January is typically a month of renewal. A time to start fresh, to look back and appreciate or quietly tuck away memories from the previous year. The days are getting longer, the sun a little brighter and those milestones suspended in the light of the winter solstice get a little closer.
I’ve been living with RA for about 12 years. I never saw myself as having RA. Way back when I was looking forward at my life, how it was, how I imagined it would be, I never saw how it would change and or that I would appreciate it even more when it did. I never saw myself as getting older or slowing down – such is the beautiful rawness of being young.
I had big plans for my life, big dreams, and milestones I was determined to reach. RA put the breaks on that rocket through life and things changed, but not for the worse as it turned out – some things got better. Instead of sidelining my goals, it transformed them, and brought them closer into being. It expedited certain ambitions while allowing me to gently surrender the ones that no longer served me. The pace of my life has slowed but I am no less busy – in fact, I’ve worked harder, and been more productive at my job, in my art, my career and managing my disease. I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything – the accomplishments of the past, the memories of all my experiences are imprinted in my body and they will always be there, and nothing can take them away.
In some ways things haven’t really changed – I still think the same way, I still have the same desires, passions, and curiosity about life. I still try to move at the speed of light, even though I have a body that is constantly fighting to keep up.
As I move into mid-life with RA, I’m glad to be here. It’s a privilege to reach this stage, and still have the desire to chase my dreams and pluck them one by one from out of the sky. I’ve experienced success and disappointment, but I lived life my way, and I’ve done almost everything I wanted to do. It wasn’t easy, sacrifices were made, but I have lived, learned, lost my way, and found it again. Without those difficult memories, I wouldn’t be where I am today. RA didn’t hold me back from life – it reminded me why I must live it.
If it all ends tomorrow, I am content to say I lived exactly how I wanted – until that time there are still milestones to reach. Robert Frost said it best:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.