January 19, 2022•863 words
I recently added the ability to view all posts of an author on Listed, having found no such way to do so with the current iteration. In previewing this page on my blog, I began reading some of my older entries from 2017, 2018, and 2019. It had been just the right amount of time for them to read like new to me. I look back at that person in wistful reminiscence—my struggles seem almost romantic from here. But I knew it was hard then too.
- 2017 was an era of exploring what it takes to build a successful business.
- 2018 was getting into some groove, but struggling with productivity, clarity, and growth.
- 2019 is closer to the modern era, which was defined by the painful, regrettable, elective surgery for a topical cyst in April 2019. This would turn out to be the most consequential event of my life.
- 2020 had only a few scattered stories, none of which have the diary-like qualities of previous years.
- And 2021 is me being upset about the state of the world, which is an unusual departure from the style of the last few years, in which I had explicitly avoided current events.
In all, the surgery from 2019—almost three years ago—still causes me pain to this day. But this isn’t the worst of it. In October of 2020, unsatisfied with the healing progress, I decided to get an MRI to try to see if there may be something going on under the hood. During the MRI, the technicians—following doctor’s orders, and largely medical protocol—injected a “contrast agent” into my veins as part of the MRI scan, to help get a clearer picture.
The surreptitious injection turned out to be a toxic heavy metal known as gadolinium, and this metal is retained in your skull, bones, and blood for the rest of your life, even from just a single dose. For most, it doesn’t cause any problems. But for some unlucky few, a devastating disease can develop where a permanent immune response is mounted to the permanent presence of gadolinium in your body, causing a heap of painful and unpleasant symptoms every. single. day. It’s a horrible dream that I haven’t been able to wake up from.
The consequence of that injection is the longest, most painful story of my life, but is not the point of this post.
I miss the simplicity of my 2018 conundrums. Just worrying about how to be productive. How to organize my days. Whether to write every day in the morning or in the afternoon. How to improve or grow a product.
Today I’m adulting pretty seamlessly and have no such problems.
I don’t struggle with productivity. I just get it done.
I don’t struggle with personal or professional growth. It’s mostly a straight shot from here.
I don’t struggle with existential angst. I’m comfortable with the uncertainty.
I don’t struggle with boredom. The days are short.
I don’t struggle with my wants, desires, fears, hopes, or goals. It’s all pretty well internalized.
I struggle with pain. Physical, bodily, internal and external pain. The feeling that my body is deteriorating, or not functioning properly. The angst of not knowing what impact this relatively unknown and not widely accepted disease will have on my life expectancy or quality.
The sadness of not knowing to what age I will see my daughter grow.
I was talking to my friends the other night over a game of Rocket League about my condition, wondering how different my life would be if I hadn’t underwent those traumatic experiences. Wondering what I’d be doing that very night if I were "normal" and not dealing with a symphony of physical symptoms and excruciations on a daily basis.
Well, you’d probably be doing exactly what you’re doing now, was the consensus. And they were probably right.
I said I felt unlucky. That if only I avoided this one super rare incident, I’d be living a totally healthy life now, and my problems would just be topical spiritual conundrums circa 2017 and 2018. I could have just coasted until I was 60, developed an old-person’s disease, and died the “normal” way.
My friend, who has worked in emergency rooms and hospitals and has seen all the horrid ways people die, remarked that it’s quite a misconception that people think they will live healthy until 60, then suddenly develop a disease and die. Nope, he said—it’s not sudden. It rarely happens like that. You’re never too young to get a head start. We’re all constantly just…dying.
And these are the kind of thoughts I entertain myself with today.
In looking back at my posts, I saw there were large 6-month gaps of no writings, which could have helped me identify who I was then and what I was struggling with, to help me understand today how different I am from the person I was then—with the hope that I am still perhaps who I’ve always been. So I decided to write this checkpoint.
2021 was me coming to terms with the uncertainty of an “earlier than expected” death.
2022 is at least me writing about it.