Two weeks, I broke up with somebody I’d been dating for a few months. Rejection or simply the end of something, no matter the length, depth or nature of the relationship, can be downright tough. Unless te falta un tobillo (you are missing something upstairs), most people, on both sides of the coin, dread these moments. Although I have been on both sides of the fence more than once, this time affected me drastically, both physically and emotionally. As I said goodbye to him for the last time, he made sure to remind me how the JRA was cramping his lifestyle. Burn.
I’ve always been on the sensitive side. When someone would steal my toy or a bunch of them would roll me over me, my upper lip would quiver and immediately distance myself. I would get lost in deep thought trying to understand why someone would take something that obviously was not theirs or try to analyze why someone would be so inconsiderate as to leave someone behind. Meanwhile, the rest of the kids in the family would battle it out in fist fights on the lawn or make elaborate plans to regain their toys.
Just a sideways look from my 2nd grade Catholic school teacher would make me tear up (and this is all before prednisone!). As I started to have more health problems, my younger sister became the older sister. By high school, she was running the show. Preparations for wheelchair accessible school? She had it done. All the school work for time out due to surgery? Check. Advising the O’Farrell boys that if she heard of anyone tripping it would be them? No one can prove it but we all know it was her. Any comment or action she deemed to be uncalled for, anyone would have to answer to her and well, really nobody wanted to do that to themselves.
By college, I had regained enough health to feel confident enough again. I sped through my courses, making top grades, savoring every morsel of my literature classes. I walked up to 10 miles a day, paid for 75% of my tuition, studied abroad and made lifelong friends by simply sitting at my desk job in the dorm lobby. Friday nights were exclusively reserved for salsa house parties and Saturday for hanging out with your latest crush.
Looking back on it, although I truly wish for every young person who loves to learn to have the same experience, college is mostly a protective illusion of the real world. What is true and authentic comes out in the wash years, even a decade later.
One professor I had for Management not only used a wheelchair but was a woman. Warm and respectful, she demanded absolute professionalism from her class of 20 years olds dressed in hot topic t-shirts and pajama bottoms. Then came the student kryptonite: group projects. The day before the project was due, I ended up in the hospital. Underprepared and surrounded by nervous Type As, the ringleader demanded I leave the group. Sheepishly, I approached the professor with the situation. What she told me, although extremely tough to follow at times, changed my outlook on life:
Don’t let them push you around. Stand your ground. You see all those people out there? They all have problems of their own. Now get out there and play ball.
I hear from so many people, healthy or with a chronic illness, that dating is just too hard. I really do understand, oh how do I understand! Dating is indeed a high emotionally risky measure. However, so is job-hunting, parenting, starting a new career or business, higher education and even marriage. If we take risks, sure we might get slapped and stung by the back hand of rejection and failure but if we don’t, we will always wonder what could have been.
Just like an athlete, I’ll take some time out to recover. Then, risky or not, I’m going to get back up and give love another try. Play ball.