Ironic in Here, or Is It Just Me?

I spent seven years collecting stories and trying to make sense of what it was I was writing about in the first place. Seven –  five of which were spent trotting around other people’s countries taking notes. The day I decided to launch this blog, I was nearing the end of doctor ordered rest in the suburbs of New Jersey. “There’s nothing funny about Grave’s Disease on the Internet,” I said, out loud, to myself. “I’ll make something.”  The first post was up that night, right after I applied a cold compress to my swollen eyeballs. #Priorities.

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One summer evening in 2007, my phone rang while I was at my university’s only campus bar. I’d graduated, but this was during the brief window it was still mildly acceptable to return on non-reunion weekends and drink pitchers of Blue Moon on the establishment’s wooden benches. The friend who called, Zac, told me during that conversation that I should write about what it was like to be in our particular age range.

“You should write about it while you’re actually this age, before it’s you just writing in retrospect and your perspective changes.”

He had a point. At the time I was applying to copy editing jobs at B-list publications that I wasn’t getting. I wanted to be a writer- I’d heard I was good at it, but it just felt like I’d already plateau-ed and I hadn’t even started. Months later, and nary a book deal in sight, I was doing data entry for a Christian music label. It was good that I had a place to go everyday, but I remember filling up at a gas station one afternoon,  on my cell phone again, chatting away with a college friend about what I was up to. I heard myself explain the situation. Data entry. Christian music label.

“Well, it’s not my job, JOB,” I rushed to say, before he asked anything else. “I mean, I don’t have another job, but like – it’s not something I want to be doing. You know?”

Oh, no.

On the first Monday of every month, the whole Christian music label lot of us met in prayer circles to thank God for the commercial success the label was having in manufacturing CDs I’d never listened to. My weekends revolved around alternating the buying rounds of redheaded sluts and jager bombs. I was having fun, but not much else. I drank a lot. I dated some. I wasn’t quite sure where to go.

Eventually, I got an internship in the communications department of a company in the privatized prison industry. I had my own desk and wrote things on my own, but mostly I typed out generic responses from the wardens I had to call and ask how progressive the inmate programs were. I could have worked my way into a full time job. I could have stayed in Nashville and moved in to my own place after another two years of living with two of my best friends from college. I could have applied for a Master’s degree in English Literature at Vanderbilt. I did none of those things. Instead, I drove my half room full of belongings to my mother’s home in Ohio, packed two suitcases and moved to Chile.

I suppose I didn’t have to leave home to travel the world and find myself and figure out how to write The Great Novel. I just had to sit tight, turn 30 and wait for an autoimmune disease to manifest. No one wants to do that, so I’m glad I didn’t, but this whole thing is rotten with the universe’s idea of a smirking joke.

I’ll admit I’m pretty pleased with it.

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Nobody Puts Baby in a Coffin

“What is this?” you may be asking (Hi Mom!). Well, here’s the thing. A recent Grave’s Disease diagnosis and an older, suffers-no-fools endocrinologist left me combing the Internet for nutrition tips, for articles, for something that explained how it would be OK – I kept redirecting to the same sites with Very Uninspiring Names and conflicting advice on whether you can eat soy. Woof. In my opinion, (and this blog will have a lot of those), there’s not much out there, digitally speaking, that’s funny, wry or interesting for young people dealing with autoimmune illness. There are however, a wealth of chat room evangelists waiting to terrify you.

Grave’s disease, like the bulk of its enigmatic cousins, won’t kill you. But it will increase the risk of coworker heartbreak, when you can no longer pretend to not smoke with them, or order a round of tequila shots for yourself at the company happy hour.

It also means that when you tell a friend your hair might  fall out, you’ll receive styling tips like this.

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Seeing as I won’t be doing any smoking, drinking, carousing, caffeine-ing or iodized salting for the foreseeable future, I’m going to have some time on my hands – to write, to research, and to collect interesting stories on what this illness is and is not. I wanted to create something that I’d want to read, going through this, and my hope is that I’ll create something you’ll want to read too.

I already know the disease sucks. I didn’t need the Internet to remind me. What I did need was something a little more inspiring, a little lighter – Because if I’m going to be sweating and shaking and not getting to eat seaweed, then I at least need to be able to laugh at myself.

Because it can be kind of funny. At least, there was a moment where I realized, this isn’t the worst, and if I’m thoughtful and careful about it, there’s more than one thing I could actually learn here.

So, that’s what this is.

Thanks to Sophie Kleeman for headline inspiration on this post.