Two years ago, in the cold San Francisco summer of 2009, I found out I had sticky blood. Such sticky blood, in fact, that a finger-sized blood clot had formed in my chest just under my collar bone, cutting off blood supply on the right half of my body. Within a day of feeling an odd tingling in my hands, I found myself strung up in the emergency room, tiny wires threading through my veins in toward my heart and chest, weaving through my invisible vasculature system to get to the blood clot.
My body—this beautiful system, this interconnected being, this set of woven tissues—wasn’t working.
My doctor woke me up every hour for three days straight to make sure my heartbeat stayed above 30. My sister washed my hair, my nurse changed my pants. It was embarrassing, humbling, grace-giving, terrifying, illuminating.
On day five we elected for rib-removal surgery, and my vascular surgeon entertained me by describing his forays into the triathlon and open-water swimming world. I had been hungry to keep swimming, but at that time in my life I was working, working, chasing too much. I was … “busy.” What the hell is busy? One of the doctors cautioned me that if they cracked my chest open during the surgery, I might not be able to swim again.
Up until that point, I hadn’t cried.
Cue two years later: the summer of 2011, the time to make decisions. I decided to up the ante and go balls-to-the-wall with open-water swimming. I decided that I wanted to do it right now and not wait, because waiting is never a guarantee. I decided to put myself out there and meet as many people as possible and write as much as I could, even if it meant writing late into the evenings. I decided to change my job to something more suitable, by dreaming and scheming and working incessantly to build my design and writing portfolios. I decided to become an ass-kicker, take no prisoners, say ‘Yes’ more, and stop pansy-footing around. I decided that fuck it, we’re damn worth it, and if you don’t stand up for yourself…well then who the hell will do it for you?
I occasionally still stop by the doctor, making sure the systems in my body are working. When my hands tingle, I get scared. But it’s a great reminder.
Your life is precious. Unbelievably precious. It’s yours, and no one else’s, and you have to figure out what to do with it.
I am thankful, grateful, and feel unbelievably free. I can do whatever I want. The only thing holding me back is me.
Do something worth doing. And don’t wait.