I spent the first half of my adult life eagerly planning all of the things I wanted to do in my lifetime. At some point, that changed to sadly realizing there were many things I would never do in this lifetime. I'm not making excuses, but the combination of bipolar disorder and its surprises plus chronic pain plus lack of money add up to a whole lot of obstacles that I'm sure I can't overcome.
I would like to acknowledge that I got off to a good start.
- At 15, I traveled to Brazil for part of a summer. It was a short-term exchange, so although I stayed with someone else's parents, I wasn't there with my parents and that counts for a lot.
- At 17, I abandoned my train-wreck of a high school experience and went to Chile for a year. I learned that dysfunctional families are a univeersal truth.
- At 23, I interned at the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia. They gave me real work to do and I got to hear my words read on-air every day. I learned that I didn't want a career in network television, after all.
- At 26, I learned to fly hot air balloons, and I kept at it until I was 34.
- I've been to 40 states.
- I flew in an open-cockpit biplane, a Piper Cub, and various other small aircraft, including a free tag along on the air taxi from Erwinna, PA to Philadelphia.
- I made it to Puerto Rico and I went alone. Hiking in the rainforest was stunning.
- I made it to NYC for New Year's Eve. We skipped Times Square and watched the ball drop from our position up town. then we tunred around and faced the opposite direction and watched gorgeous fireworks herald the new year.
- I built a career, helped develop technologies people use every day with their cable television service (on-screen program guide, digital channel lineups, pay-per-view, and video on demand), and officially impressed the CEO of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world. He told me so on a short elevator ride.
- I learned how to properly shift a bicycle and trained myself to ride a minimum of 100 miles a week, alone and without avoiding the really big, scary hills.
- I lived alone successfully and contentedly.
- I learned to drive stick shift.
- I immersed myself in season tickets to the symphony.
- I relocated 1800 miles across the country to a place where I had a job, but no friends or familiar faces. My cats came with me, so that helped.
- At 34, I bought my first new car, and I did it without anyone's help.
- At 35, I learned to ski and I was on the blue runs by the next winter.
- I made a radical career change at 37.
- I earned my master's degree.
- At 38, I made it to Canada. It was my first time off of U.S. soil in 20 years and my last in a decade.
- Six weeks after knee surgery, I rode my bike most of the way up the highest continuous road in the U.S.
- I drove alone from New York to St. Petersburg, FL in a car that was rapidly preparing for its impending death.
- I drove most of the way across the U.S. and back.
- I met lots of celebrities, not that I was planning to.
- I started a sound and sustainable nonprofit organization in 2007. It has advocates nationwide.
- I created a blog, and then another and then two more. I successfully maintain three out of four. The fourth doesn't require much updating.
- In my early 40s, I started to experience the catastrophic dissolution of my mental and emotional health, yet never missed a day of work. I survived this tragedy. Barely.
- At 42, I got married. Finally.
- I got married above the tree line on the Continental Divide, on skis, in a wedding gown.
- I bought a house. My first house. This was very much on my life's to-do list, but I got there about 12 years later than I thought I would.
- I taught myself to make jewelry and frankly, I got very good at it very quickly. My pieces are beautiful.
- I made a good fried, a very good friend, from someone I met on the Internet. We live 800 miles and a couple of states away from each other, but we visit each other about every three months.
- I own four djembe drums and I know how to play them.
- I am learning to play the harmonica. I will succeed eventually, although my progress has been slowed by lithium-induced dry mouth.
So what was it I had hoped to do while all of that was going on? Let's talk about it tomorrow.
That's a pretty impressive list.
One of these days I'm going to write a post about why bipolar people are more awesome than non-bipolar people - the main reason being that our chemical wiring makes us think of and about things that neurotypical ppl can't. I had a therapist friend who once told me that she had never met a bipolar person with an IQ under 130. It's just the way we are. Bipolar takes a lot from us, too much sometimes, but I firmly believe it adds layers of creativity and brilliance to our lives.
When I do write that post, I would love to hold up your list here as Exhibit A.
You are truly awesome and I'm happy to read that so many of your achievements have been lauded. You deserve them.
Happy belated b-day.
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