For eleven months, all I’ve been dreaming of is getting my life back— in particular, going back to work and being able to have a drink. I’ve said it time and time again, and that time is finally here. And it’s really, really….weird. Going back to work last week was overwhelming and exciting all at the same time. I was so thrilled to be back in the “real” world (however I’d argue that my life has been pretty real this past year) but I had forgotten that the real world isn’t exactly what I had cracked it up to be. Back to cube land, back to meetings, back to traffic, back to getting up early and getting home late, back to work clothes and no pajamas. I had gotten very used to my life revolving around cancer, revolving around being as healthy as I could be, focusing solely on myself and getting better. My days were lonely and boring but in a way, I had grown accustomed to it. So getting back into the grind of working is proving to be more difficult than I had expected. Everything just feels different. Physically, the day tires me out much more than it ever has and since I’m still going through chemo, there’s things like achey-ness and headaches that I have to learn how to just push through. What’s more is that my mindset has shifted so much from where I was a year ago. I feel so lucky to be here, so grateful to be alive and able to go to work. However, this feeling like I’ve been given a second chance at life is a bit overwhelming. I want to make a difference in the world and help other people as so many people have helped me. Instead, I do social media for a company that makes billions of dollars a year, so in reality I’m just helping the rich get richer. I am so grateful to still have a job but I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around going back to a work life where nothing has changed while everything in my life has changed so drastically.
The beauty, however, of the working world is the pure bliss that the weekends give you. After one short week, I was quickly reminded of just how rewarding a Friday night on the couch with a glass of red wine feels. Wait, wine?!?! Yup! I am able to have some drinks again and it feels ahhhh-mazing! Saturday night we went to a bar for Mike’s birthday with a bunch of friends. As I was dancing around in the bathroom while I got ready, I realized how excited I was to go “out.” How just the act of doing my hair and makeup, something I’ve often complained about in the past, was making me so genuinely happy. I hadn’t gotten to go out like a normal 25 year old in almost a year and that night, I was getting to do that. It was SO fun to have fun.
The past week and a half has been a whirlwind of old experiences with a new attitude. And that attitude is gratitude. Gratitude that i’ve made it this far. Gratitude that I was able to go back to work, to have a drink with friends, to workout at the gym, to exercise at all, to eat normally again…that I’m able to have a life again. i’ve still got a long road ahead of me and a lot of work to do but I’ve come a long way. I’ve got myself a new normal and I’m just going to have to get used to it.
Today was my first day back to the working grind. It was for sure a mix of emotions. It felt just like the first day of high school, I was anxious all day yesterday, could barely sleep last night and then the day came. I had trouble getting myself out of bed in the morning, not because I was too tired but because I felt so overwhelmed at what the day would bring. But get out of bed I did and to Framingham I headed. As I walked into my cube this morning, everything was just how I had left it 11 months ago. The new 2014 calendar was still up, “Punta Cana vacation” highlighted March 7-14, cereal in my drawers, and my trusty heating pack still sitting on my desk as I had been using it to help ease my back pain (soon to find out it wasn’t exactly “back pain.”) It was surreal. Nothing had changed but everything had changed. I’ve worked 11 months to get back to where I sat today, I’ve gone through what feels like hell and back to get my life back. But it hit me as I sat there at 5:30 with the lights starting to dim that I’m not getting my old life “back.” I’ve got a new one, a very different one than the one I had left. One that is filled with much hope, determination, fear, anxiety, love and fight. I still have a long way to go, about 15 months more of treatment to be exact. There will be good days and there will be bad days, but as Mike reminded me last night, if I can get through what I’ve been put through in the past year, I can make it through a few stressful and tiring days of work. Just need to put my head down and tough it out. I might be be small and fragile looking on the outside, but I’m a warrior princess on the inside. And warrior princesses can do just about anything.
So tomorrow, I’ll be back at it again…back in my cube, back in meetings, back on emails and back on social media but I’m back with a little chip on my shoulder and a lot of things to prove, not just to my colleagues but myself.