Another First Day of School
“Hi, my name is Justin. And I’m the token old guy.”
I was thankful the line got laughs. I wasn’t quite sure exactly how else to break the ice. You would think that my fourth time back in school would exert continually lesser degrees of anxiety, but absence isn’t kind to expectation.
“I’m an EMAC [emerging media and communications] major and the poster boy for not taking school for granted,” I continued.
A classroom full of over 30 students stared in silence as the thoughts of exactly what to say raced through my head. Like an attempt to navigate through an extensive resume’, a summary of surmounted challenges becomes more difficult to communicate over time. I never know what, how much, or how little to say about my experiences until I feel like I’ve said too much, or not enough.
As a seven year survivor of a seemingly chronic form of blood cancer, you’d think I’d have my story perfectly packaged and wrapped by now, and that, at any given moment, I’d be ready to hand it over to anyone who asks. Much like an initial attempt to fill out a bio on any social media profile, however, a majority of time is spent asking the question, where do I begin?
This return to school felt different than the last. I’m sometimes reluctant to believe that all of the cancer-induced obstacles have been dismantled and completely removed from my life. I’m supposed to be moving on, but like the unresolved ending to a deep and emotionally invested relationship, my memory has been tied to the strong emotion of an intangible experience that defines closure as impermissible.
Now the challenge is about navigating through murkier waters and learning to balance a world full of expectations with one where expectation doesn’t exist. This is quite possibly the greatest challenge of them all.