Rasheed 1.0 lasted 21 years, as it was a pretty good version. It was full of the promise and potential of youth; several identity crises through the unstable teenage years; a stretch of fatness and poor eating followed by lots of running and better dietary choices to rid my body of said fatness; and no sign of that horrible chronic disease known as ulcerative colitis.
Rasheed 2.0 was a major overhaul. His upgrade came complete with a move from Toronto to Halifax. He no longer needed to live under someone else’s roof, he held a full-time job as a traffic reporter and base manager, and he felt a real sense of freedom for the first time in his life.
Then he started shitting blood 30 times a day.
Ulcerative colitis was the unexpected bug in Rasheed 2.0. It caused a myriad of user complaints: fatigue, anger, (unwanted) weight loss, fear, and sadness.
Some minor fixes (read: medication) allowed Rasheed 2.1 to regain most of his usual functionality. This version also came with a move back to Ontario to begin an undergraduate program at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. A better user experience would have been possible if the move to Toronto did not require moving back in with his dad and uncle, but a U of T degree doesn’t come cheap.
Rasheed 2.1 functioned well for a time. He graduated with high distinction from UTM, and even left school with a published book of short stories to his name. However, this version was starting to break down as ulcerative colitis took greater control. Medications stopped working, alternative treatments failed, and specialty diets proved ineffective. To make things worse, Rasheed 2.1 had a hard time finding decent, stable, full-time work.
Rasheed 2.2 required a major overhaul – a colectomy. The surgery to remove his colon and create a pelvic pouch came with a number of complications, and it took many months of pain and rage and frustration and sorrow to finally show its worth as an upgrade. Eventually, colon-less Rasheed adjusted to his new firmware and was able to secure a full-time job.
While the ability to hold down a regular job was a marked improvement over past iterations of myself, I still needed an update. One that would let me recapture at least a sliver of the happiness that came with living alone. I needed to move out again and live independently because years of being not only a dependent, but an outright burden, made me miserable. I needed to prove to myself more than anyone else that I could survive in self-sufficiency. And so we arrive at Rasheed 3.0, a newly independent version, but one that still needs more testing to work out the glitches.
At the beginning of this month, I moved from Toronto to Mississauga. My new apartment is a 20-minute drive from my dad’s house where I used to live, so it’s not as big a move as I would have liked, but it’s big enough to grant me some autonomy. In addition to my desire for freedom, I wanted to move to within walking distance from my workplace. My new apartment checks both those boxes. Grocery stores, banks, clinics, pharmacies, and other amenities are all within walking distance, which is great since I love to walk and don’t have a car.
Overall, I’m glad I’m where I am now, but a few things still feel… off. Which is why Rasheed 3.0 is still in beta.
Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” If nobility does indeed lie in building and improving upon your past self, I haven’t achieved it.
When I compare this version of myself to previous ones, I can say that I have made strides forward since my struggles with UC and the resulting surgery, but I don’t feel anywhere near as capable or successful or happy as that version of me who lived in Halifax before UC hit. That version had a bright apartment with a tremendous view; a job with a bit of cachet; the ability to run a dozen kilometers without ever thinking of shitting; and above all, the feeling that it was genuinely possible to achieve more in life. That feeling eludes me now.
Perhaps I’m just less naïve now about what it truly takes to reach significant achievements. And I don’t mean trite achievements like getting married and having children, but, you know, valuable ones. Achievements that allow one to express and share ideas, to exhibit creativity and curiosity, and to create something or do something that makes an impact on people far beyond my circle of family and friends.
I know now that those sorts of achievements take colossal expenditures of time and effort. That’s truly daunting, especially to someone who spent the good part of four years battling a failing body and a distraught mind just to land an average job and move into a mediocre apartment. And while I have a shorter and more enjoyable commute now, between cooking, cleaning, shopping, visits to keep up appearances, and phone calls to appease people, I feel like I still don’t have much time to do the things that will heighten my worth as a human being.
Scraps of hope
Roughly two years ago, I was in bed at Mount Sinai Hospital with a tube in my right buttock, an IV in my left wrist, a bag over my ping pong ball-sized ostomy, and a dressing over a penny-shaped wound below my navel. I tried to stave off the sadness of the situation and regret of opting for surgery by looking online at artworks related to my favourite football club, Arsenal. I imagined framed prints of Highbury Stadium, the invincibles team of 2004-04, and infographics about the team’s stats hanging on a white wall in an apartment above a black sofa on a hardwood floor. I imagined how I would decorate that apartment of my own, and how when it was complete, I would be able to come home to a quiet, empty place at the end of a day spent at work.
The apartment I have now is not as idyllic, but it’s a step up from my room in 14 North at Mount Sinai Hospital. That’s at least provided some hope for the future. Moving out on my own for a second time wasn’t fun or exciting. It was overdue. It was a relief. It was a mundane goal that took a long time to fulfill. But at least it’s done, and maybe being independent again will let me take more ownership of other aspects of my life that I’ve been passive on for too long. If and when I do, Rasheed 3.0 will be released to the public.
The photo above was taken on one of my walks home from work.