As many of you, I started out young. Grew up in a dead-end town of eight thousand where the convenience stores were the hangouts and there were more gun shops and bars on Main Street than churches. It's your typical Pennsylvania coal town that's fallen prey to time. I check Google Maps occasionally to make sure it's still standing, that the mine fires haven't eaten it up yet. To my surprise, it now has limited Street View.
I moved into what would be voted The Safest Metropolitan City in America in 2009. Children here are expected to go to college and hang out at the park unmonitored instead of the convenience store. Yards are greener. Streets are cleaner. The future was brighter.
What starts out as a simple stomach ache changed my life. A six-year stomach ache can change your view on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A battle with a serious disease changes not only how you progress through your life but also how you view it. People not only treat you differently, but you start to view them differently as well. You begin to realize who your real friends are and how the values you hold don't always match theirs. The world becomes dim, and grey, lifeless and meaningless when you can't hold onto a social life.
Values which I held onto during childhood disappeared and others grew into place. My entire view of life changed as a result of becoming ill. I've become more honest and open towards others and myself. I understand how my life in the grand scheme of things no longer means what it did then.
I dropped out of college at the age of 22, finally having surgery for my illness, to see the world. It felt really good to be independent again, having my own life and desires back in my hands. I spent years attempting to work in retail, trying to get by. Moved between cashier, accounting office, and even pharmacy technician jobs. After eight years though, I realized how crucial a college education would be to moving up in any business.
At the age of 32, I reenrolled and am now the oldest in all of my classes. I'm persuing a Computer Science degree with the hopes of working in the video game world or the movie industry.