What do you want to be when you grow up?

Some people grow up knowing exactly what they want to do in life.   Some, don’t figure it out until they are forced to declare a major.  Others, never decide what they want to be or do.  Ever since I was young, I wanted to be a teacher.   I wanted to be a teacher so badly, that when I was in elementary school, I would play school with my brothers.  As I got older, the more I wanted to be a teacher.   I declared my major as Education before even beginning my undergraduate work.

The further along in the program I got, the more excited I was to become a teacher.  Specifically, my dream was to be a Special Education teacher.  Before starting my senior year of college, I was not feeling well.  I was weak, tired and in pain all of the time.  My family had decided that it would be in my best interest to take an extra year of college.   Therefore, I was going to have to put my professional year (or student teaching) on hold for a year.    A week after beginning my senior year of college, I was admitted into ICU of the hospital near where I was completing my undergraduate work.

Although being in ICU was a very traumatic experience, I would have to say that after my time in the hospital was when I hit rock bottom.  Trying to get my life back together and back in a routine, I decided to go to school part-time.   When it came time to choose my schedule for the spring semester, I walked into my advisor with much excitement to get into the education program.  However, my advisor had a different plan for me.  It was then that I was suggested to get out of the field of education because my advisor did not believe that I could be a teacher when I have RA.  Hearing this, was devastating.   Who wants to hear that they can’t go for their dream job because of their health?  Definitely not me!

Since being told I should not be a teacher, I successfully completed my undergraduate work  in Special Education.  I even had a job lined up pending graduation.  However, I decided to go in a different direction with my career.  I love teaching, but decided to go into a methodology of Special Education which I could not be more excited to begin.

Of course I think that my advisor was out of line, but perhaps she did have my well-being at heart.  I am a certified teacher, but taking a more specific approach for my graduate work to hopefully become a therapist or consultant  in the field of Special Education after I finish work in my Masters. Teaching will always be my passion in life, however I am able to see the wide range of opportunities that I can pursue in the field of education.  I am picking a career choice that is my dream, but also good for my health. 

I am a big believer that things happen for a reason.  Perhaps the discouraging experience that I had with my advisor, actually helped guide me to my work as a graduate student.  Even after my experiences, I would suggest everyone to follow their dreams and go for their career choice. I would also suggest to always be open-minded because you never know what bigger and better opportunities may come your way!   Although having RA brings many challenges in life, it is important to keep yourself motivated, dedicated and persistent in order to get to where you want in life.  I  can guarantee all of the hard work you put into your dream career choice will pay off eventually in some way! =)

 

=) Jen

 

Twenty One

Most people count down until they turn 21. They can not wait to drink legally and be able to get into the bars.  For me, turning 21 was a challenge.  I wanted to be like everybody else but I know I couldn’t.  I pushed myself on my 21st birthday to have 2 mix drinks.  Compared to most, two drinks is nothing but it was a lot for me. 

I didn’t get to enjoy being 21 and my senior year of college.  A few months after turning 21, I ended up in the hospital for being anemic. While most people turn 21 and  go into their senior year of college, my senior year was going to be very different.  The few times I was able to go out that year was such a privilege.

A few times I went out that year, I would have a drink because I wanted to be like everyone else.  I constantly felt sorry for myself because I couldn’t be that person.  

Going to a bar is challenging  for me.  The bars that most people in their 20s enjoy to go to are those that are “club” like. They want to go and dance. Unfortunately, when I go to a bar, I just want to sit.  Standing up for long periods of time is a challenge for me.  The pain in my joints in my leg make it very difficult for me to enjoy dancing at a bar.  Most of the time, I would find myself standing and leaning against a wall because that is all I can handle.

I used to be sad when I would actually go to a bar because drinking made me sick and dancing was too painful.  Those two reasons alone seems to be why most people do go to bars.  Of course there is the social factor of going to the bars.  I want to spend my Saturday nights with my friends which is the reason I would go into bars in the first place.

After many nights of feeling sorry for myself.  I decided I needed to turn around my attitude.  First of all, if sipping alcohol makes me sick, then why do it?  I used to buy drinks and sip them just so I can pretend to be drinking.  I realized though, there is absolutely no reason to put something in my body like that.  So therefore, I stopped drinking all together.  Next, I find it too painful to dance at bars. Therefore, I find the people who aren’t dancing, stay at the bar until I am in too much pain and go sit down when I feel that I need to.   I do not push myself anympore or lean against a wall and feel sorry that I can’t participate.

My attitude changed so much because I learned over time, that it is important to make the best of every situation.  I had a rough year where I was in and out of the hospital and couldn’t even go out.   Therefore, I was able to see how every opportunity really is a privilege.  People often times expect that every Friday night and Saturday night they can go out and drink without any problems.  However, from my experiences I learned that life does not work like that. I can’t go out to the bars every weekend.  However, when I do, instead of watching everybody else and feeling jealous that I can not be like them, I go to the bars and feel exhilarated.

I look at every opportunity that I have as a privilege and something to be grateful.  I do not want to ever be that person that feels like they have to drink or will only have fun if they drink.  I learned to go out and appreciate all that I do have. When I do go to a bar, I have that attitude.  When I get asked “why aren’t you drinking” or feel in too much pain to stand, I think to myself how lucky I am to be out and should enjoy every moment the best that I can.

I think having JRA and RA helps me to be happier then many people that surround me.  I constantly am grateful for what I do have.  For me, since I have turned 21, going to a bar for me takes a lot of work and effort.  However, the effort and work that it takes me to be at a bar helps me appreciate all that I have and makes my happiness that I share in my life stronger.

 

=)

Jen

 

Think Before You Speak…

When somebody finds out that I have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis, one of the most common phrases is “you are too young for that.” What people do not realize is that there are so many children walking around with this disease. People often times would not believe me that I could have this chronic illness. However, it is believable because I was diagnosed with this.
 
Living with JRA/ RA has always been a challenge.  As you have read so far, it is obvious that my college life was not one that could be said to be typical.  From the moment I wake up in the morning to when I go to sleep, my everyday routine is the opposite of normal.
 
Each day was such an obstacle.  Many times, I was in too much pain to do anything.  However, I put all the energy I had into my classes and making sure I completed my daily obligations.  Keeping as busy as I did in college made having RA difficult, but also gave me a reason to get out of bed each morning.
 
I always hoped that I would find someone who would understand me and what I have been through.  A lot of ups and downs I always had with people in my life were because of their lack of understanding.  I never wanted everyone to know what I went through on a daily basis because that would mean they would have the disease, and I never wanted anybody to have to go through what I went through.
 
People often speak without thinking, and react without understanding.  What they do not realize is that words do hurt. I am a very sensitive person, but having grown up with JRA/ RA definitely makes me more attune to what people say to me.  When people choose to write an e-mail or say words to somebody, they have complete control on what comes out of their mouth.  When they say something that hurts somebody, they can’t take it back.  The only thing that they can do is work really hard to work things out with that person.
 
I have had many instances when somebody has said something to me and I have been hurt.  A lot of what hurts me the most is when it is related to my health.  I know that they don’t understand what I go through, but there are no excuses for a person’s choice in words. 

Over the time I have learned, like people have control over the words they say, everybody has control of the people they choose to keep in their life.  I have learned that it is okay to cut people out of your life when they hurt you.   Everybody with JRA/ RA has enough obstacles in their life.   There is no reason to surround yourself with people who are going to hurt you.

I have also learned that not everybody will hurt you.  They are the people you should surround yourself with.  You may never meet a person that knows exactly what you are going through.   That is okay. However, you should look for a person that will respect you for who you are.

I am very cautious of the words that always come out of my mouth.  It is hard to understand the power that words can have on someone.  We can not control whether we have the auto-immune disease JRA/ RA, but we can always control what we say to people.

=)

Jen

Style means everything..

You are never suppose to “judge a book by a cover.”  However, we all know people do.  I never was one to even make judgements towards how people dress.  Then, how come I can spend about two hours on some days picking out the “perfect outfit.” 

For most of my life of having RA, I never visibly looked sick.  Of course I had flare ups, but most people never took notice on how my hands really looked.  I couldn’t straighten my fingers out, but people didn’t take notice.  The fatigue and pain for the disease always got to me.    Over time, I learned that I really could never control how I felt.  However,  I could always control how I looked. 

I put a lot of time in my style in order to cover up how I really was feeling.  I always felt that if I looked good, I would automatically feel better.  I like the control I always had on how I dressed.

I am definitely the last person that would ever judge anyone on their style choice.  For me though, I found pleasure in putting focus into my style.  I always found that having JRA/ RA, causes a lot of physical and emotional pain.  There are days that I do not want to get out of bed in the morning or may be in too much pain to walk.  However, when I wake up each morning, I know that there are things to accomplish and I never want to let my JRA/RA get in the way of my life dreams.   That is why I spend the time in the morning getting myself ready to overcome any obstacles of the day.  No matter how I feel, I keep a smile on my face and know that I can get through whatever life is going to throw at me on a given day.   Having JRA/RA makes daily routines very difficult.  I know that I only have a certain amount of energy each day, and know that I have to prioritize and figure out what is most important to accomplish in a day….and I accomplish it all, but with style.

When I was ten years old, I had surgery on my ankle.  It was really a struggle for me to wear the clothes and shoes that I wanted to wear.  I never meant to follow what was in style at the time, but I hated never having the opportunity to.  When I was 14, I had a second surgery.  Again, my style–especially shoe selection was limited.  I normally had to wear sneakers and therefore had to find a style of clothes that was “acceptable” to wear with sneakers.   I didn’t like being limited because I couldn’t be the most fashionable in elementary and high school.  I hated being limited in my style because I wanted the same opportunities as everybody else.  I  didn’t like that my health  affected the clothes I was able to wear and my shoe selection.

As time passed, my ankles recovered from the two surgeries.  I had a lot more flexibility in how to dress, what shoes  could buy and what I can wear on a daily basis.  I became so appreciative of every opportunity that I can dress how I want because I didn’t have that chance growing up.  I spend more time then I should on picking out an outfit I like and buying shoes because this was not possible when I was a kid. 

I constantly struggle with my style because to this day, I still have limits.  I will never be that girl who can wear high heels on a regular basis.  I remember one evening going to an event an organization that I was apart of was having at a bar. It was the middle of winter and of course the cold weather was not agreeing with my arthritis.  Most people were walking to the bar (including me), but a group of girls insisted on having a friend drive them.  Why? they insisted because they were wearing two-inch high heel shoes and could not walk two blocks to get to the bar.  I had very little sympathy for these girls.  They chose to wear those shoes.  These girls did not realize that some people would give anything to wear less stylish shoes and be pain-less.  While they showed up in their heels, I showed up in my UGG boots.   I remember being really sad by these girls because I walked to the bar and ended up in so much pain because my hands could not handle the cold.  They stepped out of the car in front of the bar and were ready to dance the night away.  I remember barely being able to move from the table because of the amount of pain I was in.   Those girls did not know how to appreciate how lucky they are to be able to dress how they want, and wear whatever shoes they would like.

Since this incident, I have been much more cautious of my style.  I put a lot of time and energy into finding a style that is unique and causes little pain.  I finally found my clothes style in which I look forward to getting dressed everyday.  People look at me and would never know I have an auto-immune disease.  It is the way that I like it though.  I like having the ability to be proud of what I am wearing while hiding the pain I am feeling.

Over the years, I learned that I am lucky to be able to appreciate the little things in life.  When you do not take life for granted, you learn to realize how lucky you really are for what you do have.  I still constantly hear people talk about how their feet are “killing them” when they are in 2 inch high heels.  I have learned to not let that bother me anymore.  Every time I hear a comment like that, I just remember how fortunate I am to be able to get dressed every morning and in style!

=)

Jen

Love, Relationships and Belief

I believe that everybody in your life is in it for a reason. I believe that every experience we have is meant to teach us something. What happens when your love life causes more pain then happiness?

Through college, I have had many guys that have been interested in me. However, getting into a relationship has always been a challenge for me. I never wanted to make it a responsibility for someone else to have to take care of me. I dated a guy that was my best friend in college. I remember when he asked me out. That evening, I had told him about my RA. I remember like it was yesterday how he looked at me with amazement and gave me a hug for going through everything I go through. For a long time, he wanted to be there for me. He had a way where he knew when I wasn’t feeling well. He constantly would ask me what he could do for me…and I usually would not let him. At age 19, I did not want him to feel responsible for me. For the two years we dated, he was amazing to me. That is also what caused me so much pain.

We had traveled to Israel together on a conference at one point. Their was one evening that I will never forget on that trip. He had a few drinks in him and we went to sit by the water and look at the stars. He had told me that he loved me. I was in complete shock. Of course I loved him, but I was not ready to admit that to him. I didn’t want him to be in love with me because I constantly felt like he was missing out on life and that I was holding him back. Months later, he told me that he had loved me again. He didn’t remember telling me in Israel, and I never brought that evening up to him. Again, I knew I loved him but I couldn’t get myself to say it.

I wasn’t ready to be in such a serious relationship with him. During my freshman and sophomore year of college, I was constantly changing my medications and dealing with my health. I didn’t feel that I was ready to be in such a serious relationship when my health wasn’t in control and I could barely take care of myself. In the spring of my sophomore year (his junior year), I realized that in a few months he would be turning 21 and I would be turning 20. He was so incredible to me that I realized I wanted to give him a gift. The gift I wanted to give him was for him to break up with me. I wanted him to do this before his senior year of college. Although if he really loved me, it may not seem like such a gift, but I knew it was. I wanted him to enjoy his senior year. I wanted him to feel free to go out any night he wanted to. I didn’t want him to ever feel obligated to be with me. For the next few months, I distanced myself from him. It wasn’t easy, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Finally in July he broke up with me.

Of course I was upset losing him as a boyfriend, but it was what I felt was right at the time. I never wanted to admit to him how much I really loved him.

Things between us fell apart after we broke up. For a while, we stayed best friends. I was always happy to see during that year that he was going out and having fun. I didn’t care causing myself pain because all I wanted was for him to be happy.

About a year after we broke up, I had gotten very sick and ended up in the hospital. He called me everyday I was there and checked in. I knew he cared about me, at least as a friend. After getting out of the hospital, I had asked him to come visit me and spend time with me. He came one time for an hour and then received a call to go out to the bars. He chose the bars over hanging out with me. I sometimes questioned if I had done the right thing by distancing myself the way I did. I realized that evening I did. He liked the life of going out, and my health would have stopped him to an extent.

A few weeks after being in the hospital, he became more distant from me. The phone calls and texts drastically decreased. I then received an e-mail from him that told me I had been a burden to me. It was probably the hardest e-mail I ever had to read because I constantly caused myself pain to ensure that he was happy. Things were never the same between us. He tried to take back what he said, but words hurt. I never really got over the e-mail and probably never will. It has always been hard enough to deal with my health on an everyday basis. It was devastating to hear from the one person I cared about the most that I had been a burden to him.

He tried to make it up to me. However, things kept happening. He invited me out one evening about a month after the e-mail. It would have been the first time that I went out after getting sick. I was excited that he had invited me out with him. However, he went downtown without me and forgot to call until I had texted him. By then, it was too late.

Other stuff happened in the months after the e-mail. We constantly argued. He never really understood why I couldn’t get over stuff that he said to me. He didn’t have this health condition so I get why he didn’t understand. We stopped talking for a while and then started talking over the summer. I had decided I wanted to give him one more chance. Things were good for a short time. However, he never really gave me a chance. I don’t think he wanted us to be as close as we once were. The blockade he put against me was so obvious. I know that if he had given me the chance, I would have made him really happy. Then, one day, we had a terrible argument on the phone. During this conversation, I was called “stupid” and an “idiot.” I was called this because I cared about his well being. It was amazing that after everything he had said to me, I could care so much still. I ended up cutting him out of my life completely. I made it so difficult for him to get in contact with me, but I was always hopeful that he would one day realize what I meant to him. As time went by, I became less hopeful and realized that he was the one that would one day be at a loss.

I also realized that he was such a different person when we dated. I think my obstacles in life gave him an appreciation that he only had by dating me. He became such a different person the years after we broke up. It actually always made me sad to see this person he became. He chose the life he lives, and despite everything, I am truly happy for him.

We haven’t really talked in six months. It always makes me sad to think about him because I know that I could have made him happy if he gave me the chance. I always thought that I was holding him back, but really I was a good thing in his life. I helped him appreciate life in a way that he never did before. I used to wish he would realize all of that one day, but I know he will choose not to.

Everyone has some type of challenges in their life. I always had this idea in my head that I was holding him back because of my health. It took me years, but I finally realized that I never held him back. My challenges help spread awareness of living with everyday obstacles and challenges. Many people in their 20s do not know life without having the option to go out all of the time or drink as much as they want. They can’t see all that life has to offer. However, because of my disease, I see that. I can influence people to see how great and rewarding life can truly be. It is a special gift that I believe I have. I was wrong thinking that I gave him a gift by distancing myself so he could have a life that was about being free and going out. Rather, I should have worked hard to inspire him and appreciate life to the fullest and show him that life has so much more to offer then to make a social life based on happy hours and nights out at a bar.

I finally realized that I do not hold anyone back. Rather, I influence them to understand what true happiness means. When things come easy to people and no effort is involved, people miss out on their true happiness.

Hard work, challenges and pain is what allows people to truly experience happiness and joy in their life. Whoever I may be in a relationship with will always experience challenges with me. Their will always be ups and downs because I’ll always have good days and bad days with my health. Dating someone with an auto-immune disease requires more effort and obstacles to overcome then most people. I used to look at it as something bad, but I finally see how special that is.

My health has influenced me to be such a giving and caring person. Being a giver is so important in a relationship. The ability to truly care is also something that is special. I know that I will make some guy so happy someday.

I also know that the obstacles that come with my RA are really a blessing I can give so much more into a relationship then other people. Not all people can date someone with an auto-immune disease. It is sad to say, but it is true. It takes a special type of person to want to be with someone and will be willing to work hard in the relationship. My experience shows that not everybody can handle it. This guy did not realize how lucky he was to have me. I also did not realize how much of a positive impact my health could have had on his life.

Dating is hard with an auto-immune disease, but I believe how rewarding it can be when you find that guy that is willing to put forth effort, work hard at a relationship. I also know the more effort that is put in, the stronger the relationship will be. You can’t make people see what they do not want to see. If they are not up for the challenge, that is their decision. They are the ones that will be missing out on true happiness.

=)
Jen