This is a post that has been sitting in my drafts folder for quite sometime. I wrote it a couple days after visiting a local coffee shop I frequent. I sat down and had a wonderful talk with a complete stranger. We sat and talked for over one hour. Sadly, I never got her name. But this is how one stranger and a story put me in my place, and made me realize, I was sulking. During this time of my life, I was hitting a rough patch. The job hunt was going stale, my last semester was becoming boring and my love life was well, as mundane as ever. As always, forgive me of my grammar mistakes as I forgive those who annoy me by correcting my grammar.
“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” –Marcel Proust
Painters, sculptors, artists in general, all have a way of looking at a blank canvas and seeing something, potential. Sitting in front of them is nothing and from nothing they attempt to bring to life a vision they have in their head. As someone who wants to and tries to enjoy art, but doesn’t understand half of what he see’s, I can tell you it isn’t easy. The complexities of a piece can get lost on even the best of critics. [ I’m not sure where I am going here, so there might be some ramblings, but just stick with me, I will find my thought soon, I hope.] Some people just have that talent of seeing a beautiful piece of art out of a blank empty canvas. Artist in some way help people find their new eyes. They open up worlds and landscapes unfathomable to others.
My eyes were recently opened. But not by an artist, or writer, but by an everyday person I happened to share a cup of coffee with. She was in her early 30’s and as we began to talk, I realized there was something here. We talked about family, life, anything really, but sports quickly became the topic of choice. She loved sports. Grew up in Texas, she had gone to a community college to play volleyball, and had gotten a full ride to play at Texas Christian. That was until her 19th birthday though, that was the day she started her first round of chemo. She had a rare brain cancer. She had actually had it for four years, but it wasn’t brought to light until she was 18 and had a seizure in front of her mother. She admitted it was her fault she had not talked to someone sooner. “The symptoms were embarrassing. The main one was I would lose control of my bladder. I’d wake up in the morning having peed my bed. I didn’t wanna tell anyone, so I just kept it to myself.” But as we sat there, she talked of the ups and downs. How on her 20th birthday she was cancer free, but at 24 it came back and then again at 26. “The last time, that was the worst. It wasn’t getting better, nothing was going right in my life, and I just felt like giving up. I had given up, laying in my room one night, I overheard a conversation that would change my life. Two parents were saying goodbye to their daughter.” When she told me that, it took a couple seconds for it to sink in. Two parents were saying goodbye to their daughter. I could not even imagine having to do that. But, back to her story. She continued, “the parents were a mess, I don’t blame them. But the girl, her voice, she did not sound like a mess. She sounded like she was smiling and happy. She just told them she knew they had done everything they could for her and loved them all the more for it. I later found out, she had been diagnosed with cancer when she was 17 months old. She was 7 at the time. How could a 7-year-old, who knew nothing better than hospital visits and chemotherapy have such a positive outlook about dying, and here I am, having 26 years of life, sulking. Being mean to my parents and doctors, just giving up on everything. Right then, I was determined to make the most out of what time I have left, and here I am, 6 years later, and cancer free. It’s still in the back of my mind, it never leaves me. The way a 7-year-old was talking to her parents calming them, giving them peace as they are about to lose their daughter.”
We kept talking, or, she kept talking, and I kept listening. She had no problem sharing what she had gone through, and whether she knew it or not, I needed to listen. “That little girl changed my life. I no longer let something that may or may not come back dictate my life. I’m happily married and finally enjoying life again. Something I had not done in a very long time. And when days get rough, and believe me, they still do, but I just close my eyes and go back into that hospital room. I block everything out and listen to that little girl calm her parents. Just cause the cancer is gone does not mean I do not have my moments. But the good moments out weigh those bad ones. We are all lost, confused, hurt, the list goes on. But why dwell on that. You live, you get knocked down, then you get back up. Plain and simple, you get knocked down, but you always get back up.”
A complete stranger had just made me realize that here I was going through something so small in the grand scheme of things. As she was leaving and we said our goodbyes she added one more thing. “That girl,” she said, “one 7-year-old girl changed my life. Words could never thank that beautiful soul enough. But I try, every time I see her and talk to her. I just sent her a birthday card last month. She just turned 13.”