My sister says my apartment has ideal selfie lighting, and I look a lot more alive in this picture than I did a year ago.
I cried into a container of leftover stuffed pasta shells at my cubicle. It was a Monday, naturally. The kind of day that is both anticlimactic and life changing at once. I often expect major life changes to clamor in with a strange, upbeat tune like a jazz funeral.
But there I was, alone at my desk crying over bread, probably listening to “Invisible” by Clay Aiken. I’ve been gluten-free for a year, a bizarre statement that sounds trendy, almost, if it weren’t for the celiac disease that slowly sapped me of energy and frankly, body weight, for months before my diagnosis on March 28, 2016.
Today is much the same in its anticlimactic, life-changing dichotomy.
I clicked around on the computer this morning, tabbing back to Twitter a few too many times (follow me @TaylorOSoule). A few of those clicks led me to the University of Iowa student portal, where I paid my deposit and accepted my offer of admission in the College of Law. Continue reading
This is where I studied for the LSAT, where I write, where I read, where I eat and where I’m usually found at home. All my mail winds up here before it nests in different places around my apartment.
My mail nests in different nooks of my apartment. The glittery good-luck card on my refrigerator that reminds me I’m “Da Bomb.” The letters from my friend Kevin tucked by my bed, their Taiwanese stamps framed by striped envelopes. The Iowa Hawkeyes stationery my mom turned into a cute Future Tay checklist after I took the LSAT, peeking out from my makeshift study corner. The “This Card is 100% Gluten Free” mail a friend sent me during my weekly IVs.
The law school admission packets perched behind the framed photo of me and my sisters; sometimes I open the folders to confirm they’re real, that it’s OK to want things, that I’m good enough for those things.
2016 lives in the letters and cards scattered throughout my apartment, each emblematic of something — all emblematic of survival. Sparkles from my “You Da Bomb” card flutter to the floor each time I open my freezer, dusting my home in glitter and LSAT memories. Somehow, I survived studying for the test while I awaited diagnoses, while needles carved track marks into springtime skin that should have been showing off.
I relearned how to be a pen pal this year, graduating from the scratch-and-sniff sticker days of my letter correspondence with a friend from third-grade church camp. My college Tennis Club bestie Kevin taught English in Taiwan this past year, and we communicated exclusively by mail. Time stretched as we swapped the immediacy of texts and Facebook messages for mail that arrived monthly at best. We rambled about everything and nothing all at once; milestones and minutiae collide in letters more innocently, more honestly, maybe, than anywhere else. It was refreshing and soul-quieting.
Words nest on my phone by the time it’s November. Scribbled in the skywalk on my way to work. Typed furiously between meetings and happy hours and volunteering. Words that naturally mold into ideas and lessons throughout another year, culminating in my annual birthday blog post.
I’m almost out of words this year. The words I have left for 23 are fragmented at best. They exist in the infusion room, doctor’s offices, the beige and maroon waiting rooms that blur into the muted color of anticipation and silent hand squeezes.
November woke me up with a nightmare, a subconscious convergence of 2016’s lurking badness. At 3 a.m. on Nov. 1, I poured a mug of peach tea and nested not in my orderly life lessons but in the dull throbbing of a dark year. Even in my aggressively neat apartment, I felt unkempt.
I swirled the tea bag in my cup, watching the orange color form a tiny tornado before staining the water, the two indistinguishable. Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing the good from bad in 2016; it all steeps into a murky, steaming blend that stings my lips if I sip it too soon. I am still letting 2016 and 23 cool. Maybe they never will. Continue reading
I woke up in the ER in January in my hospital gown; I frantically asked, “Where are my clothes? Where are they?” I felt stripped.
I pulled bobby pins from my hair one by one March 24, piling them in my mother’s palm. I shielded the loose strands with my hands as I fled to the operating room for a biopsy of my stomach and small intestine. Fleeing sometimes takes on strange, disturbing dimensions.
This morning at the infusion room I tugged my sweater from my right arm slowly, the knitted fabric rippling reluctantly, clinging to my skin like it didn’t want to leave. The cold antiseptic stung. I hated my bare arm, resented it, looking away as the nurse stuck me, again.
In 2016, I’ve felt stripped of energy, clothing, control, my favorite foods (I love you and miss you, Pillsbury cinnamon rolls). I called my mom on her 50th birthday after the hematologist called me to inform me of the weekly IVs. It should have been a cheerful birthday call, the one where I inevitably say “happy birthday” in Arabic, tripping over the foreign sounds, still. Continue reading