
It’s a tough go.
Now in my 40s, I have a life I could not have imagined back then. If someone had told me this would be so, I would have laughed in derision…or cried in literal disbelief and grief.
Once in a while today I have a fleeting sense of sadness over my “lost potential.” What if we had known more back then? What if physicians had had more information? What if research had taken the world further? What if schools had been willing to offer more options? I coulda been a contender!, I want to shout.
And then I remember I am a contender. I fought the good fight…and holy shit, I won! I found my way. Though I will likely always have my disability, I also became hilariously healthy. Through intensive therapies, I actively and effectively learned the social stuff I hadn’t picked up intuitively. I figured out my most critical needs and prioritized those. As my second to last step, I sorted out my finances.
Now? I’m immersed in the learning most people got to do when they were kids! I love it. I take grade 3 math, then work my way up. I enroll in first-year English and surprise myself with capacity. I register for a formatting class, am introduced there to Excel formulas, and unexpectedly start a whole new trajectory.
My potential isn’t lost. It was on hiatus through too many difficult years, yes. But it is now regained. There is no reason I can’t start from scratch at 30 or 40 or 50 or 60. I likely have a good 50 years ahead of me still. I can live my whole lifetime over, this time in joy and vibrancy.
My start was long, weird, and fraught, but my potential? Fully intact.