An unexpected birthday. 

I’ve come across a problem I never thought I’d face. 

You see, when you grow up sick you learn to not think too far ahead. 

At a young age you have an awareness. 

An awareness that, as dark as it sounds, you might just be cut a bit short. 

So you take a day at a time. 

Forward thinking to at most a month. 

You don’t make future plans- you don’t want to let yourself down. 

And you’re okay with this. 

Your life goals are things like finish a year in school, be well enough to play outside, make it to another birthday. 

Now that’s the thing. 

I’ve always had the goal of just one more birthday. 

But there’s a point when you’re young and severely sick- a point you don’t expect to make it to. 

I’m not trying to be dramatic, but I suppose I never expected to become an adult. 

See, you become a realist at a very young age when you live at the hospital. 

And I knew my odds. 

Maybe I should’ve dreamed a little bigger, or had a little more faith in myself- because I beat my odds. 

I reached this birthday. 

But, where does that leave me?

I’m about to enter a stage in my life that I never really planned for. 

I never let myself think about Adult Nikki. 

Adult Nikki was someone I never thought I’d meet. 

But in a week and a half she’s moving in for good. 

And I feel like I should be excited, but mostly I’m just afraid. 

I feel unprepared and a little overwhelmed. 

Imagine realizing your lifespan will actually be five times greater than you originally expected. 

That’s a lot of time you never planned for. 

It’s just…it’s just strange. 

And incredibly overwhelming. 

On top of the stress of becoming an adult, I now have to face the realization that I have a full life ahead of me. 

And I’m not ungrateful by any means. 

I’m incredibly thankful for the doctors and treatment that allowed me to even get old enough to have this privileged problem. 

But it’s just unexpected. 

The universe is throwing me a surprise party and see, I’ve never been good with surprises.  

I never took the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” very seriously when I was younger. 

It was always a rhetorical question- the answer didn’t actually matter. 

But now it does. 

And I’m not sure what to think. 

I guess that’s why I’m writing this informal little piece.

Writing and creating has always helped me process. 

And when I can’t process something, writing at least lets me leave my mind. 

So I’m putting this out there in the hopes of finding peace and finding rest. 

I’m scared, I’m overwhelmed, I’m apprehensive. 

This is the first of a series of unexpected birthdays, but I can do it. 

Balancing Act.

I’m constantly walking a tightrope.
Between insanity and normality.
Too much insanity and I lose it all.
Too much normality and I have nothing to lose.
I walk the line between feeling it all and feeling nothing at all.
Between total apathy and over investment.
I need to care but too much caring makes my bones ache.
I walk between self loathing and narcissism.
Extreme thinking has never done me well.
Fear and excitement.
Too afraid and I’m paralyzed.
Too excited and I’m unproductive.
I balance creating and numbing.
Constant creating wrecks my psyche.
Constant numbing destroys my body.
I balance sleeping and waking.
My mind cannot stay up forever.
I tiptoe between panic and disinterest.
Is it better to feel too much or nothing at all?
Between poetic darkness and destructive darkness.
Too long in the dark and you lose hold of reality.
An internal war and the lines may waver.
But neither side can win.
I’m a constant balancing act
And I fear I might start to wobble.

Luck

Note: This is the essay I wrote that got me into college. The prompt was basically just to tell a story essential to your background. While I mostly posted this so I wouldn’t accidentally lose it, I figured maybe it’d be interesting for my 87 follower posse to read. Alright I’ll shut up and let you at it.

I’ve been struggling to come up with a story to fully show who I am. I suppose I could talk about the time I went to Alabama on a service trip to rebuild houses that were torn down by tornadoes. But although it was fun, and I did build a bathroom by scratch all by myself, it’s not really a story about who I am and what has formed my life. So maybe I could tell a story about my international family. How when I saw my great aunt standing in the middle of Liverpool Street Train Station I just knew it had to be her, even though I’d never seen her before. I could write about how being in the country that my grandparents came from makes me feel close to family that I never really got the chance to know. I could even tell the story of how I found out my dad was adopted. But although those stories are entertaining (especially that last one, good Lord was I shocked to find out I wasn’t biologically Jewish), none of those stories are really my story. Sure each of these stories have contributed to who I am today, but there is another story. A story that’s much more mine. It’s a story that I often struggle with how to tell because I don’t want it to be how I’m defined. But I think it’s important to own your story so here’s mine.
I spent the majority of the time from my birth to when I turned 13 in the hospital. Frankly, my lungs just weren’t very good at doing their job. Growing up in and out of doctors offices, emergency rooms, and hospitals is a rather unusual experience. At the age of 6 I could tell you that I’d rather go to Children’s Memorial instead of Northwest Community because Children’s had better food and while the Northwest Community beds were comfier, the Children’s nurses were much friendlier. I could recite the list of medications I was on in my sleep. Flovent, Advair, QVAR, Atravent, Xyzal, Pulmozyme, Patanase­ if there was a respiratory medication I had probably been on it. And that happened to be a big problem. My doctors became a bit too medicine crazy and the summer before my freshman year of high school they decided to put me on this new “miracle” drug called Xolair. But unfortunately for me, there are no such things as miracles. While the Xolair worked at first, after a couple months I got really unexplainably sick. This type of sick was different. I mean, I could handle not being able to breathe, but this was a whole different ball game. I had fevers of over 100 degrees every day for three months, and every inch of my body was in awful pain. The worst part is that for a long time the doctors were at a loss for a diagnosis. I eventually got admitted to the hospital to basically be poked and prodded all day in an attempt to diagnose me with something. Although it wasn’t exactly fun, I could handle it. After all, hospitals were nothing new to me. What bothered me the most is the uncertainty of it all. I can tell you being 13 years old and awaiting test results for everything from cancer to heart failure, is rather scary. Eventually after months of tests I got a diagnosis: serum sickness. Remember that so called “miracle” drug? Well, while it had helped my lung function a bit, it was actually slowly poisoning me. My body was rejecting it so strongly that it had started shutting down. I suppose you could say the moral of the story is to never let someone convince you to take an experimental medication.
For a long time I fought the label of a sick kid. I absolutely hated talking to people about my health. I felt like all people saw was my sickness and I didn’t want that. Every kid just wants to feel normal and I just didn’t understand why I had to deal with being so sick all the time. And maybe that’s just it and there is no reason for why it was me. Aristotle once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom,” and here’s what I know for certain. I know that I’m a person coming to terms with who I was and trying to figure out who I am. I’m learning who this new healthy version of myself is­ a version of my self who, by some miracle, has not entered another hospital since she was 13. And although I’m leaving my past behind, I’m learning to own my story and appreciate how it’s molded me into who I am today. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 17 years I’ve been on this earth it’s that pain without growth is pointless. The truth is that lucky people don’t get everything they want; lucky people survive want they don’t want, and I’d say I’m a pretty lucky person.

A Strange Scholarship Essay

Prompt: We want to know…what do you dream about? Whether it’s some bizarre dream you had last week, or your hopes for the future, share your dreams with us (in 250 words or less) for a chance to win $1,500 for college.

I was 14 years old the first time I had the dream. I was on a movie set- behind the camera. I was working alongside my film heroes. I was in the zone. But, with a sudden breath, I woke up in my bedroom. All too quick the realization hit me that I was unfortunately not a famous cinematographer, but instead, I was just a freshman in high school who had barely any camera experience- I just really loved films. I’ve had variations of that first dream many times and one thing is always constant- I’m always behind the camera. I’ve dreamt of filming a music video for Tom Odell. I’ve dreamt of shooting an indie film alongside Wes Anderson. I’ve dreamt of shooting Pirates of the Caribbean 12 featuring elderly Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom getting up to shenanigans in their nursing home for ex-pirates. I dream of film. For a long time these dreams existed as just that, dreams. However, last week I was accepted into Columbia College to study cinematography. I’m not sure how the rest will play out, but I know that I am making my dreams happen. And if in 30 years you decide to go to see a movie, and up on the marquis it reads, “Pirates of the Caribbean 12″, know that all of my dreams have come true.

I’m Nikki.

I’m 17 years old. I’m a sister, a daughter, a niece and a cousin to many. I believe family is very important. I’m a former fish owner (RIP Penelope), and a dog owner. My dog is one of the most important people in my life. I think animals can understand a lot more about humanity than we can. I’m a joker and a laugher. I think laughter has magical healing abilities. I think finding humor in situations is one of humanity’s greatest gifts. I’m right brain dominant. I’m a ukulele player, a saxophonist, a lover of all things musical. I think music can be incredibly healing. I think all art can be incredibly healing. I’m a photographer and aspiring filmmaker. I want to use my media to inspire people the way so many films have inspired me. I’m a lover of traveling, specifically a lover of England. Being in the land of my ancestors helps me feel connected to history. I’m a writer. Actually I’m a blogger. I believe that everyone needs a platform to voice their opinions. I’m a supporter of self expression and reflection.

I’m a believer in people. I’m a supporter of equal rights that transcend gender, orientation, race, religion or anything else. I believe everyone is united by humanity and I believe everyone has a redeeming quality. I am religious. A Christian to be exact. I believe that Christians have caused a lot of harm and oppression. I believe that truly practicing Christianity isn’t condemning, it’s loving. I believe that there’s a lot of pain and suffering in the world. But, I’m trying to remain hopeful. I believe the purpose of life is to spread kindness. And I believe if people were imagined much more complexly there’d be less hate.

I’m hesitant to be honest. I’m hesitant to be emotional. I’m hesitant to let my guard down. I’m afraid, I’m worried, and I’m uncertain. My future excites me. My future scares me. I’m afraid of failure. I’ve felt like a failure in the past. But I’m not a failure. I’m too stubborn to fail now. I was a sick kid. The hospital was my second home until only three years ago. A large part of my personality was formed there. It helped me to understand, to be patient, to be empathetic. I’m uncertain who the new, healthy me is. I’m excited to find her. I don’t like to be pitied. I believe pity is a weapon to make people feel alienated. I’ve felt alienated by the ones I love. They weren’t alienating me, I was alienating myself. I’ve felt alone. But I’m not alone. Loneliness is a lie. I want to be normal. No one’s normal. I want to be okay with not being normal. I think I’m okay with not being normal.

I’m learning to be independent. I’m learning to be adult. I’m learning that being adult sometimes means having no clue what you’re doing. I’m learning to speak my mind, to advocate for myself. I’m learning that pursuing passion is more important than pursuing safety. I’m learning who I am. I’m learning to embrace my past. And I’m learning to tell my story.

The End of Dear Canada.

The end began on August 24, 2014 around 3:15 pm when my IPhone plummeted to the ground- the screen shattering.

Thankfully the phone was still usable. Unfortunately not for long. The following Saturday the digitizer (part that sense when you touch the screen) stopped working.

My phone was now a useless chunk of technology.

I did have insurance so in exchange for $170 (ouch) I got a completely new replacement phone. So great everything is well and resolved. Perfect.

Well, it was perfect until I decided to edit together Dear Canada day 6.

You see, I was excited about day 6. The footage consisted of a beautiful hike through the Canadian forest and rock climb along the beach and I was quite happy with the writing for the audio.

I was excited to share this one.

So I go to my phone to send the videos to my iPad (I find it easier to edit on a bigger screen). I open my restored camera roll and scroll up to find the footage.

And it’s not there.

None of my nine days of footage is there. Apparently Apple only backs up pictures and not videos.

Needless to say, I am very annoyed.

Nikki Robinson