The first gluten-free year

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.

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.

This news is happy, of course, a far cry from the me who wanted to throw a gluten-free muffin at “I LOVE BREAD” Oprah every time she appeared menacingly on the TV screen. But here I am, reflecting on the good and bad that got me here, trying somehow to synthesize everything into a neat, little story, one with narrative tropes I swore in college English classes I’d forever avoid.

Lil future Hawkeye Tay in 1995.

Lil future Hawkeye Tay in 1995.

In a year’s time, I finally got a diagnosis, studied for the LSAT, recovered from my illness, took the LSAT, dated mediocre men, applied to law school and got into my top choice. My life intrinsically lives in dates I remember to an almost-obnoxious degree and lists of achievements, moments and failures that sandwich those dates together. Between March 28, 2016, and March 28, 2017, the list of life events feels particularly long and disjointed.

There are other ways I try to make sense of the past year, too.

Things I ultimately don’t need pepper my apartment – cards, pins, letters, coins, fortunes (which is amusing in part because I can no longer eat the cookie). As a writer, specific dates and specific things balance each other, satisfying the obsessively organized and compulsively creative halves of my writing process.

I’m relying on a bit of both today, I suppose. It’s March 28, a date I can’t get out of my head – hell, I can’t get any dates out of my head (I still remember my high school crush’s birthday, ugh, dammit June 16). So, I have to write today; it’s the only way to make peace with a weird year, the only way to get any actual work done on this day.

As I type this, a picture of me with an IV in my arm sits in the corner of my desktop; it is strangely one of my favorite photos from 2016. My hair looks great, I’m smiling and I remember the sweet, old man who chatted with me during the two-hour treatment (and tried to set me up with his grandson, mind you). It’s the face of somebody who’s slowly getting better.

Things are getting better. They really are.

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