I’ve decided that I don’t want to live in poverty.
Okay, so I’ve known that forever. I’m not trying to say it hit me this week while scraping peanut butter on my toast that, “Hey, maybe money is a nice thing to have!” It’s always been clear to me that having money makes life easier in seemingly infinite ways (though not necessarily fuller or more meaningful — I’m not Uncle Scrooge, people). But you know what’s also always been clear to me?
Being chronically ill makes earning a living very, very hard.
I grew up first wanting to be an artist, like an artist-artist — with paint, clay, and a smock to cover with colorful mistakes. After that came aspirations of pop stardom, teaching, and nursing. At one point — the third grade, to be exact — I even envisioned myself becoming a hydrologist. Yes, as in a water scientist. But after this dream came an even stranger one … a sad one. In the fifth grade, my cystic fibrosis worsened. It latched on with snarled roots to my sense of self, and with CF as my newfound roommate, I began to change. It left dirty dishes in the sink and I began to change.
Seasons cycled over and over again in Michigan, leaves falling and growing and changing and falling again, and I grew up. My dreams fell out of my ears.
“You can’t be a teacher,” I told myself. “What would happen when you were hospitalized? You’d stick your students with sub after random sub? Kids deserve better than you.”
Once, at a routine CF clinic appointment, I shared my dreams of attending nursing school with the social worker. She furrowed her brow and tilted her head. (Why was she always tilting her head?)
“Are you sure about that, Hannah?” she asked. “Working in a hospital would make you awfully sick. And what about when you have a cystic fibrosis patient? How would you take care of them?”
I looked at my mom and wept. Falling, falling, another dream falling out of my ears.
So, I embraced writing. I acknowledged my seemingly inevitable future, one of oxygen tanks and aching bones, one of premature death — and decided that I would work from my hospital bed. I began to tell people I would grow up to become a writer. A poet. A novelist. A blogger, eventually. And though I came to such a path for lack of hope, I have stayed on it for passion. Stringing words together did, indeed, turn out to be my dream job.
But it takes a long time to reach J.K. Rowling status, and sadly, only Rowling herself has ever accomplished the feat. So write as I may, write as I might, in the hospital through the dead of night … but, like, how am I supposed to afford food? I’m in college, which means I’m in debt. How could I not be? I have broccoli to buy and textbooks to purchase. My emotional support dog needs a haircut. Rent is a thing. And, you know, there’s this thing called “TUITION.”
I lie awake at night agonizing over the guilt I feel for sucking my parents dry. Why didn’t I choose to go to school online? Or at least at a community college close to home? Why did I, Hannah the Sick, being fully aware of my inability to work a job, pack up and move to the most expensive college town in the state?
I guess not all of my dreams fell out.
This past summer, Cystic Fibrosis News Today reached out to me with an offer: I could have my own column on their website, and for every weekly blog post I wrote, I would be paid. I cried. Two of my dreams converged into one: Not only would I be a writer, and not only would I earn money, but I would earn money for being a writer. The pride I felt when that first check hit my bank account swelled my head, I’m sure. And then it hit me: There must be other things like this that I can do! Maybe I’m not doomed to live in my parents’ basement!
Since then, I found Rover. It’s a website and app that you can use to walk and babysit dogs, aka, the best thing ever. I super-recently applied and have been approved, and my first pup will be staying with Casper and me this weekend! The greatest thing about Rover is that it works in a style similar to Lyft and Shipt, for those who are familiar, in that employees can set their own hours and work when they want. This means that when I’m sick, it’s no biggie — I just change my status to “unavailable.” Failure to follow through because of cystic fibrosis doesn’t exist here.
Instead of feeling oppressed by my disability, as I have for a very long time, I’ve recently felt challenged by it. I am inspired to find a way. Finance books litter my coffee table and budget blogs crowd my browsers. Instead of letting money beat down my self-worth, I now let the act of earning it empower me. Illness makes independence a puzzle, but luckily, I have a thing for sudoku.
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.