I’ve never really watched ‘The Bachelor’. I’ve seen the odd episode here and there, but my TV watching is mostly confined to Netflix, and they don’t stream much in the way of reality TV.
Still, I can’t seem to get the phrase ‘after the rose’ out of my head.
On the show, people are put into a very intense, extreme situation where they are completely and utterly focused on one goal. One person will eventually achieve that goal; they’ll win the TV show and experience a flurry of fame and excitement, and then it will be over. They’ll be released back to real life, and will have to adjust to entirely new rules, or a lack thereof. The reasons that drove them are gone – they won. It’s no longer about winning, it’s about living.
That’s a huge adjustment. Even though the entire bachelor experience was probably only a year, it was a whirlwind year where fighting became a way of being, and after the rose everything is different.
It think that’s a fairly accurate comparison to how I’m feeling, how I’ve been feeling.
My surgery was over 5 months ago. I received my official diagnosis almost a year ago. For 4 years before that I was fighting tooth and nail to reach this point.
I kept saying that I knew I wouldn’t be cured, that I’d still have issues, but I just needed a leg up, a chance. I would have to live my life differently, but I would be able to live my life.
Thanks to the generosity of so many people, I was given that leg up. I’m not completely healthy or able, not by a long shot, but I’ve been given that chance.
And now, with the 6 month recovery period almost done, I find myself searching wildly for that sense of purpose, that fire that sustained me.
I’ve always been sustained by fire. Before my symptoms started to overwhelm me, and even after for a while, everything in my life was about pursuing a career as an opera singer. It was the motivation behind the majority of my decisions, and I was always striving towards that end goal, my next steps clearly illuminated by the flames.
After I became so ill that I could physically no longer sing, my fight, my purpose, changed. It was all about making the best of what I had, and making what I had better.
And now, I sit here, confused. I have dreams, I have goals, I even have plans. But everything feels so uncertain. My next steps aren’t illuminated. I am constantly terrified of making the wrong choice and ending up in the same position I was in a year ago.
I want to do, and I don’t want to do. I want to push myself and I’m scared to push myself. More than that, I don’t know how to push myself, or where to push myself.
I’m not certain about what I want to do. I’m not certain of what I’m able to do. I’m not certain of what I will be able to do in a year or two, or five.
I don’t know how to go about doing. I labour over my resume, trying to mask the empty years. I search for people I can contact and feel self-conscious – my circle has shrunk so dramatically over the past several years that I no longer have that outer circle of acquaintances I can casually connect and network with.
It’s hard to get back on the treadmill. It’s hard on personal, emotional, and psychological levels. It’s hard on practical levels.
I feel lost, confused, and frightened. I have spent many hours staring off into space, trying to think things through, to plan. To find that purpose and run with it, never looking back.
But I also feel confident. I feel secure. I may not know exactly what my next steps are, and it may be incredibly difficult, but it feels like a chance, an opportunity.
When everything in your life is focused around one single goal, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision. Fire builds, but it also destroys.
Right now, my field of vision is wider than it has ever been and it’s overwhelming – sensory overload.
It’s also exciting. It means that there is so much possibility, and I have the chance to make decisions and explore worlds that I never knew existed.
Life after the rose isn’t easy. The euphoria fades quickly and you’re left out in the cold.
But it’s life. Of course it isn’t easy.
I’ve always liked the expression that when one door closes, another opens, but that doesn’t feel quite right for me.
A door has closed, but I see millions of doors and windows in front of me. I see buildings filled with countless doors and windows. None of them are open, but that’s okay. It’s up to me to open them and walk through. I get to choose which of them I want to explore.
And after all, having the ability to choose is the real rose that I fought so hard for.