"After my dad died in 2014 from Huntington's Disease (which is a fatal genetic disorder), I decided to get tested in late 2015 and was also gene positive. This meant that I would also develop the disease at some point in my life, however, as of right now, I wasn't experiencing any of the symptoms. Although I was only 26 at the time, I was already working towards my bucket list.
Just 2 months ago, I crossed off my number one wish: 'To visit Germany.' It was the ultimate 2 weeks. Honestly, it was just everything that I could've asked for, and luckily, I was blessed with a relatively successful career that allowed me to afford it.
Knowing that my life expectancy is maybe around 40 at best (based on my CAG repeats) has given me the chance (or maybe the reminder) to live my only life to the best of my ability."
"A few years ago, I lost a long-time friend of mine in a car accident. He fell asleep at the wheel on the interstate and crossed over into oncoming traffic where he hit a semi. We had known each other since we were 5 and went to the same grade school, middle school, and high school. He was 25 when he passed. I knew he had been struggling with depression for a long time, but at the time of his passing, he was actually in a really good place in his life. He was doing what he loved and had been dating this girl for a few years now. He was happy.
All of this really made me think: 'If I were to suddenly be gone tomorrow, would I be happy with where I was at?' The truth is, I wouldn't be. So, I started to make a lot of life changes after that. I had been overweight for a long time, so I started working on my health. I lost around 85lbs. I found a career that I loved and could enjoy doing every day. I also stopped stressing about the small things. It's just wasn't worth it anymore.
I now tell my family and my friends that I love them a lot more frequently than I used to, and I always, always, ALWAYS make sure to get enough sleep before I have a long drive to make."
"It was definitely traveling. And, not to sound like that guy, but by traveling, I don't mean like two days in a hotel by the beach in some third world country. I'm talking about several year of being in total immersion. Working there, sleeping there, eating there, meeting people, getting mad, falling in love, getting heartbroken, splitting up, falling in love again, making money, and getting lost at least once. I learned how to greet locals the proper way, and why how I would have done it in my own country wouldn't be okay here. The whole thing.
It may sound cliché, I realize that. But given how alt-right movements are growing all over the world, the fact that I've been in repeated contact with people who are all so different from me, as well as, from one another has had a deep impact on the person that I am.
I've been shown how some cultures that may have even appeared to mean 'simple' or even 'primitive' a few years ago (I used to be one thick-skulled guy when I was a teen) can actually have very deep and important meanings, and they have taught me so much. I'm talking about highly philosophical concepts like: 'What does it mean to be free?' (Like what does independence costs you vs. what does it brings to you).
I also discovered a lot about myself. What my weaknesses are and how to accept them (because you can't just change who you are), yet still pushing them back as far as possible in order to become a better person.
This whole thing made me grow a lot wiser even though I still have some improvement to make about myself. To be more honest, I'm a lot less ignorant now that I used to be five years ago."
"It showed me that love is not magic. It's something that has to be worked on together. When one party can't or won't do equal work, the relationship fails. It feels amazingly good when it works, and it feels amazingly bad when it breaks down. The fact that my fairytale image of my parents' marriage failed led me to (at least try to) have a more realistic view of life. No amount of 'want' alone can make things happen in relationships.
It's like carrying a really big fish tank. It's difficult with two people, and it's pretty amazing to move things along to new places, but one person can't do it all alone. If someone isn't invested in moving it along, then it will drop and break, and unfortunately, there will be a really big mess left for one person to have to clean up and deal with alone."
"I learned to talk to my loved ones a lot because who really knows when the last time will be that I'll see or speak to them.
One of my best friends passed away unexpectedly last August. I didn't keep up with messaging him every once and a while, and so slowly, we grew apart. He messaged me a week before he died simply saying: 'I miss you.' I forgot to reply like most people do and got a call the following week from another friend saying that he had died. I was devastated because I had had no idea that he was even ill.
Later that day, I was looking at my inbox and noticed his message, and it floored me. I still beat myself up over it because all I had to do was say: 'I miss you, too! We should really catch up.' But I didn't, and now he's gone. It was a really harsh lesson to learn, but it changed me.
Now, no matter what I'm doing, I take the time to reply to any messages I may get from someone that I care about."
"My best friend's 12-year-old sister died of brain cancer. This was almost a year ago. I was 14 at the time, and I had known my best friend and her sister for eight years. Her sister was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. I was one of the first people to see the signs, but I had no idea.
One time, she was touring her new middle school, and I was trying to show her how to unlock a combination lock, and she just couldn't tell left from right. I chocked it up as some 'new school jitters.' Unfortunately, I was so wrong. Two weeks later, I got the news.
Over the next 11 months, I watched her slowly go from this vibrant young girl to a wheelchair-bound vegetable. The worst part was that this particular tumor left all of her cognitive functions intact, but left her body to wither away. She died soon after her 12th birthday.
I not only bore witness to someone who was practically my sister slowly die, but I watched my best friend (who was also like a sister to me) have to cope with watching her sister slowly dying. It was one of the worst things that I've ever had to experience. The funeral left me depressed for weeks."
"A random stranger in passing. When I was about 16, I accidentally stepped into an elderly woman's way while walking down a narrow walkway. We did the awkward dance trying to pass one another, and as we passed each other, I turned and said, 'I'm sorry!'
She turned back to me and with a stern, but oddly charming tone said, 'Don't you ever apologize for your existence. Just say excuse me and be on your way."
At first, I took what she had said as her being rude. Then I walked away, and I let it sink in for a bit. And you know what, ever since then, it has stuck. I always say excuse me now if I'm in someone's way."
"I was about 11-years-old, and I got into a horrible fight at school with my brother, who was barely more than a year older than me, so we were close growing up but with a lot of tension. We had a lot of mutual friends, and I don't remember the specifics, but I felt as if he had embarrassed me in front of everyone or diminished me into being some sort of child even though our age difference was small. After school, I went to my grandmother's as I usually did after school at that time, while my brother went to wrestling practice.
My Grandmother had a thick French accent and lived in an enormous, overgrown-looking house that was filled from head to toe with books and I LOVED it. My brother was more sporty than I was and that got him a lot more attention and appreciation from our father, who I was more alienated from for being bookish. My grandmother was my only kindred spirit in the family and for much of my childhood really.
Anyway, I kind of tried to conceal my anger from my grandmother at first, and I was helping her clean (which I enjoyed doing because we would listen to great jazz and blues artists, which she loved and she would tell me about the lives of jazz musicians and such. It was all very cool to me). At one point, though, she said something or the other about my brother and me, and I just couldn't help it. I hadn't cried in front of my grandmother in years, but I was just so angry and frustrated that it all came out. I was so embarrassed that I just told her everything right then and there about how overshadowed I felt by him, how my father didn't love me the way that he loved him, and just all of the feelings that I was super ashamed of even having.
She kind of let my emotions hang in the air and just quietly comforted me by rubbing my back, but then she told me to come upstairs with her to her bedroom. Her bedroom had a lot of character like a lot of the house, and it was filled with photos and books and albums that she loved and especially had a lot of Jewish art on the walls.
We sat down on the bed, and she opened it and there were all of these black and white photos of my great-grandparents when they were alive. It started with very small children, and my great-grandparents looking very finely dressed and happy and page by page there was just this horrible transformation of the children getting older, and my great grandparents looking like they had aged 20 years when their children had only aged a few years. I had some understanding of what was going on, of course, I knew about WW2, the holocaust, etc. which is to say, I knew an age-appropriate version of all that, but I was beginning to get old enough that something darker was lurking, a more visceral reality to what I knew factually to be true.
She fumbled around in her desk pulling out random papers and odds and ends until she pulled out a dusty photo album that I had never seen before, which was in itself remarkable because my grandmother loved to show me photos of when she first came to America and of my mother and my uncles as children, all that.We got to the exact center of the album with my grandmother saying very little except people's names, when the photos were taken, etc. Then right there, over a photo, pressed between the pages, was a patch. It was a patch of a yellow star with the word 'Juif' on it, and my grandmother pressed the star to her chest as if she was holding it to where it would have been sewn an age ago and gave me a small nod and said in her soft, breezy accent, 'This one was not mine. I don't think, but Claudette's.' and she pointed down at the picture that the star had been covering.
It was of two teenage girls, young, perhaps 13 or 14, smiling in front of some sort of railing overlooking a river, stars visible in their clothing. One, I immediately recognized to be my grandmother, who... while a wonderful human being had sort of a crooked smile and a big nose that was altogether too interesting looking to be mainstream beautiful. The girl next to her in the photo looked in many ways like her, but definitely had more classic good looks and a certain radiance that really came from the page.
'This is her. Claudette, my sister. We were very close in age, closer even than you and your brother.' She kept punctuating her sentences with a sort of bitter, humorless laugh and would pause, look away, and then look back at the photo.
'She was my best friend, but I was very jealous of her, very. She was beautiful and funny. It hurt to even be jealous of her. She was so likable. She sighed, and I caught sight of the numbers tattooed on her arm. My earliest memory was and still is, of my grandmother giving me my first haircut in front of the mirror in her guest room. My eyes caught those numbers in the reflection as if for the first time, and the sudden curiosity which they inspired. I felt a morbid echo of that curiosity then.
Then she said to me, 'I never would have thought then that I would've been the lucky one. Your grandma has gotten old. Claudette will be 15 forever.' Her voice broke on that last word not quite finishing it.
'Try not to fight with your brother, Ezra. Or else, do not let the fight go on for too long. You're young, but you're smart enough to know that most of us are not young forever. Trust me, the older you get, the more desperately you will need those who knew you when you were young.'
And then just like that, that moment was over. She replaced the star, shut the album, and shut it all away. Then she went back to cleaning as if her own heart hadn't broken all those years ago and as if she hadn't just blown my young mind.
My grandmother died when I was 16, but she wrote me a card for my high school graduation in advance knowing that she probably wasn't going to make it. On my graduation day, I opened and read her advice, her hopes for me, all that good stuff. It ended with her recalling that day, what it had meant for her, and how she hoped that I could find a balance in life between being true to myself while not sacrificing my happiness. The last line read: 'We all have a responsibility to remember the bad times even when it hurts to admit that they happened; just as we have a responsibility to remember the good times even when it hurts to admit that they're gone. Congratulations on your graduation, I love you with all of my heart.'
I bawled then, and I'm tearing up now just thinking about it. Never has another human being have more of an impact on another than my grandmother had on me."
"The guy whom I fell in love with started hitting me like really badly. He was the perfect guy, and I fell in love with him. I loved making dinner for us, and we would always go on adventures together. However, a whole YEAR later, after I had moved in with him, everything hit the fan.
It makes a person question their judgment as to what they really know about the people in their lives, their own self-respect, and just about everything else that involves trust.
It's been two years estranged from him, and I still get nervous by myself around men, and it makes me feel so bad because I know that it's not fair at to all of the guys out there or anyone."
"I was always the 'smart' one. I did well in school and was projected to go onto have a glorious career in my chosen field, which was Medical Laboratory Technology. I spent years in school studying and spending most of my time trying to be 'better' than everyone else. I especially could never let anyone correct me or admit to others that I didn't know something. I was kind of a snob in that respect.
Then I failed my licensing exam.
I know this sounds trivial, but I had never failed anything before, and I literally had no idea how to process it. Long story short, my job offer was withdrawn, and I had a wee bit of a nervous breakdown (I collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital). All of my life I had worked hard and prospered, and I assumed that I would always be that way. At that point, it seemed that everything that made me ME was gone. I felt humiliated and couldn't bare to be near any of my friends.
With no job, no more schooling to be done, and no idea what to do with myself, I moved across the country into my parents home to think about what to do next. My parents lived on the east coast of Newfoundland, Canada in a small village. It has national geographic worthy views, and in the spring, you can see icebergs, whales, eagles, foxes, MOOSE, and other amazing things. Things that I never cared about before.
I cried for a bit, slept a lot, and decided to explore the area in depth while trying to think of what to do next. I know it sounds cliché, but being on the edge of the coast in a remote area watching the world go by really put everything in perspective. Even though I felt like everything was terrible, the world kept going on. I realized that if this was the worse thing that had ever happened to me, then I was actually the luckiest person in the world. I had my health. I was educated. I had a family who loved me, and I had a passion and aptitude for science. I kind of laughed at what an idiot I had been and made a choice to be grateful for everything I had and everything that I could accomplish. I decided what I wanted to be in my life, what truly made me happy, and how I could peruse it.
My fellow students and I were always striving to be the best, the most confident, to have the best job offers, and were, frankly, intellectually pretentious. I decided to learn from my mistakes and be open to whatever I could learn. I got a part-time job while I studied for my licensing exam retake (I still dream of working in a lab!) and have learned to take each day at a time. I now go out and enjoy my surroundings, learn as much as I can, and accept that I can make mistakes and learn from them.
I'm mentally and physically in the best shape that I've ever been in and take the time now to appreciate the little things in my life."
Points are edited for clarity.
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