It’s a really hard question for me to answer. I got sick around the same time I came of age. I first started noticing symptoms around my second to last year of high school but didn’t start seeing a physician until the summer between high school and college. It’s a period of life where a lot of things are changing. So, sure, illness changed a lot of what that looked like. But it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s different.
In one of my favorite movies, one of the minor characters explains that archaeology is more than just finding bones. She notes that people of the past left so much of themselves for us to find. While there are always a lot of gaps, she’s fascinated by what is left, by what endures.
That notion resonates in my heart a lot. It’s what remains that matters. That’s the core of who you are. Nothing and no one can take that away.
So here’s a list of things that I’ve noticed have stayed the same for me:
- Writing letters: I love writing letters. When I was in junior high, I used to consider writing letters my ministry. I wrote to as many as 10 friends a month!! Now I’m part of a postcard swap on Ravelry, I write my friends who are missionaries twice a month, and I still write my grandmother once a month.
- Quiet observer: I’ve always been the quiet observer. I’ve never been the loud person at the center of the conversation. But I’m taking in all sorts of context clues, so I remember lots of little details later. I can figure out what a person’s favorite color is by looking through pictures on facebook or find out if my cousin is engaged by asking the right people the right questions.
- Listening: I love listening to other people tell their stories. I always have. In fact, I’m primarily an aural learner. That means it’s really easy for me to become friends with people who are talkers. It matches my love for history. It’s made me a great student, someone who can listen to doctors or friends or whoever. It also means I have a lot of empathy. And I am on the phone a lot!
- Organized: I have always been extremely organized. I sort through information really easily. I always have numbered lists and I know how information is related to each other. I’m still extremely organized — just about different things than before.
- Heart for people: I’ve always had a heart for people. When I was younger, it was my imaginary friends in primary school or the sick children I read about in books. Now I’m the girl writing to the young man injured in the Boston bombing or praying for her doctor’s child.
- Sickness: I have never been interested in medical care. When I was in high school, I volunteered at a hospital because my parents made it sound like it was mandatory. I found the only place where I could avoid sick people altogether — Employee Health. It was all about making sure people were healthy!! But I’ve always had a huge heart for the afflicted. I’m not really sure why. But it definitely comes in handy now. Here are some of my favorite books from childhood: Curious George Goes to the Hospital by H.A. Ray; Born to Trot by Marguerite Henry (where the main character wants to ride a horse in the races but winds up in a convalescent home for children; my sister was obsessed with horses but Born to Trot was the only book by Henry that I read more than once); The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (where Colin “suffers” from a hunchback & Mary from neglect); The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney (multiple characters in that book get very sick); Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (at least one of the girls Hitty watches over gets sick). And my favorite part about Clara Barton was that she nursed her big brother David for two years until he regained all his strength.
- Faith in God: My faith in God and His goodness has fluctuated over the years. But it hasn’t fluctuated with my health. I’ve always had the sense that even in the worst of scenarios, He’s providing for me. He may be hiding behind the scenes, but He always shows me that He is there.
Just a few things for me that have stayed the same through sickness and health,