By Soraya Keizer
Zooming in on I-94 in my family’s blue 2010 Toyota, I hadn’t felt so happy in months. Lake Michigan to my left. The port of Milwaukee to my right. Cage The Elephant’s “Social Cues” howling through the speakers. It was my first dose of independence in five weeks.
The summer that was supposed to be my plunge into the adult world had unexpectedly turned into a regression towards the sick days of college. Expected on. Driven everywhere. Meals were brought to me in bed. And there was always this underlying feeling of i should do more. Because during those five weeks, I felt like I wasn’t living, I just existed.
Earlier this summer, I was to take a flight south to Fort Myers, Florida for a story-writing internship at a tropical non-profit farm. I was going to explore a new state with my friend Makenzi, eat ripe lychee and take a trip to the Everglades.
In other words, it was supposed to be Soraya’s summer.
A week before I left, I felt a pinch in my knee and had an MRI. The day before my flight, I was told I needed to have the surgery right away, otherwise I would have early arthritis by the age of 25. I would have to have a total ACL reconstruction, meniscus repair and let my torn MCL supposedly heal on its own. At first I said I would take the arthritis, but after Dr Lester vindicated me and wiped away my tears, we set a date for the operation.
Instead of sunbathing on the beach, arguing over crocodiles and whatever the folks do in Florida, I was high on hydrocodone and ibuprofen, watching “Downton Abbey” and trying to climb the stairs back with the help of my crutches. Every night I colored my mood tracker orange. Orange means a very bad day.
I’m the kind of person who likes to be busy. That’s all I’ve known. During my freshman year at Bethel, I quickly built up five different jobs, 17 credits per semester, and a desire to meet everyone. I thought it was success.
So when the only things that filled my days were physiotherapy exercises and my dog’s petting, I felt horrible. Depressed. Like I’m wasting my potential.
And as my body stopped, my brain seemed to be going to double. What classes should I take in the spring? I should start applying for the 2022 summer internships now. What 10 hobbies can I become an expert at while I’m sitting here in this bed all day? I should learn how to do winged eyeliner like I always wanted to. The kind that stretches in such a smooth line that it doesn’t seem humanly possible to do so. Do I finally have to master Adobe Premiere? Or what about Adobe Photoshop? I guess I could always redownload Candy Crush if I get really desperate.
I think our society links activity to self-esteem, and that’s why I felt worthless. The more things we have to do, the more important we seem. Stress hurts our bodies, and we are proud of it.
“I only slept four hours last night.
âI didn’t have time for lunch today.
“I cried as I wrote my paper, then returned it to Moodle two minutes before the due date.”
I took a twisted sort of pride in these complaints.
So I had to learn to rest. And once I accepted that I couldn’t do anything about the bionic knee brace attached to my leg, I started enjoying my summer.
One day I made a collage from old magazines and reviewed 12 episodes of “New Girl”. Another day I sat in the sand by Lake Michigan and read my book on Anthropocene Extinction until the clouds turned pink and the light faded. Another day my physiotherapy appointment was exciting because I was finally able to bend my knee.
A friend of mine told me that it could have been a sign from God telling me to slow down. I think she was right.