This past Friday, my cousin graduated from high school. It’s hard to believe that six years have passed since I did the same. Last week, a friend of mine surprised me with a picture of the two of us on graduation day all those years ago. We looked so very happy. And a few days before that, I spoke with someone I care about very much who told me he wished he could go back to senior year when he had it “all figured out.” Looking at all the graduates on Friday, I was also reminded of that feeling. On my graduation day, I still had this big world out ahead of me and so many plans I couldn’t wait to live out. Of course, all those plans changed. In fact, they’ve changed many times since then, but I guess that’s the time of life I’m in right now. That, plus the obsessive-compulsive tendencies which, when tied with my impulsive nature, lead to lots of crazy planning until I realize I never really wanted those plans in my life to begin with. But then I’m stubborn and refuse to let go of the dream until I find a new one or it’s taken away. After this last one crumpled, I’ve finally decided to take it easy for once. No plans. No expectations. For the first time, I’m just going to see where this next road takes me. Now, I know that pretty soon I’ll find a new dream to get starry-eyed about and probably go off into that one with my usual melodramatic manner, but for now the cruise control is set. I’m headed for place called Boring, and I’m thrilled to be going.
On the other hand, it was nice to see so much enthusiasm for the future. For most of the people I know, this year has been a particularly tough one. With the speeches given at my cousin’s graduation, it was nice to be reminded of the wealth of opportunity there still is in the world. I was reminded that even when things seem hopeless and pointless, there will always be another path to travel down. No matter what mistakes you make or where your decisions lead you, there is always an escape. Rarely is anything permanent. Take my blindness, for example. Here I am, after basically giving up that I would ever look or feel “normal” again, and I have my sight back. Practically overnight it was taken away, and practically overnight it’s been returned. Life holds so many twists and so many opportunities.
Before I went into the hospital, my relationship with my family was not at its best. I had used all the money saved for me for college to attend a theatre school. Granted, it was a prestigious school, and I was doing well there, but they were still nowhere near convinced that their intelligent and talented daughter/granddaughter/niece should be attempting to become an actress. It was not a suitable profession for someone they cared for so much and thought so highly of. I will agree that it was a long shot. When push came to shove, it might have turned out to be yet another of my impulsive exploits. I might have ended up hating it after another year, but fate never let me find out.
It did let me find out, however, that family will never desert you. Whether you have a family of blood relatives or a family you’ve created, unconditional love is something truly amazing. I didn’t spend a single day alone in the hospital. My uncle who lived half an hour away visited every day. My mother flew up for the first week, and my father took over when my mother left. He was there usually around six or seven in the morning until midnight or one, depending on whether or not I could sleep. I usually couldn’t. I remember that he ate a lot of pizza while he was there and ruined his workout schedule (his hobby is running triathlons). My grandfather drove eight hours to come spend time with me. He made fun of my black hair (dyed for a role I would have been performing in a few weeks) and my black lips (scabbed entirely over from rips and blisters). He called me “Elvira,” but he combed my hair when they could still touch me, and he kept up my spirits. My stepsister drove three hours to see me, though I hadn’t seen her in a few years. And my mother came up for the final week and to drive me home. When I returned home, my other set of grandparents let me stay with them. They fed me and ferried me to my numerous doctor appointment. My father visited every week, always bringing with him some tasty treat from his then-girlfriend, now-wife. After that experience, my entire family became much closer again.
It’s amazing how tragedy can bring people together. It’s amazing how taking away everything can oddly leave you with a whole new set of opportunities and options. I’ve looked back at what happened many times, and usually I am saddened by what I lost. But I have also never been able to ignore what I’ve gained. Even when we are most down, most stricken, there is always another way out. In the ensuing years, I found new friends that I hope to never be without. For once, I don’t constantly feel like I’m trying too hard with the people I hang out with. I’ve learned to just be comfortable with the person I am, and I’ve found that the people around me actually like that person, too.
I’ve had the opportunity to stretch my mind in new and different ways. The degree I’m trying for now is certainly not something I wouldn’t attempted before. And even though I will likely not follow it through to a career, I’m still happy to have had the experience. I’ve learned so much about life and about myself. I’ve grown as a human being and have watched others grow around me. Even now, through the eyes (pardon the pun) of someone wracked with terrible depression, I cannot help but be awed by the magnificence of life within and around me. I still have trouble getting up every morning, but as soon as I talk with another person and am pulled outside of myself, I am reminded of the amazing opportunities that simply getting out of bed has to offer.
Plans will not always follow through. Life paths will not always be easy. In fact, neither are typical outcomes. But the people who enter our lives and shape us, the relationships that we make and build upon, the opportunities that we seize: these are the things which make life worth living. One student ended his graduation speech by quoting a favored teacher, “Say yes, because there might be cake.” Not every opportunity will have sweet rewards, but it is important to recognize each for its possibility.
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