As I finished my last stretch, I reached for my phone and headed out the door. With the dim lit skies overhead and the crisp air, I began to pace down E street to Abe’s memorial. With every jog towards the ninety-four-year-old steps, the reflecting pool glistened and gave way to the slightest shimmer. Up the steps and back down towards the National Monument, I was one with that moment. Out of sight and out of mind — the papers and exam studying waited for me at the library; it was not I, waiting for them. On my morning runs in college — it was me, the air and the national mall. A space filled with both history and emptiness — I felt centered. As the sun rose, I rose with it — waking up as I made my way from E street, to Abe’s to the Capitol and back.
Until now, I still cherish those morning runs as something invaluable — a meditative exercise that indelibly shaped me. The process was not preconceived. I picked myself up one morning and just started running — entirely focused but not, my mind one with peace.
It was in those moments that I felt zen or, at least, the most zen. There was this unparalleled feeling of stillness between space and time. I felt present. But not in the present. Not in the past. Not in the future. This specific feeling with time is conceptually and figuratively difficult to express. Simply put, I felt present in my present.
As junior year came to a close and senior year picked up, a shift had begun. Although I looked fine, I felt tired. I ignored the exhaustion and attributed it to the overhaul of studying and stress to maintain that perfect grade point average. After all, I was two semesters away from graduating with a cumulative 4.0 — insane to give that up. Right?
Well, as days turned into weeks and later into months, that morning ritual became difficult to maintain. In the months leading up to graduation I could no longer maintain it — my body just gave out. No matter the drive and determination my mind pulled through, a day did not pass where I wasn’t knocked out by a migraine, fatigue or worse.
After graduating, whatever little remained of stress was over and done with, yet my health only got worse. How was this possible?
In the three years that followed college, filled with endless doctors, tests, false diagnoses and treatments I was finally, properly diagnosed. And stress was not the cause. Rather, if it weren’t for the stress, I most likely would not have known what I have.
But no one warns of the length of the recovery time — and it, is a long one. However, this time last year was the start of my treatment. And today, I can’t help but smile.
Because after all the hopes followed by let downs, I finally, with the support of others, recovered. And these past seven days have been a testament to that.
In the last nine months, I was not allowed to exercise, with the exception of limited yoga when permitted. Last month I was given the go ahead. However, it was not until today that I can say with certainty that I am beginning to physically feel like myself again. And for that, among other things, I smile.
Yes, it is true that in clinical terms my illness has no cure. That what I have is something I’ll have to manage throughout my life. That there will be days worse than others. But here I am. With the passing of each day, I am getting stronger.
I know that I will have bad days. But just like those that are good, I will smile, laugh and make the most of it. And for that, I am thankful.
Just like my meditative running routine in college, getting sick was not nearly as much of an impediment as it was a blessing. Until the last three years, never would I have thought I would gain much introspection from a moment with illness.
I write of this moment in my life as a token of respect and privilege to share with you what I believe to be a source of strength and a lesson on being present.
That moment in time fundamentally altered my perspective and undeniably made me the person I am today.
I’ve come to learn that, not knowing the right answers all the time is ok. That, only in risking failure do we truly grow, learn and live. That, mind over matter always wins, and that, it over body has no threshold. That, success is defined not as an outcome but rather a life well-lived. That, to live begins with trusting the timing of your life. That, finding happiness can only begin when you’ve found gratitude.
And for that, I am grateful.