Image of confident woman walking from right to left with a ghost version trying to hold her back

Golden Years, Re-Written

I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 20.

At the time, I had an “A” plan. I was going to finish my undergraduate degree. I would clock more internship hours and exactly a year later, return for veterinary school. After that, I would relocate to Britain, India or New Zealand (hey, I need options!). I was going to work with endangered species through a conservation group. I was going to work until I couldn’t anymore which was hopefully, never.

I had it down. I was ready for my adult life to start.

My body had other plans.

Around 19, I noticed odd symptoms. I was extremely fatigued and painful. I should have known there was something else going on but at the time, I thought I was just frustrated and unhappy. I had a tough time my second year of college. I was learning the same things I did in high school and I didn’t really enjoy it anymore. I thought the previous symptoms were a manifestation of my boredom.

Career and rheumatoid arthritis

Let me just quickly say that I want to go to vet school. I re-started my job as a technician and I loved every second of it. I want to work with animals, I want to diagnose them, and I want to make them feel better. I want to work with the pet parents and help them understand and make tough decisions. I want it all.

But, I can’t. At least, not now. I struggle to work full time. How can I go to vet school? Aside from the obvious full day plus more, we have to manage our own animals and learn surgical procedures. How am I supposed to do those when I don’t have the strength or dexterity to open a jar?

Rheumatoid Disease changed my life and I became depressed. I HAD EVERYTHING PLANNED OUT. Whether that is a good or bad thing I don’t know but I knew my goals and how to get them. Not anymore. I didn’t know who I was.

What happens now?

The idea of doing what I loved until I ended up a pile of ashes vanished. What would happen to me in my later years, anyways? If my body acted out at 20 years, in what state would I be at 65? 75? 90?

Enjoying a fun, carefree retirement, sipping cocktails poolside (not actually what I envision, just painting a picture here) seemed completely unattainable. How was I going to get to this dream state if I couldn’t pull a 9 to 5er?

It took some soul-searching and re-writing but I swapped my goals. I’ve actually spent my 20s enjoying my life, exploring my hobbies, saving my money and working as I can. Ever since I was 11 and decided on “veterinarian” I held a crystal ball. I knew my future. When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Disease my poor swollen joints dropped that very precarious china and my life shattered in front of my eyes.

If you’ve ever tried to patch something up from a million pieces you know either it’s impossible or it is never quite the same as before.

If vet school is even an option, I don’t know. If it is, I won’t be going when I am 23 years old but in my late 30s or 40s! There is nothing wrong with that. It’s just different. It’s life.

I had to change mine so I did. I don’t know what my later years hold. I may be disabled, maybe I won’t be but all I know right now is that I should enjoy my life while my condition is under control and I have every opportunity open to me.

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