My parents called me tonight to remind me that it was a year ago today that Jenn called them to say I’d been brought into the hospital in a diabetic coma.
My condition was “stable,” but though Jenn knew that was better than the condition under which I’d been brought in, the doctor on duty told my mom that I was the top priority case brought in that night, and it would be in my parents’ best interests to get on a plane to Chicago.
My mom remembers this because she’d seen Jenn’s number on the caller ID and thought, “Oh, let them sweat. Kameron forgot to call me on Mother’s Day!” and then felt absolutely miserable about it later when it turned out the reason Jenn was calling them at 11pm west coast time, 1am Chicago time, is because I’d been hauled into the emergency room.
It’s a funny thing, because I’ve never known which date to count it from. Should it be the 14th, when Jenn had actually called the paramedics? (at around 11:30 pm or so) Or should I tally it from the 15th, when I actually arrived at the hospital? (it was just after midnight on Monday the 15th).
I supppose my mom’s way of reckoning it is probably the most accurate.
I could remember today as the day I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, the day my whole life changed, the beginning of the end of a very good friendship, the beginnging of the end of my life in Chicago.
But mostly, it’s the anniversary of another chance at living.
By all rights, I should be dead, and if Jenn hadn’t stayed up that night, worrying over my increasingly delusional state (“I need to do my taxes…,” “There’s a little black dog…”) before finally finding me standing up but completely glassy-eyed and nonresponsive in the bathroom, well, yeah, hey, I may not be here.
After realizing the seriousness of my condition, much later, I thought a lot about whether or not I would have been OK with the idea of my life ending that night. And you know, I would have been OK with it if that’s how it turned out. I wouldn’t have done anything differently up to that point. I’d had a fucking good run.
I had left home three days after turning 18 and shacked up with my high school boyfriend. I dumped him six months later after he ran off to join the Marines and I was evicted from our apartment. I had to pawn my books, the tv, the vcr. I had to call my parents from a pay phone to come and get me and the last of my stuff.
I started over and rebuilt things. I had failed pretty completely. I had nothing. I remember thinking that I’d died. Everything I’d tried to build, wanted to be, was dead, so I was going to break it all down and start over. When you hit bottom, you’ve got nowhere to go but up.
So I jumped off a bridge, bought a one-way ticket to Fairbanks, went to school at the U of Alaska, took a semester writing course with David Marusek who encouraged me to reapply to Clarion… and life just got bigger and brighter. It was like I was living someone else’s life, this life I always wanted to live… I went to Clarion, went to grad school in South Africa, started selling stories, moved to Chicago, got a grown up job and a corporate card and started traveling to all these cities… I started lifting 30 lb weights and taking boxing and martial arts classes… I started blogging, started a long distance relationship and started spending one weekend a month in New York City…
It was a big, great, surreal, big-city life. And I loved it. I loved living with Jenn. I loved selling short fiction. Loved building who I was going to be. Jenn and I getting together felt like a natural progression of a great friendship.
But the first five months of 2006 were dark months. So fucking dark. It was like the spring would never come. I was sleeping all the time, terribly hungry and thirsty, traveling too much, sleeping too much… so dark.
It’s the six months before and after today, one year ago, that I want to take back. I want to do over. I want to do better. I want to do smarter and saner and more rationally. I want to go back and explain myself better and understand my illness better. I want to go back and do it again because I honestly think that maybe I’d have hurt fewer people – I want to go back and fix it so I didn’t hurt B, so I didn’t hurt Jenn and destroy the friendship. I want to go back and understand how sick I was.
Those are the parts I want back.
But the rest of it? Tanking at 18 and starting over in Alaska and going to Clarion and getting a grad degree in South Africa and playing Career Woman in Chicago? The writing, the boxing, the cons, the traveling. No, I loved all of that. It was a fucking fantastic life. It was amazing. And if I would have died that night, one year ago today, I would have had no regrets.
For better or worse, though, I didn’t die a year ago. I kept going. Because of Jenn’s courage, and my own stubborness.
Now I have another shot at life, and I’m at another point in my life where I’ve blasted out everything, where everything has fallen apart and broken down. My friendships, my finances, my health, and to some degree, however small, my spirit.
There is a glorious thing that happens when everything is stripped away, though; when you break it down. You get to start over. If you’ve got nothing, you have nothing to lose.
I may not be able to go back and fix what I did wrong, but I have the opportunity to go forward and build something better; to learn from what I did wrong last time and come out of it a stronger person.
I can’t guarantee that I’ll do anything better, or that I’ll never hurt anyone again. What I can say is, I think it’s going to be an interesting run. The last time I hit this place life turned out to be far bigger and more beautiful than I’d imagined, and I have a feeling it’s not done surprising me yet.
So, for better or worse: