The summer after my freshman year of college, I got my tonsils out. It was the worst pain I’d ever known in my life thus far, and never again do I want to relive the two weeks it took to recover. If you got your tonsils out when you were five, you may think I’m over exaggerating the pain, but I want to punch you (lovingly) in the face and say, “Oh, naïve one, it is quite a lot different when you have adult tonsils and get them out at age nineteen.”
Also, the people that comment, “Oh, you are so lucky! You get to sit at home and eat ice cream every day!” are more annoying, because that is not at all something to be joyful about because it is all a lie. You are not even supposed to eat ice cream or any dairy because it does something to your throat where it makes it swell or something that makes it even harder for you to swallow.
So I ate nothing but popsicles for two weeks. Which turns out is a great way to lose twenty pounds, which would actually be exciting because I was able to fit into my favorite capris that I wore when I was a seventh grader, but it’s less exciting because you gain all the weight back and then some very quickly after you are able to eat solid food again.
And then there was the whole “sitting at home not being able to do anything” part. You see, when scheduling my surgery, I must have confused myself with Wonder Woman because I only asked four days off to allow for recovery. The fifth day came and I was feeling no improvement whatsoever. I tried to go back to work but then I almost passed out, so that stupid of me. So I spent two weeks not really showering much, not bringing home any bacon, wanting to cry at the thought of eating bacon, and eating popsicle after popsicle until I never wanted to look at popsicles again.
I tried eating a slushie, which sounded refreshing because it was also July at the time. My best guy friend brought it to me. And I projectile vomited the entire red slushie everywhere. That’s generally not the most appealing time in your life and you definitely don’t want to have people see you like that, but when you have great friends, they will sit in your room with you and talk to you even though you are only able to respond by writing in down or texting it to them. That’s what friendship looks like.
That friendship was built over spending weekends together at the bowling alley. Buying ranch fries after a breakup and sitting at a baseball game. Making fun of his yellow shirt that he found randomly; he says he found it in his house, but secretly you know he found it in some trash heap. That friendship would be something you would depend on, and so when you find yourself not only not friends anymore, but actually more like complete strangers, it is a little hard to take in.
Unlike the other times when you’d drifted apart but somehow always found your way back to each other again, you know this time is different. You know this time he is choosing to have nothing to do with you. So if you run into each other, you make awkward conversation about Chinese food, but it’s nothing more than mere small talk about the weather, similar to conversations you have with complete strangers while in the Post Office or waiting in the checkout lane in Target.
So maybe life takes turns you don’t expect, but it doesn’t have to make you cry every time you think about the changes. Maybe you can hold your memories like mental photographs. They become a part of you. It’s not that when the moment has passed, there is a part of you missing. It’s all the little parts that become who you are. So that even when you look down at your feet and find yourself standing somewhere different than you thought you’d be, you know that everything has shaped you. It’s become so engraved into who you are, you don’t shed it off like dead skin. You wear it underneath the protection of your ribs, and it beats in your head like your heart.
Here’s my thank you and goodbye, because you in life, you’ll find yourself needing to say both.