? Dear 21 Year-Old Me,
Tomorrow, your life is going to change forever. One event will set in motion derailment from a life-track that you took for granted to be your future, and will so completely destroy any plans you had for your life that you will spend years trying to comprehend what your new reality means.
Until tomorrow, you had a plan. You were going to get your bachelor’s degree, then master’s degree, in special education, and become a Special Education Teacher. It’s been your dream for years, and you’ll love it. It’ll be difficult and exhausting, but you’ll love the challenge and the rewarding experiences. You’ll get married, have kids, take a few years off work. And when the kids no longer need you, you’ll go back to work as a teacher or an aide and retire in your 60’s with a pension. Well… That’s not how it’s going to go.
Tomorrow, at around 12PM, you will experience the first Grand Mal Seizure of your life. It’s going to take everyone by surprise, and most of all, you. You’ll end up having 2 more in the next half year, and will end up in the emergency room every time.
The emergency room doctor will tell you that he thinks it’s Encephalomalacia. You’re going to look it up when you get home (even though he tells you not to), and realize that it’s just a list of dead people, because it generally ends in death. But don’t worry. The doctor was wrong.
Unfortunately, unlike the case with your mom few years ago, the seizure was not idiosyncratic. It’ll take the doctors months, but they will find out what’s wrong with you, and will end up diagnosing you with a life-threatening vascular malformation a little after your 22nd birthday. It’s called Arteriovenous Malformation, and you’ll find out soon that you have 3 in your brain.
You and your mom will cry a lot, argue a lot, and talk a lot. You’ll go to countless doctors’ appointments and brain scan sessions. And you and your family will decide that having craniotomy (brain surgery) will be the treatment method that will provide the best chances for your recovery.
So, a few weeks before Christmas of 2011, you will go to sleep, wondering if you’ll ever wake up again. Your mother is sitting in the waiting room for 7 hours, waiting. Your mother’s friends will sit with her for majority of the time, sipping bad coffee and patting her hand in encouragement.
And you wake up.
You wake up. But you are a different person from who you were before you went to sleep. You don’t know it yet. But you’ll begin to realize it slowly, over a course of a year.
And you don’t dislike this new person that you end up with.
The next few years of your life will be filled with the type of hardships, pain, and confusion like you’ve never experienced before.
But I’m writing to you from 9 years in the future. And I want you to know that it’ll be all ok. There will be more medical issues. You’ll be disabled for the rest of your life. You’ll experience physical pain like you’ve never endured before.
And despite that, you’ll be ok. You’ve become a woman unlike most. You’ve learned lessons in life in your early 20’s that people take decades, sometimes their whole entire lives, to learn.
You’ll learn to appreciate the mundane. The simple day to day. To love and be loved. To embrace chaos, and take every set back and derailment as a challenge and an asset to your personality.
You’ll find that you’re stronger and more resilient than you ever thought possible.
I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t think I ever will. But the one thing I do know is that if tomorrow of 2011 didn’t happen, I would not have experienced half of what I have experienced in the past decade. And I would not be half the person I am today.
Every detour is a challenge. And though the outcome may not be anything you expected, the end product is always so much more amazing that you could have ever imagined.
Keep strong. I can’t wait for you to experience the next 9 months. Through the pain, difficulties, joy, and pride.
To, Hiro of April 17, 2011.
With Love, Hiro of April 17, 2020.
PS: I know you don’t wear masks ever, but please start buying and stocking masks in your First Aid kit around fall of 2019. Thanks.
PPS: Guess what? You didn’t think it’s possible, but you became a mom. And you fulfilled your childhood dream of becoming a published author. It’s going to be a hard decade, but you’re going to come out on the other side appreciating life like you never thought possible.