In mid-November, just as I was emerging from the first trimester fog (otherwise known as “Jenni feels like a zombie every day”), I flew to Colorado for the annual American Speech and Hearing Association conference. It was the first time I attended, and it was an overwhelming blur of learning opportunities for me. I also led an hour long presentation on my case study – we shared what we’ve learned so far based on my experience in recovery from apraxia and how this fits in with the current research. I spent most of the week just trying to soak everything in.
Flying into and out of Colorado, I was a little surprised at how bland the landscape was. I was expecting a vista of majestic, snow-capped peaks to stare at while I squirmed uncomfortably in my window seat–avoiding thinking about the fact that I had to pee seemingly every five seconds. Yes, the joys of pregnancy are true (by the way, the snow-capped peaks didn’t show up until we were close to landing in Colorado, but they were, in fact, grand).
I do a lot of thinking on planes because I can’t ever seem to sleep on them. I was happy to head home, and flying back to Raleigh, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the area really is from the air. The trees were on fire with the colors of fall, and it always makes me a little sad that the fall leaves are so fleeting. My thoughts were wandering back to some time warp, as they tend to do, and I was thinking about the little fake plastic trees my dad used to have set up around his Lionel train set. From the air, the trees below looked just the same, and this sort of perspective made me oddly nostalgic. I knew that once I returned home, I would have to sort through all the vintage train sets littering our office–one of the last vestiges of cleaning out my parents’ house last year that we hadn’t gotten around to dispersing yet.
A couple of weeks after I returned from ASHA, I did just that. Paul loaded my car down with boxes of trains, and I drove to a little niche toy train store in Raleigh to see if they were interested. I stood there in this cramped little shop and couldn’t help but think how my dad would have loved to look around. Did you know they have not just miniature people to decorate your train set, they also come in sets with very odd themes, like “Disaster waiting to happen…” I kid you not.
The train store ended up buying all the trains, and I walked out with a much lighter car but also with a heavier heart. Since my dad died, I have had to give away, throw away, sell or otherwise get rid of more things than I can count. Things that I used to hold on to became mostly just objects, and while it’s freeing to rid oneself of extraneous material things, it’s still also hard to say goodbye.
I have become very good at saying goodbye.
That being said, in the past year, I have shed a lot of emotional weight this way (perhaps now to compensate for the increasing size of my midline?). Recently, Paul and I were walking the dogs, and he asked whether I would go back and change having had my accident.
Given that we all know how this story ends up now, it was hard to give an unbiased answer. But I said no. I would be kicked 20 more times and go through every part again if it meant that I could bring my dad back, but obviously this isn’t possible. Still, I wouldn’t change anything that happened because for the first time, I feel like I have a clear purpose.
Soon after my dad died in 2012, I found myself wanting to make some sort of change in my life, but I couldn’t identify what that might be. Since my accident, my path toward research in the speech field has been made clear. It’s gratifying to have a sense of direction. Now I just have to get myself there, and I am doing everything I can.
When I wrote my last post, I had just begun my application to a Speech and Hearing PhD program, though I didn’t share this.
I had also just found out that I am pregnant. Now as I type, I have submitted my application, and I am over 20 weeks along. Half way (let’s talk about how frightening and awesome this is in a later post)! I have felt every day like I should be knocking on wood – that I can’t be too excited about these exceedingly good things happening, because something bad could happen in turn. Right? But that’s no way to live. I’d like to think that these good things are balancing out the past three years, but that’s not really how life works.
I’m just rolling with it, aware of what has been lost and also of what I have and have to look forward to still. As my old internship supervisor said, you can’t control the waves, but you can control how you surf them.
I’m strapping on my board for 2016.