I don’t remember much of my childhood. I don’t remember much of my high school experience, or my first years in college. I do know that there was a lot of happiness, but there was also a lot of pain and fear and tears. The fall of seventh grade I went from being a happy, healthy twelve year old to being bed ridden with a life-threatening virus that caused, and continues to cause numerous complications, including losing almost all of my short and long term memory. I do remember, though, spending a lot of time in bed, having to take lots of medicine, and going to lots of doctors. I remember missing out on experiences most kids take for granted, like going to school, trick-or-treating, playing sports, or going on dates. I remember being afraid of dying, and yet at the same time being terrified of being alive. And while my past was not an easy one, I would not change it. It has taught me that all we really have is today.
I spent awhile telling myself that “when I get better I’ll be able to live my life.” “When I get better” turned into months, then years. At some point I finally realized that there might not be a “when I get better.” There is only today; I wake up everyone morning with a choice of how I am going to live my life that day. I have that day to change the rest of my life, one day at a time.
By the fall of my freshmen year at college, I was starting to slowly get my life back. I had amazing friends, a supportive family, and a bright future. I was beginning to put my past behind me, and trying to forget the pain I had been through. With the progress that I was making with my health, sometimes I forgot to just take one day at a time; to make the decision to live to my fullest potential every single day. But on October 22, 2005, my cousin Alex lost control of his vehicle and slammed into a tree. In that one instant, he was taken from us all. He was twenty years old; he had a loving family and friends, and his whole life ahead of him. I was eighteen when he died, and while his death was hard on me, I never realized how much it affected me until I turned twenty. I realized that I was the same age as Alex had been when he died. I was also, once again, dealing with more chronic health issues. I was reminded how fragile and unpredictable life is. I was reminded that all we really have is today.
These experiences have shown me that every morning I wake up and make the decision that I will not let my illnesses define me. I will not let my past hinder me. I will not let my mistakes stop me from succeeding. So tomorrow morning when I’m lying in bed, in pain from head to toe, almost too fatigued too move, not sure how I’m going to make it through the day, I will make the choice to get out of bed. I will make the choice to be a good person, and to fight for just one more day. I will make the choice to live. This I believe.
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