When I was a young child, if you had asked me where life’s road was going to take me without hesitation I would have confidently declared, to medical school. Before I had even entered the first grade, I knew that I wanted to become a doctor. A field trip to the lab where my Father worked only confirmed my decision as I looked up with awe at the neat rows of equipment that glowed like gleaming glass jars full of candy.
While many of my cohorts dreaded the first day of school, I had looked forward to each new semester. Working tirelessly to reach my heart’s desire. I was anxious to be done with grade school and enter high school so I could prepare for my life’s calling by taking algebra, biology, and chemistry. With intense joy I imagined the thrill of graduating high school and at last beginning college. In my childish head I was eagerly picturing the day when I had completed my bachelor’s degree, medical school, and was proudly marching down the isle to receive my hard won medical diploma.
But life’s road is strange. Just when it seems like we are walking a straight path to our hard earned reward, a hidden twist or turn surprises us taking us miles off course. And before we even know what happened, we find that we are not only walking in the opposite direction, but walking an entirely different path than the one we planned.
The first day of chemistry had at last arrived and with a thrill I looked over the syllabus of the long prized class that would help open the door to my med school dreams. My first day of college was now a mere two years off, and I was busily pondering to which schools I should apply. But unbeknownst to me I had come to invisible fork and wandered onto a path that was to slowly and painfully destroy the dreams of my life.
It started with an ever so slight rise in temperature that lasted for over three weeks. Tired and achy, it was now all I could do to get out of bed and drag myself to school. Instead of concentrating on my chemistry teacher’s lecture on moles and molecules, I was fighting a fearful battle to keep my eyes open as ever increasing waves of cold and fatigue threatened to engulf me and render me unconscious. A few weeks later lunch became an unbearable experience as each time I ate, a wave of intense cramps brought tears to my eyes causing my friends to beg me to let them call my parents. Until one day the cramps progressed to a nausea so sever that for months I could barely bare to put a morsel of food in my mouth.
Instead of walking the path that lead to medical school and starting my own family practice, I found myself walking the lonely and at times frightful road of the chronic suffer. A road that at times can be lonely, frightful, mysterious, and frustrating. Instead of daintily jumping the obstacles between me and getting my M.D., I ended up on a road full of terrifying drops in health, lows in self-esteem, and fording rivers of bitter tears over missed mile markers all while seeking to find a name, a reason to explain the startling twist in turns in health.
A battle made tougher by well meaning family members who brushed off my dizzying array of symptoms as stress or fear of success. And compounded by the brush off of doctors, who not finding a simple explanation for my madly pushed off my aches and pains, frozen limbs, raw insides, rapid weight swings, and more dismissed my ills claiming that I was too young to be ill, all in mind, or merely the hypochondriac worries of a fat and depressed young woman who merely needed to put her fork down and walk.
I soon learned that life’s road can be strange in how it hands out its bucket of goodies. It is far from fair as it hands over to someone who seeks to avoid every obstacle and barely breaks a sweat on the road of life a rich supply of medals and trophies. While the next person, huffing and puffing, forced to jump over mountains and swim across ragging rivers is lucky to earn an I survived the race T-shirt.
I know now that I will never have the pleasure of seeing the initials M.D. behind my name. And that knowledge is a bitter sting. But when I reflect upon the strange twist and turns my life has taken I can now look back with pleasure and declare that I am indeed blessed because I have discovered things about myself that I might never have known if life had been handed to me on a silver platter. I have discovered that I am stubborn, persistently rising each time life pulls the rug out from under me. That I am a fighter, that I have hidden courage, resilience, and the fortitude to make lemonade from the basked of sour lemon’s that life handed me.
Maybe it is not first prize, and it certainly will not get me listed on the 100 most successful people in America. In the eyes of many my life will be looked down upon as being a dismal failure. But that no longer matters, because I have come to understand that the real heroes of life road are not the ones covered in badges of honor or followed by a retinue of avid admirers. No, the real heroes of life’s road are the ones who quietly ford rivers, who persistently climb mountains, who endure long stretches of roasting desert. Their names left out of the great annals of history, their meager contribution to life overlooked. But they are the greatest heroes of endurance, because they refused to give up, the refused to be conquered by life’s strange road.