Different is a loaded word, it carries a lot of meaning. If you ask me if I’ve ever felt different at Davidson I will jump and say YES with all the air in my lungs. I would normally advocate for the stance that there is no such thing as “normal” and that everybody is different in their own way – hence we shouldn’t feel like victims when we say we are different. Yet, let me be selfish this time and tell you how my “different” is one of those types that most people my age don’t think about, and won’t even come to know until their 40’s or 50’s.
I have a special type of health. It is not bad, because all my blood tests, scans, x-rays, MRIs etc. say I’m as good as new. I do not bleed, I’ve never had a broken bone and I’ve never spent a night in a hospital. I am one hell of a healthy young adult. Almost. I am sensitive to pressure, to touch, to pills, to people, to light. And I have pain in a different part of my body every single day of my life. I’m alive, I’m in college, I am happy. But, lordy I am different.
Different in how I hibernate inside my dorm in January because I am too sensitive to cold. Different in how I have more dietary restrictions than you know exist. Different in how do weird poses every 15 minutes because I need to stretch. Different in how I’m non-functional beyond 11pm every night. Different in how I cannot lie down on chambers lawn and read a book because my low back hurts. Different in how I can’t do contact sports cause if you hit me, it hurts like hell. Different in how I have at least two medical appointments a week. Different in how I go back and forth to my room several times a day to change my books because I cannot carry heavy weights. Different in how I often stand up when others sit and sit when others stand up. Different in how I keep a mini-drugstore in my desk drawer. Different in how I complain about studying not because I’m lazy, or hungover, or just procrastinating. I complain because studying causes me pain.
I feel different when people ask me what I have and they don’t know what the word means. And I wish they knew that in America, this disease is as common as diabetes; more than 10 million people have it. I wish they knew it doesn’t have a cure, nor one treatment, nor one doctor or clinic that can put an end to this. I wish that they didn’t place a value only in what major, minor or concentration I have, nor on how many internships I’ve done or on how many organizations I lead. I am fighting a huge battle against it -something which doesn’t have a title nor which can go on my resume nor which I can talk about in job interviews. I tell myself every day that I am valuable because of all that I am and not because of what I do or because of how many titles I have. And its been a long way, but now I DO believe my own dialogue.
I am different because I will come out of Davidson with a set of skills different to those of the average student. I will come out as a kid who has learned to be different in many aspects and disregard the opinions of others. I’ll do what it takes to feel well, I will explain it to you with a smile and – I will not care. I have learned to find my identity in what I AM and not in what I do – or can do. I have learned to live my life striving to be happy every single moment, accepting things as they are – with or without pain, sun or rain, C’s or A’s. And I’ve learned to put ME and my wellbeing above anything else – especially above any imaginary and self-impose standard of excellence I might have had in the past. I study because I choose to study, because I want to and because of the joy I find in learning . And if studying is too costly at any time, I’ll just turn around and pamper myself, because a grade is not worth any pain. Don’t get me wrong: I am no victim and I put high effort into my academics, I just have a different perspective on them.
A long time ago, I used to hate my diseasedearly, but this year, I have learned to like it. And I thank my disease, every single day. Not only cause I have learned so, SO much from it – but also because it makes me UNIQUE, because it has made me grow in my uniqueness and simply because holy shit, being unique is freaking awesome ☺.