This post is the second in my blog series, Truthful Identity. If you want to check out the first one, click here.
Ask anyone in my family. Actually, just ask anyone who remotely knows me well. They’ll probably tell you the same thing.
I stress easy.
I overthink everything.
I can spin something that is a really great thing into a really bad thing. Just because it stresses me out.
I build stories in my head about things that haven’t even happened yet.
At certain points in my life, my anxiety has controlled my actions and decisions.
Anxiety can and has controlled my life. And it stems from one thing: I hate the unknown, and I want control.
But as I’ve gone through this journey of facing the lies I believe about myself, I’ve come to the root of the things that stress me out to figure out what they are, and why I let them do what they do to me.
As I dug deep and compared different situations in my life, I came to a really strange realization about the things that I let stress me out.
I took two consistent scenarios in my life and put them side by side. I took all the times I’ve laid on an O.R. table and my school career and looked at them both.
And I can honestly say that I can pinpoint certain times when the stress of school took me to my absolute lowest point, causing freak outs and anxiety galore.
But I couldn’t pinpoint a surgery that ever made me breakdown like my school career has even though I was staring the biggest unknown in its face.
I, for some reason, remember more about my surgeries than I probably should. I remember up to the point when I fall asleep vividly for most of my more recent surgeries. My Grandma, who’s a nurse, says everyone’s different but it could be because of the fact that I’ve gone through so many.
I can remember each of those moments. I remember laying on a table, staring at that big light before they put me asleep. However, I never remembered feeling anxious. I remember feeling sadness and fear as tears leaked down my cheeks but never anxious like I have over schoolwork.
In fact, I remember one time telling some doctors as they walked me through how they were putting me asleep, “This ain’t my first rodeo,” they laughed, and put me asleep.
Last time, I vividly remember crying as I answered the anesthesiologist questions about UF that were an attempt to distract me. But once I was in there and saw Dr. Miller and returned his thumbs up, I was okay.
But why is that? Why is it that I sometimes let something as simple as homework take me to a breaking point, but if you throw me on an O.R. table after a few deep breaths and maybe a thumbs up, I’m okay?
As I thought about it, it baffled me. Surgery is far more significant than an exam or homework assignment. Yet, schoolwork has taken me down more times than a medical challenge.
But as I thought about it more, I figured it out.
On an O.R. table, I’m completely vulnerable. At that point, there is nothing I can do about the situation and I know that. It’s completely in God’s hand; no matter how hard I yank his arm, he can’t and won’t give the situation to me. I also usually have pretty significant prayer support around that moment.
I feel small on an O.R. table, and my only choice is to surrender.
But in school, I feel big. I feel like I can control it. If I spend one more hour studying or one more day looking over this assignment, I can make it better. I don’t need God in my small homework assignment, I’ve got it.
But before I know it, I have raised an exam above everything else in my life, including God. I take school, and map out my own plan and look at my plan like I’ve got it all by myself. And that’s where I lose it.
On an O.R. table, I realize a reality I should realize every day of my life: I am small and I need God. And that’s why I think an O.R. table is a place where I’ve found the most peace in my life.
Because I learned how to surrender there.
But in my everyday life, I’m too worried about my grades, what people will think of me and making sure things going according to my plan.
I put my value in my grades, so I don’t want to give them up to God.
I worry about what people think, so I don’t want God to have control. I want control.
I let myself feel bigger than I am, and my human nature doesn’t feel the need to and frankly, doesn’t want to surrender.
In The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness Tim Keller writes: “But Paul is saying that in Christianity, the verdict leads to performance. It is not the performance that leads to the verdict…In Christianity, the moment we believe, God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into his family.”
I think in my daily life I do two things:
I believe that my performance leads to my verdict. Because I define my “verdict” as what others think of me. The reality check here is: only God’s opinion matters, and my verdict was determined the day he hung from that cross.
And I give myself too much credit. I think I can control things that I can’t, just because their “smaller” than a surgery. Sure, I can try my best at an exam or an assignment. But when I turn it in, it’s out of my hands. Ultimately, I can’t control it.
At the start of this semester, I told myself to live with more perspective and surrender. Perspective that I am a sinner and I am small. I can’t live up to my expectations or anyone else’s, so I need to live only for God’s opinion of me and God’s opinion is already formed.
Surrender in the fact that my plan is already mapped out for me.
But perspective in that surrendering doesn’t mean I don’t try.
This first week already, I have found so much freedom in just doing my best and not stressing, because I know God’s got the plan mapped out.
Before I jump into this post and as another shout out to my Delaware crew, the Therapeutic Technician at the rehab gym that I spent my summer in, Jason Fehrle, is running the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February to raise money for Nemours and a new Child Life Center at the A.I. duPont location. I hope that most of my posts on From 3West point to how incredible Nemours and A.I. duPont are. If you feel led to check it out, donate to or share his cause, please click here. I’ll say it a million more times – A.I. duPont is an very special place full of really cool people. This is a clear testament to that.
On June 11, 2017, I posted probably the most important letter I’ve ever written in regards to how and why I started From 3West.
I remember laying on the downstairs bed, where I was camping out while I continued recovering from surgery, and typing through my tears as I reflected on that past month and all that had changed in my life.
I posted Dear Nemours, hoping just a few people I was trying to thank might see it.
As I sit here 6 months later, returning home two weeks ago from one last Delaware checkup, I feel like I’m in such a familiar spot. But if it’s even possible, my gratitude for Nemours has grown from that afternoon in June.
Two weeks ago, as my mom and I sat in the exam room alone for a few minutes and she leaned down to help me put on my shoes, when she looked back up and we made eye contact, tears started streaming down both of our faces.
I hugged Dr. Miller one more time and did my best to hide the fact that there was a lump in my throat.
My mom and I walked the halls of the hospital, smiling and laughing as we shared our memories of living there for a month with my brother and my dad.
We saw my two friends who had surgery on the same day as me this summer, Ryan and Courtney.
The three of us proceeded to walk around the hospital and the rehab gym, saying hi to everyone we could find from last summer.
It was one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. Because I knew that it was probably my last time walking the halls of the hospital that turned my life around, as a patient.
But on the plane ride home, it really hit me. The end of that previous sentence, “as a patient,” screams possibility.
Okay, I’ve probably lost you. Let me explain.
Clarity. I think it’s one of those things that everyone wants, but sometimes it’s hard to grasp. It’s something I’ve been praying hard for since the start of this semester.
When I started at UF last year, my plan was to go into the sports industry. Telling stories of the greatest athletes, the most passionate fans and the most inspiring situations on and off the field.
But as I got into UF’s sports media program, something in me often felt off. And as I learned more about the sports industry, I realized that my passion was really just about telling stories, sports or otherwise.
So in the summer, switched my major from Sports Journalism to Media and Society Telecommunications. A track that would still allow me to pursue sports if I wanted but was open enough to allow me to check out other avenues as well. I was confused because in a sense, my original plan was obliterated and I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but my sports centered dreams felt kind of like they were slipping away from me.
Since I started this journey with From 3West, I don’t think I realized how much storytelling became my focus. My focus has become telling my story and stories of kids like me who struggle medically.
The Articles tab on my blog got dusty this past semester as I stepped away from sports, just to see how it felt.
And let me tell you, writing freely, working for myself and sharing others’ stories that are similar to mine has been the most refreshing, exciting feeling I’d had in a while.
I walked into this last Delaware trip expecting to see some of my favorite people, make a plan for the future and wish a great man a happy retirement. That’s it.
But I got oh, so much more.
I got clarity.
I realized that maybe I am being called to a sports field to tell stories… but lately, every bone in my body is saying maybe I’m not.
As I walked down the blue checkered floor of the hall where I’ve cried the saddest and happiest tears these past 4 years, when I gave the man who changed my life the most earnest thank you and when I looked at my mom’s face and saw a woman who has been just as beaten up by all of this as I have, I realized maybe, just maybe, I’m being called into the environment I’ve been in my entire life.
Maybe the special needs community needs me to stick around and tell their stories.
In a few years, maybe a worried mom in a waiting room will need some hope for her kid who is in the O.R.
Maybe the high school girl on crutches who truly just realized that this is her life, will see me walking a hospital’s hall and get a glimpse that life like “this” will be okay and can be great.
My Gator-fanatic of a grandpa is a huge reason why I am who I am and why I do what I do. He lost his battle to cancer years ago, but he taught me what it means to fight. And that even when this medically challenged world starts to look really dark, there’s always something to smile about.
Maybe my grandpa needs me to take some kid’s hand who just got dealt some of the most unfair cards life has to offer, and show them that lesson too.
Maybe the sports fanatic kids who are walking into a hospital or therapy clinic instead of a sports field like I was, need to see that there’s still so much joy you can find in the game, even when you can’t play.
Maybe they need to learn how your PT gym can easily become your field or court, and this crazy medical world is actually often full of the best teammates.
This trip gave me pretty strong clarity that maybe the athletes and passionate fans can wait.
Maybe, they’re not in my cards.
Maybe this world I’ve already been living in, the healthcare and medically challenged world, is the one I need to go tell stories in.
That’s why the last part of that earlier sentence, “as a patient,” screams possibility. Because maybe I will walk those halls again, but as someone else.
There’s so much comfort in clarity and so much possibility in a maybe.
Changing paths is scary. But God’s call and clarity are really cool things to feel.
I’m actually excited to put my sports centered dreams on the back burner this semester and explore how I can find my calling in this world I already have a perspective in. And explore how my sports centered dreams and these dreams can overlap sometimes.
I’ll end this one with two things.
First, yet another whole-hearted thank you to my Delaware crew. Because without Dr. Miller, everyone in that rehab gym, each and every one of my nurses and everyone else who helped me in these past 4 years with Nemours, I don’t think I would be realizing my dreams.
And without you guys, I don’t think I’d have the guts to chase them either.
Secondly, I’m nervous out of my mind thinking about this change in my focus. But I’m also excited. Like, really excited.
I’m in the process of getting ready to reach out to different amazing places like the Tim Tebow Foundation and even Nemours to see if they need a communications or marketing intern this summer.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned in the ride from confusion to clarity, it’s that God’s plan is amazing.
So, I take comfort in the fact that I believe he’ll take me somewhere really cool this next semester and this summer.
Even if that’s just back here, working, writing and blogging.
As long as I’m telling meaningful stories, I’ll be good.
Related Posts: Dear Nemours, Ryan's Story, Courtney's Story