I’ve always known that I wanted to be a writer. There were some rebel years, of course — short-lived times growing up when I claimed to have aspirations of teacher-hood or superstardom. There was even a year when I wanted to be a hydrologist, as I couldn’t seem to understand that someone else already had cracked the mystery of how to separate salt from water. (“Mama, I could help all the thirsty people safely drink the oceans!”) But I always came home to writing, retreating into my blanket fort under the dining room table to scribble stories about poodles and boys from California.
Writers are insufferable, if you haven’t realized, and not just because they want you to shut up and sit down and listen to them. Writers are insufferable because everything has to be a metaphor. Like, everything.
Every life event, no matter how small, must hold meaning. To the poet soul, meaninglessness equates chaos, and the world is a mysterious blue marble to observe closely and to take notes on and hopefully, one day, understand. Then we desperately try to publish our notes and make a billion dollars and buy a lake house.
Actual things I have non-ironically thought:
- “If I get to the end of the street before this song ends, my boyfriend and I are gonna be together forever.”
- “It’s fine that I’m not pretty on the outside. That means I’m pretty on the inside.”
- “This car represents my grandpa’s soul.”
- “Love is a strong winter coat.”
- “Rainy on a Monday? Makes sense.”
- “Maybe I’ll get a pencil tattooed on my forearm.”
- “Maybe I’ll get a typewriter tattooed on my forearm.”
- “How much does a typewriter cost?”
Deciding that random occurrences actually are acts of fate helps me make sense of life and figure out my place in it. Without metaphor, I feel as if anything could happen to me anytime, and that’s pretty scary. Thus, being a grandiose nutcase is my greatest coping mechanism when it comes to having cystic fibrosis.
To avoid incessantly asking things like, “Why me?” I inflate my ego with the notion that I have CF because the universe knew I’d be strong enough to take it on. To avoid wondering when I’m gonna die, I go grade-A Ferris Bueller on my psyche: Look around, Hannah! You’re gonna miss your own life! It moves fast! Focus on the present! To make lying in a hospital bed with flaming lungs (that was a metaphor, and a bad one at that) more bearable, I belittle my fellow humans, telling myself that the pain I experience somehow makes me better — more empathetic. It’s gross, I know. But it helps.
Still, there are lighter things I must make sense of, too.
I’m barely 22. Who knows anything when they’re 22? Right now, my answer to most questions is, “I’m figuring it out.”
When will I finish earning my BA in creative writing? Figuring it out. How will I escape student debt? Figuring it out. Who am I? What is my life’s purpose? How long can I go without washing my hair before the people in lecture mentally nickname me “Greasy Greta?” Figuring. It. Out. It’s a pretty good way to get out of anything I don’t wanna talk about, to be honest.
Becoming an adult is so hard. Having cystic fibrosis is so hard. Dealing with both at once is like your friends daring and forcing you to eat a peanut butter and toothpaste sandwich: You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t have to, but there’s gonna be a lot of laughing involved. (You see what I mean about the metaphors? That was awful! I’ve revised this essay and I decided to KEEP that! Because I thought it was GOOD!)
The things that happen to me as a young adult in college with cystic fibrosis are devastating, hilarious, exhausting, humbling, and gratifying. I’m figuring out things more every day, scribbling notes on the palms of my hands about this mesmerizing blue marble and how to better survive inside it.
When I grow up, I want to be a writer; but growing up is a feat in itself.
I hope you’ll join me here on Thursdays as I try my hardest to be honest, humorous, and keep bad metaphors to a minimum.
(No promises, though.)
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.