Five years ago I graduated from The U. It was one of the proudest moments of my life because I grew up with an immune disorder and was led to believe by doctors that I would never be able to attend college, let alone graduate.
Now, the road was not paved with gold getting to that auditorium. I had one professor claim that she was going to fail me so I could not graduate that semester, because I had missed three days of class while I was IN THE HOSPITAL.
Just a few days before the happiest day of my life, I had my lovely first ambulance ride. I was hospitalized and told that I would most likely not be released in time for my graduation. I spent the next few days lying about my pain levels (not recommended) and my overall feeling of wellbeing, so I could convince my doctor to let me out early to attend my ceremony. It worked.
I was literally taking a call from my doctor about switching my prescription right before I walked into the auditorium for the ceremony. So is life.
I can tell you that sitting in that auditorium, sick or not, was by far the most proud moment of my life. I proved that the doctors were wrong, I proved that some of my professors were wrong, and I proved that I was strong enough to conquer what so many thought I couldn’t.
Here are some important lessons I learned on my way to graduation:
When You Are Honest, Angels Wrap Their Wings Around You
It was really hard for me to admit that I was sick in college. After all, I wanted to fit in with the cool kids as much as anyone, and admitting I spent most of my downtime at a doctor’s office was just not ‘cool’. However, when I chose to be honest about what I was dealing with on a daily basis, some incredible professors and friends wrapped me in love and support. Once they knew what I was dealing with, they found ways to work around it, providing me with the confidence and guidance I needed to make it through those four years.
You Are Not Meant To Keep All Of The Rocks
Throughout life, you will pick up many people along the way, and it’s important to understand that you won’t need to keep all of them. People really have a time and a place in your life, and some people’s time is shorter than others’. I met friends that were incredibly supportive for an entire year, but then bounced once they didn’t quite ‘understand’ how I kept canceling on certain plans because I was sick. That’s okay. It wasn’t their job to understand. If they took the time to, great. If they didn’t, fine. Caring about what others thought only made me sicker, so it just wasn’t an option.
Dress For How You Want To Feel
Fashion became an incredibly important part of my life when I was diagnosed. When you are dealing with a chronic illness, you lose so much control. You never know when the next wave of tiredness is going to hit, or when you will end up in the ER again. Fashion was something I had control over, that let me say, “I don’t care how sick I am, I’m going to look like me even if I don’t feel like me.”
Don’t Ever Place Limits On Yourself
I was told I wouldn’t graduate from college. I was made to think that I’d never be able to handle a relationship and school and work. I adopted the mindset that at least I would try to have it all, and if it failed, then it failed. Well, I had an amazing boyfriend throughout college, worked at numerous internships and graduated. While it was tough maintaining it all, and it all had its mini failures every now and then, I did it. I didn’t listen to what ‘others’ had to say. I listened to what I had to say.
Cling To Your Faith/Purpose
I have been fortunate enough to be raised by two very faithful parents, and grew up having a strong faith in God. Out of that faith in God came a true sense of what my purpose was in life. I placed reminders of this purpose everywhere, from my journal, to my desk, to my walls, to my keychain. When I felt like I was at the end of my rope, I reminded myself that I had a greater purpose, much greater than just being sick and in bed. I knew that no matter how sick I got, I had a job to do and God was going to give me the power to get that job done.
I think back on my graduation day, and still get goosebumps thinking of how I felt. There is something in doing something bigger than yourself, that were told you could not do, that feeds the soul. I definitely did not do it alone, though. I had the strength of God, my family and my friends to push me further just when I thought I was at the end.
If you’re going through something right now in your life, I hope these tips help, and I hope that you keep pushing through it and remember that others’ opinions and diagnoses for your life do not define you. You define yourself. You decide.
[bctt tweet="Others’ opinions and diagnoses for your life do not define you. You define yourself. You decide."]
- Marji J. Sherman