Eighteen

“Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap” – Defying Gravity, Wicked

Eighteen years ago, I came into this world screaming and kicking. Now, as I lay in bed, about to turn eighteen, I can’t help but watch my life play like a film through my head. And I can’t help but feel proud of what I’ve overcome. But, at the same time, I also realize the mountains I still must climb. And I can’t help but to continue to wonder what my purpose is in this world and where I belong.

Eighteen years ago, I was born in Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital all messy, crooked, screwed up, and far from fitting into any mold. I was diagnosed with a rare syndrome known as VACTERL, which is a cute and wonderful acronym for organs of the body that are often affected with the syndrome. In order to be diagnosed with VACTERL, one must have at least three of the seven letters. Being my usual lucky self, I was blessed with five of the special letters. My heart, spine, trachea, esophagus, and hand were affected. Because of these problems, I’ve had more surgeries than I can count and have faced challenges that many people I know could never imagine.

As I prepare to turn eighteen in just a few hours, I inevitably end up reflecting on how far I’ve come. It was only eighteen years ago, when I was a helpless baby hooked up to countless wires, fighting for my life. And now look at me! I’m about to start my senior year of high school! I’m writing college essays, making lists of dream schools, and I’m slowly finding my place in this world. I’m slowly learning to accept who God made me to be. It’s sad, though, that even after so many years, I struggle at times to look into the mirror, to not want to hide parts of myself when I’m in a crowd, and to believe that I’m beautiful. I still struggle to ignore the stares or the ignorant, rude comments. It’s been so many years, and I still try to avoid looking at the scars that decorate my back and my chest.

But through the years, I have learned that what’s inside is what is truly beautiful. I’ve found that learning to love myself is far more important than longing to be like everyone else. I’m slowly learning to not care what people think. As I’ve gained more confidence throughout the years, I’ve gained more happiness. I like the person I am. And I’m excited. I’m excited for the years to come. I’m excited to show everyone who has ever made me feel like absolutely nothing, that nothing can stop me.

I used to think God made a mistake. I used to ask why God would ever give me such a lousy deal. But, now I know, eighteen years later, that God made no mistake. Eighteen years ago, God sure as hell knew what He was doing. And, while it can still be difficult and at times I get really angry with the world, I wouldn’t change who I have become. And as the years continue to pass, I’ll continue to learn to accept the person I was made to be and make my mark on this world.

So until next year…

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