Farewell to a Passion 

I’m not sure how many people know this, but I originally started this site as a fitness blog. I began writing posts in August 2011, many of which were geared toward people trying to improve their fitness. Check out the archives from 2011 to 2013 and you’ll find a very different tone and theme to this blog. 

Actually, on second thought, don’t check out the archives — the first several posts on this blog are awful. They are corny, poorly written, unedited attempts at inspiring people to live healthy and exercise. 

I wrote them less than a year after I got sick in November 2010 and I was obviously still very attached to my fitness instructor persona. So much so I even wrote a self-help book of sorts trying to inspire people to be healthy. But like my early posts, and despite lots of time spent writing, The Optimal Balance Plan was pretty hokie and unedited. 

I remember when one of my friends bought the book on Amazon without telling me and then read it. She later told me it took every bit of restraint she had to not take a red pen to the text. And now that my writing and editing skills have improved I certainly don’t blame her. I’m actually scared to go back and read the book because I too will probably want to take a red pen to it. 

But at the time the point was not so much to write well, I suppose, but rather to motivate people to live healthier. And now that I’ve been sick for so long the irony is not lost on me. 

After I became certified as a personal trainer in 2009, my goal was to help people with their fitness. That is, for the most part, why I have continued to renew my certification every two years since. That and if I let my certification lapse I would likely have to retake the test again in order to train clients, which would involve physically going to a testing center and, oh yeah, studying. I emphasize the studying because I initially had to take the test three times before I passed, mostly because I hate studying. 

The truth is I have forgotten much of the knowledge that a fitness professional must utilize while training clients. I’ve forgotten a lot of the anatomy and physiology, the business aspects, and even many of the workout wisdom I used to spout-off to my clients.


So I have decided not to renew the certification. It makes me sad to know this part of me is nearly dead, and has been slowly dying for a long time now. I have been a sick person with an inactive certification longer than I have been a healthy fitness instructor training clients. 

I wasn’t even able to use the certification for a full two years before my career as a fitness instructor took a backseat to my illness. Yet I still renewed it, three times to be exact. The first time I was certain I would put it to use again. The second time I had my doubts, but was actually able to use it to train a couple clients online. And the third time, well, that’s a story to be told…

The last time I renewed my certification was in 2015. And by “I renewed my certification,” I actually mean my mom renewed it for me. I was completely incapacitated at the time, but through grunts and hand signals I was able to tell my mom how much keeping the certification meant to me. So, after she got off of work one day, my mom sat down with her laptop in my dark room. She proceeded to take the online tests necessary to renew the certification. She was a science teacher for a long time so she had most of the questions nailed, but when she was in doubt she looked over at me as I lay completely horizontal with blankets shielding my face from the laptop’s harsh light. Then she read the choices and I gave her a thumbs up when she called out the correct answer. 

She got almost all of the answers correct. But now looking back it feels silly to have gone to such lengths to hold on to a part of me that was all but dead. I mean the irony of a severely ill man, unable to speak or eat solid food, renewing a fitness certification when he couldn’t even lift a pen is kind of comical, but also cringeworthy. 

At the same time I know that stubbornness and sentimentality often go together. I held on to the certification when I became bedridden because it meant so much to me. And at the time I had so little to hold on to. It gave me purpose and a sense of accomplishment. If I had died back in 2015 then I would have found comfort dying with a valid certification — a way of showing that I did something with my life. 

Why don’t I need that comfort anymore? Well, I still need it, maybe we all do, but I’ve now found it through other sources. I’ve been published in the LA Times and a bunch of other major publications, I’ve told my story and advocated for the research of a disease few people outside the patient community know about. And that is enough for me; I don’t need a fitness certification to feel accomplished. 

The only hard part about letting go of the certification is its symbolism and my fear that I will never again be involved in the fitness industry. It is a legitimate fear of mine because I love fitness so much. It is a part of who I am and the person I strive to be.

But I must let the certification go. It is once again set to expire on July 31, and I have decided to let it lapse. Writing these words is hard for me, but there is no logical reason to renew the certification. It costs $500, which would be better spent on my ballooning medical expenses. And although I have gone back and forth about it (and may still change my mind) I think I am ready to move on and focus on a career that lies within my current abilities. 

Thanks for reading! I know many people with chronic illnesses have had to alter their careers or forgo them all together, so please feel free to leave a comment and share your experiences. 

55 thoughts on “Farewell to a Passion 

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  1. The day I let my national Paramedic certification go was devestating. How could I care for other people when I could barely care for myself? I worked so hard for that certification…. single parent and the school was over 100 miles away. Something I was really good at was now gone… who am I now? What is my purpose in this world? No more delivering babies in the back of ambulances. No more putting out fires. No more pumping blood back into a person’s body. The amazing loud life of laughter, cries, sirens…. running, thinking, sweating, helping. Laying here in pain hearing one bird singing outside. I dont want to take pain pills because they make me feel like sleeping. At least with the pain I know Im still alive. -Nikki (new to ME/CFS/FM)

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  2. I so get this! As a qualified Fitness Instructor/PT myself living with ME/CFS, I know it’s a tough one to let go of. I stopped renewing my membership to REPs (Register of Exercise Professionals) in the U.K. last year, and although it made sense, it was still hard! Like you said the studying for these things isn’t easy, and on top of that having to admit that you’re not going to be working in that capacity again feels very sad. Maybe one day, hey! I have what is probably described as “moderate” ME/CFS so I’m nowhere near as bad as yourself and many others but still it’s not an easy thing to live with. I felt inclined to comment on your post as it touched a nerve with me too! I’m glad you have achieved so much despite living with such a disabling illness at the severe end of the scale. You should be very proud.

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    1. Hi Emma. You’re the first fellow trainer who also has ME that I’ve talked to. It’s nice to find that you have been through something similar with your certification. Thanks for your kind words. You’re very sweet!

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  3. Hi Jamison, I did exactly the same with renewing my nurse registration. knowing full well that I could never do the job again but feeling that it was such a huge part of my life. Even now, 9 years after being medically retired at 39(chronic pain, nerve damage, umpteen back surgeries starting at 21, Ehlers Danlos syndrome etc., etc), I still think of myself as a nurse and miss it – odd going from healthcare professional to professional patient, having seen nearly every speciality this year! I have deteriorated more than I could have imagined and am so grateful to our wonderful chronic community for the support out there. Really pleased to have found you, Claire x

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    1. Hi Claire. That’s so rough. But at least you can use your training to try to improve your health. I know that’s easier said than done, but you do have special knowledge. I often joke that I should get an honors nursing degree for all the crap I do for myself. That I have to give do things only a trained nurse should do is ridiculous and I blame it on the healthcare system but that’s another blog post. Thank for reading and so glad you found me as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this post. Seven years ago, I had to resign as a doctoral candidate when I was too sick to work, and I lost not only the life I was going to have, but the person I was going to be. Then I spent a very long time alone in a dark room, doing literally nothing. It was less than stellar, but it looks like you can relate.

    The old me died, and so did her future. I am not going to earn my doctorate or work at a tenure-track position while I shuttle a few kids back and forth, and my husband and I aren’t going buy a very large house in the suburbs and I am not going to decorate that house with a bunch of mismatched furniture and we are not going to host big family gatherings where I regale our guests with my latest publications (this is a joke, literally no one cares about peer reviewed journal publications because most are totally worthless). Realistically, I can’t work at a real job at all, or drive a car, and I don’t even want to think about how difficult a pregnancy would be. And I suffered a pretty substantial brain injury, which makes organizing an academic paper about as pleasant as an overnight EEG.

    But, after going through what I hope will be the worst of it, I wonder if my new life will be better, eventually. My husband has insurance through his work (thank God), and we can afford a one bedroom apartment in a nice building in a nice neighborhood. I can focus on visual art, which is something I always wanted to do, and we have a dog who acts like a kid.

    In my old life, I did a lot of things that I hated because they were expected of me. After getting sick, I had to be very selective about what I agreed to do and who I agreed to spend time with. I wonder if, eventually and with a little more luck, I will live my life as I was supposed to live it, not just plow through an endless calendar of work obligations and social obligations until I died or retired.

    Of course, if someone told me that I would appreciate being chronically ill (albeit in a weird, begrudging sort of way) a few years ago, I would not have believed it. I think this post said, in not so many words, what I have been thinking about for a long time. Thanks again for writing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there. I’m so sorry you have had to part with such a rewarding career. It’s not fair at all but hopefully something good will come from your sacrifices even if they’re surrounded by crap. Thanks for reading! Please keep in touch!

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      1. I guess that’s the thing, I absolutely hated that career, but I didn’t feel like I could just quit. I worked an insane number of hours, largely sitting in worthless meetings, made starvation wages, and had no life outside of my program (this is all pretty standard). And for what? To maybe present at a conference?

        As one guy put it, at academic conferences, there’s always some speaker who stands behind the podium and says, “I have authored over 1,000 works in my career!” And everyone in the audience goes, “Wow! And you haven’t died yet!”

        In the end, life made the decision to quit for me.

        Now, on good days, I can go out and about and live a pretty nice life. On bad days, not so much, but it’s moving in the right direction, even if improvement is painfully slow and unpredictable.

        I can focus on my art and see friends and think about how I can try to build the life I am supposed to live, not the life I was stuck with. I secretly always wanted to be an artist and live by the beach, ever since I was a kid, and now I do. I didn’t really plan on the autoimmune disease, but what can you do?

        Liked by 2 people

  5. You worked hard for something and achieved it – be proud. The circumstances that are holding that career at bay were out of your control! All the best and will follow you should you continue writing about your situation.

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        1. Same here also. Just hoping you had been able to go outside a little. It is so hot here that is pretty impossible right now though. Hang in there!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t imagine going through what all of you are going through. I love the spirit and support I see in these emails. I can only imagine how hard it is to let go of the life you knew and loved. I send out good thoughts that you will all find your new passion in life and it ends being better than what you could have ever imagined. This was another reminder to me that life can change in an instant so you have to appreciate the moment you have.

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    1. That is the sweetest and kindest thing I have ever heard anyone say about us and I have been sick for 11 years. A lot of people here have probably been sick much longer than that. Thank you so much for your kind words. Made me cry. It is so rare that anyone who is not sick understands. Bless your kind heart.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Jamison,
    Read your article about having kids. I went thru the same thing being a woman who became bedridden at age 35. While I never could have them, I don’t consider it a sacrifice. I slowly got better over the years. You will get better. You will exercise again, I did. Just not at the same intensity level or length of time. I had to really adjust my expectations and not compare myself to the Past me. Very hard to do….
    What if you write about stretching and easy yoga poses for ME patients? That is how I got better. I did stretches in bed. I did a DVD called 7 min. Gentle Yoga in the mornings. Mainly seated positions.
    Just a thought ! To your health !
    Terri

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oddly enough, I literally do understand. For a long time, I kept hoping that my Hashimoto’s would be remediated to the point that I could start doing competitive ballroom dancing and equestrians sport again: that I would defy the very realistic odds my physician(s) shared with me.

    I had to grieve the person that I was before my illness: go through all of the anger, denial, etc. There are still crappy days when I’m frustrated (I am literally resting after taking a shower right now) … but I am where I am. Those things are a part of my past now. Who knows what the future will bring?

    Thank you for sharing this painful part of your journey with us.

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  9. This is what I learned: You may not have the life you planned, but most of us can find a way to have a life of purpose, accomplishments and joy. We are no different than the rest of the world who must make choices based on personal circumstances and limitations. We all have limitations. Some have health, others have family, others have finances, others have geography. And some have more severe limitations than others. Sometimes you can change the circumstances. Sometimes you can’t. In the case of the latter, the way humans have survived is to adapt to those circumstances and find a way to make a good life within those circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I started teaching elementary art late in life. I think I was 45 and working part time. My health was already going down even then. That was over 20 years ago. The full time art teacher died a couple of years after I started and the full time job became mine. The first ten years weren’t too bad though I did struggle with chronic health issues. Five years before I had to retire things went downhill fast. I had to continue working to qualify for a pension and continued health insurance. It became a Herculean effort to cross the finish line but I made it. I applied for SSDI immediately and after a year a judge ruled in my favor.

    Life didn’t look too bad at this point as I was still able to paint and draw. I rented a studio separate from my home and went right work. I accomplished a great deal in the next 4 years. Then three years ago Chronic Fatigue and fibromyalgia hit hard. I didn’t give up hope and though I could rarely paint anymore I still held onto the dream. I previously, before CFS, rented a large apartment and converted a bedroom into a studio. That was six years ago. I told the landlord I never wanted to move again. He assured me that I would be fine.

    Several weeks ago this landlord told me he was selling. Last week he called me and told me he was evicting me. When I asked him why he told me that the new owners said that they wouldn’t close the deal unless I was out. That was quite a blow. I couldn’t imagine having to move in my condition. The rent I was paying was way below market value and I knew I’d never find another large apartment in which to work and store my paintings. I posted a moving sale on a community website and the first things to go were my easels which I’ve had for over forty years.

    I wondered what I would do with the 100 or so large paintings I had stored.A friend suggested that I trash them. My first reaction was that he was insane. Several days later I realized that he was right. First however before trashing I notified all my friends that I was giving my paintings away. I then thought perhaps I would call St. Vincent’s to haul the remainder away. I still have 60 days to decide. I immediately began searching online for another place to live with little luck so far.

    I am letting go. This thing called art has been weighing me down for a long time. When I had my realization I felt a lightness, as though I shed an old heavy winter coat as Spring arrived. I’m at peace with my decision. I realized I was just tormenting myself with guilt and grief. Farewell to passion.

    Thanks Jamison

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    1. Wow that’s really tough. One of the most common ideas people mention with this post is that of shedding the old life and starting the new. I feel like I’ve been stuck waiting to pick up where I left off but really I just need to accept that that’s probably not going to happen.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Great article expressing what I think most of us are grappling with. I feel for you. I, too, am at that point where I am finally accepting of where I am at with my condition and that my former self is no more, and most likely won’t ever be again. It’s a time of embracing the new you, letting go of the old, accepting the next phase of your redefined life. The fact that it is a decision forced upon you sucks, but acceptance is the key that I hope will allow us to enjoy what we can in our new world. I truly hope that a diagnosis and a cure come quickly so I can regret discarding the things from my old life. Now that’s a regret I would enjoy!

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  12. It’s so hard to let go of the comfort of the past sometimes but letting go allows us to move forward. I think that you have achieved far more than you give yourself credit for. Think of all the good things that have come from your illness and how clearer you see things. Your an inspiration to many and someone to be admired not for your muscles but your spirit 🌹

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  13. Never feel like you’re giving up because of this certification. The advice here is correct I think. You may decide on something entirely different when you’re in better condition. I think writing is a great choice for you. You are clear, succinct and have a sense of yourself. That is great fodder for an author, and you already have a great beginning. Good luck in whatever you decide.

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  14. I can totally relate. My passion is (was?) teaching. I have no children of my own, but have (had) worked with kids since I was a teen age child, myself. I became sick in June 2014 and have barely worked since. Never in my life, have I gone this long without regular interaction with children. Out of everything this disease has taken from me, I miss the kids the most. Thanks for the opportunity to share.
    ~Kimberly

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    1. Kimberly,
      So sorry to hear of another case of this stuff! It continues to astound me that so many are getting ill with this and they still have no clue what causes it! Been a member since 2006. I miss children too. Just being able to be around them. They can be so uplifting. 🙂

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  15. Yeah, I couldn’t go to my son’s wedding. Of all the things I have had to give up I think that may have been the hardest one. I felt sad and angry and guilty all at once. It was probably harder on me not going than actually trying to make it but it involved a lot of travel and I can hardly get into town to the doctor. So…what can ya do?

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    1. You did the right thing. I went to my sister’s wedding less than 3 months after getting sick. It was a disaster! Throughout the reception I kept going to my car to cry because I felt soooo terrible and didn’t want to take away any attention on her big day. I have not been to a family function, since. Thank you for sharing!

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      1. Kimberly, Thank you! I knew that would happen to me too or worse! I kept thinking that I would cause some weird scene and have to have an ambulance or something. I need to just be glad I didn’t try it. So sorry that happened to you but I totally understand.

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      2. Thank you both for your comments! I’m sorry you had to miss that special day Gloria. I’ve gone to two weddings while sick and they were rough. I got tremors from the cold outside. I danced one slow song and sat the rest of the time. But that was a few years ago. My cousin is getting married on my birthday this year and I obviously won’t be able to go. Hopefully we’ll all get to go to another wedding and actually enjoy it.

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  16. I’m reading this just as I’m preparing to renew my massage therapy lisence, lol. I’m renewing mine with the pipe fre that I may be able to practice again someday. Congrats on your publications!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lauren. That’s a very similar predicament. Massage takes so much energy and strength. My mom also used to do massage and she would always mention how susceptible you are to the energy and feelings of the people you are massaging. Sounds really intense. Thanks for reading!

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  17. I did not give up easily. Once this DD brought forced retirement, I still had my teaching license. We moved to another town. I finally got my disability. In a year, I saw a teaching position – one hour per day of eight grade English. SURE! I could do that. In the fall, I was prepared for my 11 a.m. class of about 25 critters. I prepared for that one class like I was teaching three because the kids were more difficult than I had expected. WELL….my ability to watch all 25 at one time was impaired. I managed, but would come home exhausted each day. Before the end of the year, I received a notice from Social security. I was in a trial work period and did not know it. One hour a day, a little over $400 a month was considered a living wage. I was offered a contract for the next year. So you know what happened. DONE. Teaching DONE or lose my social security. We were $25,000 in debt and were rotating credit cards to pay bills. Back then ya couldn’t charge groceries and we had 2 kids to feed. All my hopes of teaching again were gone. If I accepted any job, I would lose my social security. I turned to advocacy to learn other skills, but it took me YEARS to get over forced retirement. I sound calm here. I remember screaming and at times the anger consumed me until I figured out to just stop and to take heart and mind to the people I might be able to work with in some small way. I found a challenge, but also peace over my lost career.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pat. Wow I had no idea you couldn’t use credit cards for groceries. Idk what I’d do it that was still the case. I’m so sorry to hear about everything you’ve gone through. You’re one tough woman!

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  18. I didn’t renew my passport. When I got it, it was the first one I’d had as an adult, which meant I got to keep it ten years. All I ever wanted was to see everything. I was so excited about all the places I could go in a decade. Out of school… no limits… no parents. I was sick with the year. It has two stamps in it, countries where I spent a lot of time sick in bed. When renewal came due I seriously considered it, though I couldn’t get to a grocery story, let alone the another continent. I did board a plane the month it expired. But I went to a CFS doctor in Miami and put the fee toward on a special cardiopulmonary exercise test. The first time my passport went through the Miami airport it was fresh and stampless. The second, it was bent, stained and four days expired.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes! Passports. I only have one country in mine and now that you mention it I think it’s expired. Oh well! Maybe these expired things are motivations to get better and do some fun stuff.

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  19. Although I can’t point to exactly one thing, such as a designation, I can look at my life as a whole and see where I’ve had to accept that what once was is no more. Collectively we say goodbye to seemingly too many things. The harder we worked for something, the harder it is to say goodbye.

    I had just finished homeschooling my son, 8th grade – high school and was excited about going back to school to maybe switch career paths. Finally being able to pursue my dream of being a LMFT. I’ve only had to table it though, it’s still maybe out there when wellness comes knocking. It’s been easier to accept that it may never happen as I never actually did it, as opposed to say being able to walk on the beach for miles. That one still floods me with a sense of loss that feels overwhelming at times.

    So I guess it’s all relative and on that note I will end by saying thank you for sharing this post. Today has been particularly challenging and it helps to remember the sun will rise again and bring about new possibilities.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I can totally relate, I don’t think it was cringe worthy that you renewed your certification when you were so sick, I think that was part of not giving up and having hope, which is so important when you are so unwell. We cann only let go of these things when we are ready, and when we have something else, like your writing and getting published that can provide an alternative focus. I have had to let go of being provisonally registered as a psychologist as I had to cease my training, I had the goal of going back to finish my studies for awhile and eventually had to let it go and mourn it.

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    1. Hi Lisa. You’re absolutely right. It was definitely part of not giving up. I think it was just makes me cringe now because I know how tough it was and it would have been more logical to use my energy for my health rather than the renewal. But that also would have been so unlike me to give up on my career at that point. I’m sorry you’ve felt a similar loss. But we’ll all get back there one day.

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  21. So, for most of my life, my purpose–the what should I do with my life thing–was pretty unclear to me. I always had a million and one aspirations. Multiple majors, side dreams…I worked three jobs in college because I couldn’t just pick one. I put a lot of pressure on myself on getting it right, and any of the paths I chose would have maybe been fine–but they had to feel right. For most of my life, people would comment on how I was a born teacher. And most of the jobs I had related to teaching were things I loved. But because I saw it as easy, it couldn’t possibly be right, so I rejected it. Then, I had a mini breakdown when I was 25. I did this whole thing where I figured it out–as I am apt to do–and told my mother I was finally going to be a teacher–special ed–working with kids that are forgotten. She was so proud. She died the next year, and I started my teaching program a few weeks after she died–determined to go–because it was the last thing my mother knew I’d be–believed I’d be…and I couldn’t let her down.

    I had chosen a quick and dirty road to certification–which meant enrolling in a terrible school and working a terrible job to accommodate the schedule. I’m not sure if it was them or me–but it was wrong. A few months in, I left the program and was basically this dejected puppy for a while. Then, I was watching Nightline, and they happened to profile a TFA corps member. 30 minutes later, I had completed an application. I went through this rigorous process and was selected. I couldn’t even believe it. But it wasn’t easy. Lots of shit happened between then and the day I finally started. But long story short–it was two years of working and fighting and changed plans. I wound up in the 1st corps in Denver, teaching science and math to 3rd & 4th graders at a school I instantly fell in love with. A little kid had sat in on my interview, and I got the job because he chose me (which was later revealed at a lunch–I had no idea). Anyway. I taught for a while and realized that the bureaucracy of public education in the most troubled schools was basically criminal and that I was essentially tasked with herding children and dulling the light in their eyes. I couldn’t do it and eventually chose to leave the corps. I had two years to change my mind, and each year, I struggled with it. Each time, It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I had spent so much time and money on it, but I also had so many people relying on me. But the thing that haunted me most was that I would not be the person my mother thought I’d be some day.

    I got on other paths that made more sense, but always stuff that meant saving the world to some degree. That’s my nature. But recently, I’ve realized some things that have made me question that part of me and whether or not I’m serving anyone by repeating certain parts of my own story. Just this week, I made some huge decisions–and I’m so unsure about all of it. Still, they’re more realistic and more loving. I had to sort of give up who I thought I was for who I could be–while realizing that those parts of me will inform this new paths…and while I will never again be the person I was before my mother died–I can still be someone she would be proud of. But it’s more important that I am happy and sane. I’ve had to realize that who I was then is evolving and can’t be defined by those things. At the same time, it doesn’t mean I’ll never do those things. It just means they are meant for who I am now.

    It’s a really hard thing to come to terms with. You may not be helping people with their fitness, but you are changing conversations about health and medicine. Maybe the path you were on was too small for all that’s inside you. The things you need will show up with all the lessons you didn’t even know you needed.

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      1. Oh, man, you don’t even know. Story of my life (re: intense soul searching).

        Teaching taught me a lot about myself. Nothing is wasted, and at the very least, I probably empowered a few little kids. I could say so much more about that. I’m probably not so wise, but I do try to learn from all the insanity in my life and share the lessons.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. The answer, of course, is the cost. That’s a lot of money for a piece of paper.

    My guess? If somebody figures out what’s wrong with us, and fixes us (something devoutly to be hoped for), you will slowly go back to whatever form of life you could then create, and it may not be the same one.

    Princeton U. ‘retired’ me while I was on disability. After 27+ years, fusion and plasma physics have passed me by big time. I won’t be going back. It is bittersweet to be ‘retired.’ I can say that on paperwork, instead of having to write ‘disabled’ or ‘on disability.’ Whopee.

    I have created an alternative career as a novelist; I would just spend more time and energy there than I currently can. It will have to do – and I always planned to write when I retired. This just wasn’t HOW I was going to do that.

    Life happens.

    When we get well, you will be a strong person, tempered by adversity, full of compassion for those who have suffered as you have and are still stuck in that state. You will remake yourself and your life.

    Meanwhile, we have to survive day-to-day life. Keep writing.

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