Write a letter to yourself at age 16. What would you tell yourself? What would you make your younger self aware of?
Dear 16yr old Colleen,
Hi! How are you? This is the 36 year old version of yourself writing to you today to let you know that at this point in your life, you are doing pretty well! Your family is doing good, you have an adorable niece and two cute nephews. You've been living on your own for the past thirteen years, and twelve of them have been with the biggest cat you've ever seen! Remember how you always wished you could have a cat growing up? Well, believe me, you have a cat that's big enough to be qualified as a couple of them! LOL Oh yea, LOL means Laugh Out Loud. Believe me, you'll be using that and other sayings in years to come because the computer age will be exploding, and you'll be spending a lot of time using the internet for all sorts of purposes!!
I have some news to tell you about your future. Unfortunately, you aren't working, and haven't been for quite a long time. You were a preschool teacher for a few years, but during your last year, your body and heart and lungs just couldn't really handle the job. After your third major respiratory illness, your primary care doctor (who you haven't met yet, but believe me, you are going to love her!) told you to quit teaching. But don't let that discourage you. I'm serious. Although it was the most devastating thing to hear, it was one of the best decisions your doctor made. Why?? Well, right now you are the healthiest you've ever been at this point in your life. Did you gasp in shock when you read that?? I'm sure you did! Would you also believe that you don't get as short of breath like you used to, and when you do, it doesn't take you several hours or an entire day to recover?? Can't believe it, can you?? I couldn't either! I never thought I'd recover after being so sick from teaching for so long. But it was a long road to get there, with many bumps along the way.
The biggest thing I wish I knew at your age was exactly what pulmonary hypertension was all about. Do you remember the piece of paper Dr. Gingell gave you at one point? You wanted to know exactly what you had wrong with your heart, and he wrote down atrioventricular canal defect, and pulmonary hypertension. You tried to spit out that word, but never could, but somehow you could say atrioventricular. LOL Everyone always focused on the heart problem, but although you knew you had PH, you didn't know what the heck it was. Well, by your age of 16, more was known about the condition than when you were born. In fact, by then there was a drug being tested called Flolan. Would it have been something that could've helped you out? Possibly! But even then, I wish Dr. Gingell would've known more about PH than he did, or knew someone I could've seen when I was your age, or even younger perhaps. As it is, I never found out as much as I know now about PH until about 2003. That is the year you began getting treatment for PH. And that is the year your life started to get better in the health department!
So, are you wondering if you should even bother getting into the teaching field, now that you know you aren't going to be a teacher for too long? I would say YES! Teaching was your dream for years. You were dead set against anything else. Although you don't end up teaching in a classroom as you'd always hoped for very long, you are teaching in so many other ways, and I think the basics for being a great teacher is built with the eventual degree you will receive. Besides, you really enjoyed your college education, and the environment you entered when you became a college student at NU. You are still friends with several of the people you met there! And you know what else?? You slowly broke out of your shell and became more outgoing. Believe me on this!! I know high school right now is daunting, and you're a pretty quiet person. You've got your small group of friends, yes, but you have a hard time opening up to people you don't quite know. But once you leave those people, most of whom you've known since preschool, you ever so slowly begin to realize that you have a voice, and quite a personality! In your college years, you really do start to become a chatterbox, and even after that time, you continue to open up to more and more people along the way!
But back to the teaching thing! Once your health started to become more stable, you were given a fantastic opportunity to start a PH support group in the Buffalo area. Your heart dropped to your knees when you read that, didn't it?? I know, the thought is scary to you right now! And yes, it was scary back when you were asked! Talk in front of people, strangers??? NO WAY!!! Well guess what you've been doing for the past seven years??? YES WAY!! You've had so many meetings, and you've helped so many PHers out there! The more meetings you have, the better you seem to get with being in front of people. I know you don't believe me, but it's really true! Plus, not only will you be helping people in person with PH, but you'll be really involved with PHers online. Online means the internet, or the world wide web. Once again, I know you have no clue what I'm talking about, but honestly, it's really the way many people will communicate in the future!
I want you to know that you are a very special person to so many people, and not just your family. You will be told many times over how much you are appreciated, and I want you to do something: I want you to believe it. I want you to also look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are a beautiful person. Because you ARE. It takes you a very long time to believe that, and I wish you knew it way before you did! Don't be afraid to try new things. That is something you need to work on as well.
In the twenty years from your sixteen year old self until now, you will go through so many roller coaster rides (which is ironic, since you're not able to go one one of those anyway!). Stay the course! I never really understood the phrase, "Everything happens for a reason" until I went through so many changes and ups and downs. I'm still learning this every day. So when the going gets tough, hang in there! Things sometimes take time to get better, but they DO get better!
And another thing I want you to keep in mind: Always Have Hope! It's a phrase you've been saying a lot in the last several months. I'm trying to follow it to the letter every day! And I'm also hoping that if I get brave enough, I'll have it as a tattoo!! LOL
36 yr old Colleen :)