It’s been a month since my surgery, and the recovery has gone better than ever. I couldn’t be happier about my decision to seek out a new rheumatologist and about his assertion that I begin Remicade infusions. The transition over the past few months has been remarkable. How funny that pharmaceuticals were what tore my system apart four years ago and are now what help me put the pieces finally back into order. In addition to the medication, I’ve found that processed sugar also affects my RA. The more young people I meet who are affected by autoimmune diseases, the more I realize how drastically manufacturing has affected human physiology. Further, when I look to my own history of diet and disease, I recognize the links.
As an infant, it’s likely that I was fed the healthiest of baby foods, but when I began to eat solid foods and was introduced to processed foods, my body reacted. Around 18 months I started showing symptoms, and on my second birthday I was diagnosed with JRA. I am sure the aggressive treatments helped put me into remission at age four, but also my ability to start choosing more of my own foods. As a kid I rarely ate processed foods, preferring fruits and vegetables to anything fried or out of a box. But as a teenager, I started eating more junk food and consequently began to have symptoms again. Doctors dismissed it as tendonitis, and when I became organic vegan the soreness went away. I moved to Ohio for theatre school, and as finances drained so did my ability to eat healthily. Paired with a dance schedule far more intensive than anything I’d done before, my RA flared up, and I was prescribed the medication that took all those dreams away in an instant.
I’ve learned a lot these past four years. I’ve learned about treating your body well, about taking care of your own soul, and about getting up every day to face whatever life has to offer. I’ve learned that most days don’t go the way you plan them to. Consequently, I’ve learned to fear the hope that comes with possibility and with dreams. This eye surgery seems to have gone well, but part of me screams that I can’t hope for anything more than what I have now. And a smaller part of me whispers that I have to hope for more.
After I realized the life of an actress was not one I could afford to live (because, hey, I’ll need to be on steady and fantastic health insurance the rest of my life, and I can no longer rely on a pretty face to open doors), I dove head-first into my other passion: international politics. I’m spending the summer researching graduate schools and thinking about what steps to take next for a solid career. And with every push forward, a piece of me still worries, still fears the hope that this dream will work out, that this path won’t crumble beneath my feet like so many before it. It’s taken so long just to recognize the face in the mirror and to accept that life goes on whether you’re ready for it to or not. I grow weary of the constant pushing forward without the knowledge that any of it will matter in the end.
But this is how life goes. I look around me and see that we all lose dreams. We all wish on stars that are, by their very names, falling. We all stumble and change paths. And for those of us who grow old, we will all look in the mirror one day and not recognize that wrinkled face that peers back at us. I miss theatre, and I miss the ignorant ability to dream without fear. But the world keeps on spinning whether we are able to catch our dreams or not. Like chasing fireflies, when one dream drifts out of reach we can look to another. And as dusk turns to dark, we sometimes need to wait another day for their glow to return.
In the end, life isn’t about the big dreams, anyway. Life is about each breath you take, each laugh you make. It’s about sharing moments with those you love and basking in the light of their smiles. We might not become famous or give policy advice to a president. We might not stand on a Broadway stage or sing in a jazz club. We might never find a steady group of friends for Saturday nights or fall in love with someone who feels the same. But each day brings the hope that we might. I fear that hope. But I need it.