Today I turn 31. I’ve started a few versions of a “how things are going” post that details the last couple of weeks—but being candid would be to describe how sick chemo made me last week, how frustrated I was, the number of times I cried, and generally how miserable chemo really is. Because (of course) the minute I posted (against my superstitious better judgement) that things might be going okay, things got harder. So I think I’ll leave it at this in terms of updates: chemo gets harder as you go because the drugs are cumulative, and that seems to have happened a little earlier than I anticipated. This isn’t a surprise, it’s just impossible to know what worse will be until it arrives—and then you think oh hey Worse, this is what you look like in person? You were cuter in your profile pic! But lots of people go through harder treatments. Many also withstand chemo without this huge amount of hope at the end, and I am acutely aware of that fact. I’m lucky that my cancer is treatable.
Enough about chemo though—instead I’m going to talk about getting a year older in this strange time. Somehow my mom never told her birth story with me until this morning: one week early, she was having normal contractions, and since I was baby #3 she wasn’t freaked out at all. Then her water broke around midnight, and the contractions suddenly became so intense that she actually had trouble getting out of the house. My mother is tough as nails: I once watched her swiftly chop off a snake’s head with a garden hoe because she thought it was coming for me. That level of pain for her is saying something. They made it to the hospital—she was already almost to the finish line, and I was born an hour later. I came into the world literally hard and fast.
During the diagnosis process, there was a period where I didn’t feel like I was going to survive. That time felt completely out of control, and it wasn’t until I was in treatment that I started to see my future again. I remember sitting in my hospital room, wondering what I was supposed to feel beyond a deep sense of fear. What if 30 was the number of years I got? How does this short life look from here? Of course I was in no way okay with that or ready to accept it—but I also felt like, you know what? In most moments of my life, I did the thing I wanted to do. Yes, I am a little disaster-prone…and yes, I have sometimes done things people think are crazy.
I moved to Chicago to be with someone I barely knew, I’ve danced on a lot of bars and have been asked to leave some others after doing indefensible things in defense of my friends, booked many last minute flights, I almost burned down my apartments a few times (by accident-and sorry Harvard Street roommates, I actually do regret that), I moved back to DC to work on an immigration bill at the risk of losing the person I’d moved to Chicago for (thanks for sticking around, Nico), I’ve had many arguments with strangers and friends about the things I care about…and a lot of other things that I’m not going to post on a public blog, but the list is long.
Being both impulsive and instinctive gets me into a lot of trouble—I am not saying I am unapologetically myself because I have given a LOT of apologies (heartfelt, I should add). But I act. Sometimes too hard and too fast, but I also don’t feel like I’ve missed much. I told Nico in the hospital that even though it was a huge leap, I’m glad every day that I moved here. My short life so far has been full of fights for things and people that I care about and I have had a wild, interesting time, even with some low lows along the way.
It seemed like today would be a sad day—it’s an absurd understatement that I’m not where I thought I would be on my 31st birthday. Definitely thought I’d be drinking on a beach in Connecticut by day and applying to dream jobs and apartments (okay livable closets) in New York by night, and I thought I’d feel that intensely when I woke up today. But I didn’t really make any plan, and for once didn’t attempt to engineer some kind of crazy birthday celebration. Instead, I’m doing whatever I feel like doing. I got to hear the surprisingly on-brand story of my birth over breakfast at my favorite place with my mom and one of my besties, watched some shows, ate cupcakes, got a visit and some treats from one of my U. City fam, and later I’m going to eat my mom’s fried chicken and drink (only my 1-2 approved glasses of) champagne and eat more cake. It’s honestly pretty great.
So my birthday wish is that you all go do something your gut wants you to do. Eat the whole pizza on your own, send a mushy text, dance on a bar, tell the creep in your office that they’re inappropriate and finally file that HR complaint, stop reading the book you feel like you should be reading but you secretly hate, speak up when someone says an offensive thing, cancel your obligatory plans and go sit outside alone. Maybe you’ll have to figure out how to handle the mess you made later. Actions have consequences. It is still completely, totally worth it. I’ll be here, temporarily not allowed to crash around because any risks are too dangerous for a bit. But I’ll be back soon.