“And these could be the best or darkest days. The lines we walk are paper thin. And we could pull this off or push away ’cause you and me have always been so close. So close to giving up. So close to going all the way…” –Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, “So Close”
This post was initially going to be about completing my first year of postgrad. I got the inspiration for it at an Andrew McMahon concert in Manchester when he performed “So Close” only a couple of days after the Manchester Arena bombing. By the time I actually finished my first year in September, I was tired of writing and pushed it aside. I think the song still applies now but in a different context.
When I told some of my family I was writing this blog about the last year/few months, the response was, “That might be depressing.” Most people would likely agree that 2017 was a challenging year, and that’s an understatement. In a world where the words “President Trump” are a reality instead of just a punchline, it’s easy to feel that all hope is lost. But I’m not here to get political (for once). That would be too easy to do, and since when have I ever taken the easy way out?
2017 started off well enough personally. I was super busy with postgrad work. The first few months were completely occupied by essays, but I figured life would get a bit easier if I made it through everything with passing marks (which I did). I always knew postgrad would be a lot of work, but I honestly don’t know how people raise families or work jobs and do it, and those people get my utmost respect.
There are so many times I came so close (See how that title works here?!) to quitting, tempted to register as a social worker in the UK and get a job. I reminded myself of all I went through to get here and that if I ever do have to move back to the US, I’d need my masters to do anything I want in social work. That is not the case in the UK where there’s not much difference between a BSW and an MSW, and I’m the only one on my course with a BSW. But I persisted. Living in England has been such an amazing experience and worth all the postgrad stress. I’ve met so many amazing people, which I’ll talk about more later. If Theresa May and co. want me gone, they’re going to have to throw me out kicking and screaming!
April took a turn for the better and was easily the best month of the year with the birth of my niece, Elodie, and other good things happening. Everything after was sort of a disappointment at best, but having this sweet little girl live so close to me (in London) that we’ve actually been able to bond makes up for all the bad.
Of course there really was a lot of bad – in the world and in my own life. I won’t get into all of it (Positivity, remember?), but the last 3 or so months of 2017 were some of the hardest of my life. I wrote another blog about songs to make you cry because I was doing a lot of crying at times. I’m not writing this one as a review of 2017, though bits of it have turned out that way; I’m writing it because there are some important things I want to talk about that I think we can all use to regain some of that lost hope and faith in humanity and remind us to persevere. (“Nevertheless, she persisted was my motto of the year – or life, really.) To do that, I do have to talk about this one big, bad thing that happened.
I was in London in November for my birthday and a social work conference. After spending a great weekend with some of my family (that photo above was just the day before this happened), I took the tube to change from one hotel to another for the conference the next day. I was carrying luggage and rushed on to the tube before the doors closed, not because I was being impatient but because I was listening to music and didn’t register that the doors were closing. I made it, but as soon as I got in, I crashed to the floor. I was completely humiliated that I fell in front of so many people. More than that, I was in so much pain that I screamed, “My ankle!” I think the pain was so intense, and I was in so much shock, that I couldn’t even focus on the real problem at first. My ankle did hurt because I sprained it, but my kneecap was actually dislocated. (Only I am clumsy enough to dislocate my patella and sprain my ankle at the same time doing absolutely nothing. That’s talent!) I’ll spare the gory details, but I instinctively moved it back into place myself in a complete panic. Needless to say, the whole thing was pretty traumatic – the pain, the embarrassment, the fear of how I would make it back to York after the conference (which I didn’t make it to) the next day.
I can’t lie. This injury has been an absolute bitch. When I was given crutches and a massive immobiliser at Royal London Hospital, the doctor said I’d just have to use them as long as I was symptomatic. Great, I thought, this isn’t too bad, and I’ll only have to use them for few days! Never mind that my knee was probably 5 times its usual size, and I had bruises all over both of my legs and palms. I read later that a dislocated kneecap takes 6 weeks to heal. Okay, a bit worse than I expected but manageable. I’d still be able to go on the solo trip to Berlin on Boxing Day that I booked less than 24 hours before the fall, so everything would be okay…
As the days and weeks passed, I became a bit more realistic. I cancelled my Berlin trip. I initially went back to placement after a few days but ended up being forced to take time off at the end of November – and have not been able(/allowed) to return yet – because I was still struggling so much, which means that my placement will finish later, and I’ll have to get an extension on my dissertation deadline and likely change the type of dissertation to accommodate this. When it rains, it pours, right?
One silver lining I thought of the moment this happened was that it happened in the UK where I have the NHS. If it had happened in the US, I would have owed thousands, even with insurance. Under NHS, I’ve had an A&E visit, crutches and an immboliser, x-rays, MRI, GP visits, ortho visits, physiotherapy. What have I paid for all of this medical care? £0. To be fair, I did have to pay a health fee with my visa, but even that was only about $300 for over a year, basically what I paid in the US for one month for crappy insurance that didn’t even cover everything. Besides some dignity and independence, the only thing that has really cost me anything as a result of this injury is all the taxis I’ve had to take and when I rented a wheelchair to take out for longer trips around York. I’ve easily spent hundreds(!) on taxis the last 2 months, but that’s a lot better than taxis and medical care. I’m forever grateful this happened here because it could be a lot worse.
Now the real reason for this post, that glimmer of hope for anyone reading this. There’s a stereotype about people who live in London being rude or not paying attention to other people on the tube. I’ve met very few rude people whenever I’ve been to London, and especially when I fell, it could not have been further from the case for me. I instantly had a crowd of people around me, wanting to help. They called the train driver, and he stopped the train at the next stop and came to me. He and several others helped me off the train, and one very sweet, young guy even offered to stay with me, though I refused because I didn’t want to hold him up. (Stupid, stupid, Lindsey…) The people at the station also helped me and let me stay with them in the control room while we waited for an ambulance for an hour before giving up, and they helped me get a taxi.
New Year’s Eve marked 7 weeks since this happened, and I’m still not walking without crutches because I have no stability, and I can’t straighten my knee at all. I’ve only been able to touch my heel to the floor at all in the last couple weeks or so because my knee and ankle are so stiff. It has been a real struggle, to say the least, especially because I’m incredibly stubborn and independent. You don’t move across the world several times without being that way. It does mean, however, that I’m not great at asking for or accepting help sometimes. I’ve had to change my stance on this since there’s not a whole lot one can do – or carry – on crutches, but I still try to do as much for myself as I can.
Thankfully, I’ve not had to ask for help much because people offer, even insist, before I can ask. I’m continually in awe of how nice and helpful everyone has been. Whether it’s my friend doing my laundry for me, classmates kicking leaves out of the way so I could walk up some steps outside without worrying about slipping, supermarket employees walking around the store with me and carrying my groceries for me, the people in my building helping me carry things up to my room, a random stranger opening a door for me, or the woman walking by my brother’s London flat the other day who saw me struggling to carry my suitcase down the stairs by myself and stopped to carry it down for me, I have been absolutely moved at how kind everyone has been. These are only a few of the countless examples of the human kindness I’ve experienced since this terrible injury. Pretty much the only people who haven’t been helpful at all were some tourists in London who wouldn’t give up their seats on public transportation (the locals – and you can tell the difference – always did) and one Uber driver.
All of this is really a long-winded way of saying that “Sometimes your circumstances suck, but life doesn’t.” Andrew McMahon once said that, and as a cancer survivor, he would know. It’s incredibly easy to want to give up when all the cards are stacked against you, but you might learn not only what you are capable of (survival!) but also what others are. 2017 showed that yes, there are a lot of ugly people, but it also showed me that most people are still basically good. People still care about others and want to help and see you succeed, even if there’s nothing in it for them. It’s okay to accept/ask for help, and if you’re capable, you should always try to help others. You never know what a difference your small (small to you, almost certainly not to the receiver) act of kindness might make in someone’s day or life or perspective, especially in these times. Be that ripple of hope!
As for myself, I’m going to pull this (postgrad, life, whatever) off and go all the way, so when people talk about me, they’ll remember my motto and say:
“Nevertheless, she persisted.”