By Soraya Keiser
Zooming down I-94 in my family’s 2010 blue Toyota, I hadn’t felt so happy in months. Lake Michigan to my left. The Port of Milwaukee to my right. “Social Cues” by Cage The Elephant blaring from the speakers. This was my first dose of independence in five weeks.
The summer that was supposed to be my dip into the adult world had unexpectedly become a regression back to middle school sick days. Waited on. Driven everywhere. Meals brought to me in bed. And there was always this underlying feeling of I should be doing more. Because for those five weeks, it felt like I wasn’t living—I was merely existing.
At the beginning of the summer I was supposed to take a flight south to Fort Myers, FL for an internship writing stories on a nonprofit’s tropical farm. I would be exploring a new state with my friend Makenzi, eating ripe lychee and taking a trip down to the Everglades.
In other words, it was supposed to be the Summer of Soraya.
A week before I was set to leave, I felt a twinge in my bad knee and got an MRI. The day before my flight, I was told I had to get surgery right away or I would have early onset arthritis by age 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 once Dr. Lester talked some sense into me and I wiped my tears, we set the surgery date.
Instead of tanning on the beach, wrangling crocodiles and whatever else people do in Florida, I was high on hydrocodone and ibuprofen, watching “Downton Abbey” and attempting to hop up stairs backwards with the help of my crutches. Each night, I colored my mood tracker orange. Orange means a very bad day.
I’m the type of person who thrives off of being busy. That’s all I’ve ever known. Within my first year at Bethel I quickly racked up five different jobs, 17 credits each semester and the desire to meet everyone. I thought this was success.
So when the only things to fill my days were physical therapy exercises and petting my dog, I felt horrible. Depressed. Like I was wasting my potential.
And while my body stopped, my brain seemed to go double time. What classes should I take in the spring? I should start applying for summer 2022 internships now. What 10 hobbies can I become an expert in while I sit here in this bed all day? I should learn how to do winged eyeliner like I’ve always wanted to do. The kind that extends out in a line so smooth it seems not humanly possible to make. Should I finally 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 connects busyness with self worth, and that’s why I felt worthless. The more things we have going on, the more important we seem. Stress is hurting our bodies, and we take pride in that.
“I only got four hours of sleep last night.”
“I didn’t have time to eat lunch today.”
“I cried while writing my paper and then turned it in on Moodle two minutes before it was due.”
I took a twisted sort of pride in these complaints.
So I had to teach myself how to rest. And once I accepted that I couldn’t do anything about the bionic knee brace strapped to my leg, I started enjoying my summer.
One day, I made a collage from old magazines and rewatched 12 episodes of “New Girl.” Another day, I sat in the sand by Lake Michigan and read my book on the anthropocene extinction until the clouds turned pink and the light faded. Another day, my physical therapy appointment was exciting because I was finally able to bend my knee.
A friend of mine said this could have been a sign from God telling me to slow down. I think she was right.