Allow me to use the above photograph to make a crappy analogy. See how there are a bunch of streams shooting from the bottom of the fountain into the raised pool? See that one stream that doesn’t quite have the power to make it up to the top? That stream is me. And while all the other streams are happily arching upwards and filling the pool, I just keep slamming against the wall. I fall short of everyone else.
I used to daydream a lot. About what my life could be and the things I could do. When I was younger and more idealistic, I had this dream that I would work for Right to Play, an organization that helps disadvantages areas around the world through sport. I dreamt of going off to “Africa”, kicking a soccer ball around with the kids, and helping the adults better govern their communities. I also dreamt that I would write a book about my experiences in “Africa” and that it would be a huge success. By the way, I keep putting the word Africa in quotation marks because I used to have (and to an extent still do have) that Western superiority complex that bunches all African nations, no matter how diverse they may be, into one entity that needs to be saved.
These were all very pie-in-the-sky ambitions. I had no real qualifications, no real plan as to how I would get involved, and no real understanding of what exactly needed to be done on the ground. I just figured I liked sports and I wanted to help poor people, so why not do something that involved both realms.
My dream of an African odyssey died long ago, when I was shitting my pants with blood during my second year at the University of Toronto. Even if I somehow got my ulcerative colitis in check, would it be wise to travel to Africa while taking immune suppressing drugs? Would it be wise to run around while on bone density-killing steroids? Would it be wise to eat exotic foods while my colon recovered from an onslaught of ulcers? No, no, and no. Someone else will have to help the poor African children, I can’t stop bleeding from my anus.
After my diagnosis, I scaled back my fantastical visions of the future. I tried to focus on recovering my health and excelling at university. Looking back now, I realize that I put in the work at U of T for the sake of learning and achieving good grades, without any real idea of what I would do with myself after graduation. I may have graduated with high distinction, but I’m not a smart guy.
As I sat beside the fountain at the Eaton Centre yesterday and noticed that one misfiring stream, I realized that my ambitions are pretty mundane – find a full-time job, find place of my own, buy a car, run regularly. Nothing special, and nothing particularly valuable. While all of the other streams are aiming high, I’m struggling just to be average. That’s what happens when your health takes a serious blow. Lofty goals seem juvenile and overblown. Normality becomes a goal, and achieving even that seems like a long shot when you’re in pain every day and your innards need to be rearranged. Again.
Before I developed UC, I thought I could be better than average. I’d been handed a pretty decent lot in life, and my kicking-a-ball-around-an-African-safari dreams reflected a belief that I could and should take advantage of my privileges. Now I really don’t know what to think of my future or what I ought to strive for.