I’ve been sick six times this year. For me, that’s a lot. Normally, I get sick once a year. Sneezing for a week or two, maybe lose my voice, and feel crappy. But it doesn’t last. I get my annual cold out of the way with and carry on with my life.
This year, I’ve continued to get sick. Maybe it’s because I was diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disease at the beginning of the year. Maybe it’s because I was diagnosed with a second autoimmune thyroid disease in the fall. Maybe it’s because my immune system has taken a hit with all of the health stuff I’ve dealt with this year. Or maybe I just have terrible luck.
I get congested. I sneeze. I cough. I get too hot, then too cold, then too hot again. I feel like I have a fever when I don’t. I have a sore throat. I lose my voice. I can’t hear anything clearly. I eat cough drops like their candy.
Each day, the cold morphs into something new, impacting a different part of my body. Though I’m very thankful to have just had a common cold (six times), it takes a toll on me. I’m paranoid to be around other people, not wanting to spread my germs to innocent people standing near me. I complain too much about feeling terrible that I feel like people will think I’m either lying or exaggerating.
Last week, I graduated from college. All I could think about was how miserable I was feeling. We had to stand for an hour and a half before the ceremony and all the noise around me created a buzzing sound in my clogged ears. Halfway through the ceremony, I discovered water under my seat which helped me deal with my very dry mouth. It was hot and the sweater I was wearing wasn’t helping. When someone asked me how I was feeling the morning before the ceremony, all I could say was, “I have a cold.”
It’s not fun being sick, especially for very important moments in your life. Being sick once or twice is not uncommon. Getting the common cold six times in a single calendar year isn’t a walk in the park. It’s important to take care of yourself and that’s what I’m doing now. Wash your hands, drink water, and warn people how you’re feeling before you hug them. It’s the polite thing to do.
One year ago, I was in a hotel room in New York City, about to leave and take the N train from 42nd street to 23rd street to see the Flatiron building, when I got a notification on my phone from CNN. There was a breaking story on Harvey Weinstein in the New Yorker. The story was by Ronan Farrow and it broke down many tricks and avenues he would take to manipulate and take advantage of women. I showed my mom the headline and she shrugged, continuing to get ready for the day. I sat down on the bed and scrolled through the story, getting chills on my arm from every account I read.
One year ago, I didn’t know the magnitude this story would have on our society. No one did. After so many years in power of Hollywood, no one knew the significant impact the fall of Harvey Weinstein would have our society. No one had seen a man fall from grace this hard and this fast. No one realized that he was the first of many who would follow in his footsteps. I was too preoccupied with seeing the Flatiron building before the remnants of Hurricane Nate rolling through New York to focus on our society breaking into two. A few hours after receiving the notification, I became overly preoccupied with trying to get home through the shitty weather.
It wasn’t until the next day when I was sitting in the hallway, waiting to go into my last class of the day that I understood how this Weinstein story hit a spark in the universe, creating an explosion of women sharing their stories. I was seeing people using the #MeToo on Twitter and Facebook. The more stories I read, the more I felt less alone while at the same time becoming angry by the fact of how common this is and how it took a hashtag for so many women to share their stories public. I was hesitant about sharing my story and after lots of trepidation, I wrote two poems about how the actions of careless boys have impacted my life.
One year has passed since #MeToo spoke to the zeitgeist in a way no one could have ever predicted. We have opened a door we can never close again. One year later, we’re listening to women’s stories and believing what they share, yet we don’t believe them enough to change the old patterns of human history.
I’ve been trying to think about how to write this post all day. Last week, this country went through a roller coaster of emotions with the Senate Hearings. Watching Dr. Ford give her testimony and answer questions was emotional for me and many women around the country. She’s an amazing woman for being brave and sharing her story. I cried several times because I, along with a lot of America, could see how the traumatic events she suffered many years ago has impacted her life. It was evident that she did experience a tragic event, whether or not it was by the man she claims is decided from whatever “side” you’re on. I believe what Dr. Ford said. I believe any woman or man who comes forward because it’s a very difficult thing to reveal. It’s not easy and everyone who has experienced a sexual assault or harassment gets to decide whether or not they want to share their stories. The fact that women are being heard and beginning to be taken seriously is a baby step on the long road we still have to go on. Believe women when they speak out. Believe survivors when they speak up. They deserve to be heard and believed.
(This photo was taken at 6:30pm, 70° F.)
I’m sitting on my back deck, something I rarely do voluntarily these days, catching up on a few New Yorker magazines I’ve been ignoring for too long. It’s early evening, almost 6:00 pm and the warm breeze is blowing. I can feel the end of summer nearing as I look up to the changing leaves in my yard. One dog is lounging near me on the deck while the other is by the fence, munching on grass. The deck is in the shade facing east. A diet coke is on the glass table, my second of the day because of a lingering migraine. A dragonfly stops on the wood beneath my feet before continuing on his way. The dog by me comes up and licks my chin. My favorite time of year is approaching faster than I realize. The only thing missing is the crisp in the air.
Dear 15-year-old Kelly,
Ten years from now, you’ll be finishing up your bachelor’s degree in English after years of trying to figure out what you want to do. You will be a published writer. You don’t realize this now but writing will become one of the most important parts of your life. Writing will help you grapple with your stutter. Writing will help you stop running away from the parts of yourself that you don’t like and refuse to accept now. Writing will help you figure out feelings you’re currently pushing down.
You’re about to embark on a journey that will last until you’re 20. Its already begun but you don’t know how it will skyrocket when you choose not to encounter your authentic self, your stutter, your sexuality, and other things. You unknowingly decide to run away from yourself because your scared of being more different than you already feel you are. You’re already feeling anxiety linger beneath the surface of your skin. When you begin running away from yourself, your anxiety will increase to an overwhelming level. You will wake up every morning, terrified to face the day. Your heightened anxiety will stay with you for the remainder for your teenage years. You know you’re different but you choose to see yourself as normal in aspects that you’re now experiencing because of medication. You still stutter even though you’re fluent. Just because you decide to look the other way doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. But it’s how you’re coping with all that has happened to you.
The stories you choose to tell yourself now will shift as you get older. It’s only when you begin to tell yourself stories with truth in them five years from now will you stop running away yourself. You will realize how tired you are jumping from one thing to another and running around in circles for so many years. You will also realize how much of your teenage years you were mentally absent because of fear and anxiety. Fear to embrace all the parts of yourself that aren’t considered normal by societal standards. But your normal always has been and always will be a little different from everyone else’s normal.
You will be okay. I promise.
On Saturday, the 25th of August, I will be turning 25 years old. My golden birthday. For those of you who don’t know my story, I’ll give the short version. I was supposed to be born on November 25th. My mom had a liver transplant when she was 20 weeks pregnant with me on July 1st. I was born at 27 weeks on August 25th, 1993. I weighed 2 lbs 2oz when I was born and dropped to 1 lb 7 oz shortly after. I had to spend the first five months of my lifein the hospital and I was on oxygen for the first two years of my life.
Everyone who I have told this story to over the years has responded by saying I am a Miracle Baby. I’ve known this my entire life. It’s a weird thing to live my life knowing all that of this traumatic and scary events happened that I have no recollection of. How I spent the first five months in an incubator. How it must have been for my parents to see me so helpless. How nerve-wracking it must have been to have a child who was going to have challenges beyond their control. How worried my parents were about my later development of both walking and speech. There were so many things that could have gone wrong.
I know how lucky I am to be here. I know that had it been just a few years earlier, I would not have survived. I arrived at just the right moment where medical technology knew how to help premature babies have a good chance of surviving. Though I’ve developed later than most people throughout my entire life and I have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that began as bronchopulmonary dysplasia when I was an infant, I’m so fortunate to not have any serious problems that have stuck with me from being born three months early.
We all have stories and events that define our lives. Miracle Baby was put on me long before I could comprehend anything about life. It’s been a part of who I am. I don’t know what life is like without this story that’s still mindblowing to understand. Every so often, I will stop and think, that really happened. It’s crazy to think about. I’ve been given a unique perspective from what happened to me when I was a baby. Every year on November 25th, I give a little moment to the day that seems so far away from my actual birthday. I think about the person I could have been had I been born on that date. But I’m also thankful for the person I am and for the life I’m so fortunate to live.
On my birthday, I always watch the news broadcast that was done on my early arrival. My mom and dad had a news story on them a month earlier to talk about my mother’s liver transplant while being pregnant. The first few years I would watch the news broadcast, I would think I was looking at someone else’s life because that’s the only way my young mind could comprehend this incredible story. It was only when I turned 12 that I began to process the fact that this story is mine, that little baby that looks like a tiny baby doll is me. This year on my golden birthday, I’m reflecting on how far I’ve come in the last twenty-five years and how all that I’ve gone through has only made me stronger.
Thousands of feet up in the air,
I’m trapped in this metal tube.
I feel dizzy and I’m not spinning.
Overheated from the lack of air circulation.
Head throbbing that will eventually turn into a migraine after I land.
I close my eyes and the spinning becomes faster.
Minutes move along like hours.
I can’t read the book I want to read.
I can’t look at my phone for longer than 5 seconds,
Just long enough to change the song.
I look forward to the blue chair in front of me.
Nothing is working.
The amount of feeling awful comes in waves.
I sleep for a minute or two, just enough to numb the nauseousness
before the turbulence causes the spinning to return.
I feel like I’m going to throw up but I know I won’t.
I don’t get physically sick from motion sickness.
I just feel awful as my mood plummets to the ground we’re flying over.
I repeat these words in my head because I can’t write this down.
I’m hoping I will remember this when I do.