“You can be anything you want to be.”
There’s something about the simplicity of that phrase that rubs me the wrong way.
As someone who has spent several years working with homeless young people and people with chronic conditions, I’ve seen how lack of education, lack of citizenship, lack of an address, poor health, and a history of abuse can all affect a person’s ability to reach for their dreams. Let alone, of course, prejudice against their race, which has been brought to the world’s attention in recent weeks.
Don’t get me wrong. I am the first to encourage, empower, motivate, and support someone to change their life. But I can’t help but notice those who utter that sentence often don’t acknowledge that we are starting at different points in the race, and many of those people who say that to me don’t have the chronic illnesses that I or my clients battle.
It doesn’t mean I don’t believe we can be anything we want – but there’s some kind of assumption behind that sentence. The assumption that you’re just not trying hard enough if you haven’t made it yet, whereas in reality, it’s so much more complex.
As a business owner, it’s been suggested I learn to work through my pain. At the time, I was experiencing the kind of pain that affected my ability to see straight. The kind of pain that left me unable to stand. The kind that was all-consuming.
We are capable of unbelievable strength as human beings, but I have never been able to work through that level of pain. The NHS has listed endometriosis as one of the 20 most painful conditions, up there with a heart attack – and I doubt many would expect someone to work through that.
Those of us with chronic illnesses often want to be well enough to pursue our dreams in the first place.
Being anything we want often starts with being healthy. And that is a feat in itself. That alone comes down to whether we’re believed by healthcare practitioners, whether we have the energy to study and work and take care of our health, whether we have the energy to work at all, and whether we have access to the necessary healthcare. Sure, there are ways around all of these — but they come at a price, and for some of us, society dictates who gets access to what.
The world is not set up for healing with chronic illnesses. It’s one of the key reasons why I set out to make it on my own as a business owner several years ago. Before that, by the time my commute was done, dinner was made, and the washing up was finished, it was time to rush around and get ready for the next day. There was no room for healing and I was exhausted all the time.
It hasn’t been much easier as a business owner because I am still in the early stages. Taking a sick day or taking time off to rest impacts my income, so currently I dream about the ability to put “annual leave” in my calendar and turn on the “out of office.”
But there comes a time when our health demands a different way of life. And this is what I’m facing now. Instead of filling my evenings and weekends with all the things I think will help me progress in life, I’m now filling them with time in bed.
It’s frustrating, moving so slowly, when I’ve spent most of my life witnessing others my age zoom past me and all I want to do is catch up. But I am not in their lane and I’m certainly not driving their car. My car needs a bit more tender, loving care and hitting the accelerator is only going to do more damage.
Yes, perhaps I can be anything I want, but I might have to move at a slower pace to get there. That doesn’t make me a victim, it doesn’t make me weak, and it doesn’t mean I haven’t tried hard enough. In fact, it makes me a fighter, it makes me stronger, and it means I work harder than your average healthy dream chaser.
You can be anything you want to be? I hope that recent events in the world help us all to see that nothing is ever as simple as that statement may seem.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.