A friend sent me a love letter recently; the platonic, supportive kind. It was filled with sweet things like “You’re an inspiration to me” and “You’re one of the strongest people I know” and “I’m in awe of the things you are doing.” When I received it, I had been in the same pajamas for 72 hours, I smelled like an old, tired foot, and I’d been crying for an hour over a terrible Netflix rom-com that I’d watched instead of working. I was sleep deprived, received two pitch rejections that morning, and had stale cookies for breakfast. Just inspiring people with awe over here. None of what she wrote felt like me in the slightest.
When I see myself in a window or in photos other people take of me, it’s never what I think I look like. “Who is that lumpy old lady? Am I wearing Hammerpants?” Everything feels distorted. When I hear myself speak in video or on a mic, I sound like a weird, dispassionate stranger; if I try for a lighter, more animated pitch, I sound fake as hell. But I don’t really know what I thought I would sound like, only that it’s somehow me while also not me at all.
I write something and think it’s total shit but someone else thinks it’s genius; then sometimes the opposite of that. I make a new connection and potential friend but they totally ghost me. My health tanks just when I’m starting to feel better. Is life dysmorphia a thing? Because I clearly don’t know myself or apparently how things work. I’m constantly being surprised by how wrong I am, about pretty much everything.
My kidneys are relapsing again, though this time I think we figured it out early. Beyoncengue Fever (also known as Minimal Change Disease) strikes again. Crossing my fingers there’s no hospital time because the two weeks I did last fall at Swedish were fucking grueling. On the flip side, those two weeks were also amazing in many ways. Filled with love and support, friends and family coming by, books read, a secret donut here and there. The 11th floor nephrology unit was hands-down the best team of medical professionals I’ve ever worked with — great at their jobs but also really lovely people. I got a ton of writing done and actually worked a bunch from my bed. I laughed a lot. I cried a lot, too — from despair and pain and frustration and fear. I was only allowed outside twice in that time and that was with a nurse chaperone. The hospital isn’t fun for an extroverted control freak. Or anyone, really.
I’m writing this to remind myself that I’m not supposed to have shit figured out, and anytime I think I do, it’s going to be temporary. It’s just a constant process, being a biological meatbag who doesn’t know what her own voice sounds like sometimes. It’s remembering that good stuff and bad stuff always happen together, because life is not baseball; nothing is turn-based, and if it was, I’d still be fucked because sports. One of the things I’m perpetually learning is that stuff comes at you from all sides, and you just gotta roll with it. Even when I don’t know how — especially then. Deal with the challenges and appreciate the good. Both/and, always.
In conclusion: Life is hard, baseball is a bad metaphor, and trying on new pants is terrible. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.