I’ve managed to last over a month now at my new job without getting fired. Hooray! Not only am I still employed full-time, but I’ve also managed to continue my freelance contributions to a couple of other companies. In my full-time role as a communications coordinator, I get to actually put my pricey university degree to work. I have a chance to write, edit, post social media updates, maintain a website, and design print material. It’s that last task that I enjoy the most, because I get to do some creative, artsy sort of work, and because I can actually see and hold something that I designed. I may not have been the one to print and crop the finished product, but I can hold up a brochure or a poster or an informational handout and say, “I made this.”
When I was in university, I took a few courses on graphic and information design, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. After I graduated, I applied for design-related jobs and internships, but nothing materialized. I realized that I didn’t know enough to be a designer; my degree not having centered on design, but writing. I always hoped that one day – and this is still a dream of mine – I would be able to write a book and design graphics for it so that I could present information both visually and through stories. That dream is on the shelf for now, but at least in my present job I get to work on my design skills. If I manage to get this blog in better shape, I’ll be able to work on my writing skills too.
A friend of mine from university, Dave, once posted a quote on one of his social media profiles by Chuck Palahniuk that read, “The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” That idea has really stuck with me, and even though my book (the one I’ve already published, not the dream project), my blog, and now my design work may not exist until the end of time, they may endure for a little bit longer than I will, and that’s pretty cool.
I went well over a year between full-time jobs, and in that time I felt like a waste of space on an already overcrowded and overtaxed planet. Work offers so much more than income, especially to those who for whatever reason have been unable to work for any stretch of time. It offers a chance to add to the world, rather than just draw from it. It offers a chance to flex your mind and sharpen your abilities. It offers a chance (in some cases, anyway) to feel pride when you hold up a finished product that you made yourself. It offers a chance to feel self-worth. And yes, it does offer a paycheque, which makes it possible to live with autonomy.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking about where I was at this time last year: I was doing a little bit of work from home, and I had a drainage tube removed from my butt cheek, but I still had a wound below my navel that needed dressing, and I still had a sunken-in ostomy that seared my skin and forced me to endure wince in pain every day. I was waiting on a doctor’s appointment which would then allow me to wait on a surgery date. I was angry. I was sad. I was rueful.
It’s not as though everything’s so fucking wonderful now, but I’m less pissy and mopey now than I was back then, and maybe even a little proud of how I managed to last up to this point. My pelvic pouch isn’t the easiest organ to live with, but it’s held up pretty well through my first month on the job. It still causes some discomfort when it fills up, it still takes a while to thoroughly empty, and it still occasionally wakes me up in the middle of the night, but overall, it’s better than a bleeding, overactive colon.
A few weeks ago, I was asked whether I was happy with my decision to have surgery. My answer then, as it is now, is that I don’t know. I still wonder if other treatments would have been easier on and more effective for my body than slashing out a vital organ. I wonder if I’d be able to run and work and live with more comfort and fewer bathroom breaks. I wonder, and I always will, but there’s nothing I can do to reverse my decision now. I’m not thrilled with my choice to have surgery, but I’m less regretful about it, because I feel like I’m moving towards a version of myself that I can be content with; one that may not be as free and easy as the one I had before my body was hit by ulcerative colitis, but one that will let me work towards achieving self-worth. And I suppose that’s progress.