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Support in Unlikely Places

Support in Unlikely Places

A very interesting thing happened to me a few weeks ago: I attended my 10-year high school reunion. First of all, I am not old enough for this reunion. Second, where has the time gone? If you’ve read my previous articles you’ll know the answer – I spent most of it asleep! (Embrace the nap – I certainly do!)

I was worried

I worried for months, days, hours leading to this one three-day event. I’m sure there were much better uses of my time but I couldn’t help it. The logical side of me knew I’d have a blast reconnecting with old friends. The emotional side of me was a different story. I thought I would be a decade behind my peers. Through the rose-colored glasses called social media, I saw my friends starting relationships, finishing graduate schools and beginning careers. Me on the other hand, deferred school, withdrew socially and started from scratch with work.

But first, let me paint you a picture because sure, I have had my triumphs and I am proud of what I have accomplished despite everything; yet, on paper it doesn’t feel like much…

I went to a highly competitive private school. Read: an all-girls school. We were closely affiliated with a major religious institution and lived on the same campus as the co-ed elementary and brother school. The girls competed heavily against each other for grades, extra-curriculars, and relationships which basically made everything a contest. We were taught our educational degrees, our awards, and our recognitions made us successful. We needed to be top of the pack in everything.

Time for the reunion

So, ten years later, I was about to re-enter the lion’s den without anything to offer except a debilitating illness. Compared to my peers I was a failure.

I used my cane the first night because it was a long event and there was quite a bit of walking. I put extra effort into my appearance and hobbled in with a smile. I know I could have walked better without the assistance but I was thinking ahead.

I didn’t expect people to jeer at me or show pity. I’ve known the majority of my classmates since I was five years old (and they know how I feel about pity)! That being said, I didn’t expect the overwhelming amount of support I received from almost everyone. Sure, people looked at the cane curiously and asked a few questions. But, mostly, people congratulated me on what I had accomplished in spite of the Rheumatoid Arthritis.

At the end the day we are still young. From what I’ve experienced (and please don’t take offence) young people are ignorant. In our 20s we think everything should be fun and carefree. Rheumatoid Arthritis, well, any autoimmune condition, is not exactly a stroll in the park (maybe pun intended). Twenty-somethings don’t want complications. We don’t understand disability or the hardship because we just haven’t lived long enough.

I learned a lot from this experience

First, I can’t control how others see me. I can do the best I can and hold myself to a high standard. Second, we are almost 30 but we are still trying to figure things out. None of us entered this weekend saying “my life is all set”. Our 20s are for exploration and learning about ourselves. After all this is the first time…ever? we may not be in school!

Third, and most importantly, even though my path is different from my classmates I am by no means falling behind. In a matter of months my life changed dramatically. Everything I thought I knew was ripped away and I had to start over. Given I only had eight years to come up with something great I think I did a fabulous job! And hey, maybe someone is looking at my social media and saying “Wow… Look what Monica has done with the past 10 years!”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    1 year ago

    Bravo! You have learned more in your 20’s than many learn in their entire lives. And you are teaching your friends how to deal with whatever life throws at you. You show remarkable maturity for your age, and you have RA to “thank” for that. Keep going and know that this community is cheering for you!

  • Donaldjbryan
    1 year ago

    Great story. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you so much, @Donalddjbryan!! I am really happy you liked my article 🙂 ~Monica

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    1 year ago

    I am sure someone is looking at you and thinking wow what a wonderful life she has. I know that during the 40 year HS reunion surely someone… envi…. OK no one envied me, but surely someo…

    Naw we did not have a 40 or 30 or 20 or even 10 year reunion. I do recall at five years tow of us met drank beer and talked about cars and something, (I really do not remember).

    Surely it was about economics class – maybe.

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