I wonder if the path is as lonely as I’ve been imagining, after all
As told to Rochel Samet
Twelfth grade advanced bio. Fun stuff.
Biology has actually become my favorite subject. Who would’ve guessed?
Today, Mrs. Strimber’s talking about joints, and what can cause joint issues.
Lupus, I think, but hold back.
“What’s that thing that old people get, you know...” someone calls out.
“Arthritis,” Chaviva says. “My grandmother has it pretty bad. Ouch,” she shudders.
I don’t stop to think. “It’s not only old people who get arthritis, you know,” I blurt out. “Kids can have it too.”
The class goes quiet. Tzirel Davis looks at me funny. “Really? Do you know any kids with arthritis?” Her tone is a little mocking.
Yes, I think, Me. Arthritis is a symptom of lupus. That’s why my wrists and knees get crazy when I have a flare.
But I don’t answer, just shrug and let my classmates debate the question.
“It’s true, girls.” Mrs. Strimber is smiling slightly. “Libby’s right. Arthritis is not limited to the elderly, although we tend to think of it that way.”
She continues talking, and I feel my cheeks cool again.
It’s okay, I tell myself. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
I leave the class feeling strangely at peace.
My life, I realize, is like a moonwalk. It’s about falling hard and bouncing back, about catching my breath and riding the waves, it’s a story of resilience and strength, of despair and triumph, of courage and hope.
It’s about finding the silvery shine of moonlight in the ups and downs of a journey on a lonely path.
Then I wonder if the path is as lonely as I’ve been imagining, after all.
I think of my parents, their struggle to walk beside me, to understand. How they’ve made my challenges theirs, showing unconditional support as we fumble in the darkness.
I think of my siblings, how they try to make things right, each in their own way. How they’ve absorbed the shock waves of my moonwalk life, bouncing along, sometimes even managing to make me smile.
I think of Shaindy, teaching me to land gracefully, get to my feet again, and reach for the stars.
The path I walk might be unique, strewn with obstacles that most people can’t understand. But I’m not alone. I never was. I just had to find the support, the hands extended, that were waiting for me.
And I realize one more thing: Mrs. Goldfein was right. I am a hero.
Because heroism is not all about puffs of sparkly inspiration, rainbows and glitter and smiles and limitless faith. It’s so much more than that.
It’s about being okay with not being okay. Accepting myself, my reality, my challenges, my life. And yes, it’s about feeling, feeling anger and pain and resentment and grief — and then getting up again, trying again, moving on. It’s about the tiny victories that light the path ahead just enough to take one more step forward.
And suddenly, I know exactly what I need to do next.
The hallways are bustling, lunch period is just beginning. I squeeze through the throngs of girls heading to the lunchroom. Mrs. Goldfein’s office is in the opposite direction.
She’ll be surprised to see me, considering my vehement refusal to mentor the anonymous ninth grader a couple months back. But things have changed. I’ve changed.
I think back one year, to Chaim’s engagement, when everything began. The dizzying rush of symptoms, appointments and disappointments, negative results and despair. Diagnosis and steroids, medications and flare-ups, infusions and IVs and doctors and diets and trial and error and trying again.
My journey is far from over. We’re still waiting to hear results, if I’ll be switching medications, and I’ve been through enough to know that there will be many more ups and downs to brave on the moonwalk called my life. But there’s no reason for me not to reach out now, extend a hand to a girl who’s been thrust on a similar, painful path — and then, we can journey in the moonlight together.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 824)
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